On Sunday, June 25, Spencer Morrissey reached a major milestone in his hiking career: he climbed his thousandth Adirondack peak.
“It was kind of a sigh of relief,” Morrissey said. “It was kind of surreal, because I didn’t ever really think I’d get to this point.”
Morrissey chose Peaked Mountain near North Creek for his thousandth peak. He picked the mountain because it has a trail to the summit, which would make it easier for people to join him. Eleven people did.
Morrissey’s goal is to hike all of the Adirondacks mountains that are open to the public, or that he’s allowed to do through permission of the landowners. He’s counted 1,817 possible peaks. He’s not aware of anyone who has hiked 1,000 peaks, let alone all of them.
“Of the 817 I have left, a lot of those are private property,” he said. “My goal is essentially (to hike) all of those that are open to the public and get as many of the private peaks as I can through permission.”
A Long Lake native, the 44-year-old Morrissey now lives in Cranberry Lake and works as a dispatcher for the state Department of Environmental Conservation. He is also a licensed hiking guide and freelance writer.
He has been hiking since the third grade when he ascended Goodnow Mountain near Tupper Lake. By his late 20s, Morrissey had hiked all of the 46 High Peaks multiple times. It was then that decided he would try to hike as many of the Adirondack peaks as possible.
“I think the first couple of bushwhacks I did had such amazing views that you don’t normally get from anywhere else,” he said. “That was kind of a draw.”
Nearly a decade later, Morrissey had hiked more than 700 small peaks. He also began writing about them and self-published the book, “The Other 54, A Hikers Guide to the Lower 54 Peaks of the Adirondack 100 Highest.” Published in 2007, the guidebook detailed how to hike the 54 highest mountains that weren’t part of the 46 High Peaks. He has since self published a few other outdoor recreation guidebooks.
After reaching 700 peaks, Morrissey took a hiatus from the quest, but he got the hiking bug again in recent years. Morrissey isn’t planning on doing a guidebook based on the hikes, although he said he’s keeping a logbook of his journey.
Most of the small mountains that Morrissey now hikes are less than 3,000 feet and only require a few miles worth of climbing. However, one of the challenges is that most mountains he hikes don’t have trails, so he is required to bushwhack to the summits, which requires navigating on his own. The terrain, at times, can make travel slow and difficult.
Morrissey usually hikes with partners, especially in the winter. He also carries enough gear to spend a night in the woods, if necessary. In the beginning, Morrissey would navigate with map and compass but he now relies on a GPS unit because it’s more efficient to use. He keeps the map and compass in his pack as a backup navigation system.
Unlike many popular summits that are accessible by trail, these mountains often don’t offer views from the summit. Instead, he finds vistas by exploring. If there are no views, he finds something else worthwhile.
“I try to find something on every mountain, whether it’s a cave, a pile of boulders, or some kind of natural feature that gives the mountain its unique flavor,” he said.