Trip Report: Hadley Mountain Firetower

Chip the Ox out on a walk with his friend, and Hadley local, Fremont.

This is not a firetower.  This is an OX.  His name is Chip and I met him on his walk through town.  Why am I showing you a picture of Chip the ox when I’m supposed to be sharing our latest adventure to Hadley Mountain?

To draw you in and never let you go. ❤


So yes, I met a two ton ox in the Town of Hadley on our way home after a hike.  I can’t promise this will be your experience, too, but I can promise you won’t regret this hike!

Views of Great Sacandaga Lake

Hadley Mountain Firetower

Trailhead: head north through Hadley on Stony Creek Road; turn left on Hadley Hill Road; turn right on Tower Road; the trailhead will be on the left.

Distance: 3.4 miles

Elevation: 2,675′

I love this hike.  It’s one of those “hey we have a few hours to kill before we have friends over for dinner” kinds of hikes.  Short and sweet, and for those of us in the Capital Region of New York, practically in our backyard.  It’s a sparsely forested mountain, where you find yourself walking up slabs of rock, sometimes through running water.

Stacie and Max navigating spring thaw streams

But it’s not easy.  Hadley gives you very little warm up before you start to climb, it’s not a steep climb but it does go up for about a mile before you get a break.  And when you hit that straight patch, breathe easy because you only have a few short hops up before you see the tower.

Mark on a rock slab caused by one of many forest fires

Oh and that summit; big, bald and beautiful.  The tower is open year ’round, however the cabin at the top is usually only open during the summer.  Expect wind and bring an extra layer for the top so you’re able to find a nice rock and hang out for a bit.  This is one you’re going to want to spend some time on.  I always do!

Max and Mark enjoying the view; Stacie below, trying to not get blown off the tower
Hadley Tower, Max is there somewhere

And on your hike back down to your car, remember there is a chance you might, too, see//pet//ride a giant cow.

BONUS! Hadley General Store


Second best stop to make in Hadley (if you don’t run into Chip) is the Hadley General Store at the corner of Stony Creek Road and Rockwell Street.  Grab a hot sandwich at the lunch counter and a brownie as big as your face.  Chat with the locals who are friendly and welcoming and love that you are 1) in their itty-bitty town, and 2) are staying long enough to say hello!

And then make it home in enough time to have dinner with friends.


Don’t forget about those feet!

So, so many important things to remember to do//pack//know when heading out for an adventure, your safety and enjoyment are on the line and keeping track of it all can be overwhelming.

You need food and water, an emergency kit and map, you need to know where you’re going and how to get there.  You need to consider weather and timing.  If your head isn’t already spinning, here’s one more item to consider: your footwear!


From as far back as I can remember, I’ve been throwing on old sneakers before heading out to climb something, explore something, or just be active outside.  But here’s the problem with old sneakers:  They.  Are. Old!

Do you paint without a paintbrush?

Do you canoe without a paddle?

Do you jump out of a plane without a parachute??

For the love of Pete, no!  Nor should you disregard the importance of what you wear on your feet, you know, those things that literally carry you from point A to B to C.

Let’s be clear: I don’t want you to buy the top of the line trekker boots for your stroll through the neighborhood park.  That would be ridiculously overboard! But I do want you to make sure you’re not neglecting those precious feet.

Like Mark and I did.  Many times.

Lesson One: as a baby hiker Mark wore sneakers on our smaller hikes.  They weren’t necessarily old or worn, but as we progressed into higher and more challenging mountains with rocks and boulders and things to watch out for above and below it became clear FAST that low-top shoes were no longer appropriate.  One wobbly rock and one sprained ankle was all it took for him to realize (painfully!) that he needed something sturdy and with ankle support.

Enter the Timberlands.

Timbs to the left.  This boot is discontinued, the link above takes you to a similar pair.

Moderately priced; sturdy, comfortable and waterproof.  These shoes have carried Mark many miles and through many muddy bogs.  (They may or may not have formed an emotional bond.)  But eventually the tread wore thin and he had to retire them to yard work duty.  His new pair is a different brand, he wanted to try something lighter, so he’s in the process of breaking them in.

Lesson Two: I wore a pair of boots that was uncomfortable from the very first mile.  Constantly rubbing on the back of my heel was the red flag I ignored and when we set out on our first really challenging hike (Giant and Rocky Peak), I started feeling pain in my feet and it slowly crept up my legs.  By the time we reached the car six miles later I could barely walk, the pain had spread up through my hips and I was miserable.  Thank the LORD for Chapel Pond in Keene; Mark and I crossed the street to the pond where I waddled my way into the ice-cold water for some much needed relief.

