It’d been a while. Several years. The last memory I had of this place was of being a child, and looking out from the back seat window, in awe, at the mountains rising up above me. Face pressed to the glass, transfixed to the beauty of the natural scenes around me. I must have been six, if not younger. At least eighteen years later, I found myself back. Why it took so long, I’m not quite sure. But I know with absolute certainty that I’ll soon be back.
On the last day of March, John and I made the short drive down to upper New York State. A three hour drive brought us to the beautiful High Peaks region of the Adirondacks. The trip was in doubt the night before we had planned to set out. A winter storm was looming, and a warning had urged people to drive if only necessary. Despite the warning, John and I were still eager to make the trip.
So on a dreary Friday morning we set out, south towards New York. Ottawa to Cornwall was spent catching up over good tunes, and in no time at all we found ourselves at the border. Much to our delight and surprise, the border crossing process was smooth and simple.
On the road again we made a pit stop in the town of Saranac Lake, NY, during which the snow began to fall quite rapidly. Unfazed, we moved on, making great time and eventually arriving at Cascade Mountain’s trailhead. If you’re unfamiliar with the area, like we were, it can be quite easy to miss the parking lot as it’s a tiny space right off the highway.
Finally arriving at our destination, we began to prep for the hike ahead. Fortunately for us, we encountered a lone hiker who had just returned to the trailhead. The New Jersey native was friendly and helpful and gave us a quick rundown of the conditions of the trail and at the summit. Our conversation with him was reassuring and before long we finally set out, down the wooden stairs and up to the trail registry.
I absolutely love that these are here. It’s a brilliant idea and very reassuring, especially for those completely new to the area.
Once signed in, we began the hike. We had dressed in many layers and came over prepared and packed. The first few hundred metres were relatively flat, but with a gently increasing grade the further we went on. At a certain point I caught a glimpse of our goal. I could see the top of Cascade Mountain and remember feeling a bit intimidated at the height and distance required to get there. I decided to keep that thought to myself, however.
So on we went, marching past the deciduous trees found at lower elevations.
We quickly warmed up as we continued to hike, taking multiple breaks along the way to hydrate and eat.
After about a kilometre in I had decided that enough was enough. I had way too many accessories on and something had to give. So I ditched the wool scarf and the second toque I had on, opting to go toque-less for a bit which was amazing.
Eventually, the deciduous trees were left behind the higher we got, as we found ourselves amidst beautiful snow draped conifers.
While the trail was fairly straightforward, especially at lower elevations, we were aided greatly by the presence of these markers:
At a certain point the trail began to rise steeply and we suddenly became very grateful for the micro spikes adorning our boots. On a certain section, however, John actually slipped, prompting me to lean back quickly (like my boy Fat Joe) so as to avoid getting spiked in the face. It was that close.
The trail kept climbing up and up….
until eventually, somewhere close to tree line, we stopped for some water and a bite to eat. At a certain point in time we became aware of the fact that we did not bring enough water. So much for being over prepared. Fortunately, we were approaching the summit and still had a decent amount left between the two of us (plus a gatorade aha).
So on we pressed, taking care to follow the tracks that lay before us. There were a few spots where it was difficult to discern the path as the blowing snow blanketed any fresh footsteps. Luckily, the aforementioned trail markers gave us some peace of mind whenever we caught sight of one.
The higher we got, the more the anticipation and excitement built up. At a certain point in time, we saw a clearing that lay ahead and we excitedly ran to the middle of it and saw a sublime view the second we turned around.
I turned to face the way we had just came and I immediately lit up. John and I were ecstatic and couldn’t believe how far and how high we had gotten. It hadn’t even been that long, less than two hours, give or take. For a few moments we basically just yelled a bunch, while high-fiveing and aptly describing the view before us as being lit.
After the initial elation, however, we knew that we still had a bit left to go in order to reach the summit. So, back into the woods we went. Beyond the clearing we were too excited to walk at a slower pace so we began to run until we reached a junction. To the right laid the path to Porter Mountain. Straight and we’d reach our destination.
Within a few minutes we had reached the bare rock summit of Cascade Mountain at 1249m (4097 ft) above sea level. Interestingly, although Cascade Mountain’s summit resembles a typical alpine summit, it’s bareness was caused by a wildfire in 1903. The erosion that followed exposed the rocky bed beneath the conifers. Despite having been caused by a fire, the summit offers spectacular views. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much of a view at the top on this day.
Aiding us in our quick scramble to the top were a series of cairns and yellow markings indicating the safest route to the summit. Following this path, we got up there in no time, while taking care to not be blown around by the wind. We had finally made it and celebrated with a high five and a hug. We were pumped, to say the least. A day before the trip seemed in doubt, and although it wasn’t the most difficult hike, we were still proud of what we had accomplished. Having the summit to ourselves made it even more enjoyable!
Finding some shelter against a large rocky face, we sat and attempted to take the “view” in. Much to my surprise, through the clouds, I was able to catch a view of the valley below and was astounded at how high we actually were. I was so elated to be on a mountain again. And sure it may sound silly but all mountains feel like home to me. I felt that way in Yosemite, in the Rockies and now here too in the Adirondacks.
The wind was so strong that we made sure we had a tight grip on whatever belonging we happened to have in hand. After a solid amount of time on the summit we began to descend.
The journey down was nice and quick, although we had to take extra care on the deceivingly icy surfaces. Ultimately, there was no harm done despite the ice and we made it back down in one piece.
Once at the trailhead, we signed out at the registry and made the short drive over to the Cascade Lakes to check them out. We weren’t disappointed.
All in all, it was a fantastic day and a very memorable trip. Knowing that these mountains are so close to home has given me much more incentive to make the short drive down. If you’re an outdoors enthusiast in the Ottawa area and haven’t been down to the Adirondacks, you HAVE to go!
Cascade was my first Adirondack High Peak that I summited and I’m looking forward to tackling the other 45 peaks in the years to come!
As always, thanks for reading, it’s much appreciated!