Giant Mountain Ridge Trail – Autumn in the Adirondacks

When I set out to make an autumn visit to the Adirondacks this year, my goal was to hike to the summit of Giant Mountain.  Our Canadian Thanksgiving weekend was perfectly timed.   Apparently I wasn’t the only one with that intention.  Having started the hike up the Giant Mountain Ridge Trail at about 7:30am, I was very surprised that the trailhead was already busy when I arrived. The trail was pretty steep and there were a lot of folks who were powering past me.  It was definitely a busy trail.

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When I set out to make an autumn visit to the Adirondacks this year, my goal was to hike to the summit of Giant Mountain.  Our Canadian Thanksgiving weekend was perfectly timed.   Apparently I wasn’t the only one with that intention.  Having started the hike up the Giant Mountain Ridge Trail at about 7:30am, I was very surprised that the trailhead was already busy when I arrived.
The trail was pretty steep and there were a lot of folks who were powering past me.  It was definitely a busy trail.

Amazing views in the morning along the early section of the ridge trail.

Eventually after hiking through a mixed forest, there were some beautiful views to be enjoyed.  There were even some early-bird hikers who had set up camp along the trail in order to photograph the early morning light.  They looked pretty cold though!

Just after hiking along part of the ridge trail, I came across a small lake.  It’s pretty stunning to see the colourful reflections and was surprising to encounter this small lake so close to the ridge of the mountain.  I wonder if there were any fish in the lake at this elevation.

Enjoying the colourful reflections.The trail looks a lot like this (and in some cases even more challenging) during the steep ascent.

The trail gradually takes us up a pretty rough and rocky terrain.  Slippery at times and bouldering-like at others.  Definitely helpful if one has trekking poles but I did see many people hiking without.  Some parts are really tough — requiring some level of tactical approach to climbing up and over boulders — and I was surprised at how many inexperienced hikers were tackling the mountain without proper footwear and water.

Whenever I hike a mountain, it always feels as if we just keep going up and up and up until we get past the alpine tree line.  Then the views are just spectacular.  I encountered a fork in the trail where one could either opt to go around “The Bump” or go over it.  I chose to go over it, although if you are feeling tired, definitely choose to go around it because you wouldn’t be close to the summit just yet!  I did have the opportunity to take a good photosphere though.

The summit of Giant Mountain.  A beautiful vista including snow!

When I finally arrived on to the summit — it was busy and cold.  There was even snow and ice!  There were a handful of people chatting and quietly enjoying the view but the summit wasn’t big enough to accommodate the amount of traffic that Giant Mountain experiences.  I found a spot to sit myself down and took in the views until I eventually found that the summit was getting a bit too busy for my liking.  Unfortunately, no photosphere because there were just too many people.

A closer look at the ice and snow on the summit.The descent from Giant Mountain's summit.

Along the way down, it was fascinating to watch how others tackled the descent.  Many people tried to slide down certain surfaces on their bum while others attempted to find ways around the actual trail — in some cases stepping off the trail and then resuming once they had found secure footing.  In most cases I found that my trekking poles were always helpful but there were one or two situations where there was no other way to step down from one boulder to another — or at least none that I felt safe doing so — so I just shuffled my way down on my behind.

One guy I encountered along the way down was jumping from rock to rock and boulder to boulder but I can’t imagine that being sustainable and good for his knees.  His balance and endurance was definitely impressive!  The thing that often makes me a little anxious is often the amount of traffic on the trail, particularly on more precarious sections of the trail.

The sun-lit forest along the way down from the mountain.

I was definitely tired after the long descent but it was a beautiful hike down Giant Mountain and was happily satisfied with the achievement.  Unfortunately during the descent, I happened to hit my knee against a boulder.  Nothing major but it definitely didn’t permit me to continue hiking for an extended period of the long weekend.  I only wish I had more time to spend in the Adirondacks during the autumn time.  Perhaps next year!

Owl Head Lookout Trail – Autumn in the Adirondacks

I’ve always wanted to see the autumn colours in the mountains but never really had the time.  Normally every year, my friends and I would head up to a variety of provincial parks to view the autumn colours but this year, I decided to take a few days and make my way to the Adirondack mountains.

