North Country Trail hikers enjoy views of Hudson River Valley
By Tim Rowland
Moxham Mountain, pride of Minerva, is an acclaimed little peaklet that I suspect is on a lot of people’s to-do list, the major impediment being that for most park inhabitants it takes longer to drive to the trailhead than it does to hike it.
Certainly that’s been the case with me, but opportunity presented itself last week when I was covering the North Country Trail Association, which held its annual celebration in the Adirondacks for the first time.
The 5,000-mile trail from Vermont to North-Dakota has been around, at least conceptually, for 43 years, a cousin in legal standing, if not in use, with the more famous Appalachian and Pacific Crest trails. It’s still a work in progress, even in the ADK, where public lands are abundant, but don’t always connect.
With New York being New York, trail builders spent their formative decades not in the woods but in committee rooms, trying to decide on a route. Then, just as a route was finalized and trail-building commenced, the state Department of Environmental Conservation — having been sued for excessive tree cutting for snowmobile superhighways — took two more years to figure out the definition of a tree, causing newly cut NCT trails to quite literally grow back in.
This kind of explains why I was late arriving at the Moxham trailhead. I figured the NCTA would be running on “Adirondack time,” during which events are typically frozen in amber and progress is measured in speeds typically associated with the receding of the glaciers 12 millenia past.
Apparently though, just for your future reference, when the NCTA says 7:45 a.m. it means it, and you better be there.
Many NCTA members were getting their first sampling of the Adirondack forest, and they had three days to participate in a variety of hikes. Moxham may or may not be part of the NCT when all is said and done many years from now, but it’s in the neighborhood.
The trailhead is on, love the name, 14th Road in Minerva, and any attempts on my part to describe how to get there would do more harm than good, so just call up a map and plot your own course. As a matter of fact, even if you have no intention of hiking Moxham whatsoever, call up a map program and enjoy the way early Minerva settlers laid out their transportation network. It’s like every place they needed to go they built two roads to it, just in case they should ever need a spare.
Moxham is 2.5 miles of generally easy hiking to the top along one of the more thoughtfully designed routes you are ever likely to see. A lower ridgeline is achieved after a moderate climb of half a mile, and here begins the first of many nice overlooks along the way. You’ll lose some but not all of this elevation as you descend off the ridge and cross a small brook a couple of times before climbing again up the ridge that leads to Moxham’s 2,454 summit overlook.
At just shy of two miles in, the views begin in earnest, including a great look at the bare summit face of Moxham itself, whose stony slabs look like the armored plates on some great prehistoric beast.
It was here that I caught up with the engaging and enthusiastic group of 15 NCTA hikers led by Dick Frio and Bob Rosati of the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Onondaga Chapter. They seemed impressed that I went on hikes for a living and asked how many times I had climbed Moxham.
There was no earthly good reason to tell them the truth, but without thinking I confessed that I hadn’t climbed it. These were polite people and they didn’t say anything, but you could tell that the candle of credibility that comes with being a seasoned outdoors writer dimmed a bit in their eyes.
Wildfire smoke tainted the view somewhat, but even so it was a fine look at the Hudson River Valley bathed in autumnal colors down toward North Creek, with ponds, marshes and lower ridgelines with mighty Gore Mountain looming over the scene to the south.
Maybe because we were chatting, maybe because of the consistent views, maybe because of excellent trail design, but the climb — despite its 1,100-foot elevation gain — didn’t seem like much of a climb at all. There were steep spots, but they all seemed to be cleverly routed to marvelous panoramas that eased the strain of getting there.
“It’s a nice ridge walk and a nice trail,” Bob said.
At the top I chatted with Brenda Schlinz and Barb Cazier, both seasoned hikers from Michigan, who were enjoying the broad expanse of unbroken forest.
“I’m partial to my home state, but I love this,” Brenda said.
They have both hiked the NCT in the Upper Midwest, where it’s more fleshed out than it is in the East. Michigan is actually the halfway point in the trail, a reminder that the West is, yes, really big.
The scoot back down Moxham was quick and uneventful, with several parties of weekend hikers beginning to filter in — an informal survey of these hikers revealed the mountain to be both a destination and a local favorite. It’s easy to see why, and from now on any trip to Minerva on my part is going to include a jog up Moxham.