“The shortest distance between two points is a straight line” – Archimedes
The early Greek mathematician posed this rule for flat surfaces, which the Adirondacks are anything but. Yet this was the scheme for our first mountain trails – hardly layouts, but ad hoc routes to get hikers and particularly Fire Observers, to the summits ASAP. After twisting past down trees, boulders, cliffs, or water, their lines would straighten right back out. Trails out West more gently curve along the contours and switchback to ease their ascents, but not those here. Most of our old direct goat paths are still in place.
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).
As with most people, my time is not always my own. To a degree, my day is molded around my two dogs, whose hikes in the winter have been limited by the recent extreme cold and the balls of ice that built up in between their toes.
Booties are not an option since their breed, Bouvier des Flandres, goes by the nickname of “Bouncing Bouviers,” and getting them into footwear would be like trying to put mittens on a hummingbird. They have this characteristic that Alan Greenspan would call irrational exuberance, and while this can be endearing at first, putting up with it for extended lengths of time turns into something of a challenge.
If I drop the animals off in the morning for an appointment, I will usually be told, “Sure, pick them up at the end of the day if you want.” But invariably my phone will ring at about 1:30 in the afternoon and a harried voice on the other end of the line will say “COME GET YOUR DOGS!”
So while one of the first items on my Adirondack to-do list has been to learn to snowshoe, it’s taken a while to work out the logistics. » Continue Reading.
They started put being paid $60 a month for their half-year, all-weather stints in the fire tower. Overall, there were twenty-one Fire Observers on Poke-O-Moonshine from 1912 through 1988. Most came from nearby Keeseville, and the first three worked in the original wooden tower before the current one was built in 1917.
That makes the fire tower 100 years old. It was part of a crop of standardized steel towers that New York State built in response to the catastrophic forest fires of the early 20th Century. Drought, high winds, lightning, heaps of logging slash, and sparks from lumber-hauling trains had combined to burn almost a million acres of New York forest over two decades. » Continue Reading.
As part of the Poke-O-Moonshine Fire Tower Centennial (1917-2017), this summer, The Friends of Poke-O-Moonshine, Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH), and Ausable Brewing Company will be hosting an Exhibit and Silent Auction of artwork related to the mountain, its human and natural history, and its fire tower. This is in place of the exhibit that was to be held at the 1719 Block Gallery in Keeseville.
The auction will be held from 7 to 9 pm on July 28 at the AARCH offices at 1745 Main Street, Keeseville, and on July 30 during the Poke-O-Moonshine Fire Tower Centennial Celebration at Ausable Brewing Company, 765 Mace Chasm Road, Keeseville, from 4:30 to 8 pm. 2D works of Poke-O-Moonshine-themed art, including works on paper or canvas and photography, are eligible for entry. » Continue Reading.
As part of this summer’s Poke-O-Moonshine Fire Tower Centennial (1917-2017), The Friends of Poke-O-Moonshine and the 1719 Block Gallery of Keeseville will be sponsoring a juried art exhibition of works related to the mountain, its human and natural history, and its fire tower.
The show will open on July 28 and run for a month, closing with the presentation of awards on September first. 2D works of art, including works on paper or canvas and photography, are eligible for entry. There will be cash prizes for 1st , 2nd and 3rd places. The deadline for entry is July 1. » Continue Reading.
Jeff Lowe is one of the greatest American mountaineers of his generation. A native of Utah, he has climbed all over the world and put up hundreds of first ascents — on rock, ice, and alpine peaks. So when asked for his favorite climb in North America, he had many to choose from. Such as Moonlight Buttress in Zion National Park, Bridal Veil Falls in Colorado, or the Keeler Needle in the High Sierra.
He chose Gorillas in the Mist, an ice climb on Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain right here in the Adirondack Park.
Since Lowe did Gorillas in the Mist in 1996 with Ed Palen, the owner of Adirondack Rock and River in Keene, the route has attained near-mythic status. It has been repeated only once, just a few days after the first ascent. That was twenty-one years ago. “Everyone wants to do it. Anyone with the skill set, of course they want to do it. It’s famous,” said Matt Horner, a Keene resident who is one of the Adirondacks’ strongest ice climbers. » Continue Reading.
Election Day started out beautiful. Mild temperatures. Not a cloud in the sky. After voting, Will Roth and I drove from Saranac Lake to Poke-o-Moonshine Mountain to climb one of the cliff’s mega-classic routes, Gamesmanship.
