Crane Mountain – 18 Aug 2014

Info

  • Map: Hike #30 in Densmore book.  (I did see hikers with other maps, but not sure where they are found.)
  • Trails: Summit (Red), Pond, AKA Connector (Yellow)
  • Type: Lollipop
  • Distance:  A bit over 2.5 miles, depending on whose distances you believe and how much you get lost
  • Time: 4 hours, if you get lost like we did, but doable in 3.
  • Exertion: Moderately strenuous

Getting There

Too complicated to go into here.  There are 8 different turns from the directions in the Densmore book, including one with no road sign.  We started from Bolton Landing on Lake George, cutting over to Warrensburg at Diamond Point.  After that it’s multiple turns that you need to watch your trip meter on or have a GPS.  Ultimately we got there without getting lost, but it took about 30 minutes from the lake.  The road leading into the parking area is dirt and very rutted, so bring your jeep or prepare to drive slowly.

The Hike

This was our Lake George family vacation hike, although not all family members opted in.  This turned out to be a blessing in disguise because as we got lost for a bit, I would have felt pretty bad for dragging along someone who was less than keen on going on this hike.  I selected Crane Mountain because the time and distance seemed about what we wanted to do, and it was close to Bolton Landing.  Signing up for the slog were my son Andrew and his wife Alyssa, and my daughter Emily.

The parking lot was pretty full for a Monday morning, but we got a spot no problem.  The red-blazed Crane Mtn Summit trail begins at the end of the parking lot.  We signed in at the kiosk around 11:00AM.  As is pretty much standard fare here in the ‘dacks, the trail starts to climb up on a rooty, rocky, often muddy path.  I don’t think there had been much rain in the past few days, which was good, because it’s not the kind of route you want to come down on when it’s slippery.

Here are my merry companions at the start of the adventure:

Everyone is happy

That’s Emily, Alyssa, and Andrew from the left.

The hike described in the Densmore book (see References) is called a “lollipop” because you have to backtrack down the steep initial climb on the return.  (This is the “stick” of the lollipop, if you will.)  This section is that not much fun, and as I often do on Adirondack hikes, I find myself repeating the same mantra on the way up, “Boy, this is really gonna suck on the way down.”  There is one little ledge about 25 minutes into things where you can hang out and get a partial view:

A Short Break

A Short Break

But then it’s just back to business, and more of this:

Break's Over, Back to Work

Break's Over, Back to Work

Shortly after resuming the uphill slog, we encountered a sign, indicating that the Summit Trail goes to the right, while the Pond Trail (yellow) goes to the left.  We were damn sure summiteers, so we went right.  Thankfully, the terrain levels out a bit, and it’s only about half a mile to the summit.  There are two ladders on the way, the first a sturdy but short one over a large piece of rock, the second a much longer and steeper one which seems to be supported at the bottom by some small stones underneath each leg of the ladder.  A cursory inspection of said stones reveals they bear almost no load whatsoever.  (I think they are there for appearance sake only.)  The ladder appears to be suspended from the steep incline:

Going up on Faith

Going up on Faith

Aside from one’s implacable faith in the trail maintainers in these here mountains, the ladder does seem to be solidly built as the proverbial brick shithouse, and once at the top there is a single cable attached that explains (if not assures) how one reached the top safely:

Hanging by a Thread

Hanging by a Thread

(Side note: my daughter-in-law Alyssa is a Physics teacher, and I think this would be a great finals question in statics for her class at Bronx Science: A ladder of 30 meters leans against a rocky incline at 60 degrees, with a total surface contact area of 100 cm2.  A cable of 1 cm in diameter is attached to the ladder on the upper right side.  What is the maximum mass of people (in kg) that can be on the ladder simultaneously before the State Police have to call out the rescue helicopter?  Show all your work.)

It’s a quick scramble now to the top with rewarding, if somewhat anonymous views.

Emily Made It!

Emily Made It!

So Did Andrew & Alyssa!

So Did Andrew & Alyssa!

There is a nice ridge you can walk along for some additional vista stops, albeit all looking in the same direction.   The red trail continues now off the summit, towards the Pond.  While not as steep as the “stick” portion on the way up, there are some heavily eroded sections, and footing is precarious for a bit of the way down.  There’s not much to see as the woods are pretty dense, but hey, it sure beats workin’!

Once the trail levels out, there’s a yellow arrow pointing left indicating how to follow the actual trail, but if you just go forward you get to the Pond for our last nice view:

Crane Pond

Crane Pond

Now we get to the real weepy part of the tale, oh my brothers…

So the red trail hugs the Pond’s shore for a few hundred feet, but in the Densmore book, I knew we had to pick up the Pond/Connector Trail (yellow) early on in the traverse.  We were led astray by an early unmarked trail that seemed to go off to the left, which after avoiding in lieu of the red trail, we decided might be our Pond Trail.  There were a number of groups of people around at the time, although none seemed to know about the yellow trail we sought.  We went along the Pond for a ways, then went back to the yellow arrow, talked with one group with a map that clearly showed the yellow trail, but had no idea where it was.  Then we followed the spurious trail we first encountered until it petered out no matter how hard we tried to convince ourselves this might be it.  (This is a delusion I have suffered before: you convince yourself this must be the right way, but only when you man up and say “maybe I’m wrong,” do you find the way out.)  We were close to simply following the red trail back to the lot, which another group had told us was a nasty rock scramble, when I heard a group ahead of us say something like, “Hey, here’s that yellow trail those people were looking for!”

Turns out the trail was right along the shore, maybe 100 feet past our trail of delusion, but (as the Densmore book had warned) there is no sign.  It’s at a bend to the right that tracks the shore, so your attention is drawn from the intersection.  I apologize to future hikers for not building a cairn there, but I was fairly frustrated by then, having chewed up almost an hour looking for this hidden trail.

Anyway, the Pond/Connector Trail takes you back to the stick of the lollipop.  It is an uneventful run, slightly uphill, but only a bit over a half mile.  My initial thoughts on the way up proved prescient, as any of my hiking companions will attest: the way down did totally suck.

We got to the parking lot around the four-hour mark, tired but glad to have made the trek.

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