Gniess n’ Easy

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Story and photo by Zachary Jackson

Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain is a 2.3-mile trail that ascends over 1,200 vertical feet with a hike time of about 2.5 hours. The mountain is located in Keeseville, New York, roughly 30 minutes from Plattsburgh. Drive approximately 20 miles on Interstate 87 South, then take Exit 33 toward Willsboro/Essex-Ferry. Travel roughly 2.6 miles on Route 9 South, and the parking lot to the trailhead will be to your right.

Primitive campsites for daytime use adjoin the parking lot. To the right of the trail head is a massive 1,000-foot wall of granite gneiss that is a popular destination for rock climbing and bouldering. Peregrine falcons also like the rocks for nesting. For everyone’s safety, including the birds, some climbing sections are closed off seasonally.

Dense forest and more rock features close around the hikers once they start.

This trail isn’t as primitive as other hikes in the Adirondacks. It is well maintained, heavily marked and has some man-made conveniences like wooden steps and handrails to prevent hikers scrambling up rocks. In other areas, natural formations like rocks and tree roots work in tandem creating makeshift steps to assist you along the trail.

Continuing along, numbered posts scattered along the trail denote different landmarks and historic sites. At marker number 8, about 0.7 miles in, lie the remains of an old cabin, lean-to and outhouse built in 1936 for the fire observer to use during the summer months.

The lean-to is a great place to stop, take a load off and catch your breath. For the rest of the hike, the incline decreases in intensity, the hike gets slightly easier and the summit is close.

A view of sprawling fields of blue and purple wildf lowers paint a majestic mountain scene below. For an even better view, climb the fire tower. From June to Labor day there is always a summit steward at the summit who protects alpine plants and guards against human-generated cataclysms.

The summit offers a panoramic view of Lake Champlain and a few of the 46 High Peaks. The fresh mountain air, the sheer granite cliffs and the stunning view can leave you overwhelmed by the natural beauty that surrounds you.

Always remember the seven principles from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.

Plan Ahead and Prepare:

  • Learn the regulations.
  • Prepare for extreme weather, hazards and emergencies.
  • Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
  • The smaller the group, the better.
  • Repackage food to minimize waste.
  • Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or agging.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces:

  • Rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
  • Camp at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
  • Good campsites are found, not made.
  • Altering a site is not necessary.

In popular areas:

  • Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
  • Walk single le in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
  • Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.

In pristine areas:

  • Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
  • Avoid places where damage is beginning.

Dispose of Waste Properly:

  • Pack it in, pack it out. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
  • Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when nished.
  • Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
  • To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.

Leave What You Find:

  • Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
  • Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
  • Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
  • Do not build structures, furniture or dig trenches.

Minimize Campfire Impacts:

  • Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
  • Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans or mound fires.
  • Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
  • Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out camp res completely, then scatter cool ashes.

Respect Wildlife:

  • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
  • Never feed animals.
  • Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
  • Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
  • Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young or winter.

Be Considerate of Other Visitors:

  • Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
  • Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
  • Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock (hikers with horses or mules).
  • Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
  • Let nature’s sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.

About DoNorth

DoNorth: Touring the Adirondack Coast strives to show the splendor of Northern New York’s mountains and lakes to a growing destination travel audience.

Through high-quality photography, design and writing, the pages of DoNorth inspire travelers from Montreal, New York City and Boston to use Clinton County as a jumping off point to immerse themselves in the beauty and excitement of the Champlain Valley and the greater Adirondack region.

The result of a unique partnership between the Adirondack Coast, Visitors Bureau and SUNY Plattsburgh’s journalism department, DoNorth’s pages highlight the wide array of historical, agricultural, arts and recreational tourism opportunities in the area.

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