This was supposed to be a climb up Dix Mountain, on this, my final week before my and Brian's mountaineering trip out west. However, as we (myself, Chris, Jenn, and Alana) were driving down to the Adirondacks, a desire was expressed for something easier, and then a proposal: Jay Mountain, both more scenic and shorter. Tipping the scales to cement the switch, Chris and Alana had never experienced the unique-to-the-Adirondacks ridgecrest hiking that Jay mountain offers. So, Jay Mountain it was.
Starting off at just before 8:30 a.m., we climbed steadily and uninterrupted-ly almost all the way to the ridgeline, stopping only for a short break at a pleasant coniferous area I like to call 'Pine Corner'. From there, another 10-15 minutes of steep uphill hiking on the excellent trail brought us to a forested point on the ridgecrest.
We had hyped-up the scenic wonders of Jay Mountain for Chris and Alana the whole way up, and now it was time to deliver. In a few short minutes of flat hiking, we came to the first of the excellent open viewpoints along the ridgeline, looking southwest. There's a broad (if distant) panorama of the Central High Peaks, and Chris and Alana were suitably impressed. So much so that Chris apparently participated in his very first selfie.
The black flies were fairly annoying at this lookout, and there wasn't much of a breeze, so we didn't stay long, soon continuing our journey eastward along the ridgecrest.
Flies are bad, time to go
We walk eastward along the ridgecrest. Everything is perfect: while moving, the bugs are not a problem. The day is perfectly clear, and the air is nice and free from excessive haze. The trail crosses frequent open areas of either bare rock or grassy meadow, giving us (combined) views in all directions.
Wonderful Ridgecrest Hiking
Wonderful Ridgecrest Hiking
After crossing a large, pavement-like expanse, we come to the edge of Grassy Notch, a vegetated geologic dike that crosses the ridgeline. It should probably more appropriately be called Treed Notch, since the bottom of the notch is full of trees, rather than just grass. Perhaps a hundred years ago, when this was probably named, it was indeed grass.
After following an earthy path steeply down into the notch and crossing through it (it's only about fifty feet wide), we choose a scrambly route up and out and onto an open slope that leads up to the next sub-summit along the ridgeline. In contrast to the clean white bedrock slabs from before the notch, here the rock is brown, loose, and gravelly. Perhaps a side effect of the nearby Grassy Notch dike.
Beyond the gravelly slope, we arrive at flat plateau section with an especially well-constructed cairn, and then follow a tiny bit of sublime meadow-path before another short hike through ridgetop trees. Then it's back out into more craggy terrain and a steep, scrambly ascent to the next sub-summit.
We choose to stop and have an early lunch at this, the second-highest point along the Jay Mountain ridgeline. It offers the best views and the most "summit-like" experience, and there's a nice fresh breeze here that is keeping the bugs away.
Although this isn't the true summit (the next bump is), we decide this is good enough for us today and we turn back here.
The way back is nearly as enjoyable as the way up. There's so much pleasant, interesting, scenic hiking along the ridgeline, and that's what make Jay Mountain such a nice outing.
As we finish the main ridgeline and get ready to descend back into the forest for good, I mention the existance of the "old" path - the herdpath that existed before the 2012 NYSDEC-built official path. Chris finds this interesting and wants us to try and follow the old path on descent. Jenn is much less interested in this idea, and we decide to split up: Chris and I will try the old route (at least the upper part of it), and Jenn and Alana will stick to the new path.
All goes well for the first few hundred feet of descent - Chris and I are able to discern the now fairly faint indications of the old path, and I pass by many little features that I remember from my pre-2012 ascents of Jay. But once we're down in the trees a bit farther, we lose the path. This is not too bad for a while, as the forest understory is fairly open. We then come to a particularly dense region of smaller conifers, and... yeah, it's not a pleasant scene. I look forward to the point where the old route crosses the new path.
Grateful to reach the path, we turn right and quickly hike the final mile or so back down to the parking lot. Jenn and Alana - despite their route's extra distance - have arrived slightly ahead of us. If you examine the map below, you'll see (in blue) the true path of the old trail, and how we were slightly off for much of the way down.
We stopped for some mid-afternoon soup at the Noonmark Diner on the way back home, and then proceeded to have a pleasant drive back home. That's about it, folks!
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Jay Mountain - click map to view
Jay Mountain Ridgeline - Hike Data
* : +/- 75 feet