Top Three Quick Hikes
Guest blogger: Gail Testa
Blueberry Hill, Elizabethtown, NY
My children grew up in the Adirondack Mountains and my youngest son was only about four or five years old when he began walking with us as we hiked. As he grew he joined us on more difficult hikes, and as he got even older, he enjoyed climbing the larger mountains on his own. He no longer lives in the area, but he still loves the mountains and returns often to hike. Now, as a father with two small children of his own, it was important to him and his wife to instill the same love they both have of the outdoors in their children. So, a few years ago when they came to visit and our grandson Toryn was just 4 years old, we took him on his first hike to the top of Blueberry Hill.
The Blueberry Hill Trail system consists of a network of over 30 trails covering hundreds of acres of land in Elizabethtown and Lewis in Essex County, New York. At the top, is “Giant Lookout” where hikers can enjoy a view of Giant Mountain, the twelfth-highest mountain in the Adirondacks. We took four-year-old Toryn on a short hike up to that lookout for his very first hike.
We parked on Lord Road, just off of Route 9N in Elizabethtown, and began by hiking up the Colonel Host Trail for just under a mile to where it connects to Blueberry Hill Trail and then Upper Liberty Trail for a short distance to Giant View Trail. The entire hike takes only about thirty minutes for an adult. It took us a little longer this time, however, because Toryn fussed and complained the entire way. He was tired. He was hungry. He wanted to go home. But then, we reached Giant Lookout at the end. Toryn climbed up on a rock looking out at the mountains in the distance and pointing to Giant Mountain said, “Daddy, next time I’m going to climb THAT mountain!”
Like his dad, Toryn was “hooked.” We sat and ate lunch at the top and talked about all the mountains in the area to climb and as we walked back down the trail, I promised to take Toryn on another mountain hike when he came back.
I’ve been hiking in the Adirondack Mountains for over 35 years, but not until I moved to Elizabethtown ten years ago did I know about the Blueberry Hill Trails. They are well-marked and easy to follow. They are great for walking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, mountain biking, and horseback riding. When all the other trailheads have 10, 20, or more cars parked at them, there always seems to be an opportunity for a hike on the Blueberry Hill Trails with very few, if any, other hikers. The trails are #35 on the Champlain Area Trails (CATS) 2016-17 map and you can download a detailed map of just the Blueberry Hill trails. They are perfect for a short, quick hike, or you can take your time and wonder on several of the trails.
Wildway Overlook, Essex, NY
The next time my son and his family came for a visit, Toryn was five years old. He remembered the promise I made to him to take him hiking again, and he asked if we could go up “that” mountain. Knowing that he was still a little young to hike to the top of Giant, I suggested another “mountain” that he might like to try.
One of my favorite CATS trails is the Wildway Overlook Trail (#15 on the CATS 2016-17 map). This easy to moderate trail features interpretive signs along the .75 mile hike up to a beautiful view overlooking the Split Rock Wildway connecting Lake Champlain to the Adirondacks.
This time, Toryn’s three-year-old little sister Avery was old enough to walk on her own up the “mountain.” As we hiked up the trail, we stopped to read the signs explaining the importance of the “Split Rock Wildway” and how it provides safe passage for the animals traveling between Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains. Toryn didn’t complain this time, but ran ahead, encouraging Avery to keep up.
At the top we sat on the bench placed there in memory of Bruce Klink, one of the founding members of Champlain Area Trails. We ate a snack, enjoyed the view of the Champlain Valley, and as Toryn sat quietly watching the hawks circling overhead riding the thermals, he quietly said, “Thank you Grammy.”
Toryn and family came again the next year for a visit. This time six-year-old Toryn wanted to hike a “real” mountain so we decided on Cheney Mountain, another short, quick hike with fabulous views. Cheney Mountain is located just off of Route 22/9N in the town of Moriah (#41 on the CATS 2016/17 map).
We parked at the trailhead on Pelfershire Road 1.6 miles west of Rt. 22/9N, and began our hike by walking through an open field, were we could see Vermont’s Green Mountains off in the distance. Once on the trail, we signed the register and started the easy to moderate uphill hike to the three scenic overlooks. Considering himself an experienced hiker by now, Toryn pointed out the trail markers to us along the way, making sure we didn’t get lost.
Cheney Mountain has three separate views that are featured near the top. One view looks north over Lake Champlain and the Champlain Valley, another features views of the Champlain Bridge, Crown Point, and the Green Mountains in the background. The third lookout features views of the Dix Mountain Range and other Adirondack High Peaks. We spent several minutes at each of these three scenic lookouts, enjoying the amazing views and appreciating the beauty of the Lake Champlain Region before heading back to the car.
Next time Toryn comes for a visit, he will be seven years old. Maybe not quite old enough yet to climb all the way to the top of “that” mountain, but old enough to take Giant’s north trail to Owl’s Head Lookout. Once there, Toryn can look back toward Elizabethtown at Blueberry Hill where he first looked out over the Adirondack Mountains and proclaimed he was going to climb “that mountain.” Now that he’s “hooked,” I have no doubt that Toryn will be back many times to hike to the top of Giant and many of the other mountains and trails in the magnificent Adirondack Park.