A new perspective from Owl’s Head Mountain

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Labor Day weekend found Adrienne and I camping at Lake Eaton (near Long Lake) in the Central Adirondacks. Although we had camped here many times over the years, for one reason or another I had never taken the time to hike up Owl’s Head Mountain, which has a fire tower on it, and thus a 360-degree view.

Camping is relaxing, but I also prefer to go on some sort of adventure over the course of a camping weekend and a few weeks before this trip I decided that Owl’s Head would be it. And there were a few reasons for this.

First, deer season is coming and these middle-aged legs sure could use the challenge that a 5-mile round trip hike that gains over 1,100 feet in elevation can bring. I’ve been hiking a little this summer, and walking a lot, but this would put me on the right track.

Next, rumor has it that Owls Head is a little less popular than other nearby hikes. I found out that was true, but it was still busier than I expected.

Last, and most important, was this peak’s proximity to Whitney Park, the 36,000-acre tract of ponds and forest that was recently put up for sale by John Hendrickson, the widower of Saratoga socialite and philanthropist Mary Lou Whitney. The asking price: $180 million, or $5,000 an acre.

Whether this financially strapped state has the money or not to buy these lands doesn’t seem to matter to some. Within days, hours actually, of the announcement in August that the lands were for sale, the green groups were foaming at the mouth over the potential of a state acquisition.

Hendrickson, meanwhile claims selling it to the state is not an option. He and Whitney sold Little Tupper Lake to the state in 1997 and within just a few years the heritage strain of brook trout that was the lake’s namesake were chased out by largemouth bass that “somehow” got in the lake. Word on the street is that locals, disappointed in the fact that Little Tupper would be a “quiet” (non-motorized) water, made the bass deposit(s).

I thought about all of that while climbing Owl’s Head, a walk I was truly enjoying. The trail, which other than two groups of young people well head of me I had to myself, started out as a smooth snowmobile trail and even when it narrowed into a foot path was less worn than so many of the more popular trails. Only the steepest section was a bit bony.

I made good time and got there just as the second group was heading down. So I climbed the fire tower, pulled out a map, compass and camera and went to work surveying Whitney Park. This was a gorgeous, late summer day and that 360-degree view was well worth the effort. Yes, the Whitney property sure looks appealing, especially Moose Pond, but the perspective of seemingly the entire Adirondack Park was breathtakingly awesome.

I had the mountain to myself for about all of about 10 minutes when a family showed up below the tower. I heard them long before I saw them. By the time I climbed down two other small groups showed up and on my way down the mountain I passed at least 20 others on their way up. I guess the secret was out.

Who knows what will become of Whitney Park, but if you’re in the central Adirondacks and want a peak at it for yourself, spend half a day and climb Owl’s Head Mountain.

Categories: Dan Ladd

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