Enter the Danners.  The true loves of my life.  (Sorry Mark)

Danner Mountain 600 boots in action.

Pricey, guys.  But given the amount of hiking I knew we were going to do, I considered it an investment.  Years and hundreds of miles later, I’m still going strong.  I mean, 30 miles is still wicked painful, but that’s to be expected, knowhatImean?

So what should YOU do?

Consider your activities as an investment in your health.  And happy feet are the literal vehicle to good health.

Walking Shoes

For those quick walks through the neighborhood park, or your community’s bike path consider a lightweight, supportive shoe.  Everyone’s foot is different, so find your perfect fit.  My feet love:

  • Nike Zoom series: Mark and I both have run a number of half and full marathons in these.

Trail Shoes

Not every hike is going to be a climb, but if you are on a nature trail, you are most certainly going to find roots and rocks and other obstacles.  A thicker, harder soled trail shoe is going to give you the foot support you will need to maneuver safely and comfortably.  Friends and the inter webs recommend:

Hiking Shoes

Look for enough ankle support for those technically difficult adventures (news flash: the High Peaks are going to be technically difficult!), these boots will have the hard soles, but come in lightweight materials:

So now it’s time to make that investment in your feet and in your health!  And if you’re still feeling overwhelmed, download this handy checklist to help you plan for your next outdoor adventure 🙂

Adventure Checklist

Trip Report: Prospect Mountain…and beyond!

If you live in/near the Capital Region of New York, you’re probably familiar with Prospect Mountain.  This popular Southern Adirondack mountain sits on the west side of Lake George; overlooking the lake and its village, Prospect’s summit allows for barbecues and picnics, and its history includes Prospect Mountain House where visitors would ride an incline railway car in the early 1900s for a night of dinner and dancing. (Some of the railcar remains can still be seen at the summit!)

There is also a road leading to the top.

Did you hear that?  It was the sound of ears perking all around you!

The Veterans Memorial Highway takes visitors to the top of Prospect Mountain from Memorial Day through mid-October for a small fee where visitors of all abilities are able to enjoy a beautiful Adirondack view.


One early spring morning, after a full night of celebrating his colleague’s retirement, Mark and I set out to explore this regional hotspot.  But as the road was still closed for the season, and we had pizza calories in our future, we planned to hike the one-and-a-half mile trail to the top.

His first trip up, my second.  As we set out, I ran through my memories of this hike:

  • Blah.
  • Harder than I expected.

Accurate.  For once, my memory served me correctly.  Not that it made any difference, we were hiking it no matter what.  No matter one of us had whiskey-belly.  No matter it was raining and windy.  No matter the trail was mostly likely a sloppy mess.

#MakingMemories.  Yay.

Prospect Mountain

Trailhead: 108 Cooper Street in the Village of Lake George

Distance: 2.8 miles, round trip

Elevation: 2,030′

Elevation Gain: 1,535′

From the Cooper Street trailhead, you cross a metal footbridge that spans I-87.  This unnerving experience is completely unavoidable and my best tip is to look straight ahead.  Don’t.  Look.  Down.

Look ahead: solid bridge.  Look down: puke.

After signing in at the trail register, climb.  Just go up and keep going up.  Sometimes there is steeper up, and sometimes you go up in a rush of water.  But you are just going to go up.  In my opinion, there is nothing significant to report here as you will mainly see 1) rocks, 2) water, and 3) pines.

Nature is enough, people.  But some trails are prettier than others.  On this trail, a road crossing occasionally breaks up the pine and climb, and my favorite light and airy birches take over the landscape toward the top.

You might be tempted to hike the road, but keep in mind it is 5+ miles to the top!

And then, the moment arrives.  You can see the finish line!

But you will be mistaken, because just when you think you’re at the top, there are just a few  more ups to go.  But then you’ll finally reach the summit and all the whining about water and rocks and up will be so worth it, you guys.

Lake George and the Village of Lake George

I’ve hiked more interesting trails.  And I’ve seen better views.  But the summit has a vibe. It’s what an outdoor space should be as it welcomes you to sit and stay and relax, oh and cook up a few hot dogs and maybe sing a few camp songs while you’re there.

For this trip, Mark and I forgot the hot dogs, and it’s my sister who knows all the camp songs, not me.  But we saw the value in coming back, and planned a future trip up.  Maybe a day not so rainy, and with the kids.


If you hiked Prospect Mountain, you’re already in Lake George so take advantage of the Village!  In the off-season you’ll have less options, but regardless of the time of year, the lake is always there.  And so is Caffe Vero.