Camping near the waterfall in Wilmington Notch campgrounds

I’ve always wanted to see the autumn colours in the mountains but never really had the time.  Normally every year, my friends and I would head up to a variety of provincial parks to view the autumn colours but this year, I decided to take a few days and make my way to the Adirondack mountains.

Usually, I found that staying at the Wilmington Notch campground near Lake Placid is an ideal base camp.  It’s conveniently located amidst many of the trails in the High Peaks and towns.  I also enjoy making a visit to the waterfall just a very brief trail away from the campsite itself.

After arriving in the evening, I woke up the next day and immediately left camp in search of the Owl Head lookout trailhead.  Not exactly the easiest to find but I eventually arrived at a full parking lot.  I was pretty surprised at how many people were already on the trail this morning.

The trailhead parking lot was completely full.

I had initially taken a wrong turn (wasn’t paying attention to the trailer markers) and ended up passing by a key trail maker so I ended up getting lost.  After wandering around in circles I finally made my way back to the parking lot and realized my mistake.  Partially frustrated from wasting time, I was relieved to finally make my way towards the lookout.

Just up ahead, there was actually a large crew working on a new bridge.

Along the way, I eventually found myself hiking next to a stream and encountered a large group of people working on building a new bridge.  I was greeted by a cheerful park ranger and other folks with many humourous remarks and suggestions on how to cross the stream with the bridge under construction.  This explains why the trail’s parking lot was so full.  I was told that by the time I return, the bridge would be complete (that wasn’t the case, although it was near completion).

What the trail looked like along the way.

The trail up to the lookout point was beautiful and full of vivid colours but it was simply not comparable to the field of colours that was viewable from the lookout itself.  It was only then that I realized how different it was to be on the ground level and be looking at the colourful leaves from the base of a tree.

Having the opportunity to see the vastness of the mountains covered with colour is a dramatic change from what I usually get to see in Ontario.

Owl Head lookout point.  A great vista with plenty of colour!

Aside from a couple of people, It was very quiet so I took the time to sketch the lookout point as a part of #inktober.  Unfortunately I’ve yet to figure out how to manage technique in the cold and windy climate! Compared with other trails, this was a pretty quiet place.

As I descended, I encountered groups of other folk who were packing a lot of gear. Owl Head is along the way towards Giant Mountain and I imagine they were heading towards the lean-to that led towards the Giant Mountain Summit. Part of me wished that I had an opportunity to do a longer hike like that.

Sketching the lookout point on Owl Head

Also happened to take a photosphere with my phone.  Take a look at what it looks like up on the lookout point!

Bruce Trail Part 14 – Limehouse to Creditview Road

Starting off where we ended last week near Limehouse Conservation Area, we immediately noticed that autumn certainly was making an entrance on certain parts of the trail.  This certainly made the anticipated-lengthy hike more enjoyable.

We’ve had some part timers unable to join us and with Nuit Blanche fast approaching, my friends and I decided to push to hike a greater distance than normal, and complete the Toronto section of the Bruce Trail.
Starting off where we ended last week near Limehouse Conservation Area, we immediately noticed that autumn certainly was making an entrance on certain parts of the trail.  This certainly made the anticipated-lengthy hike more enjoyable.

Where we ended our hike last week.  The tree is now practically fully orange red!The real hike began along this escarpment wall.

After walking on a side road for a while, the trail takes us along the escarpment wall and deeper into the forest.  Eventually, we make our way past some farmland and some beautiful grass fields — where we encountered some beautiful and vibrant autumn colours, primarily golds and oranges.  During the past few hikes, I’ve noticed quite a few tunnels formed by trees and bush.  With the autumn colours coming through, these tunnels look that much more appealing.

Signs and Natural TunnelsEnjoying time in the tall fields.

During this section of the hike, we were surprised to find out that lengthy parts of this hike involved boardwalks.  I’m guessing that these areas required more protection (or there were too many wet areas).  We were expecting a rough hike but we didn’t mind.  This made a for a pretty glamourous and comfortable hike and it definitely helped us speed up our overall pace.

