Corenne and I have this unique quest to climb all the fire tower peaks in the Adirondacks, even if the fire tower has been removed. This brought us to the Piseco area, on a trek that would gain us the summit of Tomany Mountain, the added adventure of another peak, and a final descent down to a peaceful Adirondack lake.
The Tomany Mountain fire tower started out as a spiral staircase up a white pine tree. This was later replaced with a steel fire tower in 1916. After many decades of service to the Adirondacks, it was closed in 1970 and later dismantled in 1987. Many of the pieces of the tower can sadly be found strewn over the edge of the mountain.
Our adventure started on a very unseasonably warm March morning with a long drive and no less than 20 ounces of liquid energy at our disposal. Corenne and I met up with Melissa and Jarrod, two close hiking compadres from adventures past. We converged at the Jockeybush Lake trailhead to get the ball rolling, and then piled into one car to start our traverse at the site of the old Tomany Mountain trail, which is just a bit further south on Route 10.
The old trail still has a small parking area across the road and a road sign that shows a hiking symbol to mark the location. We located the trail quite easily during a past drive-by through the area, so we knew exactly where to start. We hopped onto the trail, which at the time was marked with periodic flagging. The trail follows the old telephone line, making it easier to spot on a couple occasions of confusion. State trail markers still dot trees and the telephone poles. Most were hardly recognizable in their state of disrepair.
The trail before us was easy to moderate, but a couple creek crossings made it hard to locate. Again, the telephone poles helped with reestablishing the course.
We spent a bit of time playing around in the cracks and crevasses of the cliff along the trail, and a neat chimney gave us a fun scramble to the top. The trail from here became a bit steeper, but overall it wasn't too demanding.
As the trail swept around the side of the steep slopes of the peak, we started to look for the final section of the observer's cabin. We knew the two buildings were demolished during the time of the tower deconstruction, but we were sure something would be left. Sure enough, a staircase to nowhere and a few bits and pieces of the tower gave us a glimpse into the past.
Just a bit further we located the survey marker and the footers of the old tower. We could see Ely Mountain in the distance, roughly a mile away. After a break we found our way there. Since it was in fact Easter Sunday, I broke out four peanut butter eggs to celebrate a day in the mountains.
Heading down the north side of Tomany gained us a bit of boilerplate snow and ice, making for a tricky, steep descent. Jarrod employed his Microspikes, but the rest of us trusted in our balance and the local vegetation. As we passed from one steep slope to another, we managed to come upon a very interesting rock feature that consisted of a massive boulder jumble and a deep chimney cleft in the mountain. A bit of exploring was in order, for sure.
We soon found ourselves in a wide saddle between the two peaks and very steep slopes that would bring us to the summit of unknown rewards. This mountain was also dotted with rocks and ledges, making it all the more fun to explore.
The day's heat and humidity was starting to wear on us like a suit of armor — stifling at times and heavy on our shoulders. It's amazing how 60 degrees in March can feel that much warmer than it does on a cool night in July. Ely's summit was nothing to get too entranced by, but it was a perfect location for yet another short breather before we descended down to Jockeybush Lake.
We opted for the less steep approach, which was to follow the western ridge until we stood nearly over the lake itself. The ridge was a pleasant walk, mellow in nature and open like a thinning hairline. There was not a spruce to be seen — chin hobble was the tree of choice on this side of the mountain. Its effect can be crippling, but it does give that feeling of open forest.
Finally we started to drop off Ely toward the trail that followed Jockeybush Outlet. We reached it after what felt like an unreasonable amount of time, but that was just a mental misunderstanding because in actual time it didn't take that long. We had to climb up along the trail a bit to reach the rocky shore of Jockeybush Lake.
The shore of this backwoods lake is one of tranquility and relaxation, at least on this March day. We were visited by numerous salamanders as we reclined against the rocks, and one seemed to take a fancy to me and my camera. We had a moment.
It was now time to exit the forest and return to the hustle and bustle of Route 10. I mentioned, "The only thing to round out the day would be a nice waterfall." Wouldn't you know it, around a couple of corners there it was. I had no idea it was there — I had not been on this trail prior to this day, so it was a nice surprise. I then wished for a chest full of gold coins — I am still waiting to turn that corner.