Hiking Fire Towers in the Adirondacks

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All photographs Copyright © 2002 Margaret and Ken Reek

Our first objective was Kane Mountain, just north of Canada Lake. We got this one on our way out Friday afternoon. The hike was short but steep: just under 1/4 of a mile of it was at a 33% grade. Click here to see the elevation profile.

A note about the topo maps: they were generated with Topo!, a fantastic program from National Geographic (www.topo.com). They have digitized the USGS topographic maps of all 50 states. The one we use is a bargain--$99 for all the topo maps of these eight Northeastern states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.

We first plotted the trail in red using the route shown on the topo map, and printed maps to use on the hike. Ken carried his GPS while we hiked and it recorded our actual path. When we got home, we copied this information from the GPS to the map in blue. The elevation profiles were computed by Topo! from the blue tracks.

At the top! L-R: Daniel, Mikhail, Clare, Ken, Gail, Margaret, Sheri, Mark, Mollie, Joe.

You can climb this tower. Here we see Gail not looking at Canada Lake.
Canada Lake is to the left of the peninsula; West Lake is to the right.
Our first evening in the Luzerne campground. We had a delicious pot luck dinner, with way too much food for our group. Though we tried valiantly to finish it, we had enough leftovers for Sunday's lunch.
Toasting our first conquest, and the promise of two more towers tomorrow.
If you want to plan a pot luck dinner, here's a tip: let Daniel get the wine.
Saturday we began with Black Mountain. Note how the actual track deviates from the path as shown on the topo map. The original plan was to descend the same way we came up, but at the top we decided to make it a loop instead. Click here to see the elevation profile. On the way up, there was a mile of 18% grade. Good thing we did the loop in this direction, as the grade was 27% for .7 miles on the way down.
Lake George from the top of Black Mountain. This view is looking north.
Mark and Sheri enjoying the view.
We conscripted an unsuspecting hiker to take our picture, so everyone is shown here. L-R: Clare, Sheri, Mark, Carol, Mollie, Gail, Daniel, Joe, Mikhail, Margaret, Ken, Dick.
Looking southwest. The large island is Big Burnt, and the far shore to the right with the long slender penninsula is Tongue Mountain.

On Saturday afternoon we hiked Spruce Mountain. The trail was on some private roads for a while, and was not well marked. The trail guide was not a lot of help, so we lost the trail on the way up and bushwhacked for most of the way (the right part of the blue line). It was not fun. Near the top we found the trail--never has a narrow strip of bare earth looked so good. Click here to see the elevation profile.

Notice how far the actual trail position (left part of the blue line) differs from what is shown on the topo map (red line)!

At the top of Spruce, exhausted, but looking forward to the cake walk back down on a real trail. This photo proves that we've all been there, done that, and don't ever have to do it again!

Sunday morning we hiked Hadley Mountain. Click here to see the elevation profile. 20% grade for 1.5 miles.

A note on the accuracy of GPS: we took the same trail up and down, but look at the small differences in the track recorded by the GPS. The system's accuracy can be as good as a few feet, but that's only under ideal conditions. If the GPS receiver cannot "see" satellites that are widely separated in the sky, the accuracy is not as good. I have never seen my receiver off by more than about 50 feet. If you were lost, getting to within 50 feet of your car would usually solve the problem.

On the trail up to Hadley. This was a hot day.
Near the top of Hadley. The little sliver of water you can see is the Great Sacandaga Lake. The lake is so long that it is also visible on the other side of the many hills on the left.
Almost there!
Relaxing at the top. This is a lousy picture because no one wanted to venture out of the shade.