Our group of 10 hikers met our guide, Ed Geserick, at the base lodge and set out climbing the “bunny slope” officially known at the ski area as “Mixing Bowl.” The mountain looks very different in late August than it does when the slopes are covered in snow. A mountain bike slalom course and a nine-hole disc golf course cover the lower half of the mountain. Instead of a blanket of white, trails are covered in green grass, rocky slabs and wildflowers.
From the vantage point at the top of Mixing Bowl, Geserick pointed out Hoyt’s High, a new trail on Lookout Mountain that he helped cut last summer.
This is Geserick’s first year as one of three guides who take visitors on informative nature treks.
“I just love hiking the mountain,” he said.
Our tour group ducked into the woods and followed a beginner mountain bike trail. The river rushed past on our left. The trees were the biggest by the river, where roots can soak up as much water as they want. The trees get smaller as you go further uphill, Geserick explained, because the tops tend to break off in Whiteface’s notoriously strong winter winds.
“The biggest trees I’ve cut down have been white pines,” he said.
Geserick pointed out different types of trees and explained that several old stumps were left over from logging days. The hillside was cut and the logs rolled down the hill to the log drives on the river.
“This was a prime timber area,” he said.
We continued uphill along the trail, with Geserick pointing out interesting trees and artist’s conch mushrooms along the way. The smooth grey-green bark of Whiteface’s beech trees often sport claw marks made by black bears scrambling up them, he said. We followed an access road uphill to the “ABC lot,” an area carved out of the side of the hill so named because during the 1980 Olympic Winter Games, it was the ABC television network headquarters. During the summer it is a mountain bike course. Raspberries and blackberries were growing in abundance and the group stopped to pick and eat a few.
Along the way, Geserick told us about himself. A jack-of-all-trades, Geserick started snowboarding in 1983 and began teaching snowboarding lessons at Whiteface during the 1995-96 season. He has also been on the snowmaking crew and has helped cut the new trails on Lookout Mountain. In the past he has also been a Florida surfer and a mailman. He now works as a ski patroller at Whiteface. In a few weeks, he will begin cutting the tall grass on the upper half of the mountain where a mower can’t reach, in anticipation of the winter season. Snowmaking will begin just about 80 days from now.
“This is where I love to be,” he said. “This is home.”
We passed under the 1980 scoreboard and the site of the downhill race finish and crossed the Lower Valley ski trail to the Stag Brook Trail. The trail follows a series of waterfalls down the Stag Brook. Two picnic tables offer a cool resting spot beside the rushing water, under the canopy of the woods. Our group bounded along, stopping to take photos, admire the rainbows created by the sunlight filtering through the waterfalls and ponder the geologic forces that could have created this brook millions of years ago. Geserick pointed out his summer sanctuary — a favorite wading hole where he likes to eat his lunch while he cools his feet. Our hike ended just above the base lodge on the Boreen trail. We popped out of an inconspicuous spot in the woods that one could easily overlook if not for the sign.
“A lot of people who ski here in the winter don’t even know this trail is here,” Geserick said.
Hikers admire the largest waterfall on the Stag Brook.
Photos/Heather Sackett/Lake Placid News
Fact BoxIf you go ...
Guided nature treks are currently offered at 11 a.m. on weekends only through Oct. 18. Cost is $25 for an adult, $18 for a junior or senior and includes a picnic lunch and gondola ride. For more information, visit www.whiteface.com.