Submitted by guest writer, Elisabeth Marchbanks
I must admit, fall is my favorite season in the Adirondacks. As the air becomes crisper and the leaves start to change their color, I can’t help but spend each free moment admiring the beauty of the outdoors. I look forward to hiking the most, and I usually spend my weekends exploring a new and unfamiliar trail. This weekend, my boyfriend, Mac, and I chose to hike one of the Saranac Lake 6ers, McKenzie Mountain.
McKenzie Mountain is considered to be the hardest of the 6ers, so I chose to share my experience in hopes that it will motivate those of you who have not yet hiked this mountain to do so.
Along the trail
I underestimated the difficulty of this hike as the trail was challenging and had several spots consisting of very steep terrain. However, these obstacles made our experience that much more invigorating and rewarding. The hike started off comfortably and effortless for about an hour or so with only a gradual incline. Mac and I have two German Shepherd dogs, but we decided not to bring them, a decision I did not regret. There were several scrambles that had me questioning how I was going get myself up and several spots where we had to leap down from massive slippery rocks and shimmy between boulders. I could not have imagined my dogs trying to do the same, however, you know your dog’s limits. In the event that you decide to bring along your furry companion, please be aware there are several times where you may have to lift them up or carry them down to prevent an injury from occurring.
We stumbled across several streams consisting of intensely cold yet tremendously refreshing water. I couldn’t help but dip my hands in just to cool myself down. You will need to cross over these streams so make sure to watch your foot placement as you land on each rock! I want to point out that we passed some massive captivating trees and a countless number of mushrooms along the trail. I found each mushroom to be so fascinating as they ranged in beautiful bright colors.
Plan for time
Although I am an “in-shape” hiker, I had assumed this hike would take the duration of our morning and afternoon due to its distance of 10.5 miles roundtrip. Well, I was right. We started around 9 a.m. and returned to the trailhead around 4 p.m. It took us a total of seven hours. However, it was worth it. As you start to plan your time accordingly, be aware that this hike will not be a “quick” one. You’ll also find that Haystack Mountain shares the same trailhead and you can easily hike both mountains in one day. In fact, I urge you to do so. Just be aware that you will have to allot yourself some extra time.
Preparation is pivotal
I overprepared, as I usually do, because there really is no way of knowing what could happen while you are exploring the outdoors. My first aid kit is a necessity, and it never leaves my backpack. I think it is of common knowledge that you should never go for a hike, regardless of the distance, without bringing a first aid kit just to be safe. I also always pack an abundance of water. Hydration is so crucial, and you may consume more than you think when exercising. Don’t be afraid to bring extra water, you can never have enough! I actually finished mine before we even reached the summit of the mountain. Thankfully, my boyfriend brought extra. Also, be sure to pack snacks. I prefer to bring almonds, a protein or energy bar, and usually a PB&J sandwich. Cheap, easy, and delicious! Whatever snacks you choose to bring on your adventure, just be sure to dispose of your wrappers properly. When we arrived at one of the outlooks on top of the mountain, the wind was much stronger than I had expected it to be, but I didn’t mind because I brought extra layers. A thick warm fleece, a cozy hat, and an extra pair of wool socks made a huge difference. I even packed a windbreaker and wind pants as well, as they are more likely to come in handy than not.
Enjoy the view
For the record, I love hiking. It’s great exercise and incredibly gratifying. However, I always appreciate a scenic view at the top. When you reach the actual summit of McKenzie Mountain, you’ll be surrounded by trees. Surprisingly, the scenic views are within the lookouts of the several false summits as you climb to the top. Each lookout provides breathtaking visibility of either Lake Placid and Whiteface, Saranac Lake and Ray Brook, or the Saranac Lakes chain.
It’s truly difficult for me to put into words the amount of appreciation I have for the Adirondacks and all it provides. I mean, how lucky are we to explore these trails and take in their beauty with our loved ones or enjoy the peace and quiet during a solo adventure? I will forever cherish the memories I made this day on McKenzie Mountain and the feeling of accomplishment I received after checking this 6er off my list.