About 20 miles east of Albany lies the 2500 acre Grafton Lakes State Park. If you’re from the Capital Region, I would assume that you’ve probably visited this park before. It is a haven for hikers, anglers, swimmers, snow-shoers, cross country skiers, snowmobilers, ice skaters, and ice fishers. Living in an urban/suburban area, I sometimes feel like it can be difficult to get out into true nature and wilderness, but GLSP is a place relatively close to home where I do feel like I’m going into a more “wild” area. This is a great place to recreate no matter the season and I hope this post will inspire some to make their way to GLSP soon!
There are a myriad of great hiking trails in the park, but I want to highlight the Dickinson Hill Fire Tower. My first semester of college, my Environmental Science professor, Dr. Bogan, took my lab class there on our last day of class. I had never done this hike before and was excited to get out in the woods on what was a surprisingly fair-weathered, December day. You can approach the fire tower from an access road on the east side of the park but we started out from North Long Pond Road instead. From there it is only 1.2 miles before reaching the service road which is the final stretch up to the tower. My class crunched through leaves, laughing and chatting while Dr. Bogan lead the way.
There is an elevation gain of only about 257 feet over the 1.2 miles so it is a fairly gradual hike. It’s great for beginners and families and would also make an excellent snowshoe. I am hoping to get out there and snowshoe up to the tower this winter! Once you get to the base of the fire tower, there is no view. You have to actually get up the tower to see anything. I will let you in on a little secret, reader. Your seemingly fearless, mountain climbing, adventure seeking, wildewoman, author is afraid of heights. I. do. not. like. heights. How do you climb mountains then? you might be asking yourself. Hiking doesn’t bother me because I can usually see the ground around me, and even though I am on top of a tall thing, it’s usually a gradual drop off. Sheer heights bother me. Cliffs, fire towers, being in a plane- all that jazz. I do not like the feeling of having absolutely nothing beneath me but a whole lot of air and solid ground. Anyway, I put on a brave face the whole hike like, “yes can’t wait to get to this tower!” but when we got there, I froze. I insisted on hanging out at the base of the tower where my feet were safely on the ground.
Dr. Bogan bought the first group up the tower and I stayed parked on a picnic bench with some classmates. After the first group came down, the remainder of students went up and I still insisted on staying at the picnic bench. I vividly remember Dr. Bogan coming up to me and saying, “I really want you to see the view from up there. I can stay behind you the whole way up if that’ll make you feel better.” This was very nice of him but I was still terrified to go up. After some internal debating and hearing my classmates rave about the view, I decided to head up the tower. Dr. Bogan did stay behind me the whole time and was truly happy for me when we got to them top. I kept a death grip on the tower’s cabin but I’m really glad he convinced me to climb up because the view from up there is quite spectacular. The cabin of the tower provides beautiful views of the Adirondack Mountains, the Green Mountains in Vermont, the Taconic Range bordering Massachusetts, the Helderberg Mountains to the south of Albany and of course Grafton Lakes State Park below. There are also some massive white pines that stand adjacent to the fire tower so that’s a neat feeling as well to be up amongst the trees.
This is an easy, scenic, quiet hike that I would highly recommend y’all put on your list of Capital Region hikes. GLSP is a unique and historical area of New York that is highly worth checking out. I know I will definitely be heading there this winter to beat some S.A.D.-ness. This would be a great place to head to this winter for others who are trying to stay active over the upcoming snowy months. And if you’re afraid of heights like me and are unsure about climbing a 60-foot, 95-year-old, free standing metal structure, I’d say send it and conquer your fears! Can’t enjoy the view if you’re stuck on the ground (a metaphor for life too, perhaps).
December is always a busy time for me but I will be trying really hard to post weekly or bi-weekly on here. I am about to start my new job and have Christmas parties and other festive events going on, so I am a little busy.
I would also like to share that I recently started a partnership with a Capital Region company called co-mads. co-mads was started by another Capital Region native, Gabby Fisher, and it is a company that promotes mindful tourism, conscious consumerism and community impact. After connecting and meeting, Gabby and I realized we share a lot of the same values when it comes to traveling and adventuring. If you are interested in learning more about co-mads and the amazing work Gabby does with local tourism and non-profits, head to https://co-mads.com.
Thanks for reading/supporting me and happy hiking! Until next time!
-Maria Gigliello, www.thedirtbymaria.com