August 18, 2013

Day began looking up after canceled paddling trip

By Elizabeth Lee Living With Wilderness

---- — I am always impressed by the capabilities of young hikers.

Last week on a day when the clouds hung very low and the moisture in the air misted our faces, I made a quick ascent of Owl Head from Route 73 in Lake Placid.

This trail is a superb trail for young children because in about 30 to 45 minutes they arrive at the top and feel the satisfaction of reaching the summit of something big.

At the beginning of the day we reluctantly canceled a paddling trip that we had planned to avoid the 80 percent chance of thunderstorms predicted that morning. 

We headed for Saranac Lake to check out the Adirondack Carousel — a great destination for kids who love wildlife.

My crew took three rides and rode a different animal each time including a raccoon, a porcupine, an otter, a loon, a squirrel, a black fly, a thrush, a snapping turtle, a snowshoe hare, a bass and a trout. You have to see these carvings to appreciate the craftsmanship. The carousel is under cover so it’s a good diversion on a rainy day.

Not hearing any thunder we headed for a trail I knew we could quickly retreat from if necessary.

The Owl Head trail starts just below the Cascade Lakes between Keene and Lake Placid. From Owl’s Head Lane you drive a few hundred yards up the road to a fork where there is a small parking area on the left and the trailhead on the right.

The trail climbs somewhat steeply over a heavily worn path, about one half mile each way. It passes through typical upland forest then opens out on the first of the ledges. 

A short flat stretch of trail follows and then a fun, rocky scramble up bare faces laced with blueberry bushes, mosses and some stunning arrays of lichen. Even the kids noticed the variety of lichen and got down on all fours to check out the reds, yellows and grays.

We stopped for a little blueberry picking then continued up the gravel trail, past a wall which we will definitely return to for some technical climbing, and up to the summit.

Each one of the hikers found their own spot to enjoy the scenery. The mist kept getting heavier and the view closed in with fog. Still no thunder but rain began to fall and we headed down.

This outing gave us a chance to talk about not being defeated by a poor weather forecast.

The steep grade gave everyone a taste of using his or her legs in earnest.

The wet rocks quickly taught the youngsters to use their hands and stay low to avoid slipping.

The lichen taught us all to look more closely at the little things and the blueberries reminded us that hiking is not all work and no play.

Dry clothes in the car reinforced that being wet and a little muddy isn’t fatal.

The day ended with everyone wanting more views of wildlife and mountaintops. Get out and climb with those youngsters while you can stay with them.

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