On the boardwalk ... lots of boardwalks...A grand autumn view of a farm.And more boardwalk...Trekking through a well-lit forest.

Once we made our way through one-third of the hike today, we found ourselves hiking against the direction of much traffic.  Apparently there was a Toronto Bruce Trail Club End-to-End event this weekend.  Everyone we encountered seemed to think we were hiking the wrong way!  I think I even came across a couple of folks I’ve seen on twitter.

The rocky terrain was pretty challenging this time around and although those parts of this hike weren’t too lengthy, it could pose a pretty major challenge for anyone not accustomed to this type of terrain — particularly if there is a lot of trail traffic.  It definitely seemed like a very busy day on the trail with so many folks enjoying time outdoors.  We even noticed a large group of Korean hikers sitting around enjoying lunch who had some sort of group sing-a-long.  That said, I didn’t really understand what they were singing other than the fact that it seemed opera-related.

Hiking along this rocky terrain, we kept encountering the Toronto Bruce Trail End-to-End event hikers.Spontaneous photo shoot in a beautiful valley.

There were definitely some stunning and beautiful landscapes that we passed during this hike.  Autumn may have been showing itself through the colours but the temperature and weather sure didn’t seem like it — felt more like summer!

The Bruce Trail running through Terra Cotta was a little disappointing.  My friends were all joking about how I would be taking lots of photographs and slowing down the hike once we got to Terra Cotta Conservation Area, but I only ended up with a few photos.  This part of the hike simply ran through a pretty bland forested area of the conservation area.  Wish they had routed the Bruce Trail through the more interesting parts of the park.

Hiking through part of Terra Cotta.Not quite sure what is going on here...

There were definitely some big surprises along the way.  One of the best ones was stumbling upon an apple orchard and bakery as we hiked along the last part of this section along the road.  I kept noticing a lot of city slickers driving by looking at us oddly (was it our gear?), and when I saw the busy parking lot at the Spirit Tree Cidery, it all made sense.  We were tempted to stop in for some cider and apples but none of us really felt like carrying everything to the end of the hike.

After some debate and pondering, we ended up returning to the Spirit Tree — perfect opportunity to pick up some pie and cider as a treat to take home.  Unfortunately they seemed to have run out of apple pie, so we picked up some blueberry and pumpkin pie.

Passing by a apple orchard, bakery, and cider operation.  Picked up some pie and cider (after the hike of course).Admiring the golden fields, and rustic (or rusty) signage.The end of this 28km hike and the completion of the Toronto section of the Bruce Trail!

After trudging along slowly on the last bit of this hike (it was surprisingly hot at the time), we finally arrived at the end of the Toronto section of the Bruce Trail and the beginning of the Caledon section.  The Toronto section is surprisingly short but it provided a very nice variety of scenery and had some pretty challenging technical sections.

We’ll be on a bit of hiatus for the month of October with the core group taking off on some autumn road trips or spending time with family.  I anticipate we’ll resume sometime in November — I think it’ll be quite a bit colder then!

For now, check out the full gallery of this hike.

Bruce Trail Part 13 – Hilton Falls to Limehouse

Starting off the Toronto section of the Bruce Trail was quite exciting.  I was looking forward to seeing what this part of the trail had in store for us.  Although some of the trail did seem a bit bland earlier on, it was technically challenging and we were eventually rewarded with some pretty cool and interesting things to see and experience in the latter part of this hike.

The rain gear everyone was wearing initially was short-lived.  We shed that layer rather soon after starting the hike.

We had thought it would rain all day and taking that into consideration, I decided to bring out my waterproof Canon D20 for use on this hike. Fortunately it stopped raining but I decided to use this small compact handheld camera for the whole hike rather than use my typical camera to see how I felt about it.

Starting off the Toronto section of the Bruce Trail was quite exciting.  I was looking forward to seeing what this part of the trail had in store for us.  Although some of the trail did seem a bit bland earlier on, it was technically challenging and we were eventually rewarded with some pretty cool and interesting things to see and experience in the latter part of this hike.

Getting a nice view of the escarpment, and the rain stopped just in time for us to shed the rain gear.