There was just one other party at the cliff: two guys were roping up for Gamesmanship as we arrived at the base. Two parties, with more than 300 routes to choose from, and both opted for Gamesmanship. » Continue Reading.
For those who climb, Accidents in North American Climbing, issued annually by the American Alpine Club, should be required reading—not because climbers are morbid, but because they can learn from others’ mistakes, too many of which are fatal.
The 2016 edition, which was published recently, describes dozens of rock-climbing and mountaineering accidents from the previous year. Most occurred out west or in Alaska. The only incident in the Adirondacks involved a climber who fell on Wallface, a large and remote cliff in the High Peaks Wilderness.
I wrote about the Wallface accident on the Almanack soon after it happened. The climber, a 23-year-old man from Carmel, NY, plummeted 60 to 80 feet after his protection failed to hold on a popular route known as the Diagonal. State forest rangers and volunteer climbers carried out a complicated rescue and managed to get the victim to a hospital that night. He was knocked unconscious in the fall and suffered a deep head gash, but he was able to leave the hospital early the next day.
When shooting a sunset don’t feel like you need to stick to shooting directly at the sun. Sometimes the more interesting colors and compositions can be found just to one side or the other. That’s the case with the photo above. The light yellows and purples in the sky would be washed out if shooting directly at the sun and over powered by the sun itself. The varying blue tones in the mountains give the landscape depth. The end result is an image that better conveys the feeling across the landscape at sunset than a more traditional shot would have.
The Friends of Poke-O-Moonshine have been working since 1997 to restore the fire tower and trails on that mountain. The group is a coalition of Adirondack Architectural Heritage, the town of Chesterfield, Champlain Area Trails (CATS), the Mountaineer, local summer camps and businesses, several Adirondack Mountain Club chapters, and hundreds of individuals who know and love the mountain.
The fire tower was fully restored as an interpretive site in 2005. Educational displays showcase fire-tower and local history and the land uses within the viewshed of the mountain. Since 2002, the Friends have employed tower stewards for the summer hiking season.
We have redeveloped the Ranger Trail as an interpretive trail with eleven numbered stops keyed to a brochure on the human and natural history of “Poke-O.” We also worked with the Adirondack Nature Conservancy to guarantee access to a second trail, the Observers’ Trail, which was the original vehicle route to the fire observer’s cabin below the summit. » Continue Reading.
The Open Space Institute has announced that a private landowner has donated a conservation easement that will protect a nearly 1,400-acre forest in the northeast corner of the Adirondack Park. The property borders the western shore of Butternut Pond and is bisected by several brooks, most of which feed into Auger Lake, which in turn empties into the Ausable River and eventually into Lake Champlain.
The parcel, a largely wooded Essex County tract owned by the Johanson family, buffers state lands, including Pokamoonshine Mountain, and sits within the viewshed of the historic firetower on the summit of Pokamoonshine, a popular destination for rock climbers, hikers and cross-country skiers. » Continue Reading.
“Thatcher’s Peak Finders for Ten Historic Fire Towers in the Adirondacks” is now available. The new Peak Finder deck identifies the summits and landmarks seen from ten popular Adirondack fire towers: over 8,000 square miles of mountains, lakes, history, and watersheds, including 42 of the 46 Adirondack High Peaks.
“Steel fire towers were installed on these ten Adirondack peaks almost 100 years ago, and they have been a destination for hikers of all ages ever since,” said Thatcher Hogan, designer and publisher of the popular series of Peak Finder guides. “But only now is there a guide to help hikers identify what they are looking at.” » Continue Reading.
Untouched scenic vistas and natural landscapes are treasured in the Adirondacks. Seventy years ago, a popular landmark, since admired by millions, was nearly transformed into something far different from its present appearance.
It all began in 1937 with the editor of the Essex County Republican-News, C. F. Peterson. Formerly a Port Henry newspaperman, active in multiple civic organizations, and clearly pro-development and pro-North Country, Peterson was a force to be reckoned with. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Almanack is a public forum dedicated to promoting and discussing current events, history, arts, nature and outdoor recreation and other topics of interest to the Adirondacks and its communities
We publish commentary and opinion pieces from voluntary contributors, as well as news updates and event notices from area organizations. Contributors include veteran local writers, historians, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the Adirondack region. The information, views and opinions expressed by these various authors are not necessarily those of the Adirondack Almanack or its publisher, the Adirondack Explorer.
General inquiries about the Adirondack Almanack should be directed to editor Melissa Hart.
To advertise on the Adirondack Almanack, or to receive information on rates and design, please click here.
Recent Almanack Comments