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The HoJo Challenge --- First Finishers --- 5/30/16

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  • The HoJo Challenge --- First Finishers --- 5/30/16

    Are you man or woman enough to complete the newest ADK hiking challenge? If so, read on. Yesterday, on a simply beautiful Memorial Day, my friend and I climbed Mt. Van Hoevenberg (Ho) from the trailhead on South Meadow Road then moved on down to the Loj and climbed Mt. Jo (Jo). The HoJo Challenge was born! But what's so challenging about that, you say? Those mountains have been climbed tens of thousands of times before. And both in one day has been done plenty of times, right? Those are both givens but I'm confident our itinerary yesterday incorporated something into the day that nobody before us has done in combination with climbing those two sub-3000-foot peaks. Before we even set foot on the hiking trails we had devoured an artery-clogging breakfast at the last remaining Howard Johnson's in the country... HoJo's as it was commonly referred to back in the day. Completing each of these three legs in one day made us the first two finishers of the HoJo Challenge... ADK HOJOers #1 and #2.

    Would you believe that Lake George is home to the last standing Howard Johnson's? Until last year there were three left but closures of the ones in Lake Placid and Bangor, Maine left LG with the sole surviving restaurant. At its zenith Howard Johnson's had over 1,000 locations in the United States, making it the largest restaurant chain in the country during the 1960's and 1970's. Everybody ate there. It was classic Americana. A national institution. Unfortunately, the chain with the famous orange roofs declined over the years and became all but extinct. But as we discovered yesterday the menu hasn't changed since its heyday. Neither has the signature weathervane atop the orange roof, the unintentional retro decor, and probably not even the cooking oil in the deep fryer. We pulled into the parking lot at 7:30 a.m. and walked into an empty restaurant. We would be the eatery's only patrons at that hour. We pored over the menu hoping to find something we could choke down that wouldn't make us sick during our hike. We were careful with this menu selection since we were keenly aware of the most important rule of the HoJo Challenge - you cannot have a "reversal of fortune" during your hike. That is, you cannot regurgitate what you've eaten. OK... I'll say it in plain terms... you can't barf. If you do you must start the Challenge over. It's harder than it sounds. Believe me! A few dirty forks, chipped plates, and a barely passable over-priced meal later and we adjourned outside to snap some pictures under the large sign in front of the restaurant to commemorate our stop. Leg One of the Challenge was complete!

    Leg Two of the Challenge took us to South Meadow Road and the trailhead for Mt Van Hoevenberg. The small parking area there can hold maybe a half dozen cars but we had the place to ourselves. The trail is only 2.3 miles long with a hair under 900 feet of elevation gain. Not an imposing hike by any means but it was made a tad more difficult as those huge breakfasts settled into our guts. The first mile of the trail is flat and you soon exit the woods and come upon a large open area with a sizeable beaver pond and a view up to what I believe to be the Mt VanHo summit ridge. The trail skirts to the left here and then once through this wet area (which was actually very dry with very little mud) the climbing begins. The trail is steep in places but not terribly rocky and happily very soft on the knees. We burped and belched our way to the top and before you knew it we came out at a ledge on the summit ridge with fantastic expansive views ranging from Gothics to the southeast all the way to Wallface and Street & Nye to the southwest. Wow! What a view! See pics below. I'm shocked more people don't talk about the views from this mountain. So worth the time to climb. If you've never been do yourself a favor and go. There are a few more overlooks along the ridge and then you supposedly hit the summit where the trail takes a sharp left and continues down the north side of mountain toward the Olympic luge and bobsled runs. We walked the ridge back and forth twice and never did find a summit marker... or did we? We found one plain white disc nailed to a tree just below a blue trail marker but it was well below what looked to be the high point. We even pushed into the trees 20-30 feet to where my GPS had fixed the summit to be but nothing was found. After fruitlessly walking the ridge rather than spending more time enjoying the spectacular views we decided to head on down. Only saw a few other people on what was a very quiet holiday on the trails.

