My folks were watching my 12-year-old niece Rebecca for the weekend and it seemed like a good idea to have them all come up to Saranac Lake for a visit. We spent a few days exploring the area walking in Bloomingdale Bog, checking out the Olympic Center, and going miniature golfing. I had suggested to my niece that perhaps she would like to hike a short mountain, but she was hesitant, unsure how she would like it or the hard work involved.
Signing in at Baker Mountain
After pointing out Baker Mountain in Saranac Lake a few times to Rebecca, she finally agreed to give it a shot. And so we took Wren, my dog, and headed out late in the afternoon—a perfect time to hike up Baker, in the cooling air. Rebecca watched me as I signed us in at the trailhead. "What are you doing?" she asked. I explained to her the importance of signing in and how the DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) has trail registers at their trails so they can assist in searches if hikers are lost, hurt, or have an emergency. Signing in is also a means to track how many people use the trail in order to determine trail maintenance. Rebecca nodded in comprehension as we set off.
Onward and upward
Our progress was steady as we plodded up the trail on the backside of the mountain. We paused to look at and listen to Hermit Thrushes and Black-capped Chickadees. Earlier that weekend, I had been teaching Rebecca about the birds that came to the feeders in my yard.
After a steep section we stopped for some water while Wren stood waiting for us to begin hiking again. “She goes fast and makes it look really easy,” said Rebecca with a bit of envy as she watched Wren.
“Well she’s got all-wheel drive,” I replied. “Compared to her, we’re all slow.” We trudged on.
A great beginner hike
Baker is a great choice for new hikers or kids because the trail is just under a mile each direction, and by the time we had stopped for our second drink of water, we were already nearing the top. “It’s just up this way,” I encouraged her.
As we reached the summit I showed Rebecca the National Geodetic Survey marker and led her to the view overlooking McKenzie Pond. “Wow, that’s cool,” she said and she sat down with her water bottle on a rock to take in the view. I drank up, too, and poured a bowl for Wren who slurped briefly and then continued to poke around the summit for food left behind by other hikers. I had already pointed out the summits of Haystack and Mt. McKenzie to Rebecca from town, but now we looked at them a bit closer to eye level. I began telling her the names of some of the distant High Peaks.
Coming down the mountain
We walked on the main trail so we could overlook the High Peaks and the many lakes surrounding Saranac Lake, and again I went through some of the most prominent landmarks which stretched out before us. There was Mt. Marcy, Algonquin, Oseetah Lake, Lower Saranac Lake, and the list went on and on. Rebecca and I both carried cameras and we set to snapping photos of the sun’s low rays across the landscape. I then connected the dots of buildings in town leading her to the white-peaked roof of my place—just visible over the trees. “Was the hike worth it?” I asked. Rebecca nodded with a bright smile.
We started down the hill, taking our time to watch our step, both of us using a trekking pole to aid our descent. Eastern Wood Pewees and Hermit Thrushes sang and called from the growing shadows in the trees. I signed us out once we reached the bottom at the sign-in station and we walked back to the car. Wren raced to Moody Pond, desperate for a swim. I called her back to the car and we drove to Lake Colby where my folks met us for a swim in the evening shadows and the cool air, which was steadily growing colder. Wren (of course!) and I swam, but Rebecca decided that a hike was enough adventure for one day as she stood on the shore remarking how chilly it had become. She chose a warm shower when we returned home while the rest of us grilled up burgers for dinner.
Hiking for your first time in Saranac Lake
Saranac Lake has cool hikes of all different distances and heights. Read our hiking page and find a hike that works for you, or consider enlisting a guide to help you. Hiking can leave you pleasantly tired and hungry, so consider selecting a cool place to stay in advance and perhaps a place to eat to unwind from your adventure.