My son's class had a field trip to the Adirondack Loj's Heart Lake area to climb Mt Jo. He has been eager to share his newly found information with the rest of the family so with handmade guidebook in hand, he will lead us on this 2.3-mile round trip journey.
We arrive late in the afternoon and with no parking attendant onsite we scour the car for the $1.50 parking charge. (Parking is $10/dayfor nonmembers, $5/day for members and $1.50 for entry after 1:00 p.m.) We are held to the honor system. I first park at the upper lot only to have my son inform me that he can get us so much closer tothe trail head. Our fate is in his hands now. Since the area is not crowded we ask and are able to park in the lot usually reserved for guests of the Loj.
We take the Indian Pass Trail and continue on the wide path to the Heart Lake Nature Museum. The entrance to Mt Jo is just beyond. My son discusses the advantages of the Short Trail over the less strenuous Long Trail. We are going to shave 0.3 miles off our climb by choosing the Short Trail. We will take the Long Trail on the way down.
I consult his Mt Jo journal as he relays some facts. "The Bear" was renamed Mt. Jo in 1877 to honor Josephine Schofield, fiancée of Henry Van Hoevenberg. Van Hoevenberg built the original Adirondack Loj and some of the trails to the surrounding High Peaks. Mt Jo's elevation is 2,876 ft with an ascent of 700'. We will have to look south to see Heart Lake from the summit.
He informs us that Loj is not spelled incorrectly but has something to do with some guy that wanted to save time. He is guiding us but I interject that the "dude" was Melville Dewey, of the Dewey Decimal System. Dewey was an advocate for simplified spelling and founder of the Lake Placid Club, one-time owners of the Adirondack Loj.
We encounter rock staircases and gingerly pick our way over the stones. The children shed their jacket, hats and gloves as I stop to make room in the pack. We follow the red trail markers where the trail joins with the Long Trail, keep to the right and continue to the summit.
We stretch out and enjoy a warm, clear fall day. From the summit we can see the High Peaks. We can't stay long since it is already late afternoon. I reach into my backpack and search for my headlamp. No luck. It is usually there along with the First Aid Kit but not today. With the time change it gets so dark so much earlier. We are committed to the Long Trail and I express my concern that we need to keep a constant pace or we won't make it to the bottom in daylight.
We make it to the Loj in the waning light and all learn a valuable lesson to check over our gear to make sure everything is there before we ever set out for a hike.
Mt Jo is part of the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) Adirondack Loj's "Finest Square Mile." ADK is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and promoting responsible use of NYS's Forest Preserve. To get to Heart Lake from Lake Placid take Route 73 heading south toward Keene for about three miles. Turn right onto Adirondack Loj Road and drive five miles to the end.
Diane Chase's Adirondack Family Time Tip: Although the trail is clearly marked, it is always best to carry a detailed map. Hiking in late autumn can be tricky. Leaves can be wet and slippery and it is not unusual to experience small patches of ice. Wear shoes with good traction and step carefully.
all photos and content © Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Time. Diane Chase is the author of the Adirondack Family Time guidebook series and co-owner of the the young adult wilderness adventure program, Adirondack Outdoor Expeditions.