Hello, folks. We're back with another sunset hike for 2019-20 winter season. This one is fire-tower themed, and I'm calling it "The Two Towers".
So, what are these towers? As mentioned above, they are fire towers. Used until the middle of the century to monitor the vast Adirondack wilderness for fire (and maybe other stuff, too). For many decades they were left to deteriorate, but recent restoration efforts have meant that most of them are fixed up and climbable. Today we chose to combine our sunset/twilight hiking objective with some fire tower climbing, and came up with this "Two Tower" idea. Do two fire towers, and make the summit of the second fire tower coincide with sunset for a (hopefully) superb natural lightshow.
The first fire tower: Goodnow Mountain, situated just outside of the hamlet of Newcomb, along route 28N on the southwestern fringes of the central high peaks zone. It's nice because it's got a very easily-accessed parking lot, right off of the main highway, and at the top it has a fairly good view northeast to the highest of the Adirondack Mountains. Unfortunately the forecast was for more clouds than not until late afternoon, so I was doubtful that we'd actually get to see Marcy and Algonquin and the other biggies from the top.
Goodnow Mtn Trailhead
We started off around 12:30pm, perhaps in retrospect a bit late, but in any case, roughly around that time. It was a cloudy day but also bright, with frequent little splashes of sun. It was cool but not overly so for this time of year. A very light on-off sprinkling of large-snowflaked flurries made it very christmas-y.
There was about 10-ish inches of fresh, fluffy snow on the ground. The trail had already been tracked out with snowshoes, and even though we could have bare-booted it, we decided to reinforce the nice track by using snowshoes ourselves.
After a short hill, the Goodnow Mountain trail traversed around on the level, heading straight west and not at all in the direction of the summit. Eventually it curved to the south and started finally climbing moderately until we reached the crest of the east-west ridgeline of Goodnow Mountain. The flurries continued through most of this traverse, but as we started to make the climb up to the ridgeline, they abated (somewhat) and the sun started to make more of an appearance.
Conditions continued to improve for us as we finally turned back east, now heading directly for the summit. We hiked up the snowshoe track along a rising traverse, with the hillside sloping down southward to our right, avoiding boulders and logs where necessary (there needs to be another foot of snow depth before a really good snowshoe track can be made). The increasing sunshine and the south-facing aspect often resulted in bright, almost warm conditions.
The Goodnow mountain climb is not all that strenuous - only 2 miles one way and just over a 1,000 feet of gain. By the time we had completed an hour of hiking, we were already getting pretty close to the summit elevation, and the grade was beginning to flatten out. We passed the remnants of an old cabin that just 3 years ago had seemed in pretty good shape, but was now a taped-off heap of lumber. Beyond that was a bit more climbing and a beautiful section of tall coniferous trees, boughs attractively-laden with hundreds of pounds of fresh, dry, white snow. It was very pretty, but even the least bit of wind caused spindrift and snowflakes to fly everywhere. In the bright sun, though, this was often quite pretty - thousands of tiny floating crystals of light.
We arrived at the summit (and fire tower) at about 2pm. We had been fairly quick, but the days are short at this time of year, so we needed to be mindful of the time if we were going to have any chance of summiting our second fire tower before sunset.
It was fairly calm at the base of the tower, but given that we had thick forest ringing the tower's clearing, we knew we were sheltered and there was a good chance things would be more breezy up at the top. So, after donning a few more layers, we headed up.
Standing in the little belfry-like room at the top of the tower, we surveyed the landscape. The puffy clouds and big flakes continued (i.e. obscuring most of the views), although there were some very nice breaks of blue sky and bright sun. They enabled us to get glimpses of the nearby terrain, including Rich Lake. The central high peaks were (as I had suspected) completely shrouded in cloud, but I did see a few glimpses of some of the 46R peaks directly to the north, including Santanoni Peak.
Both the chilly breeze and our timeline had us climbing back down to the ground in short order. We quickly strapped our snowshoes back on and headed back down. The focus was on rapidity, and we did pretty good on that account, covering the 2 miles of distance in about 45 minutes.
Lying in the snow is comfortable
Unlike a typical hike, we didn't dally or slowly unpack at the car. The focus was on efficiency and speed, and all we did was take off our snowshoes and stack them neatly off to the side in the back of the car. Everything else - our packs, boots, clothes - we left all of it on and in place so that we could re-start hiking as quickly as possible.
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Goodnow Mountain - click map to view
Goodnow Mountain - Hike Data
* : +/- 75 feet