Eagle Cliff.

Another month, and another journey to Adirondack State Park in upstate New York. While I have been to the Adirondacks many times over the past few years, this was my first visit during the time of year known as “mud season.” During this period, winter snows melt and the thawing ground turns soft and muddy. If you’re venturing into the Adirondacks during mud season, you will be surprised just how quiet the mountains have become. Snowmobile season has ended for the year, and the summer tourist season is still a few months away. Many businesses use this as a time to close down, to make much-needed renovations or repairs, or simply to allow the staff and owners to go on vacation. If peace and solitude are your goals, mud season can be an interesting time to head northward.

Come along, then, on another journey into the mountains. Along the way, we’ll scale a small mountain, experience one last visit from winter, stop by a national historic landmark, and stand far above a river. We’ll end with a fun automotive anniversary celebration, too!

Lets begin:

Mud Season in the Adirondacks.

Map of New York state, with red pin in location of Eagle Bay, NY.
Over the past three years, I’d like to believe I’ve seen a lot of Adirondack State Park. However, the reality is I haven’t even scratched the surface. The Adirondacks cover 20% of the total land mass of New York. It’s equal in size to the entire state of Vermont (via the Adirondack Council).
Jeep Grand Cherokee covered in snow, parked in front of house.
We awoke on May 1st to temperatures in the 20s and snow falling from the sky!
Docks covered in sow, with cloudy mountain in the distance.
Putting on my parka (for hopefully the final time this year), I headed down to Fourth Lake to capture the snow-covered mountains.
Snow-covered trees and homes along shoreline.
I can safely state that before this trip I have never seen snow falling from the sky in May.
Pine tree branches covered in snow.
Come to the Adirondacks, they said. Winter is over, they said…
Exterior of Eagle Bay welcome center.
Later in the morning, temperatures quickly rose into the 40s and the snow melted away. My wife suggested I try to climb to the top of Eagle Cliff, a small peak that is easily accessible, in the town of Eagle Bay. The trailhead begins at the end of a street behind the Eagle Bay Visitor Center.
View of Ledge Road, with a sign in foreground that says DEAD END.
My wife told me to walk to the end of Ledge Road, and look for a small sign.
Small arrow pointing to Eagle Cliff.
She wasn’t kidding when she said a “small sign.” This was the only sign for the entire hike – the path had no trail markers.
Small bridge over tiny stream in ground.
With the trail obscured by fallen leaves, mud, and snow, the trip to the top became an exercise in trial-and-error to find my way to the top. At least someone had the foresight to place this bridge over the roaring river that I was forced to cross.
Rocky hillside in woods.
Rocks… why did it have to be rocks? One of the more challenging sections of the hike, the rocky hillside offered little to grab onto to aid your ascent. Between the leaves, mud, snow, and wet rocks, the terrain made the hike far more challenging than it ordinarily would have been. At least I had an excellent walking staff that my relative lent me for the hike.
Two hiking shoes standing on wet leaves and snow.
Given the safety risks, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend hiking during mud season. In fact, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation has asked people to not hike on trails above 2,500 feet elevation until the end of mud season, both for safety risks, but also because of the damage that can be done to the trails, instead recommending that hikers stick to lower altitudes (via Adirondack Explorer). With a summit of only 1,778 feet, Eagle Cliff fell within DEC’s acceptable guidelines.
Rocky hilltop leading northward.
After a few wrong turns, I finally found my way toward the top.
View of Fourth Lake from Eagle Cliff.
The view of Fourth Lake from atop Eagle Cliff was well worth the effort!
View of small island in lake with house on it.
With my zoom lens, I began scanning the lake. Until this hike, I had no idea there was a house on this island. Can you imagine the peacefulness of living there? Sounds fantastic.
View of Fourth Lake toward the East.
I sat down on the rocky peak, enjoying the solitude of Eagle Cliff. I had a clear view toward the east and the mountains in the distance.
View downward.
The descent was far less fun than the climb. This section was particularly challenging – I ended up sitting and scooting down the hill on my backside. A little less than a mile round trip, the climb to Eagle Cliff made for a fun afternoon diversion. I’d love to try it again in the fall during peak foliage season.
Plates of asparagus, salmon, and seafood risotto.
With most restaurants closed for mud season, my wife and I decided to skip getting takeout, and cook instead. Although my readers are accustomed to seeing photos of rich, decadent meals, this is much more typical of the kind of food we eat: blackened salmon, sauteed asparagus, and a shrimp risotto made with riced cauliflower. Healthy and tasty.
Lemon cake with icing and fruit.
It was our relative’s birthday, so my wife created this for dessert: a gluten-free (and paleo-friendly) lemon cake, topped with paleo-friendly icing and fruit. It was simply perfect!
Panorama of Fourth Lake.
Although clouds were expected to roll in later Sunday morning, I awoke to a beautiful scene on Fourth lake.
Moon visible against blue sky.
At 7:00 am, the moon was still visible in the sky.
View of nearly-empty downtown Old Forge.
After saying our goodbyes, we began our return trip home. In the summertime, downtown Old Forge is packed with tourists. In mud season, it resembles a ghost town.
Cup of hot coffee on left and cup of iced coffee on right.
Fortunately, Blue Line Coffee House in Old Forge remains open during mud season, the perfect fuel for our ride home! While my wife enjoyed an almond milk latte, I indulged in an iced “Birch” – a caramel and vanilla latte. Coffee in hand, we were properly equipped for our drive.

