Late last August, the Plattsburgh State men's and women's cross country teams went on a hike up Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain, the peak with the massive cliffs near Exit 33 of the Northway.We were supposed to get to the top as quickly as we could, in order to turn the climb into a hard workout. Nearly everyone attempted to run at the beginning of the ascent, but most of us found that running wasn't possible on the terrain, and instead just moved uphill as quickly as we could.Route 9 South will lead you to the trailhead, which is roughly a mile past the I-87 overpass, just below Keeseville. You can park right on the shoulder of Route 9 or at the state campground.Our coach, John Lynch, who has climbed 12 of the High Peaks, chose Poke-O-Moonshine mainly because it is relatively close to Plattsburgh and thus allowed us to carpool instead of taking school vans. Lynch also knew it would be easy enough for everyone to run and climb up, plus he knew we'd enjoy the view as well as the scenery on the mountain."I think it's cool to see the different rock formations when you're hiking," said Lynch.The trail, which wasn't easily distinguishable from the woods on either side, varied from dirt to roots, rocks of varying sizes and small trees.Once we reached the summit, we were presented with a majestic view of the Adirondacks. The people who reached the top first were eagerly pointing out various elements of the surrounding landscapes as we all tried to take everything in. I walked out to the edge of the rocks to see just how high up we were. The nearly traffic-less roads below looked like long, thin, motionless snakes with an occasional bug (car) crawling along their backs. The tops of trees, which had looked so tall when we were getting out of the cars, were so far below that they looked like tiny shrubs in someone's front yard.To the east we could see Lake Champlain, Auger Pond, the Green Mountains and the White Mountains. On a very clear day you can even see Montreal.Before beginning our descent, a couple teammates and I climbed the fire tower. These extra flights of stairs rewarded us with a 360-degree view of our surroundings, whereas on the summit you can only see about two-thirds of the area around Poke-O-Moonshine. When we came down from the tower, we were greeted by a friendly man with an even friendlier black lab. The Poke-O-Moonshine climb wouldn't be suitable for some pets, but for an athletic dog that enjoys the woods and has energy to burn, this could be a nice bonding experience for a hiker and man's best friend.The trip (no pun intended) down took us the same amount of time as did to get to the top. Most of us aimed to get down as quickly as possible, so we could raid the apples and Gatorade Coach Lynch had for us in his car, but the terrain and some accidental falls slowed our mission. Three of us made the trek together, and in our rush, each of us fell at least once somewhere along the descent. We soon realized that going up was actually the easy part.This summer I would like to go back to Poke-O-Moonshine for another hike, and I'd definitely recommend it for a morning or afternoon of hiking. If you bring food along, you could have a nice picnic on the rocks at the summit. And don't forget your camera — the view is well worth the adventure!
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