Rattlesnake Mountain has long been one of my family’s favorite hikes around the Adirondacks. It’s always had a great mix of the things we love in a hike: a great view for a moderately challenging climb, cool mushrooms to look at, the occasional garter snake, a rock shaped like a chair that’s located at a perfect spot for a water break, and a tree that we’ve been calling "our tree" for ten years. Here’s a picture of it we took a few years ago.
Rattlesnake Mountain was the first mountain my son ever climbed as a toddler. He was two and a half, and we made it as far as this tree before he was too tired to go on. We played hide and seek around the tree for a while before heading down; he hid in the hollow, and I peeked around from the other side. At one point, he lost his balance and started rolling down the hill until my husband caught him.
On other climbs, as he got older, we’d pause at the tree and remember it as the milestone he reached on that first climb and talk about how much bigger and taller he was on each hike. And when my daughter came along and got big enough to go hiking, we told her the story and played hide and seek here, too. This strange-looking tree has become a Rattlesnake Mountain landmark for our family. A place to stop and catch our breath and say, "Remember when…."
J is 13 now, as tall as I am, and beyond fitting in the hollow tree, but he came along with E and me on our hike up Rattlesnake today. Right away, we noticed something was different about the trail. There’s been some serious logging on the mountain, which is private land, and there are scars. Trails that are muddier. Tree stands that are more sparse. E was immediately furious. We reminded her that it is indeed private land, that the owner has the right to cut some trees, and that it’s been great that they’ve kept the mountain open to hikers all this time when it’s private property. And the logging wasn’t irresponsible; nothing was clear cut.
I thought I was doing a great job being the voice of reason, but then we came to this.
We were all so very sad. I felt like we should have tacked a little sign on it when we were here last fall: "Please leave this one. It’s important." But that’s not the way the world works.
We continued to the top, where the view of Lake Champlain was as spectacular as always and had the added benefit of being filled with giant, prehistoric-looking dragonflies. Can you see them?
It made us feel a little better. Sort of.
But tonight, I can’t shake the feeling that a little bit of my kids’ childhood got chopped down along with that tree. Even here at home, hours later, I can’t believe how much I miss it.