Thomas Cole National Historic Site

Map of New York State, with red pin in location of Thomas Cole National Historic Site.
About a half hour south of Albany, my wife, checking her phone, asked if we could detour to a historic house. “Of course!” came my instant reply.
Exterior of Thomas Cole National Historic Site.
In the town of Catskill, this Federal-style house, built in 1821 and named Cedar Grove, was once the home of Thomas Cole. He is remembered for founding the Hudson River School, a 19th-century group of artists (via Wikipedia).
Porch of house, with two smaller buildings in background.
Cole lived here from the early 1830s until his death in 1848 (at the age of only 47!). He built two studios on the property, both of which are still standing. The Old Studio, his original place of work, is the white building in the background.
Pollinator Pavilion.
The grounds include more recent art installations, such as the Pollinator Pavilion by Mark Dion and Dana Sherwood, which was installed earlier this year.
View of Catskill mountains, with flowering trees in foreground.
This is the view from the porch of Cedar Grove – it’s easy to see how an artist could find inspiration here!
Gate with no fence at end of sidewalk.
Finishing our tour of the property, we were faced with the most relaxed fence we’ve ever seen…
Paved path, with sign near it that says FREDERIC CHURCH'S OLANA.
As we walked back to the parking lot, we saw signs for the Hudson River Skywalk. Eager to stretch our legs after several hours in the car, we set off to explore it, following the signs for Olana, artist Frederic Church’s mountaintop estate that we visited earlier in the winter.
Rip Van Winkle Bridge.
The Hudson River Skywalk starts at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, runs across the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, and ends at Olana State Historic Site. With darkening skies and almost three hours of driving still ahead of us, we decided to not hike all the way to Olana.
View of Hudson River, looking southward.
We did, however, walk out onto the bridge, 145 feet above the Hudson River. Compositionally-speaking, this is not the best photo I’ve ever taken. But I took it while standing 145 feet above the Hudson River, on a metal walkway with gaps that allowed you to see all the way down to the river. Did I ever share on this blog that I have a fear of heights? Did I mention the bridge was 145 feet above the Hudson River?
Olana State Historic Site.
One benefit of going to the bridge, however, was that with my telephoto lens, I was able to take a picture of Olana amongst the trees. Frederic Church, the artist who founded Olana, was Thomas Cole’s student. Cole and Church became lifelong friends, but Church’s wealth and fame far surpassed his teacher’s (via the New York Times).
Car odometer reading 67046
After departing the Catskills, we arrived home a few hours later. It was a fun trip into the mountains, and the Jeep Grand Cherokee once again proved its worth as a comfortable, spacious long-distance cruiser. We also broke a new milestone on the road to 70,000!

 An Automotive Anniversary

On May 1st, 2015, I purchased my 2012 Honda Accord EX-L V6 coupe from Burns Honda in Marlton, New Jersey. I recently marked the sixth year of ownership of what has been the best vehicle I have ever owned. Now with nearly 172,000 miles on the odometer, it continues to be a safe, reliable, economical, and rewarding car. To see how the car is holding up as it begins its seventh year in my possession, I filmed a short video tour of the vehicle. It probably won’t be nominated for an Academy Award, but I had fun putting this together:

Car odometer reading 171951 93.1
Almost 172,000 miles… I can begin to see 200k on the horizon. Onward!

Wrapping Up

While mud season might not be the most popular time to visit the Adirondacks, it can be a wonderful time to feel like you have the entire park to yourself. The Thomas Cole National Historic Site is open every day from dawn until dusk, and the grounds are free to explore. Tickets will begin going on sale for outdoor guided tours later in May, and in June indoor tours will begin, although pricing and availability are not yet posted. The Hudson River Skywalk path along the side of the Rip Van Winkle Bridge is open daily, and is highly recommended (even if you have a fear of heights).

Thanks for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead.

‘Til next time.

 

5 thoughts on “Eagle Cliff.

    1. These hiking adventures remind me of Boy Scout experiences I had as a kid.

      I had a delivery a couple of weeks ago to a house that had something similar to your relaxed fence pic. It was only the framework for a door leading into the yard. Only there was no fence or door. The guy jokingly said for me to use the gate so I obliged and walked thru it.

      Olana looks beautiful. I appreciate you facing your fears all in the name of journalism.

      Congrats on another year of Honda bliss. I’ll check out the video in a bit.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Maybe we should create a new thread on Instagram: “Relaxed Fences of IG.” People can post their most low-key fences.

        I won’t lie – seeing Olana from the bridge made the fear-inducing hike worthwhile. It was a beautiful view, if absolutely terrifying.

        Thanks for reading!

        Like

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