    After returning to the car we quickly ate some lunch to tamp down our cholesterol-laden breakfasts, rehydrated, and moved down to the parking area next to the HPIC which was surprisingly less than half full on this gorgeous day. The Final Leg of the Challenge would take us onto the property of the Adirondack Mountain Club and up Mt Jo. We opted to ascend via the the "short trail" and were very glad we did. At 1.1 miles long it's only 0.2 shorter than the "long trail" but offers a classic steep & rocky Adirondack climb with almost 800 feet of elevation gain. We ended up doing the full loop and descending the long trail. Quite frankly it was kind of an ugly trail compared to the rugged and starkly beautiful short trail. Mt Jo was a fun little mountain to climb with an incredible payoff on the summit of spectacular views, particularly of the Macs and Colden, and a close-up look at Heart Lake. There were a half dozen other hikers enjoying some sun on the summit and they all departed simultaneously after a few minutes leaving us alone atop the mountain. We took our pictures and congratulated each other on completing the monumental task we started several hours earlier. The descent was uneventful and once all the way back down we stopped for a few minutes to enjoy the views along the shore of Heart Lake. What a scenic and relaxing end to the day.

    So clearly the HoJo Challenge was a gimmicky hike that I dreamed up but it was a great day out. Besides reliving pieces of my childhood in the last remaining restaurant from a bygone era, my friend and I got to climb two great little mountains. For those of you looking to introduce your friends or family to hiking I would highly recommend this combo.... all in one day or on multiple trips. With way less effort required than climbing a High Peak, the incredible panoramic views from these summits will quickly impress and demonstrate with stunning clarity, the beauty that makes the ADKs such a great place to hike.

    As far as the Challenge goes... we do not have certificates, or patches, or any of that official hiking club stuff, but if you want to document your progress or report your HoJo finishes to me via PM have at it. The HoJo Challenge correspondence program is officially open for business and I will gladly keep the records of this fledgling club until we at least we triple or quadruple in size. After that it may be too much of a time drain for me to continue. But really, get out to these two mountains. You won't regret it. And if you want to eat at the last HoJo please act fast. It really looks as if they are struggling. I can't recommend the food but the kitsch value of stopping there and reminiscing about the chain's better days is definitely worth the stop.

    ADK 46r #7637
    ADK HOJOer #1

    Pics from the day...

    Last one standing. Even says so on the front of the menu.

    I got the "Perfect Breakfast" but I might describe that as hyperbole.

    well... at least it looked good...

    Notice the missing United States flag on Memorial Day. But Canada was well represented.

    This sign is really drawing 'em in! Last one standing!!

    Trailhead sign. Notice any problems?

    Beaver Pond

    Same beaver pond with the VanHo summit ridge in the background.

    Typical section of trail on the climb.

    View from the summit ridge...
    Marcy, Colden, and the Macs...
    Last edited by Makwa; 05-31-2016, 08:52 PM.

  • #2
    More views from the Mt VanHo summit ridge...
    Wallface, the Santas, Lost Pond Peak, Street & Nye with Mt Jo in the foreground...

    Gothics, Saddleback, Basin, and Marcy poking up in the distance. Tabletop and Phelps in the foreground.

    Summit marker? Didn't appear to be near the summit though.

    Off to Mt Jo...

    Informational display at the trail register.

    Typical sections of the rugged short trail...

    Lots of different colors of trail markers. These almost match up with the one I saw on Scarface on Saturday.

    Last edited by Makwa; 05-31-2016, 05:53 PM.


    • #3
      Huh? Must be an acronym I do not know. Anybody? Is it something to do with trail maintenance?

      Views from Mt Jo...
      Marcy, Gray, Colden, and the Macs...

      Close up of Colden with Gray just to its left...

      Close up of the Macs...

      Phelps & Tabletop with Basin peaking up between them, Little Marcy, T.R., Marcy, and Gray...

      Forgot to mention. We brought Mets great Howard Johnson (aka HoJo) along with us on the HoJo Challenge.

      Heart Lake from above.

      We called this "The Wisconsin Rock"

      Heart Lake from below.

      A pleasant end to the day.
      Last edited by Makwa; 05-31-2016, 05:54 PM.


      • #4
        We just met a kid on Sunday who had done this on consecutive days, with his parents. He was pretty psyched when I pointed out Mt. Jo from the top of Mt. Ho.
        Tom Rankin - 5444W "In the depths of Summer, I finally learned that there lay within me an invincible Winter"

        Proud Member #0003 of ADKHP Foundation
        Volunteer Balsam Lake Mountain
        Past President Catskill 3500 Club
        CEO Views And Brews!


        • #5
          This is awesome. I'll never do it, only because of the first leg.
          ADK 46/46W + MacNaughton, Grid 273/552
          Photos & Stuff


          • #6
            Good story, Makwa. I enjoyed reading about your "tasty" walk down memory lane and all the photos. The paper cut out of HoJo was funny too.
            Catskills: 39/39, 35W/35W
            ADK: 46/46


            • #7
              Looking for Views!