Caffe Vero

These people know their coffee.  My tip is to know their coffee, too.


Fuel your adventure

How do you fuel up for an adventure?

Do you throw a few bags of chips and some juice boxes in a cooler and hope for the best?  Maybe you rely on an entire pack of Oreos to get you where you need to go?

Or do you carefully plot your next fifteen moves and corresponding snacks?

We fall somewhere in between.  Mark mentioned in this post about the ADK 46er Challenge how much he enjoyed getting to know the mountains these last few years.  As a result of all of that exploring, we most definitely got to know how best to put fuel in our bodies.

It’s been an interesting journey of trying new things, seeing what worked and what bloated. (An awkwardly real post about pooping in the woods is inevitable, I’m afraid.) And even though we are still very open to trying out new types of fuel, we try to stay within a range of the foods we know give us the boost we need.


Favorite snacks.  

Popular adventure outfitter, REI, gives great advice on the best foods for going out and staying out, for days long back-packing excursions.  You and I, we need to get from mile one to mile 3, or 7 or 15.

Goldfish are a staple for us.  The salty treat is a welcomed change to all of the sweet energy bars and drinks.

However, I can eat Lara Bars all the live-long day.  It might be the natural ingredients, they range from only five to seven ingredients, and most of the sweetness comes from dates.

Mark’s energy bar of choice is Clif.

But I would say the best snacks we put in our packs are fruits.  Apples are our go-to for that last push to the car.  We put so much energy into a climb that sometimes on the way down we’ll hit a rough patch that we physically and mentally have no energy for.  Apples are life savers, I hear they also keep the dentist away.  So, yay apples!

For longer hikes, we’ll add clementines.  Peeled, separated, and ready to pop in our mouths, they are a good boost of energy mid-climb.  Citrus is also a great mood booster for when you hate the climb, you hate whoever suggested the climb and you vow to never climb again.

Saving the best for last, a celebratory snack is a must.  You made it to the top?  Break out that brownie, pack of Oreos or, in the case of our first major hike, leftover pancakes from breakfast!  If you’re Mark and me, you save a celebratory snack for reaching the car, too.


It (hopefully!) goes without saying, you will need to hydrate no matter the level of activity you plan for your day.  The general rule for hiking is to plan on consuming one liter every two hours.  Of course the time of year, temperature and your own body are going to make this estimate differ wildly, but until you know how you are going to react, bring more, not less.

Lesson learned: Mark and I took his 9-year-old daughter on a quick three mile hike on a cool fall day.  She was so excited to use her new backpack and water bladder she drank two liters of water before we reached the top.  Needless to say, she learned two very important lessons that day; 1) her little body does not need two liters of water per mile of hiking, and 2) how to pee in the woods.

On longer hikes we add a bottle of Gatorade.  I’m not a fan of sugary drinks in my everyday life but….#electrolytes.

Hearty snacks

Mmmmm, burrito.

If a 7+ mile adventure is in your future, you’ll want to think about a snack that’s more hearty and packed with beneficial ingredients that will be sure to give you the energy you need and also satisfy the belly.

Our hands-down favorite summit meal is a burrito.  Made with refried black beans, rice, cheese and hot sauce, it’s easy and tasty and best of all it’s contained in a handy tortilla wrapper!

We also pack PB&J (or PB and honey for me) sandwiches that we halve and snack on along the way.  Particularly challenging sections of a trail call for “bites of encouragement.”

For winter hikes, we’ll fill our baby thermoses up with stew and treat ourselves to a warm meal with a view.  Our stew of choice: this slow cooker sweet potato stew.

thermos soup
Sweet potato stew on a chilly Lake George hike.

Obviously, you might have different fuel needs than we do.  I would put us in the high-metabolism/must-eat-every-mile category.  We’ve hiked with others who zipped through 30 miles with just a handful of trail mix and a smile.

Long story short: know your body.  Trust your body.  Ask me for fuel advice because…

Trip Report: Hurricane Mountain

Picture this: a cool fall afternoon.  Light, crisp breeze.  Reds and oranges and yellows dotting the mountainscape in front of you, to the side of you, all around you.  A field of dark green pine, a field of bright yellow birch.  Soft patches of sand beneath your feet.




This is the picture I painted for Mark of my first trip up Hurricane Mountain in the fall years ago.  We were packing up our gear for his first hike up Hurricane in the winter of 2017.  However, that hike and the one we did last weekend would end up being nothing like my first beautiful fall hike.

Instead, picture dark and moody.  Low clouds and spitting snow.  Imagine icy wind whipping through every layer of clothing.

But oh Hurricane, you are still one of my favorites.


