Paddle Lower Saranac Lake to Fish Creek
Hot Town, Summer in the Village
Guest writer Kaet Wild
Rising temperatures make spring hiking feel like a dream, yet the ground at times bodes a more nightmarish essence. A trail can vary from muddy, soggy, leaf-covered ground to loosely packed snow that lends itself to postholing, and maybe even some slick ice here and there.
However, don’t let these trail conditions scare you away. There’s still lots of fun to be had because let’s face it, when it’s 60 degrees and sunny in April, nothing can bring you down. At least, that was my experience hiking Jenkins Mountain at Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center.
I parked on Keese Mills Road and jumped on the Logger's Loop trail to gain a little more solitude, but this hike can also be started from the VIC. During the winter, skis or snowshoes are mandatory on the groomed trails, but since the trails are no longer being groomed, it’s acceptable to go without, which I did.
Logger's Loop was packed well and I had no problem sinking or slipping. This trail is wide, fairly flat, and lined with budding beeches and hardwoods. My dog and I turned onto Esker trail, which brought us into a pine forest with lots of mushy ground. My feet were swallowed by wet, muddy, leafy puddles frequently, but it felt magical to be walking on bare ground instead of snow. Whenever my feet got dirty, I just washed them off in piles of soft snow along the edge of the trail. Tip: gaiters, garments worn over the shoes and lower pants, are your springtime friend.
Jenkins Mountain remained visible through the trees and I kept my eye on it as we moved closer and closer. Eventually, we reached the hiking trail to Jenkins that branches off from the ski trails. I had a feeling things might get dicey off the groomed, packed trails, and indeed they did.
Postholing Builds Character
Almost immediately, I began to posthole — when your boot punches through the top layer of snow — about every six steps or so which was annoying, but bearable. “Postholing builds character,” I repeated to myself sarcastically. Plus, there wasn’t a ton of snow so that when I did posthole, the snow reached no higher than my knees. The trail remained like this for only about a quarter of a mile or so, then transitioned back to decaying leaf swamp, and I was grateful.
Part of the trail was dry ground and those moments were glorious. The quiet stepping of my boots upon bare dirt was an intense contrast to the constant crunching of snow I had become accustomed to for several months.
The trail to Jenkins kind of meanders a bit to avoid wetlands, following a low ridge around the back side of the mountain, then ascending up a small stream. The trail was fairly well marked with trail markers and blue ribbons.
As we got closer to the summit, the postholing resumed. This time, I had been hiking for over two hours and perhaps went a little crazy. Luckily, the snow didn’t last long, and the terrain soon returned to leafy mud puddles. Amazing.
We reached the summit right as the temperature was peaking at sixty degrees. There is a partially open summit with a view of the St. Regis Canoe Area and a nice rock face that was preheated by the sun. I laid upon it to soak up its warmth as well as the sun’s from above me. I was sandwiched between rock heat and sun heat and felt comparable to a slice of melted cheese between two slices of buttered bread. My dog, who is very warm blooded, laid atop of me like a heated blanket. Sixty degrees never felt so warm. I decided that losing your mind to postholing and losing your boots to mud was worth a warm summit.
Details: From the VIC, the trail to the summit of Jenkins is 4.5 miles one way. The trail to the base of the mountain is a gradual rise. Be prepared to spend several hours on the hike. Elevation of Jenkins Mountain is 2,513 feet.
From Saranac Lake, take Route 86 towards Paul Smith’s. Turn right onto Route 30. If choosing to hike in from Keese Mills Road, immediatiately turn left onto Keese Mills Road and look for a gate on the right side about a mile up the road. Park on the side of the road. Do not block the gate. If hiking in from the VIC, continue on Rt 30 for one mile. The VIC will be on the left. Pick up a free trail map in the visitor center.
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