photograph by Carl Heilman II

A nighttime hike celebrates an Adirondack icon

ast year, I tagged along as the Friends of Hurricane Mountain joined volunteers scattered across the state to honor fire towers and observers by lighting the towers’ cabs at 9 p.m. on September 1. (St. Regis and Stillwater fire towers also participated.) 

I left the Route 9N trailhead about 5:30 p.m., planning enough time for hiking the 3.4-mile trail to make it to Hurricane’s summit for magic-hour light over the mountains. About halfway up, I met Mary Jean Bland, the official tower lighter.

Clouds filled in around Rocky Peak, Giant, and the Dix Range, and were blowing around the summit when I arrived on top just after 7 p.m. The sun settled into the low clouds above the mountains to the west, and the sky was awash with the glow of sunset. With a handful of others, I watched stars fill the sky above the tower while Mary Jean prepped for the main event.

The wind created considerable turbulence inside the tower, so lighting the lantern became a two-person job. As we huddled in the corner of the cabin, I blocked the wind while Mary Jean fired one match after another, doing her best to get one to stay lit long enough to ignite the propane-filled mantles. We were eventually successful, and Mary Jean suspended the lantern from her makeshift hanger. The warm light was easily seen in Keene Valley, Elizabethtown and parts of the Champlain Valley, and was perhaps visible as far away as Vermont.

If you go

For details on this year’s statewide Fire Tower Lighting, visit the Friends of Hurricane Mountain, Friends of St. Regis Mountain Fire Tower or Friends of Stillwater Fire Tower Facebook pages.

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