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FROM THE FIELD: The four hikes of the Moriah Challenge

September 15, 2017
By JUSTIN A. LEVINE - Outdoors Writer (jlevine@adirondackdailyenterprise.com) , Lake Placid News

MORIAH Earlier this summer, the Moriah Chamber of Commerce announced a new hiking challenge, ala the 46ers and Saranac Lake 6er programs.

The challenge requires hikers to take on four different walks around Moriah. There are a few mountains and a scenic pond in the mix, and these hikes are easy and can be done in a day. Unfortunately, because of the location of the hikes, some backtracking while driving is pretty much unavoidable.

I decided to start the day off with the longest, and what I correctly anticipated, sort of the most boring of the hikes.

Article Photos

The High Peaks can be seen from the fire tower cabin on Belfry Mountain, which is one of four hikes that make up the Moriah Challenge.
News photo — Justin A. Levine

Crowfoot Pond is certainly beautiful and at just over a 5-mile roundtrip, makes for a nice walk in the woods, but that's about it.

The trail follows an old woods road which generally parallels Crowfoot Brook, the outlet of the pond. The woods are a nice mix of deep hemlock and open hardwoods, and the trail generally goes up to the pond, but at a very gentle grade.

Following yellow state Department of Environmental Conservation trail markers, the trail crosses the brook several times. At each of the big crossings there is a bridge, but a couple of other feeder streams have to be jumped.

About halfway up the trail, which is easy to follow, one enters private land, There are posted signs on each side of the trail, but there is apparently an easement that allows hikers through.

At 2.6 miles, you will literally reach the trail's end at the edge of the pond. It might be a nice place for your dog to take a swim, but other than a nice view of the pond there's not much to see. This might be better enjoyed with a dog or as a trail run. Or just take it for what it is: a leisurely walk in the woods.

After getting back to the trailhead, I then headed south to Coot Hill/Big Hollow, which, to be honest, had me hooked just by the name. The trailhead is located 1.4 miles down Lang Road a dirt road with just a few houses along it.

The Chamber of Commerce says that one can park at the end of the road to make this a longer hike, but the truth of the matter is that it's obvious people in four-wheel drive vehicles drive up to the top of the hill regularly.

Another option is to drive down Lang Rd. to the ancient Lang Cemetery, where the most recent headstone I found was for someone who died in 1918. Most of the markers were from the early to mid 1800s though, and it was a treat not often found on hikes.

From the cemetery, the trail goes left and follows a wide dirt road. Hikers have to bear right at 0.81 miles, then hang a left after walking up the steep rocks. The road continues right out to the point of Coot Hill, and the views are stunning.

Someone had set up a big American flag at the top, and no joke, just as I walked out of the woods a bald eagle flew by. This is a popular spot to watch raptors, and the sheer drop of hundreds of feet into the Big Hollow is also amazing.

Looking out from Coot Hill, Lake Champlain and Green Mountains of Vermont stretch out in front, while seemingly at your feet the farms of the Champlain Valley seem to roll on forever.

While the trail itself, which is really just a series of roads with Champlain Area Trails marking the way, is nothing special but the views, including all the man-made and natural features that just fall away in front of you.

From there, it was a relatively short drive to Cheney Mountain. Cheney Mountain is another gem that is really an easy hike to some interesting views.

You start off walking through a field, which appears to be a covered landfill, but soon reach the edge of the woods and a trail register. Wooden stakes with CATS signs mark the way through the field.

At the 0.55-mile mark, hikers can take a left and go just a short distance to see a glimpse of the northern end of Lake Champlain, or continue to the right for the other two lookouts.

Just shy of a mile (0.88 miles), the trail again splits and off to the right there is a nice bench and views of the historic No. 7 iron ore mine and the High Peaks. If you walk down the open slope from the bench, off to the left there are glimpses of Lake Champlain and the Champlain Valley.

From the second junction, hikers can also go straight to Champlain Bridge overlook at 1.13 miles. The arched bridge which connects New York and Vermont can be seen through the foliage, making for a nice framed view of the lake and both states.

I decided to save what I thought would be the best hike of the day for last. Belfry Mountain is almost too short to be considered a hike, as it follows a well-maintained gravel road for less than a half mile to the top.

But man, what a cap to the day Belfry offers.

It took me 13 minutes to get to the top, and that included time stopped to take photos and write notes. The mountain is still in use as a communications hub, and there are several buildings and towers near the summit.

But at the top of the mountain stands a rare Adirondack gem: a fire tower that hikers can still climb.

The Belfry tower stretches into the sky, and even the cabin at the top of the tower is still open. The views from the summit are limited by small trees, but just going up a couple of flights on the tower offers a much better look at the surrounding area.

Once in the cabin of the tower, the world stretches out before you. The unmistakable shape of Camel's Hump in Vermont is seen over the north end of Lake Champlain. To the east, the High Peaks are easily visible.

A red water tower is to the north, while the sharp white steeple of an old church can be seen to the northeast. The flat lands are broken up into square fields of various greens and browns, while a couple of little old-timey New England towns hold tight to the hillsides.

Honestly, starting off the day with a whimper was a good decision, as each hike after that offered more than the last.

 
 

 

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