Hurricane Mountain

Trailhead: 3.5 miles on Route 9N, off Route 73, North of Keene

Distance: 7 miles, round trip (although the sign says 6)

Elevation: 3,694′

Elevation Gain: 2,000′

This mountain features a firetower at the top, and in each of my three hikes that tower has been in three different states:

  1. In complete disrepair, stairs removed to discourage brave climbers.
  2. Fixed!  Beautiful!  Open cabin and magnificent views!
  3. Roof is literally in the process of being blown off.

This mountain is reclaiming it’s authority, and it’s happening in a pretty bad-ass way.  Mark and I both recognized we didn’t need to be made a lesson in how powerful nature can be, so we snapped a few pics and ran for cover.

I literally ran, because the wind was brutal.  And it was cold.  Which is a real shame, because the near-360-degree views are astonishing.  I’ve never not been amazed by the expansiveness of the Adirondacks from my little perch on top of Hurricane Mountain.

But this hike really is worth the trip.  As long as you’re prepared.

Get ready for the climb.

You really do go up!  Other mountains give you a little gradual incline for a mile-or-so to warm up before the up.  Not the case with Hurricane.  Your warm up is the up!

Get ready for the wind.

This is one of those mountains where you’re more likely to have a windy day than a calm day.  In the spring, fall, summer and winter, bring a coat.  Or an extra coat.  Keep in mind that we’ve done a season or two of winter hiking with temps as low as 15 degrees, and this was the only hike I’ve ever felt my usual winter attire was not adequate.  So be safe and bring extra.

Get ready for that view.

It’s pretty cool.



Happy Plant a Flower Day!


It’s National Plant a Flower Day!

From my seat over here in growing zone 5b, I’m instead going to take the time to plan my flowers for the up-coming season.

Because the ground is frozen.

And we still have about six inches of snow on top of it.

(Know your growing zone?  If not, check HERE.)

On the ticket: my favorite geraniums, lots and lots of geraniums.  We have a family history of growing these beauties in Southern California, so it feels like important pieces of my story are here with me as I spread them around the inside and outside of my house.

And thanks to Mark, they’ll spread even further around my house as he has tentatively agreed to build window boxes, in which I will fill with the reddest of red geraniums I can find!

Not geraniums, but pretty, nonetheless!

Friends, I hope this nearly spring day is filled with warm, happy, and hopeful thoughts of new growth and new life; because in the darkness of winter, there is always the promise of spring!

And happy birthday to the best dad in the world ❤

I’ll plan a special flower just for you!

Adirondack 46er: the good, the bad, the exhausting

This is a post with 100-page potential. (I first mentioned this hiking challenge HERE.)

The collection of memories and experiences (both good and very, very bad) are enough to fill a lifetime of stories, but because I am a lady of few words, I will condense a quest to hike the 46 High Peaks of the Adirondack Park into 140 characters or less:

hike tweet

But I’m actually not doing my favorite place in the whole world justice to reduce it to a few words; although, even a million words, a million pictures can’t really describe just how epically cool the Adirondacks are.

Views of Mt. Marcy from Haystack Mountain

And there was NO better way for a North Long Beach girl like me and Downtown Albany boy like Mark to explore the highest points in the park than to take up this massive challenge, to push and cry and feel the burn.

Many hikers we’ve met along the trails have similar experiences.  The cliffs on Saddleback Mountain are ridiculous.  Blake Mountain is deserving of the most middle-est of fingers.  Allen Mountain, *sobs, just sobs.  But part of the “joy” of this experience is joining with your fellow Adirondack comrades over beers and pies and ice packs to trade war stories.

So when I tell you to give the #ADK #hikelife a try, and I say “trust me, it’s cool.”  Just trust me, it’s cool.

Stacie trying to stay dry on a soggy hike.

But in case you need more, here’s more.  In as few, yet concise, words as possible, this is Mark and me on The Good, The Bad, and The Exhausting in our quest to hike the 46 High Peaks.

The Good.

Stacie: I have so many good experiences, so many memorable things, not just the WOW at the summit.  But I will say, at the top of Nippletop Mountain I had an honest-to-goodness moment.  We say the word awesome, but I literally felt the word AWESOME.

Mark:  The day we hiked Sawteeth, Gothics and Armstrong Mountains was one of our longest days up to that point.  After 15 miles I felt great and I realized I could do any of them!  I also enjoyed discovering new things, gaining knowledge, and becoming an experienced hiker…and not being “newbs” anymore! Now the Adirondacks feels like home. 

Stacie:  And we made some great trail BFFs!

Mark:  ….car camping is pretty cool, too.

