Mt. Arab — 19 Sep 2011

Info

  • Map: Per the Densmore book, USGS Piercefield Quad (but you don’t really need it)
  • Trails: Mt. Arab
  • Type: Out and back
  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Time: About 2 hours, assuming you hang at the top for about an hour.
  • Exertion: Easy

Getting There

From Lake Placid Village, head east on NY 86 toward Saranac Lake. Once in that village, continue onto NY 3 East toward Tupper Lake.  NY 30 will merge with NY 3 on the way into Tupper Lake.  Mind the signs carefully and stay on 3E toward Piercefield.  Once through Piercefield watch for CR 62 (not 75 like Google Maps tells you) and make a left.  At 1.8 miles, make a left onto Mt. Arab road, and go 0.8 miles down that.  Park on the right, the trailhead is on the left.  (Depending on your speed, this will take about 45 mins.)

The Hike

So, this was my recovery hike from doing Algonquin the day before.  My left ankle was a bit angry with me. and I was feeling quite un-ambitious, so this hike, described in the Densmore book (see References) looked like the perfect alternative.  It’s one mile of a very easy ascent, to a summit with a refurbished fire tower that you can go up into, with panoramic views from there of the High Peaks plus lots of rolling hills, woods, and lakes.  You will not get the drama and majesty of a High Peaks’ climb, but it will be pretty damn good, without any of that pain business.  I was not expecting much from this hike, but at the risk of sounding a bit gushy, it turned out to be a real gem.

It was another grand day weather-wise, probably even better than the day before: cool, crisp, and clear.  I don’t mind two-thirds of the 3 H’s: the hot and humid I’m fine with, but the hazy bit always reduces the payback on a hike.  There’s a sign at the trailhead, telling you it’s only a mile to the top:

Mt. Arab Trailhead

Mt. Arab Trailhead

It’s a very easy ramble, albeit pretty constantly uphill.  There are few sights along the way, although a brochure available at the sign-in kiosk does provide numbered points along the route for some geologic or floral points of interest.  I must confess, these were a bit under my radar; I just wanted to get up to the top.

The summit is very nice, with the small ranger station and the aforementioned fire tower.  Although there are only hints of the views to come when climbing the tower, it is a nice place to sit down and have some lunch, which I did, sitting on the steps of the station:

Ranger Cabin, Mt. Arab

Ranger Cabin, Mt. Arab

Since this was post-Labor Day, the nominal end of summer, the cabin was locked up tight, with chicken wire covering the windows, and this plaintive sign on the padlocked door:

Please Do Not Break In

Please Do Not Break In

I found this somewhat quaint:  I mean there’s no reason I would ever need to break in here other than extremely dire circumstances, like being stranded naked atop the mountain in a blizzard in the middle of January, in which case I doubt this sign would provide much inducement for me not to break in.  Sadly however, I realize mutants live amongst us who would simply break off the latch on a late autumn evening after guzzling too many Genny Cream Ales, for the opportunity to relieve themselves on someone’s floor, thus the need for such a sign.  There was a persistent chirp every couple of minutes coming from the cabin that could only have been a smoke detector with a dying battery, unlikely to be replaced until well after this next winter has come through and silenced the chirp during some blustery, snow-driven night.

The special thing about this day, aside from the physical relief of not climbing 3000 vertical feet in 3.6 miles, was… There was no one here! There was no sound aside from the wind in the trees.  I was far enough away from any roads that no car noise could be heard.  A few turkey vultures could be seen soaring off the hill, some chipmunks rustled in the grass, some buzzing insects, but other than that, it was just me.

After lunch, I made the climb up the tower.  Fire towers are a neat feature of the Adirondacks.  Originally intended for forest fire detection, that task is now done by airplanes.  Some of them have been restored and are maintained by local volunteer groups, like this one, for the enjoyment of us all, and I feel a debt of gratitude toward these people and organizations.  For without the ability to get up into this tower, Mt. Arab is not much of a destination.  Yeah, it’s quiet and such, but there’s not much of a view due to the trees at the top–other than the nifty little bench I uncovered later.  So kudos to these people, because keeping this structure within compliance to be climbed by the public is no easy task, especially in this rugged climate.

