Weather like this demands outdoor expeditions. The colors keep coming and the temperatures keep cooperating.
Last week my destination was Rocky Peak Ridge and the magnificent views of the Champlain Valley and the High Peaks region.
My hiking partner and I started from the eastern trailhead in New Russia. Despite being a beautiful weekend in October, we didn’t see any other hikers for the first few miles.
The trail we took leads first to Blueberry Cobbles. It is a great destination for young hikers or hikers looking for a shorter summit. There are pretty views down into the Boquet River valley to the east and into the Dix Range to the south.
The first ledge had red-orange oaks overhead and pink blueberry leaves mixed with the white-grey of reindeer lichen under foot. We took the shorter trail that bypasses some of the overlooks knowing we could check those views on our way out later.
The trail continues to Bald Peak over a route that is steep and mostly bare rock but the views make it thoroughly worthwhile. The rocky approach and the pockets of wispy grass and tough, crusty lichen let you know you’re getting up high. The mountain ash leaves were turning red and the branches were covered with bright orange berries. In every direction there was a view or a combination of colors that made a perfect composition.
At one point you can look ahead to see the big rock cairn that marks the summit of Bald Peak and the long trail beyond it to Rocky Peak. As we reached the cairn the temperature was in the 70s and we soaked up the sunshine — so much gentler than July and August’s intensity. A ledge slopes southward into a bowl of outstanding color and beyond it there is a huge glacial erratic. I can’t help wonder how that boulder originally perched there and how long will it be before it tumbles over the edge.
Just past the boulder we looked back at a stunning tapestry of reds and oranges mixed with the green of balsams. From there the trail heads down about 200 feet into a place called Dickerson Notch. Not many leaves had fallen in that section so the trail was quiet. Once through the notch the trail goes back up — and steeply. I slowed the pace and took the time to notice some great lichen and special mosses.
We arrived at Rocky Peak, the eastern edge of Rocky Peak Ridge, and stopped to rest. Rocky Peak is not itself a 46er. We intended to make it all the way up the ridge, but once we stopped and ate we reconsidered. Several groups had passed us and another group of eight went by as we ate. We could see a lot of hikers on the open ridge above us.
But near us a quiet hiker napped in the sun by himself. We noted his satisfaction and considered that we’d be returning to our cars in near darkness if we continued to the summit.
Satisfied that we had made a significant climb and mindful of the 5 miles back, we headed down, savoring the views we’d missed on the way up, breathing in the color of the maples, birches and beeches and admiring the drying asters, goldenrod and ferns.
Elizabeth Lee is a licensed guide who lives in Westport. She leads recreational and educational programs focused in the Champlain Valley throughout the year. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.