My chocolate lab Gilly is the best hiking buddy I can ask for. He pushes me to get outside and to keep climbing, he’s always up for anything, he makes me smile and laugh while we’re on the trail, and he shares the true joy that comes from being immersed in wilderness.
Besides being an exuberant hiking buddy, Gilly is a great dog simply because he brings his goofy grin and splash of excitement to any activity. Like most dogs, he’s got a sixth sense when it comes to a future outdoors adventure. It starts with which shoes I choose to put on my feet, and from there the excitement, anxiety, pacing, and whining amplify with each added layer of evidence — Camelback pack, sunglasses, car keys, and leash. His excitement is contagious and always starts any adventure off with the right energy, although I could usually do without the whining-filled car ride to the trailhead.
Gilly and I are both winter and summer Tupper Lake Triad finishers. I set out to complete the challenge because I love all three of the local peaks that are included — Coney Mountain, Goodman Mountain, and Mount Arab — and who doesn’t love a challenge? At the time I set out to finish my winter Triad there wasn’t a “canine” list of finishers, but thanks to a great idea submitted by my stepdad, Tim Merrihew, to include dogs as Triad finishers, and the flexibility and awesome spirit of Tupper Lake Triad organizer, Charlie Hoffer, there is now an official register of all canine finishers. Gilly was going to finish the Tupper Triad with me no matter what but now, just like me, he has patches and stickers to prove it.
One of my spring break “staycation” things to do was to knock off the summer Tupper Lake Triad. I wasn’t headed to a tropical island for break so I opted for the beauty of local mountain summits instead. The great part of the Triad is that you don’t need to take the whole day to get it done. It’s an activity that you can easily fold into your day, along with other errands or adventures. It's definitely possible to hike them all in one day, but if you just have a few hours in the afternoon available like I did the day Gilly and I hiked Goodman Mountain, you can check at least one off of the list.
It was a beautiful afternoon day in late April — sunny, light breeze, minimal springtime bugs, and best of all, we had the mountain mostly to ourselves. We saw a total of six people as we were on our way up and they were on their way down. Gilly loves people, so if he had his way the trail would be packed with as many people as there are trees, but it’s also nice to have the surroundings to yourself.
The gradual start to the 1.6 mile ascent to the summit of Goodman is one of Gilly’s favorite places to explore. The trail is wide and he can run for long distances ahead and still stay in my view. He definitely appreciates what’s on the trail as much as what’s on the outskirts, and will bob and weave his way on and off the trail and then dart back to me for a check-in before heading off again. I think he probably hikes at least two to three times as many miles as me because of his check-ins and side adventures, which is evidenced by the tranquil ride home that includes only snores from the back seat rather than overly-enthused whining.
The trail is well marked and well paved. The summit offers a great space to have a picnic or to just take a break and take in the surrounding views. Gilly enjoys the space because there is plenty of room for him to explore while I snap photos. On that day, like many other days, we had the summit to ourselves. We planned to hike Coney and Arab the next day, so we spent a little extra time at the top enjoying a treat and taking in the views.
Goodman Pooch Pro-Tips:
(1) Bring your leash. There is a great lot of real estate for dogs to run and roam free but it is important to have your leash on hand. We encountered a little guy that was about five years old who was descending the mountain on some muddy terrain, and although Gilly just wanted to say hi, the little young boy and his grandmother really appreciated that Gilly was put on a leash so he could continue without any interruptions or anxiety. Additionally, the trailhead is not far off from Route 30, so when you are near the trailhead it’s not a bad idea to have your dog on a leash to avoid traffic near the road and in the parking lot.
(2) Bring some water and a water bowl for your pal (treats are good too!) There is a fabulous little dip in the summit that collects rainwater that is sometimes Gilly’s preferred water bowl, but it’s a trek to the summit for the dogs and since they will probably hike a round trip of 6.6 miles to a human 3.2 miles, they’ll need it.
