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Old 04-15-2012, 01:26 AM   #1
DSettahr's Avatar
Join Date: May 2007
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Debar Mountain Overnight 4/12 - 4/13/12

Did a short, easy overnight to Debar Mountain this past week. I'd still not stayed in the lean-to on the mountain, and it's been over five years since I first visited Debar Mountain, and I decided it was time to return.

Got a late afternoon start from Meacham Lake. The half mile stretch of the road from the campground to the trailhead was marked off with flagging, and a good thing to- the sandy soils on the road have definitely not yet firmed up, and it'd be a mistake to drive all the way in to the trailhead with anything less than 4WD.

Made good time along the Game Management truck trail and the lower reaches of the Jeep trail up Debar. The recent snows started to become prevalent as I climbed the old Jeep trail, and the snow was easily 3-4 inches deep by the time I reached the lean-to. As I crested the ridge just before the lean-to, the sun set, lighting the sky up with some nice blues and reds. I arrived at the lean-to just as it was getting too dark to see without a headlamp.

The Debar Lean-to, as with so many other lean-tos that are near DEC campgrounds, suffers from a significant amount of day use but very little overnight use. Consequently, it's covered in graffiti. The lean-to is also in somewhat rough shape and starting to show its age- the base of the lean-to is starting to rot in the front (this lean-to would be a good project for the lean2rescue group for sure!). Some of the graffiti in the lean-to was dated as far back as the 60's, so this lean-to certainly has been around a while. Despite it's age and worn appearance, it's still sound enough, though, and I spent an enjoyable evening reading by candlelight and eating a tasty dinner.

Friday morning dawned nice and sunny. I spent a fair amount of time basking in the sunlight streaming in through the lean-to, while eating a delicious breakfast of oatmeal mixed with chili and butter, before setting out for the summit.

The snow had firmed up overnight, and it had one of those obnoxious crusts that supports your weight for a split second before your foot breaks through. I found myself adopting a gait where I swung my feet extra hard at the snow so as to break through upon contact, rather than having to deal with that split second of uncertainty.

The jeep trail ends a short distance above the lean-to, at the foundation for where the fire tower observer's cabin used to stand, and from there the real climbing begins. It's a little less than a mile from the lean-to to the summit, but the trail also manages to gain nearly a thousand feet in elevation in that distance, and to say that the trail is steep is an understatement. On the ascent, I was able to check out the new slide from Irene- a small slide to be sure, but still pretty impressive to behold.

From the lean-to to the summit took me about an hour, and I was wishing I'd brought snowshoes well before I got to the top. Snow depths on the summit ranged from about a foot in some spots to over two feet in drifts- and it was pretty much all new snow from this week (a friend of mine had climbed debar several weeks ago and not seen any snow at all on the mountain!).

The summit doesn't have a 360 degree view, but the view is impressive nonetheless. I could easily pick out Azure Mountain to the west, and Deer River Flow to the northwest. To the south, I could see Jenkins and St. Regis Mountains, with Mt. Morris in Tupper Lake visible beyond. Unfrotunately, no real views of the High Peaks- that direction was hidden behind tree cover. The foundations from the fire tower were clearly visible- I can only imagine what the view from the tower must have been like!

On the descent, the snow had softened somewhat, and I made good time, reaching the lean-to in half the time it'd taken me to ascend. I quickly packed up and headed out. On my hike back to the trailhead, I ran into the lean-to adopter, who was in to make the rounds with his dog.

I also checked out a side road on the truck trail and discovered the remains of an old camp- pretty neat to find. The Debar Mountain Wild Forest is riddled with old logging roads, camps, and whatnot- a history buffs dream to explore. One of the hikes I'd really like to do some time is follow the old horse/snowmobile trail from Sheep's Meadow to the south to the Debar Game Management Area in the north...

Debar mountain is definitely worth checking out- not too many hikes to peaks with views in isolated corner of the park. :-)
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Old 04-15-2012, 04:13 PM   #2
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Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Broadalbin/Lake Placid
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Debar Mountain was my first hike more than 50 years ago. The tower was still standing and I still remember the view. I enjoyed your photos and narrative. I'm going to climb it again this spring. I've neglected the mountains in the north but this trail report has motivated me to spend some time back in that area. Thanks.
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Old 04-16-2012, 09:18 AM   #3
PA Ridgerunner
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Location: Jay, NY
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Fran and I climbed Debar about 25 years ago, while camping at Lake Meacham. The tower was already gone by then. I remember reading in the trail book we used that "the last mile is as steep as anything in the Adirondacks that has a trail." I think it was the "50 Day Hikes in the Adirondacks." Anyway, I suspect that's not exactly true, but it is definitely a steep sucker!

I remember looking forward to getting back to the lake to cool off...and being surprised that virtually everyone at the beach was speaking French. It was Canada Day.

Thanks for posting. Brought back some nice memories of one of our first trips to the Daks.

Rule #6: Don't take yourself so G.D. seriously. There are no other rules. - Zander
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