Spencer Morrissey
The view from the summit of Humphrey Mountain includes Gore and Crane mountains.
 
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A close hiking friend and I have been eyeballing this peak for quite some time and the talk of an old open pit mine and what looks to be an old trail leading up to it piqued our interest even further.

Every time we looked at a map of the area to plan a trip this peak seemed to glow. Every time we find ourselves at King Flow in Indian Lake to do another hike we can see it standing tall at the far end of the lake.

Well, the day finally came and we planned out our route, packed our winter packs, tossed the snowshoes in the car and met up at Kings Flow once again.

Originally, we had planned to climb some peaks in the southern part of Hamilton County near Northville, but with nasty driving weather in the forecast, and my drive being so long to Northville, Jim suggested Humphrey. I jumped on the idea of not having to get up at 3 a.m. to get an early start in Northville, so my answer was a definitive YES!

We met up in the village of Indian Lake at the old Grand Union parking lot and saved a bit of fuel by riding together down to the parking area, which is better known for the trailhead for Chimney Mountain.

Oh, I forgot to mention it was 15 degrees below zero when I started my drive and minus 8 degrees when we started the hike. It was going to be a cold one with temps to barely break a whopping zero degrees.

We tossed our small parking fee into the box and off we went. With our noses and toes feeling the bite, we got rolling as fast as possible to work up some body warmth.

Jim with his six layers and three pairs of socks was doing OK. I stuck with the traditional four layers and one pair of socks and had to work to keep my big toe warm. Any more socks than that and my boots would have been too tight and my feet would have gotten cold from lack of circulation.

Using the King Flow East Trail we quickly came to a tortured trail. An ATV had used this Siamese Pond Wilderness Trail and had it deeply rutted.

The ruts of course were not wide enough to walk in with snowshoes, so as you can imagine it was rather difficult and annoying trying to stay on the sides or in the middle.

The trail cleared up after about 1.1 miles, where ruts were replaced with the welcome indents of a snowshoer.

This was also the intersection where left led to Puffer Pond and right was the continuation of the King Flow East Trail that eventually would bring us to the old Humphrey Mountain Trail.

We didn't think the trail from this point would be touched at all, and to have a well-packed one under us was fantastic. It had been a very long winter of fighting deep, unconsolidated snow, and any time we could stay afloat was a good day.

Moving along now at a decent clip, we knocked off the next 1.5 miles of seldom-used trail in no time as we placed the rolling terrain well behind us.

We now stood at another major intersection where left was the continuation of the King Flow East Trail and right was the trail we suspected to be the old Humphrey Mountain Trail. Looking at the GPS and map, it looked to be in the right place.

With bright orange and yellow trail markers (not DEC) it was easy to follow, even more so with snowshoe tracks in the snow.

We were pretty sure this obscure old trail would not be maintained or even discernible, but to our pleasure and surprise it was both. We wondered who had maintained the trail.

We proceeded down the trail for only about 0.3 miles before the trail made an odd turn away from the mountain. We stopped and reconfirmed using a map and compass, and we almost second guessed ourselves but decided to carry on.

Continuing for a while longer we would see if it made any necessary hard dogleg lefts. It did, thankfully, as we would have had to backtrack quite a bit if it didn't end up being the one.

We felt much more comfortable now and soon found ourselves at the crossing of Humphrey Brook.

The trail climbed slightly out of the brook and started an odd course which again didn't make sense in our minds. We had to confide in the map and GPS again and almost started bushwhacking toward the peak. But my better judgment told me to hold off and just see if the trail made another hard left.

Thankfully, it did.

The trail soon started to climb, and then got steep. We started snowshoeing on a side hill for quite some time.

Eventually the trail made a turn to the right and headed directly up the flanks of the mountain between the east peak and middle peak.

We were whooped by the time we reached the end of the trail in the col, but now we needed to start a short bushwhack to reach the true summit. Before us we had two smaller bumps along the ridge to go up to reach the top.

We took it one step at a time. Lucky for us, whoever it was that broke out the trail earlier that week continued on up the ridge.

The course this unknown bushwhacker used was actually quite good, possibly the same one we would have used if we were the first there.

Blowing snow and snowdrifts covered some of the tracks causing us to take a bit of extra time to find, but overall it was a good rambling path.

The previous explorers worked around most of the obstacles and missed all the thicker stands of red spruce, which anyone in their right mind would gladly do. They stopped at an obscure view at the smaller, center summit of the mountain, which if we hadn't followed their track, may have missed completely.

The tracks didn't continue on from there, but we were not all that far from the top. It was only 0.25 miles to the true summit of Humphrey Mountain. We could see it in the near distance, but there was a very steep descent of more than 100 feet into the high col.

This is where we butt slid as much as we could. Not a great idea on my part. I sat and pushed off from the top of the slope and somehow ended up bouncing over a buried stump and a small ledge buried in the powdery snow. My tail now a bit bruised, I then made close friends with an 8-inch red spruce which swung me around backward into its pint-sized sapling offsprings. That was the end of butt sliding for me that day; apparently it wasn't meant to be.

In the col, we made as best a heading as we could at the very steep slopes. I pushed on, meandering through any open seam in the spruce I could find.

In a relatively short amount of time we were back in the open hardwoods and snowshoeing toward the partially open summit.

From the summit, we managed to point out Gore Mountain and Crane Mountain in the distance and up close were many of the Hamilton County 3,000-footers (like Big Range and County Line Mountain).

The small village of Lake Pleasant was also off in the distance.

Our original plan was to head over to Horseshoe Mountain which was about 1.5 miles away, but the drop was pretty deep into the valley and we feared that we didn't have enough time to accomplish this task and get out to the parking lot or even on a marked trail before dark. We decided to save it for another day.

We returned via our route up which was easy to follow and fully broken out. On the way down we poked around a bit for that open pit mine that was supposed to be up in the col, but all we could locate was a very small one. Maybe that was it, but in the depths of winter and buried in snow, it looked more like a hole in a wall.

Now back at the ATV ruts we decided to avoid them, so we headed right for Kings Flow and snowshoed down the frozen lake back to the car.

We hit King Flow at the marshy area on the southeast side and were welcomed with the best views of the day, including the interesting formation of the three summits of Humphrey Mountain.

The wind at times tore right through our layers, but for most instances we just kept snapping pictures and ignored the condition.

There was about 3 inches of powder under a thin layer of wind-swept crust before we hit ice. It was perfect conditions and an easy walk back to the car.