The Bad.

Stacie:  Allen Mountain.  A million times Allen.  Not because of anything other than when we hiked this monstrosity:

  1. We got maybe two miserable hours of sleep in my car the night before.
  2. It was cold and rainy the whole day, the entire 20+ miles.
  3. We weren’t used to no-sleep hiking, poor conditions, or that distance.
  4. Wet and slippery slides; imagine hiking up waterfalls, endless waterfalls.
  5. At the summit, oh that glorious summit! we were in a cloud.

Mark:  Starting our first high peak, Cascade Mountain, I hit my head and sprained my ankle before we even made it a quarter of a mile.  And then there was the time I hit the wall between Blake Mountain and Mount Colvin.  Sitting in the pit between the two mountains, I knew I had to climb back up Colvin but I was DONE.


The Exhausting.

Stacie: That one time I actually cried on a trail.  Uncontrollably and from physical and mental exhaustion.  We were on our way down from Mounts Skylight and Gray and took a wrong turn.  That mistake added two miles to a 20+ mile hike.  I may or may not have said “leave me here,” and meant it.  This is the big hike Dax did with us.  It was an excellent lesson in paying attention to your distances and your junctions, because when you miss a turn you could find yourself heading in the complete opposite direction.

Mark: There were so many times we were so tired.  Our Cliff Mountain and Mount Redfield day was memorable.  Waking up at 3am to make the drive up north by 6am, hiking for 16+ hours (through so many bogs!) before finally making it back to the car at 10:30pm.  Then driving home.  It ended up being a 22 hour day.  Kind of exhausting.

But wait, there’s more!

Ending with our worst and most exhausting moments on the peaks doesn’t exactly make the most convincing argument that the ADK 46er journey is worth the effort.  So let me leave you with this: Mark and I started dating six months before we hiked our first High Peak, Cascade Mountain.  From there, we shared some epic adventures.  We had each other for encouragement.  Together we laughed our way through the awkwardness of changing sweaty clothes in the car and pooping in the woods.

And then…

mark and stacie mtn
Mark and Stacie on Rocky Peak Ridge

I’m going to marry my adventure partner.  On the top of Whiteface Mountain.  This summer.

Have Dog. Will Hike.

Raise your hand if you have a dog.

Now, raise your hand if your dog is your child who you clothe and snuggle and frame printed pictures of and give them as Christmas gifts for your entire extended family.

More hands than I expected…I’m in good company!

As with my soon-to-be step-children, I like for my dog-children to make memories and have all the fun times.  I drag the kids out at 4am to watch hundreds of hot air balloons launch.  I drag the dog-kids out to hike 20 miles in the Adirondacks.

(both groups enjoyed these things immensely, btw)

Some people think it’s crazy.  I call them cat-people.  Others can relate.  Regardless, over the last few years of outdoor adventures, and outdoor adventures with my dogs, Mark and I have learned a few lessons.

So should you decide to venture out with your pooch (or feline, believe it or not, there are adventure cats, too!) consider these few lessons and rules for the safety and maximum enjoyment of you and your fur-child:

DOs and DON’Ts when you adventure with your pet

Stacie and Dax on the trail to Mt. Colden

DO take them with you!!

That’s obvious.  As with most adventures (the car, your office, the hair dryer) things can be scary for your dog at first, but after they settle into the unfamiliar it becomes…familiar!  The only way to settle in is to actually get out and let them learn how to explore with you.

DO be respectful of others.

Yes, plz.  There are respectful actions like making sure your pet doesn’t completely invade someone else’s territory, or summit snack, and picking up poopies.  And then there’s lawful actions like keeping your dog leashed at all time.

This is unpopular.  Considering your dog is the most friendly, children’s-hospital-therapy-guide-dog, you’d think well certainly the law doesn’t pertain to you!  My friends, it does.  And here are two reasons why:

  1. My dog isn’t friendly.  Sad to say, but this is the case.  We keep our dog, Dax, leashed and muzzled because at this stage we don’t trust that he won’t have a panic attack at the next dude, snowshoe, or dog that crosses his path.  And I’m too heartbroken to NOT bring him to his most absolute favorite place on earth OMG.  If your friendlier than friendly dog ran up to my nervous wreck, it might not end well for either of us.
  2. What happens when we bend the rules for “good” dogs?  Isn’t “good” subjective?  Someone else in my situation might be clueless to the fact that Dax can’t be trusted, and might call him “good……enough” and let him loose in the woods to come across any man, woman, child…or dog.

Leash your pets, friends.  I promise, they will still love you and your adventures for eternity and beyond.

