2005 Annual Guide to the Great Outdoors

Bark in the Park

A half-dozen hound-friendly Adirondack hikes

Ah, the fresh air, vast vistas and sense of accomplishment that come with scaling a peak or splashing in a cool pond at the end of a woodsy ramble. There’s nothing quite like it: kicking back along a riverbank or basking on a rocky summit, the granite toasty from the North Country sunshine, while your hiking companion licks your face—maybe even pants contentedly beside you. For some people, a furry four-legged sidekick is the ultimate trekking partner.

First Brother
Distance: 3 miles round-trip
Elevation: 2,940 feet (1,437-foot ascent)
Difficulty: Moderate

Never mind the High Peaks dog-leash law. This morning I’m hiking with my friend Carol and her sister’s seven-year-old dog, Fred. Fred is a beagle—sometimes Carol refers to him simply as “Beagle.” If you know anything about hounds, you know that, leash law or not, Fred needs to be tethered. Even though this sweet, floppy-eared, bowlegged critter is one of the best-behaved pups I’ve ever known, especially on the trail—he’s experienced; those stubby legs trekked Colden and Marcy in one day—Fred is slave to his eager beagle genes. Rabbits, deer, coyotes, especially coyotes, send him into a howling, braying fit, and then in persistent pursuit. Waddling Fred never does catch up to the hunted, but he’s earnest, tailing whatever it is until the scent grows cold, and that can mean hours hunkered down on a rock or a log, worrying and waiting for Beagle’s return.

That said, as soon as we begin hiking, something must have wafted past, because Fred propels into beagle mode —only this time, with a ten-foot bungee cord attached to his harness and clipped to my belt loop. (A properly fitting harness is better on the trail than a choke collar, offering more leash control and comfort.) So we continue along the slightly muddy path. Our plan is to climb First Brother, a peak whose siblings, Second and Third Brothers, in­crease in elevation and provide a popular route to Big Slide Mountain.

It’s a perfect little trek—beyond lichens, moss, shrubs and trees with their early-season, too-yellow green hue, like overexposed film, and past a picturesque stream that we cross by hopping stone to stone and through which Fred splashes. From here the trail is moderate: steep enough that you work your lungs and feel the muscles in your legs. First Brother’s bare, rocky summit offers a gorgeous view—nice for snap-happy visitors who aren’t ready for a big hike but want a sweet vista. You can see the Great Range and, today, a white-capped Mount Marcy way off to the right, the last peak to lose its snowy cover.

Here Carol and I plop down and chat while Fred, still tethered and kept away from the edge, munches on biscuits and laps water from the lid of a CamelBak. Carol and her sister usually dump water for Fred into the cap of a Nalgene bottle or into a crevice in a summit; like lots of fussy dogs, he turns his nose up at the floppy, portable pet dishes peddled by gear shops. (It’s best to know this before reaching a mountaintop with a dehydrated pooch.) Fred tries forging on, like he’s ready for two more Brothers and then some, but after realizing we’re going no­where, he finds a comfy spot and shuts his eyes.

Hiking with Fred is a pleasure because he’s well trained. Sure, there are moments when the bungee cord is taut, particularly on the steep sections when this little guy, about the size of a large tomcat, is tugging me up. Same goes for our descent, when Carol, to whom Fred’s now clipped, has to say, “Beagle, wait.” (Never let a dog pull you up or drag you down a mountain—if either of you slipped it could be dangerous.) But he stays ahead of us on the trail, only occasionally veering the opposite way or tangling himself around a tree.

The truth is, I’m bothered by the leash law. I have a Labrador retriever mix who never leaves my side during hikes (no thanks to my training skills—Gwen is just ex­ceedingly conscientious and needy). That it’s illegal for her to join me in the High Peaks without a tether has kept us away from this area, which is probably the point. However, I understand that, like most privileges in life, it takes just a few inconsiderate people to ruin things for the rest of us. I’ve heard the stories about unruly dogs who tear up, down and off trails, nip hikers and other canines, chase wildlife, and crush the mountain-high buzz of folks trying to enjoy the solace of a spectacular summit. I can’t blame the dogs—it’s their humans, irresponsible enough to let that happen. Carol thinks a permit system is a solution: dogs who pass a test with their owners should be granted carte blanche in the High Peaks. Of course, it wouldn’t apply to Beagle, she adds.

Fred’s pace is steady as we walk the last stretch. It’s late morning and I’m ready for a nap, but Beagle isn’t phased. Even now in the back seat of the car, head hanging out the window, he’s waiting to see where Carol is taking him next.

