While many rushed to Crossgates or Colonie Center for Black Friday holiday shopping, others heeded the “col” of the wild and hiked the Adirondacks instead.  (FYI:  A “col” is the gap between mountains.)  This weekend’s hike up Cat and Thomas overlooking Lake George tested George’s endurance and grit, still, we decided that there was more value being outside than saving a few bucks on holiday presents.

We arrived at the Valley Woods Road trailhead a little later than anticipated due, in part, to my new, favorite bathroom break.   Opened this fall, the state-of-the-art Adirondack welcome center between exits 17 and 18 northbound on the Northway is worth ‘holding it’ until you get there.   

Besides the obvious creature comforts, the personalized vending machines carry smart and healthy New York-based food and beverages.  Some even carry retail sundries like artisan goat soaps and lotions worthy of stocking stuffers.   We ordered a locally roasted coffee (the machine remembers how you like it and issues you a number for the next time) and rocked on decommissioned ski lift swings in front of a stone fireplace.   

The guestbook at the trailhead was full and the small map at the kiosk failed to mention the total mileage but, no matter, we were in good hands.   Our paths coincided at the summit of Cat with a couple from New Jersey who helped take a pano of us.   The husband was trained in search-and-rescue and wore a bright orange winter parka and carried a GPS hand tracker.

Cat and Thomas are two of 12 mountains listed on a Lake George Peak Challenge in the Lake George watershed.   This marked 4 & 5 for us. 

A snow-covered carriage road led us past a patch of balsams fit for decorating and over a frozen pond ideal for ice-skating if cleared.    Multi-colored leaves froze in place on what was running water just days earlier.   George’s punned his way through the pain of scrambling over rocky outcroppings announcing “Never take me for ‘granite,’ honey” and “You ‘rock’ my world, dear.”

Plenty of blue and yellow trail markers including skinny arrows and distance calculations helped anticipate our destinations.  The 7.5-mile loop lapsed just under five hours for us with a few minutes to spare before sundown.   Overall, a wonderful diversion from the bane of the busiest Crazy Eddy shopping day of the year!


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