Dax on Black Mountain

DO know your buddy’s limits.

Hey.  I’ve seen as many little dogs way the heck out in the wilderness as I’ve seen big dogs.  And I’ve seen some big dogs needing to be carried out on the shoulders of their owners.  No one knows what your dog is capable better than you…well, and your vet.

I mentioned earlier that Dax went on a 20-miler with us.  Actually, it was 22 miles.  Does that sound like a lot, because it is!  But Dax worked his way up to that distance, like Mark and I did.  Dax trains for half marathons with me.  I know Dax, and Dax can, and happily does (!), 20+ mile hikes.  Know what your dog can do, and start there.  They need to build strength and endurance, the same as we do!

DO be prepared.

This is not a surprise to you, your dog is going to need stuff when he’s out running and climbing and marking every tree, rock, and rodent he comes across.

  • He needs water.  And he can carry it himself in one of those sturdy packs most outdoor stores carry.  Consider this pack.  We just use the Kurgo harness and are happy with it.  Currently I carry the water.  😐
  • He needs snacks.  When you are getting hungry, he probably is too.  We bring extra helpings of his normal dog food, but there are treats made specifically with energy boosters.
  • In the winter, protect his paws from the cold and snow.  Mushers Secret Paw Protection is a weird name for a wax you rub on their paws.  It prevents snow from building up in-between the pads and insulates from the cold.  I don’t know how it does these things, but I do know that it does these things.
  • A first aid kit you might already carry for yourself should include the items you might need to patch up a paw, like gauze and tape.
  • For the ride home, we have a towel for wet and dirty paws//belly//BODY, and another helping of food.
Dax after a hike, ready to nap

Don’t force it.

If Shadow isn’t meant for the outdoor-life, you should learn what he is meant for.  Maybe it’s the hospital-therapy-dog life, or the companion-at-your-feet life.  Years ago I had a Golden Retriever named Oliver.  He was my hiking dog, swimming dog, my everything dog.  After a bout of cancer, we lost Oliver, but soon after we gained Arnie!  Another Golden Retriever, but one who wanted nothing to do with walkies, and only mildly enjoyed the water.  He was a lazy couch dog who preferred to lie in the sun and watch the adventures.

Dax on Buck Mountain

Friends, just remember, you can’t go wrong if you always try to be responsible and respectful.  Happy adventuring!

A challenge. A reward.

Black blog

Who doesn’t like a challenge??

A difficult road.

Feel the burn.

Reap the reward!!

Sometimes that reward is intangible.  It’s that feeling of victory! in the face of the near impossible, it’s bragging rights or that oh-so-satisfying “I told you so.” In outdoor adventure land, the reward is:

  1. The Summit.  At the top you (hopefully) see a view that drops your jaw.   You (hopefully) feel like you literally conquered a mountain.  Because you did!
  2. A Patch!  That sweet sweet embroidered goodness that you wear on your backpack or your cutoff jean jacket that you proudly display as a badge of honor and respect and bad-assery.

My best adventure partner, Mark, and I learned quickly the best motivation for us to get our couch-loving keisters out-of-doors is to have that tangible reward for our efforts.  We will do a series of hikes that earn us patches.  A patch for hiking all three mountains in this area, or twelve mountains surrounding that lake, or forty-six mountains over a certain height in a certain park.

Although we love the feeling of fresh air and the challenge of the climb, so much climb, we also like that physical reminder of our experiences.  And we love using the newest hiking challenge to try out mountains we’d never heard of, or might not have climbed.

So as more and more people head outside, more and more challenges are being created for people of all ages and abilities…and more and more cutoff jean jackets are being rocked out with colored threads.

New York’s best hiking challenges:

As decided by me, Stacie, based on my mediocre hiking abilities and moderate athletic ability.  Disclaimer: before starting any adventure, please do your research and find out what exactly you’re getting yourself into.  We’re talking about wild spaces, folks.  Always play it safe!

Chester Challenge

Location: Town of Chester

The Peaks/Trails:

  • Meade Mountain
  • Beckman Mountain
  • Green Hill
  • Catamount Mountain
  • Kipp Mountain
  • Steward Mountain
  • Caroline H. Fish Memorial Trail
  • Palmer Pond

BONUS: you only have to do six of these eleven family friendly trails!  Depending on your skill level you can choose to do an easier or harder version of some of these trails.  The easier trails start at .8 miles long and go up to 2.6 miles, you’ll climb mountains and walk along nature trails.