Directions: From Keene Valley (Route 73) turn west on Adirondack Street, which is marked by a yellow-on-brown De­partment of Environmental Conservation (DEC) sign and becomes Johns Brook Lane. The Garden parking lot is 1.6 miles from Route 73.     —Annie Stoltie

Dewey Mountain
Distance: Up to 3 miles round-trip
Elevation: 2,080 feet (400-foot ascent)
Difficulty: Easy to moderate

In winter Dewey Mountain is Saranac Lake’s cross-country-ski area, where dogs are allowed only on Wednesdays. But once the snow is gone Dewey’s trails provide woodsy walking not far from downtown. Ten miles of interconnected ski and snowshoe paths meander across the mountain’s north slope. The trails are mostly wide and grassy, leaving plenty of room for supermutts Foxxy and Milo to charge around like yoked oxen, jaws clamped on a single stick, without cutting close to my knees.

You can traverse sideways across the mountain for an easy walk in mixed woods. Or head uphill on one of a half-dozen gentle grades, gaining tree-filtered views of Ampersand Bay and Lake Flower as you climb. The top, at most an hour’s walk from the main trailhead, is forested and broad. You can glimpse Kiwassa Lake off the back. The subtlety of the view is actually a plus if you want to avoid crowds; most people seeking a quick hike close to Saranac Lake opt for Baker Mountain, across town. Also, Dewey doesn’t have rare alpine plants or thin soils that can be knocked loose by playful claws.

Stay on marked trails since some of them cross private land. If you stray off you also risk leaving the no-hunting zone. With the exception of spring, when the hillside brims with vernal pools and seasonal streams, there’s not much water to keep dogs cool, but there is plenty of shade.

Pick up after your dog out of courtesy to other walkers and those maintaining the trails. I don’t carry a plastic bag as I do for in-town walks; in the woods, there’s the option of using a handful of leaves to move dog waste off the path or away from waterways, digging a shallow hole with a stick, depositing the stuff and filling the hole.

Few take advantage of Dewey in the off-season. Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters, which operates the ski center for the Town of Harrietstown, is looking into im­proving trails for mountain biking in coming years, so access could be limited in the fu­ture. But for now it’s a benign place for the hiking canine.

Directions: From the intersection of Main Street and Routes 3 and 86 at the Harriets­town Town Hall, head west on Route 3 for 1.2 miles. Just past Algonquin Apartments, turn left at the sign for Dewey Mountain Recreation Area. Park in the lot and walk between two brown cabins. Take a map from the register; there are so many trails that it’s easy to get spun around even though they are well marked. The register is not checked in the nonwinter seasons, so carry a compass and topo map in case you lose your bearings. —Mary Thill

Sawyer Mountain
Distance: 2.2 miles round-trip
Elevation: 2,610 feet (800-foot ascent)
Difficulty: Moderate

One way to have a trailwise dog is to start early, helping your pup learn to follow good examples in the wilds. We’ve had three litters of golden retrievers, and before they went to their real homes we made sure they had some fun moments in the woods and waters.

Introducing a retriever to water is not always as natural as you might think. When our pups were six weeks old we took them to a small, secluded beach where they could wade cautiously while their parents swam after sticks. The instinct to follow Mom was strong, but we kept them from dog paddling, confining them to the shallows. When they were unafraid of little waves we shepherded them into deeper water, ready to turn them back when they lost confidence in their footing. On shore, we toweled them off quickly; wet puppy fur has no insulating value and could cause a chill.

Teaching a pup about hiking takes the same kind of go-slow approach. Short legs and baby muscles are not up to treks of more than fifteen or twenty minutes. Really young dogs are easily distracted too, so a butterfly or bumblebee can lure them out of reach. Before you plan any outing with your youngster be sure he or she will come when called—or at least not run the other way. A little basic obedience work in the yard pays off well on the trail.

One summer, my husband and I had three ten-week-old pups who were ready to be placed, but for one reason or another their new owners had to wait a bit. The trio had plenty of energy, were as athletic and coordinated as could be expected, and still paid close attention to what their parents were doing. So with our family of five four-leggers we headed up Sawyer Mountain, a hillock near Blue Mountain Lake. It was a still, dry summer day with temperatures in the seventies, ideal hiking weather.

This out-and-back trail doesn’t get much use, and when we pulled into the parking area we knew nobody else was on the mountain. Excellent. Running into other dogs or kids on this first outing would have complicated matters. We carried the pups a bit up the trail so they were aimed in the right direction, then let their parents go ahead.