Fire Tower, Mt. Arab

Fire Tower, Mt. Arab

The inside of the tower is bare, with only a glass-covered map on a circular table that’s not all that useful.  The windows are plexiglass that has been so etched by the wind, rain, sleet, hail, and dust that you cannot really see much out of them.  Fortunately, they do open up, so you can get a clear view in all four directions.  The east view is the best, as you look back whence you came, from the High Peaks.  There is a panorama that lines the upper walls of the cabin to help you identify the mountains in the distance.  It’s a bit challenging, but I do believe that this is a picture (14x zoom) of where I was the day before, Algonquin:

Algonquin from Mt. Arab

Algonquin from Mt. Arab

Algonquin is not the mountain in the foreground, but rather the one behind it, in the center of the photo.

Looking a bit further north, you can identify Whiteface with its signature granite scar running from top to bottom:

Whiteface, with Tupper Lake in the Foreground

Whiteface, with Tupper Lake in the Foreground

The village of Tupper Lake appears in this 14x zoom shot to be sitting at the feet of Whitface, but there is about 30 miles between them.  The panorama in the tower did not call out Mt. Marcy, so I presume that it is blocked by some of the more proximate peaks, although I can’t quite fathom how that could be.

The southern view is next best with Mt. Arab and Eagle Crag Lakes as blue gems imbedded in the woods.  I experimented a bit with the photo-stitch feature on my camera to take a panorama of my own of this view:

Mt. Arab Panorama

Mt. Arab Panorama

It was striking how much wind was blowing against the tower, with almost nothing at ground level within the trees.  I hung out there for about 15 minutes or so, still totally alone, except for one elderly gent, the click-click of his trekking poles alerting me to his arrival.  For whatever reason, he quickly turned around and went back down to the parking lot without noticing me 50′ above him.

Once down out of the tower, I ambled around the summit a bit until my eyes caught sight of a little break in the bushes.  Sure enough, there was little path out to a rock ledge with a very nice rough bench.  I think I could have sat there all day, looking down at the lakes and the Adirondacks to the south:

Secluded Southern View from Mt. Arab

Secluded Southern View from Mt. Arab

Too bad this was not mentioned in the Densmore book, because it would have been a great place to eat lunch.  Oh well.  Before I’d found the spot, I’d heard some voices coming up the trail.  By now it was clear that they were at the summit, so I thought this would be a good time to move on.  Turned out it was an excellent time because just as I started downhill, more visitors arrived:  three twenty-somethings with a dog, one of the guys carrying a 16-oz can of Bud Lite, as an aid to hydration no doubt.  Funny, I usually think of beer as a post-hike beverage (and certainly never Bud Lite, Good Lord).  I had pulled off a solid hour of almost total isolation on a perfect day in the middle of the Adirondacks.  Yay, me!

It was a half hour scoot down the trail, my sore ankle not thrilled about it, but nothing compared to yesterday.  They’ve got a nice bit of beggary at the bottom:

Please Give!

Please Give!

I was in such a good mood that I slipped a fiver in the slot.  (Don’t tell anyone!)

On the ride back I stopped in Saranac Lake to stroll around.  It’s a very pretty town, clearly touting its quaintness as a tourist draw:

Downtown Saranac Lake

Downtown Saranac Lake

The lake itself is also quite picturesque:

Saranac Lake, Lake

Saranac Lake, Lake

All in all, a perfect hiking day.

2 Responses to “Mt. Arab — 19 Sep 2011”

  1. C. Snye says:

    I am a member of the board of directors of Friends of Mt. Arab. I appreciate your postings of your experiences on Mt. Arab and your candor. I want to report to you that the facility was burglarized on Sunday, October 16, 2011 (our first weekend w/o coverage), with approximatly $6,000 damage committed by 2 local youths, ages 14 and 13. They have confessed and have been charged but this does not quarentee any restitution will be made. 3 windows in the cabin were destroyed, anything breakable inside was, the rough bench was destroyed, sign spray painted over as well as the interior of the tower. FOMA will make necessary repairs but the cost of repairs will take up most of our funding for next seasons Summit guides.
    Just to clarify the map in the tower as not being useful.. it is the original 1918 map used when the tower was built. The aladade (used to pin point fires) had been stored for the winter.
    Thank you for your interest in our facility, just thought you’d like to know of our recent setback.
    CAS

    • pjneary says:

      Sorry to hear of this. Quite a shame. It must be very disheartening to put so much sweat into a special place as this, only to have it ruined by persons for reasons no one can fathom.
      –PJN

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