Sunday, May 3, 2009


... very gneiss

Our 16th tower in the Fire Tower Challenge was Poke-O-Moonshine. We picked an absolute gorgeous day to go. The temperature was almost perfect - the sun was shining, very few clouds were in the sky. While mud season is in full swing, it is still a little early for bug season.

The trail is a self guided nature walk, however, there were no brochures present at the trail head. The campground, which is now closed, is where the trail begins. There is a nice bulletin board of information about the tower and the trail which is probably included in the brochure.

I encountered ice on my most recent hike, so we packed our Stableicers just in case. It is difficult to judge the weather conditions for up north and at higher elevations from where we live. We were pleased to find that there was no sign of ice, infact, we encountered a few spring flowers as well! The trilliums are in bloom, and we saw some Dutchman's breeches and Claytonia virginica. A camouflaged garter snake made just enough noise to catch Sister's eye, and it posed very well for pictures.

The name Poke-0-Moonshine probably originated from the combination of two Algonquin Indian words, "pohqui" and "moosie" meaning broken and smooth, respectively. This seems to refer to the smooth rocks at the summit or the prominent slab on the southeast side or the 1000 ft cliffs on the east side. These cliffs are a popular place for rock climbers, which have identified over 180 routes up the cliff.

The cliff rocks are mostly gneiss, a metamorphic silt from over 1.1 billions years ago. Exfoliation can be noted on the cliff rocks, a geological phenomenon when water seeps into the cracks of the rock, expanding as it freezes, pulling the rock away.

On the way to the top one will pass a lonely stone chimney, basically all that remains from the observer's cabin. Also visible from the trail is a lean-to (nicely shingled) and a doorless outhouse. Head over to the lean-to and check it out. Looking back toward the cabin remains you can now see the very top of the fire tower. The climb from here to the tower looks challenging, as all you can see is a bare rock cliff between the two places, but it isn't bad at all.

Between the cabin and the summit is an overlook that one should check out with great views of Whiteface, Giant, and other high peaks. A little bit of Lake Champlain is also visible from this spot.

The first tower was built in 1912, and replaced with a steel tower in 1917. In 1988 the tower was deactivated, but in 1997 the Friends of Poke-O-Moonshine, with the help of other local agencies, restored the tower and it is climbable up to the pad-locked cab.

Lake Champlain is beautiful but is best seen from the highest landing of the tower. This was one of my favorite summits so far, despite the locked cab. There are great views of the high peaks, the wind was mild, and there is plenty of comfortable bare rock to sit on. This gorgeous mountain makes me want to take up rock climbing! The hike itself was steep in parts, but definitely manageable. It is about 2.4 miles round trip, and about 1280 feet in elevation change.

Information about the tower and trail is from John P Freeman's fire tower book "Views from on High"

Be sure to check out all of my pictures from this hike!


storybeader said...

beautiful day - and all that nature! Looks like a lot of trees kept you company, on the way up. When I was a little tot, I went to camp on the Vermont side of Lake Champlain. Haven't thought about that in many a moon. Thank you for that! It looks beautiful!

corin said...

beautiful trilium picture! makes we want to get right up there to see them. Another great trip report. Glad you had a nice day. I want to get up there too before the bugs are in full swing. Mud is flies are not.

Becky said...

looks fantastic! It's such fun that you're hiking al the fire towers, good luck! :D