For the first quarter-mile, where the trail has gradual ups and downs and some pup-size stream crossings, our little troopers ricocheted on and off the shady path, never too far from the adult humans and canines. The kids explored roots and mossy rocks, pawed at rotten stumps, sniffed ferns and tumbled and tussled with each other. As the trail began to climb they fell into line behind the big dogs. They kept walking, nearly to a slanted rock where a sliver of the High Peaks is visible. Here we had to ferry them over a steep spot, then all took a ten-minute breather. Magnolia and Burr, the parents, stretched out in the damp undergrowth, and soon their brood was dozing. Let sleeping dogs . . .

Our hike had no schedule, something to keep in mind when taking a young dog into the woods. Peak-bagging with a puppy is no fun for anyone, and potential problems abound, from exhaustion and dehydration for the pup to lost tempers for the owner. If your animal is clearly flagging, rest, turn around and try again another day. Avoid hot days and exposed rock. Dogs sweat not just by panting but through their paws, and a rock surface that feels warm to you could be a steam bath for your canine companion.

Restored by a rest and snacks (biscuits for the big dogs, soggy puppy chow for the kids, water for everyone) we headed for the top, a rounded knob with an orchard of stunted cherry trees. From there we could see Blue Mountain Lake, oddly slanted as if it would all pour out. This trick was caused by a ridge intersecting the view. To the south we could see Wakely Pond and bright green wetlands. Once again everyone took a catnap. We piled pups in our laps and congratulated the adults on being good and gracious leaders. We checked the little ones for sticks stuck in their fur, sore paw pads and bug bites.

The trip down was first a mad scramble. Then they slowed to a deliberate but steady walk. We stopped the party at the halfway mark for another rest in the shade (this route is almost never in full sun) and more water and snacks, though not enough food to upset stomachs. Bloating from too much food and water happens easily after a dog has been exercising.

As we approached the parking area we scooped up the trio of pups, who were by then caked with mud and dog-tired. Burr and Magnolia would have gone up the trail again, but moments after they were settled in the car they were snoring along with their kids.

When we got home, only a ten-minute drive back, all were awakened by the familiar crunch of gravel beneath the tires. We cleaned up the pups, checked again for trail debris (even in their mouths) and settled in for the evening. The big and little dogs stretched out on the deck like tawny fur rugs, with twitching feet and muffled yips and barks as they dreamed of their day on the mountain.

Directions: The trailhead is on the west side of Routes 28/30 between Indian and Blue Mountain Lakes, 4.5 miles west of Indian Lake. —Elizabeth Folwell

Crane Pond from Route 74
Distance: 6.2-mile round-trip
Elevation: 1,081 feet (200-foot gain)
Difficulty: Easy

Crane Pond, a beautiful motorless lake, was in the headlines in the 1990s over vehicular access. It’s easy to understand why people would want to keep driving the gravel road from the east side of Schroon Lake to this lovely picnic and camping spot. Crane Pond Road, despite the DEC’s attempts to close it, remains open. This trail, to the same spot, gets little use, making it a perfect route for man and beast.

The parking area, marked with brown-and-yellow signs for Crane Pond Road, barely holds four cars, but it’s rarely full. The trail is almost invisible once you head out, just a narrow path between bushes (raspberry bushes, so watch for prickers and don’t eat all the berries on your way in). The path continues as a slim track for nearly half a mile, with a few easy stream crossings and a couple of plank bridges. From one of these you can see, at eye level, an amazing beaver dam holding back a huge flow with resident ospreys. If your dog is tempted to go for the muck, beware: this is one big wetland with lots of goopy shoreline, plus hundreds of frogs. Swamp ghost trees hold stick stacks of heron nests, like Dr. Seuss drawings.

After the flow, the mixed forest gives way to enormous, beautiful hemlocks with little understory, perfect for that dog who loves to wander and still stay in contact with his human pack. The trail here, for more than a mile, seems to be an old road, quite level. About halfway to the pond some nice rock outcrops appear beneath the trees, shining in filtered light.

The trail moderates from ordinary footpath to old wagon road until you reach the gravel of the road to Crane Pond. Follow this for about a quarter-mile to another parking area, where there are huge pines and hemlocks, virtually no leafy vegetation and occasional refuse left by thoughtless campers. Head straight for a cluster of big rocks in the sun on the shore, and let Buster dog paddle and take in the view. A curious loon may float nearby or an osprey circle overhead. If you want a suitable place to swim, follow the roadway another quarter-mile to sloping rocks in a deeper section of water.

