On top of Catamount Mountain, 3,169 feet. Climbing and bushwhacking through the wet forests soaked me to the bone. Once on top, I descended via a trail.
If you stand on the northern border of New York’s Adirondack Forest Preserve and look due south there is no way you can see the southern border of the park; the view melds into blues and greens of mountains and valleys stacked one upon the other. And though a good chunk of the park is traversed by a long-distance trail, the 133-mile Northville-Placid Trail, running nearly north to south, there is no path that runs from border to border, a distance exceeding 200 miles.
Though I had been exploring the Adirondack Mountains since the 1990s, including hiking the Northville-Placid Trail four times and climbing the 217 mountains above 3,000 feet, for years I had been dreaming of putting all my love of the Adirondacks into one long-distance hike across the entire range. With a three-week trip to the Rocky Mountains unexpectedly cancelled at the last minute this summer, I found August free and took it as a sign to show that Adirondack love.
In less than a week I planned my itinerary: a continuous hike across the widest girth of the Adirondacks Park, from the center of the northern border to the center of the southern border. I’d use foot trails, snowmobile trails, a rail trail, and even ATV trails to get from border to border. This proposed route stretched 220 miles, climbed 23,000 vertical feet, and crossed five wilderness areas in addition to a quilt of other state lands. I would travel solo, go light, and enjoy just one food resupply.
In the end the trip was a huge success, the 220-mile route covered in just twelve days. It was a hike into the Adirondacks themselves but also into Adirondack history: to the best of my knowledge, I am the first person to ever cross the Adirondack Mountains in their entirety.
What follows is a chronological photo journal of this Adirondack odyssey.
Where the journey began: a small field in Ellenburg Center, a town of fewer than 200 people nine miles from Canada, on the northern boundary of the Adirondack Forest Preserve.
In the far north the Adirondacks comprise a broad, high plateau, which serves as a warm up for big mountains to come.
A snowmobile trail in the North Country. Frozen in winter, snowmobile trails are often flooded and overgrown in summer.
A fifteen-mile-long rail trail outside the town of Lyon Mountain. Easy walking but no water sources.
When you walk twenty miles on paved roads, signs symbolize yourself.
A beautiful, quiet snowmobile trail, which leads to Taylor Pond.
With snowmobile trails and paved roads done for the moment, it is time to hike trails and climb mountains. Seen beyond Union Falls Pond is my first mountain range.
Looking down on Lake Placid from Whiteface Mountain, 4,865 feet, highpoint of the route, in gathering storm clouds.
View into High Peaks Wilderness Area from Mount Van Hoevenberg, 2,940 feet.
Drying my twelve pounds of gear on top of Mount Van Hoevenberg.
In the center of the High Peaks is aptly-named Avalanche Pass, which at times has walkways running below sheer rock faces.
The peaceful waters of Lake Jimmy in late afternoon. Now the mountain climbing is completed.
The Wood Shed, 24-hour self-service, established 1991. I passed this facility on my way to my resupply point at mile 125.
The middle of my trek included an eighty-mile section of the Northville-Placid Trail.
Mud, mud, and more mud is par for the course on the Northville-Placid Trail. My Darn Tough socks handled the heat, mud, and flooded sections of trail with ease.
Back on snowmobile trails for the final forty miles, I again encountered flooded sections, though the waist-high ferns were beautiful.
A damaged snowmobile bridge provides a quiet rest stop.
A white admiral rests on one of my tired legs. During the final fifty miles of hiking I saw no other people, only wildlife.
Where the journey ended: the southern boundary of the Adirondack Forest Preserve.