Friday, March 24, 2006

Mountain views of the Adirondacks

On each birding trip to the Adirondacks we make our way to Whiteface Mountain. We try to visit on a clear day so that the views will be good. From the summit of Whiteface you can see all the way to Vermont, I think!

We don't do very much birding on this part of the trip. On the drive up the mountain we'll stop periodically to listen for Bicknell's Thrush and look for alpine butterflies and plants. Mostly we enjoy the spectacular views along the way. The Veteran's Memorial Highway was a depression-era public works project and is more than five miles long. Whiteface is unique in that is has a *developed* summit - a visitor's center known as Whiteface Castle. The castle was built from granite excavated during the construction of the highway.

There is an elevator to the summit (at the end of a very long and scary tunnel into the mountain) or you can choose to take the footpath. This sign is at the trailhead and warns not to attempt the footpath unless you are physically fit. The hike ascends more than 25 stories over a fifth of a mile. Not easy, but better than the claustrophobic tunnel to the elevator. I take lots of breaks on the way up to look at alpine plants and the lichen-covered rocks, and to catch my breath!

Here I am at 4867 ft. looking flushed and glad for a place to sit down and enjoy the view. Once we're at the peak of the mountain, we generally take a break for lunch and take lots of photos. One year I took nearly a whole roll of film with pics of nothing but rocks.

There is always an interesting assortment of tourists milling around and one year the building that houses the elevator at the summit had a few Luna moths clinging to the windows! I've only ever seen Luna moths in the Adirondacks, so it is a treat to find them. On one visit the toll building at the bottom of the mountain was covered with them and other interesting large moths. We watched little chickadees coming in from the wood's edge and flying off with the moths in their bills.


Susan Gets Native said...

That photo of you with just blue sky behind you gives me the vapors.

I am trying to get a visual of a chickadee carrying off a Luna moth. Chickadees don't mess around, do they?

I used to see Lunas when I was growing up in Indiana. They would always be laying on our driveway in the morning, and my Dad showed me once how to pick them up without hurting their wings. To this day butterflies and moths are the only bug I will willingly hold.
Gosh, you're lucky! You get to go to the Adirondacks every year? I get excited about Toledo.

Endment said...

this sounds like a lovely trip... I have not been able to do much hiking for the last couple of years and it sounds like a great place to try to get out again...

Wonderful description of your trip! Thanks for the armchair travel.

I ordered a stack Hal Borland books --- they arrived today along with a delightful book "Birding in New York" by Vornberger... WOW! fantastic photos!

We are already reading Borland aloud to eachother.

LauraHinNJ said...

Susan: I went there every year for a number of years, but haven't been the last two. I'm trying to gear myself up for a visit this year. I have real issues with the biting-sucking bugs in upstate NY, but that's another blog post. ;-)

Cool that you've handled Luna's! I wonder what they were doing on your driveway? Warming up?

Endment: you know I'm envious of the Borland books. So many of his are on my wishlist... Hope you enjoy them!

Mary Ann said...

This makes me nostalgic. When I was very young my family lived in Saranac Lake for a year and Lake Clear for several years. That area always feels like home to me, but I haven't been back in years. Maybe this summer....