We had just come off of Indian Lake Mountain - located just over the border into the West Canada Lake Wilderness - where we enjoyed side trips to Muskrat Pond and Squaw Lake along the way. We now set sights on a late afternoon addition, albeit a short addition, but a bit of something extra no less. It was time to jump back in the car and give our leg muscles just enough of a chance to tighten up before we put them to work again. We set our sights on Mount Tom, a 2600' foot peak closer to civilization and much closer to the Moose River Road. Mount Tom is an impressive looking peak as we took note from the Mitchell Ponds Trail a couple trips prior and this was the perfect opportunity to go for it.
Looking at our topo map we could see the stacked contour lines and knew we would have a steep scramble or at least some cliffs to overcome, but either way it was less than a mile off the road and we could do just about anything for that distance. We used our trail map to navigate the road back to the perfect spot at the base of the mountain and upon our arrival to the area we settled on a designated campsite right at the base. The campsite was freshly abandoned as the smoke still billowed from the stone fire pit. Sidenote: Leaving a campfire unattended is a dangerous proposition - especially during the current high fire conditions. Please take care to always properly put out your fire before leaving any campsite!
From the campsite we entered the hardwood forest and wallowed through a wet lowland area where passage was a bit more difficult than we had anticipated, but it didn't last long. As we climbed out of the mire we started to see boulders all around and eventually a large field of them piled up creating small, deep caves and openings, dangerous for a hiker if not careful. It was a test of scrambling, pushing, and pulling, up over boulders, under some, and even around many. The around was actually harder, as the growth was thick and tedious to get through. Once the boulder field subsided we were at the base of a massive cliff, well over 100-feet of sheer rock, some overhanging but most just straight up.
As you can imagine we are not built, equipped or even tempted to climb these cliffs, so we went with the typical plan B for a situation like this: Hike the base of the cliff in one direction or the other until we can go up. We opted for a left, along the base, and it seemed to work out pretty well as we didn't need to descend much or very often, we continued to gain elevation slowly. We happened upon a sandy dyke lined with steep cliffs on both sides, but the dyke itself was very steep. I started to climb up through, grasping my trekking poles just above the tip and using them as an ice axe. I pounded one in, then the other, then the other, but I could just not get solid purchase with my boots. There was the good probability that it would be a path to nowhere anyhow and a dangerous descent if we needed to go back down, we decided it wasn't worth the risk so we crab-walked back to more level terrain.
We kept working around the base, and after a very steep climb up some insecure footing and loose rocks that kept giving way beneath us, we found what looked to be a solution. This wide platform, while amazing in steepness, offered us trees for assistance and a clear route to the top of the cliffs. With three points of contact at all times we worked our way up. Moss sliding beneath us, and sandy columns of earth scattered our steps but we eventually emerged on top. Slightly further up now we took in the view was which was actually a bit jaw-dropping as we peered from atop the vertigo cliffs. What a rock climbing mecca this could be - and for bouldering, too. Of course it may already be so; I will stick to solid ground and leave that to the professionals.
Now above the cliffs it was clear sailing. Periodic areas of spruce scratched our exposed skin as we passed over the now flat terrain. It remained as such to the base of the next section of steep terrain. We were expecting - and actually hoping - for more cliffs to play around, but we had absolutely no idea what to expect.
The terrain was as steep as expected and shown on the map, but no cliffs gained our attention. While disappointed in the lack of views on the higher part of the mountain and the summit, we were happy with the cliffs and views from that one fantastic spot. We pushed around the summit a bit more in search of views and chose a slightly different route down. We continued to search for an added view on the route down, but the terrain didn't open up anything for us. The forest was much more open and friendly to our tired bodies and minds and we were ok with that. We stepped out onto Moose River Road about a half-mile from the car which gave us a nice walk to the end of our day.
It would be foolish to say that an ice cream cone at Stewies was out of the question, it would also be foolish to think that we wouldn't be back for more of the Moose River Plains Wild Forest. So, until next time, happy hiking.