(3) Bring your camera. You can get some great shots of your furry friend with Coney Mountain and Tupper Lake in the backdrop.
After conquering Goodman the day before, I decided that I’d like to see Coney from a new perspective — just after sunrise. Luckily my friend Nicole Curtin is just as up for any adventure as Gilly is, so the three of us met at the trailhead around 6 a.m. to make the 2.2 mile round trip hike.
The new parking area offers a much easier start to the hike since you no longer have to cross the road. However, I still keep Gilly on a leash until we are a little ways up the trail so we can stop and sign the trail register without worry that he’ll wander down to the road. Like Goodman, Coney is right off of Route 30 and it’s worth the peace of mind to put your furry friend on a leash until the road is out of view. After signing the register, the three of us were off and hiking with the sun just making its first appearance of the day.
This hike has a more winding trail than the other mountains so I tend to prompt more check-ins with Gilly, giving him a quick name shout or a whistle so that I can see his floppy brown ears bouncing around the corner. I’m very lucky that he responds to a check-in and comes bounding toward me for a pat before bolting back to the front of the pack to catch more scents.
Gilly seemed to be thrilled by the early morning hike. Every time we hike he sniffs and pees so much that I always liken it to him reading the morning tabloids because he seems to really be catching up on his gossip from the animal events of the night before. Since he was one of the first on the scene he really had fresh information and seemed jazzed beyond belief about it.
It doesn’t take long to get to the summit of Coney, and once there you have a 360-degree view of Adirondack beauty, which really makes this hike an absolute bang for its buck. We reached the summit as the sun was just warming up to the day, and we had the summit to ourselves. Gilly appreciated the wide open space and did laps around the perimeter of the summit to celebrate his second Triad summit in as many days.
We spent about 45 minutes at the summit just soaking in the beautiful view. Nicole and I both enjoy taking photos so we had some good laughs trying to capture Gilly with the sunrise as the backdrop. By this time he had found a large stick that he was enamored by and wanted nothing more than to play fetch. He didn’t really understand the whole concept of peace and quiet. We played fetch for a little while longer, snapped a few more photos, and then made the trek back to the car. Gilly and I both agreed that it felt good to get home before 8 a.m. and to have started our day with such an inspiring and invigorating experience.
Coney Pooch Pro-Tips:
(1) Bring your leash. Like Goodman, Coney is close to the road, so it’s a good idea to have your pal on a leash whenever you are near the trailhead. The parking area is small, so it’s important to keep traffic that is coming and going in mind too.
(2) There are also a lot of bends in the trail so it makes it a little tricky to have your eyes on your pooch at all times. Be mindful of who’s on the trail with you and be prepared to put them on a leash when need-be. This is one of the shortest Triad peaks and tends to be the busiest, so keep that in mind when you plan your trip.
(3) Keep track of your furry friend at the summit. There is a lot of safe space to roam free, but it’s easy for dogs to catch a scent and wander. Just make sure you have a 20 on their location.
(4) Water and treats are much appreciated for everyone when you get to the top.
(5) Bring your camera. The views are gorgeous any time of day. Do your best to get some action shots of your dog because you’ll be sure to have a great backdrop.
Our third and final Triad peak for the summer series was Mount Arab. After our Coney hike, Gilly and I were feeling ambitious so we joined my mom, Carol Merrihew, her dog Jack, and a family friend’s dog Colden to hike Mount Arab in the afternoon. We were lucky to have another beautiful April day to bag our third peak.
Gilly and I met my mom, Jack, and Colden at the parking lot in Conifer. All three dogs are pretty big so based on space it was a two car commute. The parking lot for Mount Arab is located across the road from the trailhead, so we made sure to keep all three dogs on a leash while we crossed the road, signed the register, and made our way up the trail a bit. It’s a quiet road, but there are hikers and year-round and seasonal residents who use the road, so it’s best to just play it safe.
