After two intense days of hiking in the Adirondacks, I only had two mountains left to climb in order to complete the Saranac Lake 6er challenge: Scarface Mountain and Baker Mountain. My goal was to do these last two hikes one after the other before driving back home.
But when I woke up that morning, I immediately realized that I was not really in good shape. My legs were still tired from the hikes the previous two days, one of my knees seemed slightly sore and, above all, I felt completely drained of energy. I knew that I was definitely in no condition to do the two planned hikes.
Eventually I decided that I would at least try to hike to the top of Baker Mountain. This mountain is the smallest and most accessible of the challenge. The hike starts in downtown Saranac Lake, so it seemed like a not too difficult and doable hike, despite my poor physical condition.
The Baker Mountain hike officially starts at Berkeley Green Park in Saranac Lake, the very spot where the 6er challenge bell is located (bell that I will officially be allowed to ring when I complete the challenge!). You absolutely have to start your hike at Berkeley Green if you want it to qualify for the 6er challenge. A rule that the municipality put in place to counter the parking problems in the residential area near the mountain.
From Berkeley Green, you have to walk about a mile along streets before you reach the trailhead. The skies were a little gloomy and I still felt tired, but this easy walk along paved roads helped stretching my legs and got them ready for the real hike.
Then I got to the trailhead at the end of Forest Hill Avenue, signed the trail register, and started out into the forest towards Baker Mountain.
As I mentioned earlier, this was my fifth mountain in three days (after St. Regis, Ampersand, Haystack and McKenzie). I was tired, but I also knew now what to expect. So I was ready for the climb, which begins shortly after the trailhead. This climb is not too steep at the start, but there were several large stones and the trail was covered with fallen leaves.
After a first climb that wasn’t too difficult, the trail flattens out a bit to provide a welcome break. It is after that that the real climb begins. As with the other mountains, this climb is sometimes done on the rocky outcrops of the mountain. There are some steeper sections, and some that required a bit of rock scrambling, but nothing too difficult compared to the hikes of the previous days.
In fact, I was mainly worried that the gloomy weather would turn into rain. The climb on the rocks would definitely have been made more difficult if they had been wet and slippery.
I am sure that under better circumstances, I would have enjoyed this hike more. But I was tired, so I was especially anxious to get it over with. Fortunately, I reached the top in less than an hour. A summit marker marks the highest point of the mountain, and nearby, a space between the trees offers a beautiful view of the landscape.
At an elevation of 747 metres (2,452 feet), the summit of Baker Mountain offers views of Saranac Lake, of McKenzie Mountain and of the High Peaks in the distance. Looking at the peculiar silhouette of McKenzie Mountain, with its multiple peaks, I could hardly believe that I had climbed it the day before. Despite my fatigue, I was also proud of all that I had accomplished in the past few days.
The wind had picked up and the gray clouds were threatening to burst, so I decided not to hang around the top too long. I began the descent, going a little slower than usual because my poor knees were starting to hurt quite a bit.
I finally made it back to Berkeley Green about an hour later. My hike totaled just over six kilometres (3.7 miles), with an elevation gain of 289 metres (948 feet). I had reached my fifth summit of the challenge, but I knew that trying to reach the final one in the state I was in was not possible.
So I wisely postponed my hike to the summit of Scarface Mountain, said goodbye to Saranac Lake, and headed back home. This was for the best, because I know I will be back one day to complete the challenge and be able to ring the 6er bell at Berkeley Green!