September 10, 2010

Balsam Lake Mountain

Unfortunately blog and life are asynchronous due to procrastination; we climbed Balsam Lake Mountain on August 21st, 2010, our destination the fire tower at its summit. It was an overcast day with rain threatening, but we remained dry for the duration of the hike. The inclement weather waited until we were safe in our tents at Alder Lake. Well, most of us were safe.

We parked on Mill Brook Road, one of three trail heads leading up to the fire tower, and, after a detour on the wrong trail, headed south. An old ATV track, the trail was a mostly boring 3 miles, save the stretch after the split near the summit (markers change from blue to red).

Once at the top we lounged about for a bit. Unlike the last time I was here, the tower’s cab was open and a volunteer was answering questions about the local peaks. There’s an interesting map table up there that lets you determine direction and distance to various other landmarks in the region. Slide and Hunter, the tallest and penultimate peaks respectively, were both visible despite the day’s gloom.

We took the Mill Brook Ridge trail back, 6.8 miles, headed west towards Alder Lake. Not including our ill-advised start to the trip, it was a 9.8 mile hike from the Mill Brook parking lot to the Alder Lake trail head, with 0.5 miles tacked on to skirt the lake to our camp site. We picked up the cars before dark; Cross Mountain Road is a steep, windy, packed-clay road I am glad my Echo did not have to navigate during rain, particularly with the cliff on one side.

There is one semi-obscured vista on the Mill Brook Ridge trail, but otherwise the trip is through dense forest. There were a lot of down trees and undergrowth obscures the trail in several areas, particularly the ascents. I wish I’d worn long pants; by the end of day my shins were scratched and burning! 3 of 18.

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