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Adirondack Explorer

Friday, November 4, 2011

Review of ‘Hiking the Adirondacks’

You might think the Adirondack bookshelf already has enough hiking guidebooks, but there’s always room for one more if it’s well done. And the latest one is.

Falcon Guides has just published Hiking the Adirondacks ($18.95) by Lisa Densmore, a freelance writer and nature photographer. It describes forty-two hikes, chosen from all parts of the Adirondack Park.


Densmore is more than qualified to offer advice: she grew up in Saranac Lake and has been hiking in the Adirondacks since she was a young girl. Although she now lives in New Hampshire, she has a summer camp on Chateaugay Lake in the northeastern corner of the Park.

The book carves up the Park into six regions—the same six delineated in the series of guidebooks published by the Adirondack Mountain Club. In a smart move, Densmore subdivides the High Peaks region into two chapters, one for peaks above four thousand feet, the other for smaller peaks.

She includes hikes to eleven of the forty-six High Peaks. No doubt people will quibble about her choices. For example, she offers separate chapters on Algonquin and Wright, two neighboring peaks that share the same approach. It would have made more sense to combine them into a single chapter (or drop Wright altogether) and add a chapter on Nippletop or Dix.
But this is a minor cavil. Overall, Densmore did a superb job in selecting hikes that are sure to appeal to the general hiker. Some of my favorite mountains are in this book: Catamount and Lyon in the northern Adirondacks, Nun-da-ga-o Ridge in Keene, Tongue and Buck near Lake George, Crane in the southern Adirondacks, Vanderwhacker in the central Adirondacks, and Black Bear near Inlet. Not to mention little Baker Mountain in Saranac Lake, which I often climb on my lunch hour.

This is not a book for people who prefer flat hikes. With two or three exceptions, all of the hikes lead to summits or lookouts. However, the climbing varies greatly in difficulty. Kane Mountain, for example, entails an elevation gain of just 535 feet.
Densmore’s professionalism is evident in both her writing and photography (it’s a shame the inside shots are black and white). I had the opportunity to watch her at work when I tagged along on two of her hikes: the loop over Nun-da-ga-o Ridge and the traverse of Pitchoff Mountain. I can attest that she is a meticulous note taker and observant photographer. Readers will enjoy the fruits of her labor.

Densmore also has published a slimmer book titled Best Easy Day Hikes: Adirondacks with chapters on twenty-two of the hikes that appear in the larger book. Most of these hikes are under four miles. The chapters have been shortened, the photos omitted, and the price reduced ($9.995). The book is small enough to easily fit into a pack.

Phil Brown

Contributor Phil Brown was editor of the Adirondack Explorer from 1999-2018. When he isn't at his desk, he's usually out hiking, paddling, skiing, or doing something else important.

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