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Mountain vistas to soothing waters

July 18, 2018
By JUSTIN A. LEVINE - Outdoors Writer ( , Lake Placid News

LONG LAKE - "Hot" is the word that many people would use to describe this summer. The clear days and warm temps have certainly been nice for trips to the beach and paddling, but a hot and sticky hike has not held much appeal.

However, if one can combine a hike with a chance to cool off at the end, well then, that's something to look forward to.

I've driven by the trailhead - between Indian Lake and Long Lake - for Sawyer Mountain thousands of times over the last 20 years, and never once had the opportunity to stop. So with a few hours on my hands, the short hike was finally on my radar. And I knew, from my childhood, of a place to cool off afterwards.

Article Photos

Although the summit is wooded, not far past the high spot of Sawyer Mountain is this open rock area that offers views of the central Adirondacks to the west-northwest of the mountain.
News photo — Justin A. Levine

The trail up Sawyer Mountain follows yellow state Department of Environmental Conservation trail markers. From the trail register, the hike begins to climb quite moderately, gaining about 600 feet in elevation over the course of about a mile. This is a very kid- and dog-friendly hike due to its moderate grade.

The trail goes up the shoulder of the mountain, and although there are some interesting features - like a huge boulder the trail passes over and an immense white birch root system that makes for easy steps - it's rather plain.

At about the 1-mile mark, there is a view off the left of the trail, which gives views to the east and is marked by a couple of logs so people don't accidentally take that path when descending.

Just after the first view, the trail sits on bedrock, which when dry offers no impediment to a safe hike, but if it was rainy, wet or icy, this short section may require a little more care. It's a very short part of the trail, and should not be viewed as anything scary, even for most novice of hikers.

At 1.1 miles, the trail goes over a crest, the first of two small summits of Sawyer Mountain. It was so hot the day I was there that many of the plants - no doubt living on shallow soil - were wilting on the stem. It looked like someone had come through with an herbicide just before I walked the path. I could envision walking through this on a crisp fall day, with the leaves changing color all around, and it is no doubt a pretty area, just maybe when it's not scorching hot.

Going over the first summit, the trail continues on for another few hundred feet to a rock outcrop that offers interesting views to the west-northwest. It's somewhat limited, but there aren't a whole lot of places to take in these particular sights.

With a couple of horse flies bugging me, I had a drink of water and snapped a few pics before turning around and making the quick hike back to the car.

Even though it was hot during the whole hike, walking back out onto the blacktop was like walking into a sauna. I had the air conditioning blasting within seconds, and even that provided only a slight reprieve. What was needed was a full-body immersion in something cold.

I headed back up state Route 30 to Long Lake, and made a left at the sharp bend in the road onto North Point Road, where a large sign proclaims "BUTTERMILK FALLS."

I hadn't been to the falls in decades, but remember going when I was young. I drove the 2 miles down the road to the parking area on the right, and hopped out of the car. It was still sauna-like, but the roar of the falls took some of the bite out of the air.

A quick walk leads down to the falls, and one can go to the top, middle or bottom. Even on a sweltering day, there were only a handful of folks swimming and playing, and the noise of the water easily drowned out the others. The falls, while obviously inherently dangerous, are also not huge. They are craggy enough that adventurous kids will have a ball climbing and splashing, and there are a number of picnic table spread out in the woods that offer a place to eat and regroup.

Slipping into the water did what the car's a/c couldn't, and within an hour-and-a-half of setting out to climb Sawyer Mountain, I felt like the day had been a complete success.



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