Trekking the NCT: Stony Lonesome Adirondacks

June 27, 2022

Trekking the NCT: Stony Lonesome Adirondacks

By Joan Young, MCP Contributing Writer.

On Dec. 1, 2021 Amber Township resident Joan Young began her journey to hike the entire North Country Trail continuously. She began her year-long trek at the Manistee National Forest’s Timber Creek Campground on US 10 in Lake County. The first half of the hike will take her to Middlebury, Vermont. She will then drive to Sakakawea State Park in central North Dakota to begin the hike back to Michigan. Young, 74, was the first woman to completely hike the NCT, completing 20 years of segmented hikes in 2010.

Probably the riskiest thing I have done or will do on my thru hike of the North Country National Scenic Trail is to backpack alone through the Adirondacks.

It was stony. It was lonesome, although I’m never really lonely. I saw only two backpackers the entire two weeks I was in the Adirondack Park. There was also a long road walk on a byway named Stony Lonesome Road. It was aptly named.

A route for the NCT through the Adirondacks has been a long time coming together, mostly for political reasons. But, at long last, there is at least a corridor. Some of the trail I hiked is completed and signed with the blue blazes and emblems. Some is still temporary road walk around sections where agreements are not yet in place. Some is technically not open, but I hiked it anyway. We called it field checking for the mapping coordinator in case I was questioned. Indeed, I was field checking, so this was not a fib.

What can one say about these unique eastern mountains? They are different in geology from the Appalachians or the Catskills, beloved by many, overused by recreationists in the most popular sections, protected forever by law since 1894, and breathtaking in beauty.

The reason I saw so few hikers is because the route of the NCT traverses the southern section of the park that receives much less use. That also means that some of the trails receive little maintenance. I encountered a lot of downed trees and washed out bridges. I did not encounter quite enough trail markers. There was more than a little bushwhacking involved in this trek. Modern aids like GPS take most of the stress out of this activity, although adding common sense to the electronics is always a great idea.

Although the NCT route does not go over any high peaks, there are some good views. Jones Hill, in the Hoffman Notch Wilderness, is a very small peak by Adirondack standards, but as the saying goes, “location, location, location.” From the southern side of Jones Hill there is a 200-degree-plus panorama of peaks in the Schroon Lake area. Just a few steps farther along the trail is a spectacular view of Hoffman Peak and the entire Blue Ridge Range. Although cool blue lakes, tall spruce, loons, moose, and rocks forever are essential Adirondack components, the experience would not be complete without some mountain vistas. 

The Adirondack Park ends just as you reach the Crown Point Fort historic site. Because Lake Champlain narrows to just a half mile in width there, controlling this passage has always been important militarily. First, the French built a fort in 1735. Crown Point Fort replaced it in 1759. This was a British outpost, but the colonials captured it in 1775, although it had largely been destroyed by fire two years previous. Nevertheless, it is considered by many to be the greatest fort ever built by the British in North America. The embankments and some of the buildings remain to this day. 

The North Country National Scenic Trail showcases natural, cultural, and historic features of the northern United States. The Adirondack section is an outstanding example of what the trail has to offer.

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This story is copyrighted © 2022, all rights reserved by Joan Young, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

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