Climbing mountains gets into your blood like a fire in need of kindling. It is a passion that builds confidence, makes you stronger, healthier, and more adventurous. The members of the Cornwall Outdoor Club de Plein Air like to have fun while challenging and motivating each other. Our newest goal is to conquer the Fire Tower Challenge. This idea instigated by the Adirondack Mountain Club consists of climbing a total of 23 mountains, all of which have historical fire towers at their summits. Upon completion of this challenge, the climbers earn a badge and bragging rights.
Today, we are kicking off this challenge by snowshoeing two mountains near Cranberry Lake: Cathedral Rock and Mount Arab, both of which are listed as relatively short hikes. There are seven of us and the weather is very mild. The trailhead for Cathedral Rock is unmarked and we have some difficulty in locating it until some local snowmobilers point us in the right direction. The beginning of the trail is not packed and the snow is deep so a few of us take turns breaking it in. The leaders of the queue have to work much harder. The trail starts off on a road before thinning and zigzagging gradually up the mountain. When we pause for a break, a member I will call “The Friendly Giant” makes a snowball and throws it at “Catwoman”. She is quick to retaliate thus starting a day-long rivalry and good natured ribbing. When we reach the summit, the majority of us are eager to climb the fire tower to get an observer’s view. This particular fire tower is not in its original location. It began its life on Tooley Pond Mountain and was relocated here in the 1970’s. Still, I try to imagine what it would have been like to spend hours every day in a tower searching for fires. An observer’s life would undoubtedly have been unusual, perhaps a lonely one peppered with wild life encounters and occasional human visitors. I am sure he or she would have many stories to tell.
The trail up Mount Arab is the same distance as the first hike but much steeper. I read prior to the hike that at one point the trail levels off and becomes easier. Don’t believe it. This trail is icy in spots and well packed. It is much more travelled than the first one and also prettier. There are glimpses of surrounding mountains and valleys along the way. When we reach the summit of this mountain, the eager ones climb the tower; however, this time they cannot enter the cabin because it is boarded up for repairs. After a brief rest, we make our way down almost at a run thanks to the steepness and ice.
We are smoking hot today and you and I both know that where there is smoke there is fire!
For more information about the Cornwall Outdoor Club de Plein Air visit our website at www.cornwalloutdoorclub.ca or like us on Facebook.