This particular climb really brought to life how great these peaks are for dogs. Gilly, Colden, and Jack had a blast. Colden is a yellow lab, Jack is a golden retriever, and Gilly is a chocolate lab, so their blend of colors was really neat to see as they navigated their way up the trail. All three are males too, so they had a grand old time making sure that each of them left their mark in every possible spot. My mom and I would chuckle every time the three of them would be side-by-side with only their tails and butts in view and would then dart in different directions to explore. All three dogs are great on a trail so they’d go off on a side adventure but then turn around and check in with us to make sure we were all on track. Their tongues hanging out of their mouths and enormous grins spoke volumes about the fun they were having.
My mom and I also really enjoyed listening to the symphony of rustling that the dogs stirred up while traipsing through the woods. At the time we were in need of rain so the woods were very dry and on the cusp of greening up. The trees had just the slightest hint of buds so the colors were bland as well, which made it easy to spot the three amigos as they rambled off into the woods.
There are areas on the climb where winter melt or rainwater runs off down a steep pitch, often creating a stretch of mud. If your dogs are anything like our dogs then they will head straight for the mud. Jack always seems to find a way to lay in the mud as if it were a clean brook. After some shock of how each dog appeared to have boots on, we just laughed it off because what else could we do? We did have to keep their state of muddiness in mind when we encountered folks who were coming down the mountain, though, and made sure to put them on leashes when we did so they too didn’t end up with involuntarily muddy legs.
Once we reached the summit we headed straight for the cabin and fire tower. We met three young women from St. Lawrence University who were homesick for their own dogs and didn’t seem to mind the muddy legs and paws of our pack. Jack is the friendliest golden retriever of all time, so he was beyond grateful to find people who not only wanted to give him some love but who also didn't seem to mind that he was a drenched, muddy mess.
I waited at the base of the fire tower while my mom made her way up to soak in the view. The dogs wanted nothing more than to trek to the top with her, but with a bag of treats in hand I was able to coax them to stay at the bottom with me and look up and wave to my mom.
After time in the fire tower, we made our way over to the bench for a snack. This is also where the summit pin is located and I was able to catch some fun shots of the dogs celebrating their summit, including Gilly, who finished his Triad that day. This is a great spot to take a break, to get some group photos, and to enjoy your accomplishment of reaching the summit.
After the dogs found more mud to bathe in, we decided to make the journey to the car. Gilly and I were proud to have finished our summer Triad, and the rest of our crew was also excited to have their first peak completed and were ready to take on the other two. My mom and Jack were winter Triad finishers and were excited to have begun the adventure of getting their summer patches.
Arab Pooch Pro-Tips:
(1) Bring your leash. This one is especially important because you cross the road from the parking area to the trailhead. It’s also a good idea to have it on hand at the summit to avoid your dog following a hiker up into the fire tower.
(2) Bring water and treats. There are a few great spots to have a snack and/or picnic so bring refueling goods for everyone.
(3) Bring a friend with you so someone can stay below with the dog while the other one hikes up the tower to take in the incredible view — then switch!
(4) Bring a towel to wipe off those muddy paws and put a blanket down in your car. There are usually some muddy spots along the way, and you’ll be happy to have a way to wipe down your furry friend before they get back into your car or they come to say thanks for such a great hike.
(5) Since Goodman and Coney are right next to each other, either save Arab for the last peak or knock it off first.
How to Get Your Patches
If you are interested in becoming a Tupper Triader visit the Tupper Lake Triad website to learn more. The spring/summer Tupper Lake Triad timeline is March 21 through Dec. 19. The winter timeline is Dec. 20 through March 20. Be sure to complete all three peaks in one of these timelines and then fill out the registration form that's available on the website.
To register your dog, include their name on your registration form and add an additional $5 to your registration fee to pay for their patch and sticker. Your dog will be added to the "canine" list of finishers. If you climbed with your dog before the canine registration was available you can still send in a registration form with their name and the $5 fee to have them added to the list.
Dog days in the ADKs: