Overlooking the northern end of Lower Ausable Lake in Keene are two open ledges which are popular destinations for hikers: Indian Head and Fish Hawk Cliffs. The lookouts, both of which are accessible via trail, offer spectacular views of the lake, the Colvin Range to the left, and Sawteeth Mountain and the Lower Great Range to the right. The Fish Hawk Cliffs are reachable in 0.2 miles via the connector trail from Indian Head to the Mt. Colvin Trail but prepare for a steep into a col along the way. What follows is some of the history behind Fish Hawk Cliffs which you may not be aware of.
The Heart of the Adirondacks: The Totten & Crossfield Purchase
The Totten and Crossfield Purchase is a massive land tract named for Joseph Totten and Stephen Crossfield, two shipwrights from New York City who, acting as front-men for two prominent land speculators, acquired the 1.15 million acres from the Mohawk and Caughnawaga Indians in 1772. This tract was sometimes referred to as Jessup’s Purchase. While much has been written about the Purchase, I want to impress upon the reader, especially those who live or enjoy leisure time in the Adirondack Park, the great extent of this tract and provide a quick overview of its history. If you would like to learn more about this very famous and important Adirondack land tract, see Volume 1 of A History of the Adirondacks by Alfred Donaldson, Rural Indigenousness by Melissa Otis, and Verplanck Colvin’s State Land Survey reports (which are available online through Google Books).
What’s in a Name: O.K. Slip Falls
One of the most popular destinations for those who seek out waterfalls is O.K. Slip Falls in the Town of Indian Lake, Hamilton County. From the parking area on State Route 28 between North Creek and Indian Lake, it is just over a 3-mile hike over a well-maintained, marked trail to get to a viewing area where one can gaze upon this natural wonder. O.K. Slip Falls is considered one of the tallest waterfalls in New York State, having a 250-foot drop. On several occasions I have seen or heard the following inquiry: how did O.K. Slip Falls get its name?
Moriah’s Ensign Pond and the Great Flood of 1869
Running between North Hudson and Moriah Center is a quiet, thirteen-mile section of County Route 4 known as Ensign Pond Road. Drive seven miles down this road from North Hudson and you will reach its namesake, Ensign Pond. This roughly ten-acre pond is a tranquil sheet of water which is guarded over by Harris Hill to the north, and feeds Mill Brook to the east. As you drive toward Port Henry on this county road, it will change names a few times, becoming Dugway Road, then Plank Road, and, finally, Broad Street. From Ensign Pond, County Route 4 follows Mill Brook as it flows towards its final destination: Lake Champlain at Port Henry.
A New Clue to the Origin of Saranac Lake’s “Ampersand”
One of the most popular hiking destinations in the Saranac Lake region is Ampersand Mountain. Standing at 3,353 feet, Ampersand provides one of the most exceptional view of the Saranac Lake region – and beyond. From the expanse of the bare, granite summit, your eyes will gaze about a 360° panorama, whose beauty you will wish you could seal in your mind indefinitely. The waters of the Saranac Lakes, Raquette Pond and River, Long Lake, and Ampersand Lake. A plethora of Adirondack peaks such as Mount Van Dorrien, the MacIntyre Range, the Sawtooth Mountains, the Seward Range, Stony Creek Mountain, the McKenzie Range, Whiteface Mountain, and the Sentinel Range.
Historical profile: The person behind Kempshall Mountain
In the southwestern spur of the Adirondack High Peaks Wilderness lies Kempshall Mountain, a peak with a prominent history in fire observation. Rising 3,350 feet on the northeast side of Long Lake, it is the town’s highest peak. After the 35-foot steel tower on its summit was closed in 1971 and dismantled in June 1977, the trail to it from Long Lake was left largely unmaintained and nature was allowed to slowly consume what man had made. Today, some old State trail markers can be seen along parts of the former trail.
HISTORICAL PROFILE: Bartonville Mountain of Brant Lake
Brant Lake in the Town of Horicon, Warren County, offers opportunities for the outdoor enthusiast to kill some time and enjoy a relaxing day. One can indulge in canoeing, kayaking, or fishing on the lake, or venture to Bartonville Mountain to go mountain biking, trail running, hiking, or, in the winter, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The trailhead for Bartonville Mountain is in back of a business called The Hub, located on 27 Market Street in Brant Lake, by Mill Pond. The Hub is a bike shop, restaurant, and bar, so after expending some energy outdoors, one can head to The Hub to enjoy a good lunch or refreshment.
HISTORICAL PROFILE: Coon Mountain of Westport
Continuing my hikes and bushwhacks to various peaks in the Adirondacks and exploring their history, I paid a visit to Coon Mountain in the Town of Westport, Essex County. From the trailhead located off a dirt road called Halds Road, I made the short, 0.7-mile hike along the leaf-littered trail to the bare-rock lookout point. From the lookout, I found a nice view of Lake Champlain and North West Bay (below), and the Green Mountains of Vermont across the lake. I should note that the true summit of Coon Mountain is about 0.25-miles north-northwest of the lookout point and requires a bushwhack to get to.
HISTORICAL PROFILE: Balm of Gilead Mountain
A few years ago, I added a short history of Balm of Gilead Mountain, located in the Town of Johnsburg on the eastern side of Thirteenth Lake. While revisiting the peak with a couple of folks yesterday, I found more questions coming up that were not addressed in my short historical profile (which I had added to my larger profile of Peaked Mountain). I decided to make Balm of Gilead Mountain its own historical profile and elaborate more on its history, especially its name origin.
Taking Down a Bear with a Knife on Haystack Mountain
From my research on the history of Mount Matumbla:
The December 16, 1936 edition of the “Plattsburgh Daily Press” gave a riveting report of two local hunters who dispatched a 302-pound black bear with just a hunting knife during a hunt off Mount Matumbla.
Roland Rushford and Joe Weaver, both of Faust, recalled coming across the track of a black bear near their camp at Pitchfork Pond on December 8th. They followed the track for about four miles, upward towards the eastern end of the Mount Matumbla ridge. The newspaper called a point at the end of this ridge “Haystack Mountain.”
When the two men closed in on the bear on Haystack Mountain, the bear rolled onto its side, apparently weakened from exhaustion. Rushford recalls closing in on the snarling bear and ending its life with the thrust of his knife into its throat. Rushford told the paper that he intended to use the bear’s pelt as a rug. A photograph of the knife Rushford used to kill the bear is shown here.
As for Haystack Mountain, this news article was the only instance I found referring to the eastern end of the Mount Matumbla ridge by this name. Further inquiries on Facebook, which asked if Tupper Lake residents ever heard of a Haystack Mountain off Mount Matumbla, went unanswered.
Photo: Carrie Snye’s father stabbed a bear with this hunting knife in 1936. Photo courtesy of Carrie Snye.
Mount Matumbla: The highest point in St. Lawrence Co.
Perhaps the most striking feature of Mount Matumbla is its odd name which “tumbles” off one lips (some pun intended) when pronounced. At 2,688 feet, Mount Matumbla is the highest point in St. Lawrence County, and is about 5-1/2 miles north of Arab Mountain. The peak overlooks the Raquette River to the west, and the St. Lawrence/Franklin County boundary line crosses the Mount Matumbla ridge. There is no trail to the summit, which is on private land, so please respect private property!
Hiker Permits? Turns out we’ve been there before
Over the past few years, articles in the Adirondack Almanack, Adirondack Explorer, and other media outlets, in addition to posts on blogs and social media, has made quite apparent the issues facing the High Peaks Wilderness related to hiking and backpacking.
Matters of hiker education, the ever-increasing number of search-and-rescues, an overly strained and understaffed force of Forest Rangers, parking, and litter have been brought to the forefront of the public’s attention.
A variety of solutions have been proposed by groups such as the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK), Adirondack Council, and the High Peaks Strategic Planning Advisory Group (HPAG). A hiker permit system is one of the proposed solutions. In contrast to other articles regarding hiker permits, this one does not opine on the merits of such, but to make readers aware that they were once implemented in the Adirondacks – albeit at a very small scale.
Belfry Mountain – Beyond the Fire Tower
Much of the history given here is apart from Belfry Mountain’s historical role in fire observation. I discuss the name origin of peak and the people connected with it. Thus, like the trail to the summit, this historical profile is short and sweet. For a well-written, detailed history of the use of Belfry Mountain for fire observation, see Martin Podskoch’s “Adirondack Fire Towers: Their History and Lore, the Northern Districts.”
What’s in a name? Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain
I revisited Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain last spring, making it at least four ascents I have done of it, thus far, from both the north and south trails. The views of the Lake Champlain region from the summit never fail. Poke-O-Moonshine, located in the Town of Chesterfield in Essex County, just 3/4-mi north of the Town of Lewis
boundary, is a peak on the Fire Tower Challenge and whose east-facing cliffs are popular with rock-climbers.
This write-up is more of a historical “brief” on this peak, as there is a bit more history surrounding it than provided here. For those interested in the history of Poke-O-Moonshine in regards to fire observation and its tower, see Martin Podskoch’s book “Adirondack Fire Towers: Their History and Lore, The Northern Districts” (2003).
HISTORICAL PROFILE: Treadway Mountain of the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness
Treadway Mountain is a 2,244-foot peak located in the Town of Ticonderoga in Essex County, about two miles west of Putnam Pond. Although not as popular a hiking destination as its big brother to the southwest, Pharaoh Mountain, I consider it a gem of the Adirondack wilderness which offers a big bang for the effort to reach the summit.
Although there are three routes up to the peak, I have always started from the Putnam Pond Campground on the trail which heads towards Clear Pond. The hike along the open sections rock and moss, marked with cairns, is an enjoyable one, especially in the fall and winter. You will climb over stretches of beautiful rose quartz as you approach the summit. From the well-open summit, you can venture around and check out a panorama which exhibits the High Peaks, Pharaoh Lake, and the Green Mountains of Vermont.
This historical profile presents the first in-depth discussion of the history surrounding Treadway Mountain, primarily the origin of its name. I also discuss the gentlemen from Ticonderoga for whom it was named and their involvement in the affairs of the town.
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