Back in October, we went on a hike
with fellow hiker Julie Moran in the Siamese Ponds wilderness in the Southern Adirondacks. The Southern Adirondacks are a region I don't know all that well, and when we stood at the top of Peaked Mountain, she had pointed out a particularly prominent mountain to the southwest that I did not recognize. The peak was Snowy Mountain - a 3900-foot high fire-towered summit. I'd never climbed this peak, and it looked rather nice from this vantage point, sporting a somewhat Big Slide-like cliff face just below its summit.
A tiny bit of research revealed that Snowy is a worthwhile ADK objective, with a maintained trail, a fully-visitable fire tower, and several lookouts and a small clearing on its summit plateau. Combine that with the fact that was a new Adirondack destination, and I decided that we had to pay it a visit.
The route to Snowy Mountain started from a well-marked trailhead about 7 miles south of the hamlet of Indian Lake, NY, along highway 30. There was a good paved parking spot on the east side of the highway opposite the trailhead. There was only one other car in the parking lot when we arrived on a cool and cloudy Saturday morning.
We started off right around 9 a.m.. The trail immediately started upwards over some unpleasant wetness and angular rocks, but soon this improved into a leaf-covered mostly dry trail. We didn't gain all that much elevation over this first stretch.
More pleasant forest walking
It was with a little bit of surprise that we came to the first stream crossing - of Beaver Brook, the watercourse draining the entire eastern flank of Snowy Mountain. I say surprise because it was a bigger stream with a larger flow than I had expected, given what appeared to be the fairly modest size of its drainage basin. The water level was fairly low, but it seemed to me that this stream could easily pose a crossing problem if flows were moderate or high.
Beyond the stream crossing of Beaver Brook, a fairly decent trail continued for some time, again only moderately uphill. There were more patches of wetness along this part than I would have expected, given the fairly dry fall we'd had.
There were also quite a few stream crossings - many more than most other trails in the Adirondacks. These crossings were a combination of various side streams flowing down to meet Beaver Brook, but also there were several crossings and re-crossings of Beaver Brook itself. Planking was in place along several of the flattish sections of wet ground, and definitely helped. In some cases, however, the planks were getting loose and / or otherwise beginning to deteriorate.
After negotiating the many stream crossings and general wetness of the gently-rising trail, the trail's grade took a distinct upward increment and left Beaver Brook and the bottom of the valley. Our course had been gradually bending towards the west and we were now approaching the headwall of the eastern flank of Snowy Mountain itself. I had hoped that this increase in steepness would mean a change to a drier, better drained trail, but this was not to be. Apart from a few short sections of rock-step trailwork, the next section actually had a trail that was much wetter and rougher than before. It was quite eroded, full of exposed roots and many boulders. And, it was routed in such a manner as to catch drainage water very effecitvely. As a result, it was either wet or actually flowing with water along for long stretches. Not all that pleasant.
I was happy when - at around the 3000-foot level - the trail turned right and began a rising traverse along the mountain's slope (rather than continuing straight uphill in a water-catching groove). This rising traverse continued for a few hundred yards before a switchback turned us around and headed us back towards the south. The trail eventually returned to the bottom of a gully and then led straight up it, although now at a much steeper grade.
This upper section was - like some sections further below - rough and had a lot of wetness and flowing water. It was more interesting and enjoyable, though, because the climbing led mostly over bare rock ledges and slabs, rather than roots and boulders. It almost seemed like this section might have been an old landslide path. The climbing here was made slightly harder by the fact that some of the water over the rock was frozen.
Well-marked with NYSDEC red markers, the trail led up through this area of steep and ledgy terrain, eventually veering off to the left onto a gentler shoulder of the upper mountain. A decent trail then led steeply up through fir and pine forest, then a steep and partially ice-coated gully where we had to carefully hold on to trees on the margins of the path (we had microspikes and yaktrax on us, but had not quite yet found it sufficiently icy to put them on - however, one could argue that we were simply being too lazy to stop and put them on).