The second-to-last Sunday in April proved to be some of the best hiking weather of the Spring so far. A good thing, too, because I’d made plans to head up to the Southern Adirondacks to meet my oldest and best friend for a jaunt up Hadley Mountain.
I picked my buddy up in Saratoga, about an hour and a half from my place, and the mountain is about an hour from her place (and I got a little, teeny bit lost on the way to Hadley), so even though I’d gotten up at 6:45 am we didn’t get to the trailhead until about 10, at which time we snuck into the last space in the parking area. I stuck a warm hat and gloves into my backpack because it felt a bit chilly to us. Spoiler: I did not need them. The well-worn (but not well-blazed) trail departs from the parking area under shady trees. We signed in to the trail register, girded our loins, and began the trek up.
I might have over-girded as it turns out. The 1.3 mile uphill half of this out-and-back hike is steep, for sure, but never prohibitively so. The trees protected us well from the wind. It didn’t take us long to ditch our long sleeves once our cardio really got going. We encountered quite a few muddy sections that we could mostly pick around and the trail occasionally crossed long sections of exposed rock that didn’t present much of a hazard on the way up but might add an exciting element of danger to the descent. Overall, though, the trail is just a featureless uphill slog. About three-quarters of the way to the top the trail gives a nice little rest by leveling off along a ridge and providing the first signs of a stunning payoff before it makes its final charge to the summit.
Just before the tippy-top, we zigged over on a short side trail to check out the old fire-watcher’s cabin and a little cave where local kids must gather for shenanigans. From there, it’s just a few uphill steps to the windswept, bald summit of Hadley Mountain. Oh, yeah, and there’s a big ol’ fire tower up there, too.
The views of Great Sacandaga Lake, the surrounding mountains and the Adirondack high peaks from the top of Hadley Mountain are spectacular. When you toss in the perfectly cloudless sapphire sky it was almost uncomfortably gorgeous. I climbed the fire tower and was disappointed to find the hatch locked, but the extra 60-odd feet of height didn’t improve the view one bit. It was materially more chilly at the summit; our long sleeves went back on as soon as the wind got at us. We enjoyed a snack and soaked in the view and relaxed for a bit. Soon, though, the summit got quite crowded, so we retraced our steps back downhill.
The descent was indeed excitingly dangerous in a few spots. Because the trees were still leafless we got to enjoy a partially obstructed view of the mountains to the East, which was a nice surprise. Along the way, about halfway down, we encountered a group of hikers stopped dead on the trail by a member who didn’t want to go up. My buddy and I did our best to help the rest of the group talk her into it. We continued on our way before the situation resolved. I hope they made it!
In no time at all we were back at the trail register, where my buddy reminded me that we had to sign out, then back at the car. We were hungry after our hike and decided to check out Upriver Cafe in Lake Luzerne (my buddy had been there once before, and I had read about it on Yelp). First, though, we took an unplanned scenic detour around the base of Mount Hadley because I turned the wrong way out of the parking lot. When we finally got going the right way we luckily found the restaurant without much fuss. I was famished.
The restaurant did not disappoint. We enjoyed delicious sandwiches out on the patio overlooking the Hudson River. I also had a nice pint of ice-cold cider with my meal. Then it was back on the road, where I almost immediately missed a turn and headed off into the Adirondack wilderness again. That was not my finest day in the directions department. We did manage to find our way back to Saratoga eventually and we had a good time doing it, too. I can’t think of anyone in the world I’d rather drive aimlessly around New York State with than my best friend.
Length: 2.6 miles
Elevation change: ~1,500 ft
Hiking Time: ??? (I was having so much fun I forgot to keep track of this. I have no idea what time we actually started, how long we tarried at the top, or what time we got back to the car. The guides say this hike should take 3 – 4 hours.)
Training Grade: B
Enjoyment Grade: A