When we started the hike, it was pouring rain but we soon found that we didn’t need the rain gear and it was significantly warmer than we anticipated so off went the rain gear.  Of course, throw in some sunshine after the rain and you get some pretty warm and humid climate.

Three words:  Perfect mosquito conditions.

We ended up squeezing in between these columns.The view from the road of the escarpment was rather pretty.

After taking us through a small chunk of forest and through some stone formations, we found ourselves on a bridge overlooking a large quarry.  What is fascinating about this is the fact that we drove by the escarpment later and saw the bridge from a distant country side road.  If we hadn’t hiked across that bridge, we would never have known it even existed.

After a bit of climbing we found ourselves on a bridge with a view looking at a rather large quarry.This part of the hike takes us through some marsh areas, and of course the mosquitoes were out in force.

This hike like the previous hike had a lot of overgrowth with less maintained parts of the trail.  As much as I enjoy the wildflowers and all, walking through tall and vast fields of them and into lots of shrubbery isn’t that pleasant and there isn’t much to look around at either other than your footwork — ensuring you don’t trip on a root or stone.

In the latter part of this hike, we began encountering entire chunks of the trail that were all uneven rock or stone.  This slowed us down greatly but we got accustomed to it after some practice.  It didn’t help that the rain over the past week made everything moist and muddy, making navigating over the not-so-flat or stable rocks and moss-covered stones more challenging.  It was a nice technical challenge for us but it would get tiring for anyone who isn’t accustomed to hiking or haven’t strengthened their leg and ankle muscles.

The hike gets challenging from a technical perspective because of all the uneven rocks and mossy rocks that served as the trail path.A brief break from hiking on the rocks.  A random lawn chair?If only we had cash on us.  We could have enjoyed some poutine along this hike!

Eventually, we made our way on to the road and ended up passing by an interesting little food joint.  We were hoping to try out the poutine but unfortunately we used up all our cash available to us in order to pay for parking at these Conservation areas.  There’s a bit of irony there.

The next part of this hike was by far one of my favourite encounters.  We ended up hiking through a small strip of land in between two large corn fields.  Aside from wondering if this corn was meant for humans or for animal feed, we traversed through some very interesting terrain.  The trail weaved between and around trees or vines with so much character and colour — then ended up finding ourselves forced to hike through columns of corn, with husks and leaves constantly flapping into our face.  Annoying but fun for a brief amount of time.

It's amazing to think that this is a mere thin strip of land between two fields of harvest and crops.  Practically a tunnel made up of all sorts of trees and brush.A view of what's outside the natural tunnel.  Notice the corn fields on both sides.Enjoying the rather colourful experience whilst walking through this path.Passing through more farmland.

Eventually, after making our way through some large acres of farmland, we find ourselves in Limehouse Conservation Area.  There we make our way through the “Hole in the Wall”, a fun section of the trail in this park.  We tried to hang around here for a while to take some photos but it seemed like a pretty busy part of the trail so we had to depart to let some other folks have some fun.

The Limehouse Conservation Area also contains some pretty nifty historical remnants of the old industry from the 1800s.  My inner historian would love to spend hours comparing photos of then and now.

The remnants of the Lime industry of the 1800s.Autumn has been revealing its splendid colours.

The latter part of this hike was by far one of the most interesting bits of the Bruce Trail.  It was tiny but thoroughly enjoyable.  The funny thing about the Bruce Trail that I’ve discovered thus far is that it takes you through large number of beautiful areas but it doesn’t necessarily take you through the best parts of these areas nor does it force you to spend more time in these areas.  It sort of forces you to choose distance vs. depth.  At the end of the day, we were surprised to see a beautiful multi-coloured tree.  We had parked on the side of the road earlier in the morning when it was pouring rain — with the sun out, everything looked completely different.

Check out the full gallery from this hike.  As much as I liked the fact that I was better able to respond to situations with the Canon D20 camera, and that it was waterproof — I still preferred using my go-to Fuji X100.  That said, I didn’t mind that with the Canon D20, the amount of time spent dealing with post-processing RAW files and uploading large image files was reduced dramatically!