Beyond the Mud

Flower Show Alert

Get ready for the Grand Opening of the Adirondack's Annual Flower Show. It is a little early yet, but time to make plans and preparation. As the temperatures warm and the snow melts our forests and woodlands begin to display their finery. For me this is the best time to get out on a hike, connect with nature, and get a peek at some of the gifts it has to offer. I love the Adirondack's earliest blooms, perhaps because it has been months since we’ve seen anything actually growing outside. In early spring temperatures are perfect for some outdoor exercise, bugs are non-existent (or at a minimum) and sight distance is optimum before the trees and understory leaf out. It’s not all bliss however, there is the mud!

That same melting snow, mixing with warming earth and spring rains, can make footing a bit squishy. Sturdy boots are recommended and trekking poles can help you keep your balance where the terrain might be a bit slick. It will all be worth it, for a view, or a snapshot, of the flowers. Adirondack wildflowers are protected by law, so make sure you take a “pic” and not a pick. Staying on the trail is important so as not to disturb or crush those that have yet to appear.

Choose a CAT

Grab a Champlain Area Trails map and guide, or download them from their website, for some great spring wildflower hunt destinations. CATS has put together a great network of over 40 trails throughout the Lake Champlain Region. Their guide and trail descriptions will inform you about trail length, degree of difficulty, key trail features, and they even provide recommendations for a variety of types of year-round use: hike, snowshoe, ski, mountain bike. 

CMT

One of the best hikes that combines opportunities to see some of our choice Adirondack wildflowers, enjoy a decent climb, and then be rewarded with some awesome views from the top would be the Coon Mountain Trail. This trail is approximately one-mile long. It is considered moderate and lies within The Coon Mountain Nature Preserve. The trailhead can be found just north of the hamlet of Westport on Halds Road. NYS Route 22 splits from 9N right within the hamlet of Westport. Stay on it. Take a right off 22 onto Lake Shore Road. Halds Road will be a left hand turn off Lake Shore Road and you will find the Coon Mountain trailhead and parking area well-marked about ¾ of a mile once on Halds. 

 What a Difference a Guide Makes

I had the good fortune to join Elizabeth Lee, a Licensed Outdoor Guide, on a hike up Coon Mountain a couple of springs ago. I remember it being a beautiful day in late April. It was during our early wildflower window. Accompanying Elizabeth is always an outdoor educational adventure.  She is a naturalist and shares her knowledge in a comfortable, relaxed manner. She also has the eyes of a hawk and easily spots and points out features I certainly would have missed on my own. 

The trail winds uphill through a somewhat steep natural staircase. You need to pick your stairs from the rocks and stones that are wedged between much larger boulders. This is where those trekking poles I mentioned come in quite handy. 

Annual Favorites

We saw plenty of trilliums that day which is one my favorite Adirondack wildflowers. The trillium is known by a variety of other names as well. Some refer to it as purple trillium, some call it red. I believe there is a white variety too. Elizabeth would know for sure. It is not one of our earliest bloomers, but does put on a fantastic show when it arrives. The trillium is also not the kind of flower you want to bend down and sniff. One of its names is Stinking Benjamin since it does give off kind of a funky scent that is meant to attract a certain pollinating fly.   

Another favorite wildflower of mine is the trout lily. Perky little yellow lilies sit atop a straight 6-inch or so stem. The wide leaves lie close to the ground and are covered in spots resembling a speckled brook trout, hence the name. Often these grow in clusters providing nature a beautiful bouquet. 

Hepatica is an early bloomer. The small, pink-lavender flowers emerge early from a cluster of leaves that can look like a green globe resting on the ground when there is not a lot of leaf cover. Where there are plenty of last year’s leaves, you can find just their faces poking though.   

Once we reached the top of Coon Mountain on that April day, we were in for a visual treat looking in any direction. The views from the top are spectacular.

 

If you will be venturing out to Coon Mountain in search of wildflowers on your own, you may want to check in with the Mayor to see what may be blooming at the time.

Happy Spring! 


 In related ADK Park news:

Spring Migration is Beginning Along the Champlain Valley!
Following the Birds North Along Lake Champlain