Blue Mountain Lake

Back around, oh, I’d guess the late 1920s, my grandfather took my father for a hike up Blue Mountain in the Adirondacks. Forty years later, my father took me up Blue Mountain. Now it’s another forty years…

We’d decided we wanted to go on a camping trip as a family, and at some point we realized we were running out of time to set that up for this summer, but Heather and I had time off the first week of September, between Labor Day and school. So I reserved a campsite at Lake Durant Campground, three miles south of the hamlet of Blue Mountain Lake. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, Heather turned out to be unable to go, but Kenny and I went anyway.

We arrived in time to make ourselves lunch. The campsite was a nice one; the guy who checked us in (whose Prius, the same color and same year as ours, we parked next to) called it “the Boardwalk of the campground” — I’d picked it out online on the basis of its location. We were right on the lake at the far end of the campground from the entrance.

Then we set out for the trailhead to Castle Rock. That hike had been recommended to us by a friend of ours, a mother of three, as being easier than Blue Mountain and with a better view. Said recommendation was reinforced when I learned there was a letterbox up there. Depending on the route you choose it can be a 4.8, 5.6, or 6.4 km round trip with a possible 0.5 km spur each way down to the lake shore. We went for the 5.6 km route. The summit ascension is 756 m.

It was a more challenging hike than I’d expected, especially the upward scramble at the end, and there was some trouble with mud patches along the way. But we made it and the view was indeed magnificent:

Blue Mountain Lake from Castle Rock
Blue Mountain Lake from Castle Rock

We found the letterbox and stamped in, then started down. On the way we detoured to see some caves and crevasses under the rock. Then I noticed what time it was. Yikes? So we made good time back to the car, skipping the lake spur. It was later than I wanted to try cooking, so instead we had dinner at the Adirondack Inn in Long Lake.

Kenny said he thought the hike was less challenging than he’d expected and he wanted to do something harder, like Blue Mountain. I was a little doubtful but he was firm in his resolve, so first thing the next morning after breakfast in camp we drove to the Blue Mountain trailhead and started up. This was about a 6.4 km round trip, but with much more elevation gain than Castle Rock: 1146 m. Kenny’s assertion that he was up to it proved correct. It took us about 2.5 hours to reach the summit, not counting a trip back to the car a few minutes into the climb to look for the camera. (We didn’t find it. That evening I found it in a side pocket of Kenny’s backpack, the one place I hadn’t looked of course.) The claim that Castle Rock has the better view is true at ground level, but you can go up the fire tower on the top of Blue Mountain for a great 360 degree panorama. We spent an hour on the summit, eating lunch and looking around and talking with other hikers, then took two more hours to return to the car.

That left enough time to stop for drinks and ice cream, and then head up past Buttermilk Falls for another letterbox find. Then we returned to camp to build a fire and make a dinner of freeze dried chicken and mashed potatoes. Pretty good!

It was, by the way, a great time for Adirondack hiking. The weather was warm but not hot, and it being weekdays after Labor Day, the tourists were pretty much gone. We saw one other group of hikers on the entire Castle Rock hike. Something like 25 hikers signed in at Blue Mountain between the time we arrived and the time we left, but that stands in contrast to something like 150 of them on Sunday. The down side, of course, is that a lot of the businesses that cater to tourists close down after Labor Day. Like Enchanted Forest / Water Safari in Old Forge, which Kenny wanted to go to: I told him we could go to Old Forge but I couldn’t guarantee we’d be able to go to the theme park, and indeed we couldn’t. Instead we played miniature golf (had the course to ourselves) and ate lunch, then came home.

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