This is a trip with lots of water for your pet to enjoy and drink, yet a dry trail to walk. In winter, if there’s plenty of snow, it’s a fine ski trip. However, the thick forest does not let as much snow down as in more-open places, so be sure there’s at least eighteen inches on the ground elsewhere in the eastern Adirondacks.

Directions: The trailhead is between Severance and Paradox, on the south side of Route 74. Drive 4.2 miles from the junction of Routes 9 and 74 (Northway Exit 28), north of Schroon Lake village. —E.F.

Goodnow Mountain
Distance: 3.8 miles round-trip
Elevation: 2,690 feet (1,050-foot ascent)
Difficulty: Moderate

If you’re positively stumped about where to hike with your dog during hunting season, consider this well-known peak just south of the big ones. Goodnow belongs to the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) and is posted against big-game hunting.

The parking lot is large, a clue to this trek’s popularity. Yet, on a weekday in summer or nonholiday weekend in the fall, you may have only a few others for company. A new trail is an improvement over a time-honored route, engineered by ESF students to show ecological wonders and protect trampled, wet areas. There are so many boardwalks and bridges and water bars, in fact, you could use this route as an agility course for your dog. He or she, however, would likely prefer roaming the maple, beech and yellow-birch forest, sniffing through ferns, sarsaparilla and shade-loving wildflowers.

The path meanders gradually uphill, traversing to un­usual plants and trees marked with numbers (pick up a trail guide at the parking lot to interpret them). After about three-quarters of a mile the climb begins on a broad, well-packed route. It has only a few steep spots, with convenient rocks if you need to sit and catch your breath. But upward you go. At about two miles you reach an odd concrete pad where a cabin once stood. A little farther on is a seeping spring, with loads of water for your dog and various amounts of mud, depending on the season. Slightly past that is a two-stall barn, proving part of your hike follows an old carriage road. The horses were parked so the party could continue more-difficult passages on foot. You follow a very narrow ridge, not quite a knife edge, where trees below—just far enough down not to interfere with a fine view southwest toward the Fishing Brook Range—make the slope not so daunting. The trail dips downhill for a bit, then makes its last climb through big boulders and tight trees. Then you’ve arrived, on a rocky, open summit with a fire tower that’s kept in tiptop shape by ESF students.

A word to the wise: Many dogs happily climb the open treads of a tower. Fewer descend so readily. Don’t cajole your dog into the highest tiers without practicing up and down on a lower section. You simply don’t want to carry your pet down all that way. If your dog has acrophobia, leave him or her with a friend on the rocks and take yourself up for a fantastic view of the High Peaks.

On this trail you’re likely to encounter other hikers with dogs. Hook up your free-ranging Fido or put him/her in down-stay to let other parties pass. You will want to bring water for both of you on this trip, since only the spring near the summit is reliable for pet thirst.

Directions: The Goodnow trailhead is on the south side of Route 28N, 11.6 miles east of Long Lake village and about five miles west of the Hudson River at Newcomb (or 1.5 miles west of the Visitor Interpretive Center). —E.F.

Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain
Distance: 2.4 miles round-trip
Elevation: 2,180 feet (1,280 foot gain)
Difficulty: Moderate

A clear winter morning and unseasonably mild temperatures were ideal ingredients for a hike up Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain. A grand edifice when viewed from the Adirondack Northway, Poke-O’s massive ice-coated cliffs make it a popular destination for technical climbers. (According to the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Guide to Adirondack Trails: Eastern Region, the name came from the Algon­quin words “Pohqui” and “Moosie,” meaning “broken” and “smooth,” and was corrupted by early settlers into its current form.)

Fully aware of the fast-changing weather in the Adirondack Mountains, my daughter, Jenny, visiting from Wy­oming, and I packed appropriate gear, including snowshoes, Yaktrax (ice-traction devices that fit over boot soles) and hiking poles, and made sure Atigun, Jenny’s zealous year-old black Labrador, could handle traversing hard-packed snow. Atigun, named after a valley in part of the Brooks Range, in Alaska, has lots of hiking experience, both from the comfort of Jenny’s backpack—particularly when she was just a young puppy—and on the trail. She carries her own pack for longer trips.

Dressed only in light fleece, we hiked to the south end of the campground, where a sign directed us to the trailhead. To our delight, we were the first to sign in that afternoon, guaranteed to have the mountain to ourselves—at least for a while.