4 Moriah

Location:  Lake Champlain Region

The Peaks/Trails:

  • Belfry Mountain
  • Big Hollow/Coot Hill
  • Cheney Mountain
  • Crowfoot Pond Trail

This challenge includes a mountain that gives you the most bang for you buck in the entire Northeast: Belfry Mountain.  This quarter-mile walk up an old logging road feels shorter than a walk to the mailbox, and at the top you climb a tower and gaze on the Adirondack Park to the west and the Green Mountains of Vermont to the east.

This northern Adirondack challenge gives you views of the Champlain Valley that no other does.

Tupper Lake Triad

Location: Tupper Lake Region

The Peaks:

  • Mount Arab
  • Coney Mountain
  • Goodman Mountain

These well maintained, very easy to follow trails lead to summits with outstanding views.  On Mount Arab you will also find a firetower that brings you further above the treeline.  The distance for each mountain is between one and two miles, one-way.

The mountains are located within 20 minutes of each other, Mark and I were able to hike all three in one day.

Fulton Chain Trifecta

Location: Old Forge Region

The Peaks:

  • Bald Mountain
  • Rocky Mountain
  • Black Bear Mountain

Oh I loved this series of mountains with views of the Fulton Chain of Lakes.  As with the Triad, this challenge also includes a firetower, on Bald Mountain.  This is one of my favorite short hikes, and not just because a group of hawks swirled around the cabin of the tower while wewere in it (!!).

Saranac 6er

Location: Saranac Lake Region

The Peaks:

  • Baker Mountain
  • St. Regis Mountain
  • Scarface Mountain
  • Ampersand Mountain
  • Haystack Mountain
  • McKenzie Mountain

Should you do these peaks one or two at a time, this is a fairly moderate challenge, and that’s what I’d imagine most people will do.

Saranac St Regis
St. Regis Mountain

Now let me introduce you to the concept of…The Ultra.  This is when you take a challenge and hike all the mountains.  In one day.  Which is what Mark and I did, making a nice walk in the woods more of a death march to the finish.  This was about pushing our limits doing something we love.  But, the peaks were beautiful; the views, mostly awesome; the trails, some easy, some difficult.

Lake Placid 9er

Location: Lake Placid Region

The Peaks:

  • Cobble Hill
  • Mt. Jo
  • Baxter Mountain
  • Mt. Van Hoevenberg
  • Big Crow Mountain
  • Bear Den Mountain
  • Pitchoff Mountain
  • Catamount Mountain
  • Hurricane Mountain

This is a lovely mix of difficulty.  From the 3 mile Mount Jo overlooking Heart Lake, to the 7 mile Hurricane Mountain, with arguably the best views in the Adirondacks.  Beginner hikers can enjoy this challenge, as well as advanced.  The more you progress in stamina and endurance, the more hikes you do back to back in one outing.  This challenge is also done as an Ultra, something on my list.  However, I tend to save my marathon hiking trips for the longest day of the year.

Lake George 12ster

Location: Lake George Area

The Peaks:

  • Cat Mountain
  • Thomas Mountain
  • Brown Mountain
  • Huckleberry Mountain
  • Five Mile Mountain
  • Fifth Peak
  • French Point Mountain
  • First Peak
  • Black Mountain
  • Erebus Mountain
  • Sleeping Beauty Mountain
  • Buck Mountain

This challenge is a good introduction into the practice of combining peaks, also known as “well I’m already here…”  For example: If you are planning to hike Sleeping Beauty, you will want to add Erebus to the agenda for the day as these two peaks are close together, and to do Erebus on it’s own, you’d need to hike almost to the top of Sleeping Beauty anyway.  This is where hike research is very important!

This is also a great challenge to build those hiking legs.  Start out on Black and work your way to the Lower Tongue Range (Fifth, French Point and First), and by the end you can call yourself a seasoned hiker!

Cat Mountain

On another note, every mountain in this challenge (with the exception of Erebus) gives you the most breathtaking views of one of the most beautiful bodies of water, The Queen of American Lakes, as Lake George is called.

Fire towers

Location: Adirondack and Catskill Parks

The Peaks: Too many to list!

For this challenge you must hike 23 of a list of 30 firetower trails; choose 18 trails of 25 in the Adirondacks, and all 5 trails in the Catskills.  As with the other challenges, there is a range of difficulty levels.  Starting with the .25 mile Belfry Mountain and ending on the 15.2 mile Woodhull Mountain.  But don’t let that scare you.  Along the way you learn so much about hiking and about yourself, and I gar-un-tee you make it the whole way.

And another thing, you’ll start to notice some mountains cross over into other challenges.  Like Hurricane Mountain, this Lake Placid 9er mountain is also a fire tower!  Black Mountain is a 12ster and also a tower.  It’s like I always say: remember your A B Cs…Always Be Checking the internet!

