By Tim Rowland
What do you suppose is the most popular mountain accessed from the Roostercomb trailhead in Keene Valley? Careful with your answer, it might not be the obvious.
Well bad luck, it is the obvious. Most hikers scoot right up to Roostercomb, breezing on by the junction to Snow Mountain, which is an equally appealing, but on most days a far less crowded hike.
As the high season approaches, secondary destinations at popular trailheads can be a neat trick for enjoying spectacular destinations in relative solitude. Crow Clearing (from Keene take Hurricane Road to O’Toole and persevere to the end of the road) has two popular destinations, Hurricane and the Crows.
It is also the starting point for the Nun-da-ga-o Ridge trail, a pleasing 6 mile loop that 20 years ago was nearly impossible to follow, but today is well-defined and growing in popularity.
So too was Big Crow, a 0.7 mile scramble to a fine overlook, regarded back then as a “local secret.” But yesterday’s Local Secrets are today’s Selfie Specials, and even on weekdays, Crow Clearing’s limited parking capacity can be sorely tested.
Lost in all this flotsam and jetsam is Weston Mountain, which is a whistle stop on the ridge trail loop, but is an excellent destination in its own right. The round trip is in the neighborhood of five miles, scarcely advances past moderate in terms of difficulty and includes an encounter with the scenic and remote Lost Pond.
Yet a quick skimming of the trail register last week revealed that virtually no one lists Weston as their primary destination. Granted, the ridge loop adds only about a mile to the Weston out-and-back and offers some views to the north Weston does not have, but Weston is deserving of more than a quick snapshot as part of a longer hike.
As we assembled for the hike, Crow Clearing was about half full on this mid-June weekday, when the weather was what the forecasters call “unsettled,” which I believe is weatherspeak for “we don’t have a clue.”
From the clearing there are two trailheads, one leasing to Big and Little Crow, the other to Hurricane. For the Nun-da-ga-o loop, you can take either.
Weston follows the Hurricane Mountain trail for a little over a mile along an old road that is about as flat as Adirondack trails ever get. After this reach, the trail up Hurricane jogs right across Gulf Brook, while the trail to Lost Pond continues straight ahead past a lean-to, where it begins to climb.
The majority of the climbing, in fact, is accomplished between the Hurricane junction and Lost Pond, which is nestled in a high plateau less than 300 feet in elevation beneath Weston itself. By the time you reach the pond you will have more than 600 feet in elevation gain under your belt and although the trail is not physically all that steep, it is psychologically steep in that you generally don’t expect to have to climb to a pond.
Lost Pond in summer was always dazzling for its carpets of yellow water lilies. It seems to me this show has diminished somewhat over the years, but they are still pretty and will continue to be through the coming weeks of summer.
The relatively dry spring was manifest in an uncharacteristically dry trail and lack of bugs — and yet the water level in the pond was very high. I suspect this was due to the work of beavers, which I blame for pretty much every Adirondack problem, from washed out trails to a lack of workforce housing.
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The trail skirts the pond and passes the Biesemeyer Memorial lean-to before engaging in a steep, rocky ascent to the Weston summit. From here, Hurricane Mountain and its tower dominate the view to the left, while to the south is a casting call of High Peaks from Dix to Whiteface.
What makes the vista special is the sparkling jewel of Lost Pond, sitting on its forested perch high above the valley below. Puffs of wind were rippling its surface this way and that, and it glimmered silver in the late afternoon sun, which had finally won out over the clouds just as we approached the top.
The ridge trail beckoned, but so did supper, and we chose the shorter return. No matter. Weston itself is so satisfying that asking for more would be just plain greedy.