We picked up an interpretive pamphlet, ideal for naturalists pining to learn more about their surroundings, which guided us along the trail. The hike almost immediately became a steep climb. Upon approaching one of the areas indicated on the pamphlet, we read the corresponding information and examined a tree peppered with fungi and identified hardwoods such as yellow birch, beech and maple. It also gave us a good excuse to catch our breath. Atigun was ready to move on and track the tiny footprints of a squirrel.

Approximately half a mile up, a side trail to the right offered great views of a mammoth rock face to the north, where in spring peregrine falcons nest and rock-climbers dangle (though climbers’ routes are often closed here during nesting season). We decided this was a good spot to take our next break, have a snack and hydrate. We were also careful to keep a bold and curious Atigun away from the steep drops.

From there, where Poke-O-Moonshine’s trail continues as a steady climb, the path grew icy.

At eight-tenths of a mile, it finally flattens out at the site of the remains of the fire-tower-keeper’s cabin. A short diversion to the left brought us to a lean-to with an outhouse nearby. From the cabin remains, the trail follows a route where a short detour to the left opens up to an incredible view of Whiteface and Giant Mountains. Atigun’s ears perked up at the tap, tap, tap of a nearby woodpecker.

Continuing on, the last portion of the trail is a gentle climb. While gaining elevation the forest is predominantly birches, aspens, and red and white pines. Soon we arrived at a bald summit crowned by a fire tower. The original structure was built of wood in 1912 and replaced by a steel tower in 1917. The wind was cool and brisk, not as mild as at the base—it’s im­portant to remember this when you’re making decisions at the trailhead about whether to bring a jacket, hat and gloves.

On a cloudless day, there are spectacular panoramic views of Lake Champlain, with the Green Mountains of Vermont as its backdrop. To the west and south Whiteface Mountain’s ski trails and the fire tower on Hurricane Mountain act as landmarks. I stayed at the foot of the tower with Atigun.

The return trip was much quicker with our poles and Yaktrax, and Atigun had no trouble negotiating the precarious path. She did, however, have trouble staying awake on the drive home.

Directions: The trailhead is located at the Poke-O-Moonshine state campground, 3 miles south on Route 9 from Exit 33 of the Adirondack Northway and 9.3 miles north on Route 9 from Exit 32 of the Northway. A day-use fee is charged for parking in the campground, and you can always leave your car along the highway, but parking generally isn’t a problem during the off-season. —Joanne Kennedy

Range Rules for Rover
There are more than 2.6 million acres of Forest Preserve in the Adirondack Park, and dogs are allowed on all of them, but the courtesies of the commons must be honored, no matter how remote: Leash your dog when ap­proaching others, while in camp, and when on summits or around fragile plants. Avoid horse trails. Don’t let your dog chase wildlife; it’s illegal in most counties to run deer—in some places canines can be shot if caught in the act.

In the 1990s there were many complaints in the High Peaks Wilderness Area that some owners were letting dogs run amok, so for the past five years the DEC has enforced special rules there: Pets must be leashed on all marked trails, at campsites and at elevations above four thousand feet. There’s an especially good reason for the latter: plants that have clung to the mountaintops since the glaciers’ retreat are easily dislodged by digging and trampling paws. Hunt­ing dogs can be un­leashed when doing their thing, but dogs cannot be left unattended and must al­ways be under the control of their handler. (Pets, leashed or otherwise, are prohibited on Adirondack Mountain Re­serve trails, which con­­nect to the High Peaks.)

High Peaks violators face fines of up to $250. One or two tickets have been issued each year since the new regulation took effect, the DEC reports. A backcountry skier from Keene got smacked with a hundred-dollar fine in 2003 after rangers observed him with his dog off-leash. He pleaded guilty but asked the judge’s lenience since, he argued, it’s nearly impossible to ski downhill tethered to a dog.

Probably as a result of the High Peaks leash law, there’s been a surge of interest in ski-joring, in which a harnessed dog is tied on a long lead to a belt around a skier’s waist. “Most people I know just want to get out and be with their dogs,” explains Denise Erenstone, who demonstrates the technique at clinics at Mount Van Hoevenberg Cross-Country-Ski Area, near Lake Placid. “They don’t want to be expert at it.” Even ski-jorers admit to getting tangled on fast descents, but so far rangers seem to be tolerant of brief bursts of four-legged freedom on downhill runs.

Also, while it’s required for pets in the High Peaks, it’s a good idea to always have proof of a valid and current rabies inoculation for your dog no matter where you go.

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