              • #8
                This is one I can do. To add to the difficulty a little, maybe you should add the Ultra HoJo, going from the Lake Placid HoJo's, in a few miles of the N-PT to Wanika Falls, up and over the pass between Street and Nye (missing the summits, to prevent it from being a HoStJoNy), then up and down Jo, then up VanHo, down the bobsled run, and optionally back to Placid on 73 (but like the Northville end of the N-PT, only true completionists and people with no other way to get back need hike that section)
                ADK 46*/46 CATS 5/35 FT 4/28 Saranac 0/6 Bristol 6/6


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Trail Boss View Post
                  Who will become the first Winter HOJOer?


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by bfinan0 View Post
                    This is one I can do. To add to the difficulty a little, maybe you should add the Ultra HoJo, going from the Lake Placid HoJo's, in a few miles of the N-PT to Wanika Falls, up and over the pass between Street and Nye (missing the summits, to prevent it from being a HoStJoNy), then up and down Jo, then up VanHo, down the bobsled run, and optionally back to Placid on 73 (but like the Northville end of the N-PT, only true completionists and people with no other way to get back need hike that section)
                    This is off topic, but what's the Bristol 6?


                    • bfinan0
                      bfinan0 commented
                      Editing a comment
                      A minor challenge near me, maybe even a one time thing, that the local ADK and FLTC chapters put on, the 6 trailed peaks over 500 meters in the Bristol Hills. High Tor, West, Stid, Cleveland, Mees-Gannett, and South (Bristol Mountain) with Frost Hill as an optional 7th peak since it's the highest one but trailless

                  • #11
                    Thanks! I live near Bristol, so I might give that a shot.


                    • #12
                      I looked into it, there's no recognition anymore but it's still fun. I doubt I'll ever go back to the high peaks but I'd do another round of 6...
                      ADK 46*/46 CATS 5/35 FT 4/28 Saranac 0/6 Bristol 6/6


                      • #13
                        $11.95+ tax is pretty steep for a cheese omelette.

                        Maybe hitting up McDonalds for a Big Mac and then hiking the 3 Macs might be more my speed. I'll call it the McChallenge.
                        My mind was wandering like the wild geese in the west.


                        • Makwa
                          Makwa commented
                          Editing a comment
                          You must add Marshall but buy your entire hiking outfit from the clearance rack at Marshall's.

                        • bfinan0
                          bfinan0 commented
                          Editing a comment
                          The three Macs? Shouldn't it be Algonquin (the highest McIntyre, and previously named Macintyre until 1920), Macnaughton and McKenzie?

                        • FlyFishingandBeer
                          FlyFishingandBeer commented
                          Editing a comment
                          I hadn't though of that. I was referring to the three linear MacIntyres: Wright, Algonquin, and Iroquois.

                      • #14
                        Picked a copy of the April Saratoga Business Journal today at my bank ATM. There's an ad in it for the sale of the Lake George HOJOs. Asking price is $1.15 million.

                        I've driven past the HOJOs a couple times in the last month after climbing Buck, like I did today. Not sure if it's still open. If I'd seen the ad before I would have checked today if it is still open.

                        Not sure how much property is there. Wondering if when it's sold whether it will demolished to make room for something new or even renovation and reopening to a current brand.



                        • Makwa
                          Makwa commented
                          Editing a comment
                          There is a Rite Aid just down the street which was purchased by Walgreen's (along with 2000+ others) and features a Walgreen's pharmacy. Eventually all those stores will become Walgreen's. Strange, I know. But it has something to with the proposed merger of the two that regulators didn't like. Walgreen's instead bought half of Rite Aid's locations outright. I guess they will be rebranded at some point soon.

                        • Makwa
                          Makwa commented
                          Editing a comment
                          Commissionpoint if the quarters of this conscripted mini-golf army are somewhere on Assembly Point I'm in.

                        • Commissionpoint
                          Commissionpoint commented
                          Editing a comment
                          Makwa Assembly Point? I was thinking more like a tent behind Magic Forest.

                      • #15
                        I LOVE IT... fond memories of stopping at the HoJo's in the Catskills on the way to the ADK when I was a young buck. We'd make the waitress recite the ice cream flavors...bratty kids... The fried clams were the heart-stopping delicacy of choice.