Thursday, January 29, 2015

Moxham Mountain in Two Seasons

(a portion of the summertime view from Moxham's summit)

Moxham Mountain only officially opened to the public in 2012.  I was determined to get there and enjoyed a Spring day hiking Moxham in early 2013 with an Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) group.  Shortly after, I talked up the hike to Bill.  "You would love it," I said.  "It's very doable.  There are views all the way up."  I love trails that open to rocky outcroppings throughout the hike. At about 5.5 miles round-trip with 1100 feet elevation gain, Moxham is not overly demanding, but a nice work-out.  Occasional view points are great rewards along the way!

The weather on my first trip had had high clouds, with spectacular vistas across ranges of mountains below.  I wanted another great day to show Bill Moxham's best.  The trailhead, located in Minerva in the Central Adirondacks, is an hour and three-quarters from our home in Albany.  It would not be worth the drive, if it rained.

(Blueberries on the mountain top are a gift!)

In August 2013, Bill and I drove north, as the sky grew brighter and brighter. I am wary of the heat in July and August, but we had comfortable temperatures with a light breeze, always welcome in the summer. Although Bill likes a nice hike, he doesn't want to work too hard. Those views along the way made great stops for snacks, with time to soak up the scenery.

Before long, we reached the summit.The dominant mountain, in the middle of a vista of about 250 degrees, is Gore, popular for alpine skiing. In the valley, an array of ponds and marshes connect, with typical Adirondack names such as Mud Pond, Clear Pond, and Long Pond.

(Bill picks lots of delicious berries)

Bill and I were thrilled to find the summit rocks covered with blueberries!  We picked and ate as many as we could, and then filled a small container that I had brought from home.  Blueberries on a mountain summit, on a gorgeous day, with fabulous views--who could ask for more?

(Bill and Virginia on the summit)

Well, when we got back to the car, I did ask for one more hike this mountain in the winter, on snowshoes, on a perfectly clear day, without wind.

ADK trips are scheduled months in advance.  In November, I posted a January snowshoe hike up Moxham Mountain.  Snow was not abundant after New Year's this year, but I knew, from seeing other hikers' pictures on Facebook, that Adirondack peaks had an ample supply. The next issue was the weather.  A forecast for clear skies didn't waver.

(My ADK group arrives at one of the first overlooks)

A couple of people signed up, and then a couple more. Interest was not awfully high. I was surprised, given the clear weather forecast and a nice snow cover, so I gave another look.  Ahh, it was supposed to be very cold.

In the end, seven of us stalwart hikers set off on the trail in -12 degrees.  A few inches of powder lay on top of a crunchy crust under a cloudless sky.  Another perfect day for Moxham!...and the cold?  It takes just minutes to warm up when hiking a mountain.  Nevertheless, I had brought hand and toe warmers for extra comfort, and shared some with others.

(it appears as if two mice traveled side-by-side)

Because the snow was fresh, and not too deep, we had fun seeing where animals had been.  Some of their tracks were easy to identify. Mouse tracks were obvious with the tail line between the tiny footprints.  We were glad that we didn't see evidence of the mice becoming someone's breakfast!

(a clear view of our destination)

Not far from the summit, a final overlook displays this great view of Moxham's cliffs, where we would have lunch. As we stood admiring the view, the sun warmed us. 

I said, "I wonder how warm it's getting.  It has to be at least zero by now."  One of the participants had a tiny thermometer hanging from his backpack.  "Take a look," he said, turning around so I could see it.  The thermometer was very tiny, and my glasses were deep in my pack.  I usually don't need them outdoors where the light is bright. 

"Well," I said, "I don't have my glasses on, but it looks like -5."  Another person took a look.  "Yes," she agreed. "I would say it's -5."  We were terribly impressed with ourselves.  Granted, there was no wind, and the sun was luxurious, but we had to be pretty diesel to be completely comfortable at 5 degrees below zero.

(here the deer tracks are in a cluster)

Deer tracks came and went, sometimes in great strides, indicating the deer had moved quickly.  We did not see predator tracks nearby, and we were the first humans on the trail since the light snowfall.  Maybe the deer had just felt like taking a quick jog.

While I like to rotate through the line of hikers when I lead a trip, now-and-then I stay in front.  When I saw the tracks pictured below going up the trail just as we were, I needed help identifying them.  They were clearly dog prints, but what kind?  The group gathered to offer ideas.  Too big for a fox, these had to be coyote prints.  This guy apparently had a mission, heading straight and steady for the mountain summit.

(Is lunch waiting on the summit for the coyote, too?)

The summit view did not disappoint.  Mountains lay below in waves of blue and purple.  Cold white powder accented every ridge and valley.  We found a few bare rocks to sit on for lunch.

"The sun is amazing," someone said.  "What do you think the temperature is now?"  I looked again at the tiny thermometer.  "It looks like it's still -5.  Wow, it sure doesn't feel like it."  Someone else added, "No wonder we can see so far.  The atmosphere is always really clear when it's that cold."  Again, we gloated for a couple of minutes .

Then the owner of the thermometer said, "Celsius is on there too.  Are you sure you're checking the right side?"  I hadn't seen the two readings.  Someone else stepped forward.  Either she was wearing contacts, or just had great vision, because she said, "It's 20 degrees. It's -5 on the celsius side."  What??  We laughed.  Maybe it's time for some of us to admit that we need glasses to read, even outdoors in bright sunshine....

(no blueberries on this day!)

None of us had trouble seeing the splendor surrounding us, however.  I searched the ponds for moose. Wouldn't it be the ultimate bonus to see a moose below?  It looked like perfect habitat. 

Out of the seven of us, five had not been on this mountain before.  It was fun to share a new adventure with them.  And the other two of us? We just basked in the scene.

(ponds and mountains for miles)

On the way down, we again marveled at all the views along the way. While we often long for loop trails, retracing our steps here took nothing away from our appreciation, every time we came upon an overlook.

ADK folks are a social bunch, and I could hear a variety of conversations along the trail, some between old friends, and others among people who had not known one another before today.  Once in a while, I hang back, or go ahead, to experience the solitude of winter in the forest, but, I, too, love the camaraderie of a cheerful group of hikers.

(the views on the descent feel new)

We still came upon animal tracks.  When someone said, "I see rabbit tracks, with big feet," we knew a snowshoe hare had hopped through.

(Wouldn't it be fun to see a snowshoe hare in his winter white?)

At the trail's end, I heard a two of our participants let loose a couple of joyous hoots.  Even though everyone is fit, there are always one or two people who go on these outings with concern for their physical capability.  They are excited by their accomplishments at the end of the day, and reach the cars all smiles.  "Did you hear us shout?" one of them said.  "Oh yeah, we sure did!" someone answered. "They could hear you all the way down in North Creek!"

We had had to park our cars a quarter of a mile up the road, since part of the road was not plowed in winter.  The sun, now lower in the sky, made long shadows across the snow. 

And I'm three for three--every time I've been on Moxham, the sky has been clear, and the views superb.


  1. What great trips! A friend who lives in North Creek has been talking about us climbing Moxham, and you have convinced me with your vivid account to take her up on the offer.

  2. We have done Moxham three times but never in the winter. Thanks for sharing.