Christmas carols, then and now
As a child, I always loved singing along to Christmas carols. I remember playing the same two Christmas cassettes (sides A and B) repeatedly from Thanksgiving until Christmas. As an adult, I enjoy holiday music but find that I have an even greater appreciation for the lyrics -- mostly because I'm chuckling at the fact that I never truly understood them as a child. From 'I saw mama kissing Santa Claus' (Santa or not, wouldn't they be upset that their mommy was kissing someone who wasn't daddy? So, why in the world were they singing about it?) to the line in James Pierpont's 'It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas' that always puzzled me: "Mom and dad can't hardly wait for school to start again." I was always curious why would mom and dad want me to go back to school. Really, whoever wrote that song must have had some crazy parents! Go back to school during the most wonderful time of the year -- nonsense!
Then I had three kids of my own...
Don't get me wrong, I love them dearly and cherish every moment I get with them. However, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that over-stimulation of the holiday season gets to us at least a little. Between the excitement of Santa coming and the hectic schedule of things like family gatherings, holiday concerts, parties, and community events, I sometimes take for granted how blessed we really are and get a little overwhelmed by everything the season brings. Top it off with the fact that there is a never-ending buffet of sugar around every corner to really wire them up and I find myself totally relating to the lyrics I once questioned. So I will say that there are in fact moments when this mom and dad can't hardly wait for school to start again!
The key to survival: time outdoors!
No, not time outdoors stringing up holiday lights. Instead, take time to escape the holiday frenzy and head outdoors for some quality time with friends and family. After all, the holidays should be about spending time and making memories with those you love. Whether it's a family walk along the multi-use Junction Pass Recreational Trail, some good ol' fashioned sledding (when we are lucky enough to have a white Christmas), or even something more adventurous such as winter mountain hiking, the best way to escape the craziness associated with the holidays is to get outside and reconnect with friends, family, and nature.
Introducing the Tupper Lake Triad
Thanks to the dedication of local retired physical education teacher Charlie Hoffer, and the support of the Tupper Lake Rotary Club, Tupper Lake now offers a fun alternative to the more traditional holiday activities: The Tupper Lake Triad hiking challenge.
The nuts and bolts
The Tupper Lake Triad is a hiking challenge that will get you up three family-friendly peaks in the Tupper Lake-Piercefield area. Each rewards you with outstanding Adirondack views for "minimal effort." Those who choose to take the challenge will hike Mount Arab, Goodman Mountain, and Coney Mountain. After hiking all three peaks you can submit your information to receive the official Tupper Lake Triad, full-color patch for only $5.
To make it more interesting, there are two categories: A Winter Triad and Summer Triad. To complete the Winter Triad you must hike all three between December 20 and March 20. The Summer Triad must be completed between March 21 and December 19.
Meet the Triad
I don't want to play favorites (mainly because, like my own children, I love them all equally), so these are listed in no particular order. And, the beautiful thing is, you can hike them in any particular order and in any time frame you wish.
In the Town of Piercefield, you will find the historic fire tower peak of Mount Arab. This 1-mile trail leads you to the tower and restored ranger cabin, which rewards you with breathtaking views of Mount Arab Lake, Eagle Crag Lake, and beyond. From the tower (should you choose to navigate your way to the top) you will achieve unspoiled 360-degree views of the region. In the warmer months, this is a popular trail for family hiking. In the winter, this is a great beginner snowshoe trail to an elevation of 2,525 feet for those who want to advance from flatter trails.
On Route 30, just south of Tupper Lake (heading toward Long Lake) you will discover the next two mountains of the Triad, Coney and Goodman. I refer to these as Tupper's twin peaks. Sitting side by side, and nearly the same elevation, you'll get a greater appreciation for exactly why I think they are our twins. But identical they are not, as both offer a unique view and hiking experience.
At an elevation of 2,265 feet and a distance of 1.1 miles from trailhead to summit, the bald peak of Coney Mountain offers what is probably one of the best 360-degree views at such a short distance. This combination results in Coney Mountain being a sweet peak to enjoy either sunrise or sunset -- with appropriate hiking gear. The gradual, sweeping trail also makes this a great snowshoe as the snow count begins to increase. Note that due to its bare and rocky top, the summit can be icy and proper traction should be considered.
Goodman Mountain features the newest trail of the trio. Named after slain civil rights activist Andrew Goodman, Goodman Mountain boasts an elevation of 2,178 feet. At 1.7 miles in length, this trail starts by following a recently cleared section of the old state road for approximately .7 miles. From there the new trail begins as it sweeps around the mountain to avoid any unnecessarily steep slope, which makes this trail, like its counterparts, a nice family-friendly hike. If you have never heard the story of Goodman Mountain or had the opportunity to hike the mountain during the winter, I'd recommend that you read this blog feature from earlier this year.
Winter hiking tips
We all know in the back of our minds that we should be prepared any time we enter the woods. That becomes increasingly important this time of year, as weather forecasts and conditions can change quickly. Before you leave the comforts of your home or accommodations, make sure to plan ahead. Keep in mind that days are now at their shortest point so it is important to bring a flashlight or head lamp with extra batteries. In addition to a flashlight, the state Department of Environmental Conservation recommends that you "pack extra food, first aid equipment, plenty of water and clothing. Always be prepared to spend an unplanned night in the woods."
Finally, remember that the conditions at the top of the mountain can be much different than at the base. A temperature change of a few degrees can result in snow and ice at higher elevations. Proper traction is the key to navigating this terrain. New to winter hiking? Check out this early winter hiking gear guide published last winter by one of our bloggers.
A new holiday tradition?
Looking for a way to escape the hustle and bustle of the holiday season? Wondering what new activities you and your family can partake in during the holiday break? We invite you to get a jump-start on being one of the first names on the Tupper Lake Winter Triad roster. Whether you choose to hike one, two, or all three mountains during your upcoming time off, there is one thing I can guarantee: The time you spend together hiking the trails and breaking bread over a thermos of hot cocoa on the peaks will surely create holiday memories that will live on long after the boxes and bows are put away.
- Happy hiking and happy holidays!
* Header Image 1 - Some of the first Triad conquerors hike Goodman Mountain on December 20, 2015 - photo courtesy of John Quinn.
* Header Image 2 - Michael Usher and Shannon Usher enjoy the view from top - photo courtesy of Noelle Short.
This week in related ADK traditions: