Go play outside!
A family discovers the joy of hiking in Adirondacks
By Joanne McFadden
“It’s a big mountain,” said my 7-year-old, Morgan. No, she wasn’t talking about Marcy, Whiteface or any other High Peak. The big mountain was Kane, whose 2,180-foot summit is less than a mile from the road. It was the perfect first mountain for our young family to climb.
I grew up in a hiking family. We often explored the hills behind our home, the mountains of southern California and the national parks in the West. The fact that I had not introduced my own children to hiking nagged me. One reason I hadn’t was the unknown factor: Since we moved to New York state only a few years ago, we didn’t know where to go or what to expect. Another was that I could hear in my mind the whining and complaining that was bound to take place – “I’m so tired! Carry me!” My kids are too little, I thought. It didn’t help that my husband, Scott, comes from south Texas, where, he says, the only hiking people do is hitchhiking.
After picking up Kids on the Trail!, a guidebook by husband-and-wife team David Trithart and Rose Rivezzi, I realized I had no more excuses. The authors took their two young sons on hikes throughout the Adirondack Park and wrote about their experiences. Their book not only describes in detail 62 hikes, divided into eight regions of the Park, but it also offers tips on keeping children content on the trail.
“We hope parents will take their kids out and help them love the beauty of the Park,” Rivezzi said.
In 1998, the Adirondack Mountain Club, which published the book, instituted a Kids on the Trail Challenge to encourage kids to hike. If they complete at least two hikes in each of the eight regions by the end of 2003, they earn a colorful patch. To date, about three dozen children have completed the challenge. Adults can participate, too, but they have to pay for the patch.
Kane Mountain is among the hikes recommended in the southern Adirondacks. Since the hike is short, we took the authors’ suggestion of combining it with another outing. We camped the night before at nearby Caroga Lake. By the time we set out on the trail the next morning, Sara, 9, and Morgan had already had a great time – roasting marshmallows for s’mores and sleeping in a tent, so they were enthusiastic about our next activity.
Following the book’s advice, we made sure we were dressed in layers, which included rain ponchos and slickers given that the sky was dark when we started out on the trail. Ferns line both sides of the route, and on this morning, the mist among the trees gave the woods an ethereal look.
Scott made the first wildlife discovery several feet from the trailhead. A tiny orange newt was making its way across the path, eliciting squeals of delight from Sara and Morgan. As we continued along the trail, we kept our eyes open for more newts.
We took our time, watching our footing, making sure not to trip or stumble on the rocks and tree roots. When we came upon the wet spots in the trail, we stopped to look for water striders before Scott helped us jump across the rocks to the other side.
The uphill parts of the trail are broken up by level sections, making a nice mix of climbing and walking. Nevertheless, about 25 minutes into the hike, Morgan complained that she was tired. I gave thanks that I took time to read Rivezzi’s and Trithart’s tips about hiking with kids. I suggested that we stop for a break, and I whipped some pretzels out of my backpack. Just as the authors said, the snack boosted Morgan’s energy level so she was revved up for the rest of the hike.
Near the summit we came to a clearing where we could see the bright, open sky. In less than an hour of hiking, we reached the top of Kane, where there is a fire tower and abandoned observer’s cabin. We climbed up to the top of the tower, which the girls thought was great fun.
The fire tower offers great views of West Canada Lake, Pine Lake and the rolling, wooded hills of the southern Adirondacks. On a clear day, you can see the Catskill Mountains far to the south. After rest, water and another snack, we headed back down the mountain. Sara, a bug aficionado, stopped along the way to pick up rocks and look underneath them for insects.
“We’re finally here!” shouted Morgan as we reached the trailhead.
We were so pleased with how well our first climb went that we decided to complete our patch requirement for the southern Adirondacks by taking a hike to Tenant Creek Falls in the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest. The trail follows a creek through a hemlock forest, with the rushing water providing background music. We spotted so many orange newts that the girls started to pick them up and gently set them to the side of the trail so they wouldn’t get stomped on.
There are three waterfalls along the way. The first is reached in just under a mile. In a peaceful setting, the creek spills into a large basin – a good place to cool off in hot weather. We took photos for our scrapbook, another suggestion of the authors.
Hitting the trails with kids is a wonderful family pursuit. I regret that I put it off for so long. It is a way for my husband and me to explore the grandeur of the Adirondacks in our new home state and to instill in our children a love of the outdoors. We’ll be hiking again soon – after all, we’ve got 14 more to go to earn our patches!