Adirondack 46er

Location: High Peaks Region

The Peaks: Way too many to list!

Unless you’re from the Upstate New York region, you’re probably not familiar with this challenge.  On a recent trip to the Adirondacks, it was overheard “what’s the deal with the number ’46’ anyway??”  It seems completely arbitrary, but the number 46 represents the highest peaks in the Adirondacks, peaks over 4,000′.  If you haven’t started hiking the 46 High Peaks, you are probably not familiar with why this challenge is such a big deal.

It’s hard.  It’s remote.  Unlike with the other challenges, you realize just how far you’ve gone into the wilderness, and it’s awesome.

ADK 46er patch
ADK 46er patch, Summit of Rocky Ridge Peak

This is the one that grabbed Mark and me.  We started on Cascade Mountain (where most start) and never looked back.  We finished on Mount Marcy, the tallest mountain in New York State.  And now we’re looking for our next adventure.

Northeast 111

Location: Adirondacks, Catskills…and beyond!

The Peaks: HERE.

This is a lot of climbing and a lot of traveling!  But if you’re in need of venturing out and away from home, try the peaks in this challenge:  in addition to the 46 High Peaks and two Catskill peaks, you’ll find five mountains in the Green Mountains of Vermont on the list, 48 mountains in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and 14 mountains in the Longfellow Mountains of Maine.

The math IS off, if you’ve been paying attention!  There are actually 115 peaks.

Mark and I completed 47 of 111 (115).  The rest are certainly on our list.

That’s all for now; happy hiking, friends!

Winter is here. Are you ready?


Way up north, in Upstate New York, winter hit us like a big metal padlock in a sock.  By November we had those picturesque snow-covered views you safely enjoy from your couch.  In front of a bay window.  With fuzzy socks and whisky spiked hot chocolate.

But how long do you sit in front of that window?  An hour?  Half a day?  The. Entire. Winter?!

If you’re like me, and Lord help you if you are, a half day (or two Hallmark movies) is all you need to soak in the sereneness off a dense snowfall before you decide you need to be in it.

If you’re like any of us in this part of the U.S., you learn quickly to find ways to enjoy this time of year.  You reorganize your linen closet.  Or you take up a new hobby.  Some actually brave the outside and snowshoe or cross-country ski.

After attempting all of the above, I decided it was time to brave the higher elevations in lower temps.  To strap on my hiking boots and climb those beautiful snow-covered mountains. And the adventures that followed have not disappointed.

This 2018-19 winter hiking season began in those early November snowfalls.  A quick jaunt to warm up those winter hiking legs.  After all, this season requires more weight: snowshoes, micro-spikes, thicker clothing, more clothing….more snacks.  More getting used to.

We chose Vanderwhacker Mountain Firetower in Minerva, New York.


Trailhead: 2.6 miles on Moose Pond Road, off Rt. 28N, North of North Creek

Distance: 5.5 miles, round trip (11.4 miles from the beginning of Moose Pond Road during winter months when the road is icy and impassable)

Elevation: 3,325′

Elevation Gain: 1,700′



This is a beautiful, moderate hike that takes you through dense pine forest.  A slow steady incline to start, your climbing turns a bit aggressive a mile from the summit.  Take a quick breather at the old Ranger station (take a peek inside while you’re there, you’re curious, we all are), and then get back on the trail.




Vanderwhacker’s tower is just a little guy, and not visible until you’re practically on its first step.  It’ll be a nice surprise after your climb!  Just don’t call it a day from that first step, because the view from the top is fantastic.




Take another quick break before the quick jaunt down.  Even in the snow we were able to cruise down, as if in our trail runners.  The awe of the thick snow-covered trees had worn off so there were much fewer picture breaks and must-stop-and-take-it-all-in moments.

We knew what was waiting for us at the bottom, and we were excited to get there!

Cafe Sarah, North Creek


Location: 260 Main Street, North Creek.

Knowing a friend would be waiting for us at this little cafe, and being true adults (read: tired and in constant need of coffee), my hiking partners and I raced over to Cafe Sarah for a post-hike treat and latte before the 3pm closing time.  Although they have a variety of sandwiches and treats, we only needed a quick snack.

The best part, neither the drinks nor the sweets were overloaded with sugar.  It was a refreshing change to taste all the other flavors in my sweet treat.  The blueberries tasted like blueberries!  And so on…

Recommendation: Sugar Shack Latte–a maple and vanilla latte topped with whipped cream and a drizzle of pure, local Adirondack maple syrup.


Enjoy your adventure, friends!