Wren and I hiked St Regis Mountain north of Paul Smith’s the other day, taking advantage of the beautiful weather. St. Regis is short enough to do in half a day and I stopped work early to make sure we had enough daylight. I’ve hiked St. Regis quite a few times before, but this is the first time I’ve hiked it since it was designated a Saranac Lake 6er.
The round trip hike is slightly less than seven miles and we started the initial climb from Keese Mills Road, moving somewhat slowly because I was taking photos of the leaves. The understory of American beech was bright with oranges and yellows as we walked. Bird life was quiet as could be expected on a warm, October afternoon, but we did come across a few mixed flocks of ruby-crowned kinglets, yellow-rumped warblers, red-breasted nuthatches, brown creepers, and black-capped chickadees. I also noted several hermit thrushes on the walk and at one point found a lingering winter wren skulking in a downed tree.
But the day was more about the hike itself and given our late start, I was making tracks along the trail. The trail into St. Regis rolls for a few miles, making progress easy and enjoyable. For the most part it is dominated by deciduous forest, but about a mile in the trail reaches a nice stand of large eastern hemlocks. We moved quickly through this section as one eastern chipmunk after another scolded our arrival along the trail. At one point we found some American marten scat on a log and at another heard a ruffed grouse drum in the distance. They often drum briefly in the fall. We reached the small stream a little over two miles from the trailhead and stopped. Wren had been running around and was happy for a drink. I joined her and grabbed some water from my pack.
From the stream, the trail began to rise more steeply and we began to work a lot harder. Well, at least I did - Wren didn’t seem to mind. St. Regis is not an overly steep climb, but there are a few stretches with big blocky steps and I trudged methodically up them. Toward the top, there was a fair amount of new standing water on the trail from a recent rain – but it was clear rain water and not the mucky remains of a trail that had seen too many feet during a wet summer. Wren happily splashed through it.
We met a few folks coming down as we ascended, but we had the summit to ourselves when we arrived there, and I busied myself with photos while Wren smelled for the leftovers of someone’s lunch. I knew we would need to be quick since sunset is getting earlier each day, but we had enough time to soak in the warm sun and the view of the High Peaks, Mt. McKenzie, and Whiteface. My favorite part of the view though was the St. Regis Canoe Area and the strings of lakes which stretched out directly below the peak.
We turned to head back, taking our time through the steepest sections of trail. We made good time again on the way back and reached the car with just a little light to spare. Wren crashed in the car on the way home, exhausted by her constant exploring and running, but she perked up immediately when we came home – racing to the door for her dinner. We had both earned second helpings.