Mayor of Coon Mountain

I shy away from politics generally, but I wear proudly my Mayor of Coon Mountain badge.

I know every step of this hiking trail, and now, with the advent of social networking, the world of Foursquare knows that I know what I know, too.

I'm not one of those who "checks in" to this popular geolocation application every time they get coffee, or arrive at their office, but I do try to remember to "check in" when I'm in a cool place (often with a good photo opportunity). The Foursquare application rewards participants with badges for certain levels of achievement, the most popular being "Mayor" of a given location or business for having checked in the most times, up to that moment.

And so on a recent lovely mid-week day, I decided to take a hike for my lunch break and see if I was still the Mayor of Coon Mountain on the Adirondack Coast.

I know of this artist in the Adirondacks who takes his canvas, paints and brushes and goes to the same spot, on the same river, almost every single day for inspiration. Now in his 80's, he has quite a collection of perspectives from this one single spot.

I thought of him as I climbed, again, one of my favorite local mountains. When I lived right in the village in Westport years ago, this trail served as an after work hike on an almost daily basis. Now, this short jaunt remains a frequent workout year-round.

Katie on Coon Mountain Trail

On this day, my dog Katie and I raced to the top - it's a little bit less than a mile from the trailhead. The Lake Champlain region has sparse snow cover right now, but the trail was packed from repeated snowshoe use. With the sun out, and mid-20 degree temperatures, it was possible to ascend in the soft snowpack with regular hiking boots - no need for crampons or snowshoes.

Once at the summit, the tracks from many previous hikers beckoned Katie to run around and sniff and jump and explore. The sun-soaked bare rock beckoned me to sit down and take in the views for a few minutes.

As I said, I've climbed this mountain countless times since the trail was acquired by the Nature Conservancy and opened to the public in 1992. And it has physically changed a little over the years, for sure. Because it is so popular, required trail maintenance has altered the route slightly (rocks steps, etc., to avoid erosion), a second, rolling loop trail has been added, and the tree line has actually changed, too. I remember the trees and bushes at the summit being much "shorter", though the spectacular panoramic views of Lake Champlain looking south and the Adirondack High Peaks to the west remain the same.

View from Coon Mountain

It's always a different experience; driven by trail conditions, season, and even conversations with people I meet on the way. Though I don't paint with oils, this mountain provides varying perspective and contemplative inspiration for me, just as that river does for that Adirondack artist.

On this day, we had the trail and the summit to ourselves. There was no wind, and the sun felt warm, despite the calendar saying it was February. I could clearly see the line of demarkation where the ice had formed on Lake Champlain - it had frozen fully across to a point just north of Port Henry.

I was glad that I had my phone with me; it allowed me to take some notes to capture ideas inspired during the hike, and to take pictures of the landscape from the summit.

I remembered just before heading back down that I should also "check in" on Foursquare with my phone. I did, with an accompanying photo of the view.

In case you're wondering, yes, I'm still Mayor.

-Kim Rielly is the mayor of Coon Mountain and the director of communications for the Lake Placid CVB

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