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Double Nickel -- 7/22/20

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  • Double Nickel -- 7/22/20

    I have been on the Tongue Mountain Range on Lake George at least a half dozen times over the past several years. It's one of my favorite places; a gem hidden right in plain sight. You can see it from every other mountain of note around the lake. And while all the crowds tend to congregate on those other mountains the Tongue remains sparsely visited by comparison, rugged, and remote feeling even though you're basically hiking right smack dab in the middle of Lake George. If you're unfamiliar with the geography, the Tongue juts out into the lake for four or five miles running north/south with Northwest Bay to its west and the Narrows to its east. It's just a great place to hike.

    Today I visited the Tongue again to enjoy just a small portion of the range - Fifth Peak and 5-Mile Mountain. Or as I call them, Double Nickel. Though they sit side-by-side along the range I had never combined them into one hike before but I figured why not tag the pair on the day of my own Double Nickel. Yes, today was my 55th birthday. A gimmick hike to celebrate. You know I love them.

    A Wednesday on the Tongue Range does not draw crowds so I was not surprised (and also quite happy) when I arrived at Clay Meadow to an empty parking area just before 8:00 a.m. I wouldn't see another human for the next five hours. I ran into a half dozen people on my way out approaching the trailhead (a single, a pair, and a trio). Two of the three groups asked whether I encountered any timber rattlesnakes and the third was happily oblivious and wearing flip flops. That's it for human encounters. As for animals there were tons of frogs and toads about, and chipmunks were scurrying everywhere. Oddly, I did not see a single squirrel. Songbirds were out in the morning hours and they provided the soundtrack for my ascent.

    The climb to Fifth Peak is quite nice. The open forests around Lake George make for pretty surroundings and the ruggedness of the Tongue is clearly on display though the trail does an excellent job of skirting problem areas. It's a flat half mile to the first trail junction then a mile and a half climb with 1150 of ele gain to the next junction where the range trail turns south. A half mile more brings you to the Fifth Peak spur trail (200' more ele gain) and another third of mile up the spur with its few hundred foot climb gets you to the top... just under three miles to the summit with 1600 feet of cumulative ele gain.

    The view from the lean-to atop Fifth Peak has gotten more and more grown in since my last visit and provides just a small, yet satisfying, glimpse of Lake George. But if you continue past the lean-to into the large field beyond it there's a partial view looking down the Tongue and expansive views across Northwest Bay and of the mountains to the west. I took the obligatory photos, refueled and re-hydrated, and headed back north toward 5-Mile Mountain.

    Once I retraced the 0.8 miles back to the range trail junction mentioned above I started the climb to 5-Mile Mountain. I had never been on this section of trail before. In typical Tongue Range fashion the trail was a serpentine monster that was much longer than the maps indicate. I hate that especially while attempting to outrun a weather forecast that called for thunderstorms. But what can you do? Along the way the view opened a few times and some scenic vistas revealed themselves.

    The summit of 5-Mile is not on the trail nor is there an official DEC trail going to it. In past years you had to know this and bushwhack your way to the top. However, as I reached the spot where I would go off trail to climb the last fifty feet of vertical to the summit there was now a well-defined herdpath whose start was marked with a cairn. I guess the Lake George 12ster Challenge has made this a more popular destination than in the past. As recently as three years ago there was no cairn or herdpath.

    The view from the summit of 5-Mile is rather poor. But if you bushwhack past the summit and downhill a bit you do get an open view from a ledge that is quite nice. Just be careful as getting to that spot is a slippy slidey obstacle course of pine needles and home turf of timber rattlesnakes. If you go looking for the view please be keenly aware of your surroundings.

    After taking a few pictures the only thing left was the long walk out. About 3.5 miles along trails I had just covered. But it was all downhill and over with quickly enough though my right knee was a little balky. Hopefully that does not become a recurring issue.

    All in all a great day out though the humidity was off the charts and I was sweatier than Al Pacino in "Dog Day Afternoon". I covered a little over 9 miles with 2800 feet of cumulative elevation gain. Solid medium-sized hike over rugged terrain. The Tongue never disappoints.

    Postscript... Every year on my birthday at EXACTLY 6:45 p.m. (which happens to be the time of day I was born) I receive a phone call from my mother. She loves telling me the story about the day I was born. I always make sure to be available at that time. This year I was in the middle of writing this trip report. Even at 55 years of age it's still nice to receive that call. Honestly, I think the day means far more to my mother than it does me.

    Some pics from the hike...
    Album here if you want a larger view of the pics or cannot see them below...

    Trailhead Covid-19 signage...

    Bridge near start of trail with beaver dam running length of it...

    Sliver of a view from just below the Fifth Peak lean-to...

    View from the open field past the Fifth Peak lean-to...

    Along the trail to 5-Mile. View looking east at Black Mountain with Sugarloaf poking up at the left...

    Looking up from cairn at start of the herdpath to 5-Mile summit...

    5-Mile Mountain...

    View from just below the summit after a short bushwhack...

    On the way out. Pick Up Stix.

  • #2
    Nice TR and Happy Birthday Makwa!


    • #3
      Great report and usual. Happy Birthday young man!


      • #4
        Originally posted by DennisK View Post
        Great report and usual. Happy Birthday young man!
        Ditto that and congratulations