In this desolate winter, road buddy Colin and I didn’t meet up for any of the usual shenanigans. To make up for it, Colin drove down from Ontario with his wife and granddaughter to meet us when my family made our traditional Memorial Day trip to Upper Jay, NY.
With a wide range of ages and abilities, we kept plans basic. Roller skiing and an easy hike were our main plans. Laurel is nine and Colin’s granddaughter, Esme, is four. Mount Marcy and the Great Range would not be on the itinerary this weekend. While I miss doing big days in the High Peaks, it’s necessary to choose a trip that everyone can enjoy. These days, my Adirondack fun is getting to all the mountains that I haven’t been to before, and trails that I’ve never seen.
On Saturday, Jay Mountain was just the ticket for our group. The trail head was only a few miles from our motel, and the summit was only a mile and a half from the road – or so I thought. The guidebook promised a bare summit, even at the low altitude of 3600 feet.
A stout metal pipe adorned with surveyor’s tape marked Jay Mountain’s trail head; a wide shoulder accommodates three cars. The six of us booted up and set out.
The sun was already high, and it was unseasonably warm for Memorial Day. Jay Mountain is a kind of established herd path. Save for yellow or faded orange blazes marking a property line, there are no markers. Except for one spot about a mile in, the trail is easy to follow, with only one animal track to distract you. It’s a steady climb through primarily deciduous forest.
Usually in full bloom on Memorial Day, the trilliums we saw had blossomed and faded. There were way more black flies than we usually see.
And a child shall lead them: Esme was out front most of the way, with Laurel beside her. Esme did quite for a small kid wearing somewhat inadequate shoes. Laurel was a most excellent mentor. Except for a couple of boosts over muddy spots, Esme walked everything by herself. At around a mile or so, Esme had had enough. She and Wendy returned to the trail head, while Laurel, Ellen, Colin and I continued.
The trail wended through a second boggy area before climbing steeply to an open rock face. Here, Ellen and Laurel decided they were done, and they took in the view before heading back to the car. At this point, It was Colin and I. Ten minutes of hard walking brought us to a open, false summit. Although Jay isn’t that big at 3600 feet, there were awesome views in all directions. From this location, it took the map and compass to identify many of the surrounding peaks.
Although the summit beckoned, I’m uncomfortable when a group breaks up during the trip the way ours did. It’s a safety issue; everyone should be together. Even on a warm spring day, in a spot where there are no intersections to muck things up, it’s not a good idea. We enjoyed the view for 10 minutes, than headed down.
The two open slides below the summit ridge are covered with scree, so take care on these sections while you admire the view. This is a great hike if you’re taking small children; the summit is perfectly attainable for them. The key is to bring plenty of water. There was no water on the trail for as far as we got. I can’t speak for water availability on the last 3/4 mile to the true summit, which was maybe 100 feet higher. As it’s off the beaten track, Jay doesn’t seem to get much traffic. Amazingly, we had the mountain to ourselves.
Following our hike and again on Sunday, Colin and I got a couple of easy roller workouts in on Route 9N. As Memorial Day is a big training weekend for the Lake Placid Ironman, we shared the road with cyclists. For some reason, this year we didn’t see the large pelotons I’ve grown accustomed to seeing on this weekend. The largest group was six riders; in past years, I’ve seen two dozen in a single club’s regalia. Certainly it was easier to share the road, but it’s curious. Is registration down this year?
Early on Sunday morning, we rolled the old U.S. Ski Team time trial route, going up Franklin Falls Rd. to the Whiteface toll gate. After a cursory warmup, we set out. In the initial kilometers, the pace was relatively humane. There was fresh pavement on a section that had been badly deteriorated when I last skied here. When we reached the foot of the wall, I gunned it. In contrast to past springs, I felt really good this weekend and was able to go hard all the way to the crest. On slower boards, Colin arrived a few minutes later. One of these years, I want to poach the toll road, but I don’t fancy the walk or run back down. All in all, a most excellent weekend.