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Spring Fire Towers (Wakely and Pillsbury)


Submitted By Michael Virdone

The Mountains & Stats

10 miles with 2900 feet of gain
  • Pillsbury (3597 Feet, NY) globe Mountain
  • Wakely (3744 Feet, NY) globe Mountain

People On The Trip

Trip Report

     Due to the lingering snow any my sprained ankle I decided that I didn't want to attempt any high peaks this weekend. Instead we decided to bust out two fire towers. The plan called for driving to Wakely, hiking, then deciding if we had the stamina for Pillsbury. The drive to Wakely was nothing special, we got there from Syracuse in about 3 hours. As soon as we got out of the car we were swarmed by black flies (so badly that I had to put my bug net on as soon as I exited the car). We spent 5 minutes in the parking lot trying to get our gear together and running around in circles trying to avoid the bugs. Eventually we signed in and began the hike.

      The first section of trail is a very nice old jeep road except for a small section of beaver activity right near the beginning. Optimally if I were to do this mountain again I would definitely bring a mountain bike. We cruised over the first two miles to try and outrun the bugs (it worked for the most part). Eventually we reached the base of the mountain and the trail steepened considerably. From here it was a lot slower going, the trail was steep and filled with rocks and roots. Nate and Nicole went ahead because they couldn't stop moving (they had no bug nets). I slowly plodded my way up the mountain, eventually reaching the top in a little less than an hour and a half (excellent time for me).

      We enjoyed the picnic table, fire tower, and the views for a while until the bugs found our hiding spot (up in the tower it was windy enough to keep the bugs away, but also windy enough to make you quite cold). The hike down was quite tiring as I was trying to nurse a sprained ankle. Unfortunately a little ways from the summit I slipped and re-twisted it. After a few choice swear words we continued down. I'm not used to not being able to indiscriminately throw myself down hill and my legs were considerably more tired from gently lowering myself down. Eventually we were back to the base of the mountain where we cruised back to the car on the dirt road again. Back at the car I mentioned that I wasn't feeling Pillsbury as I had agitated the ankle injury. We left the Wakely mountain trailhead and began to make our way home (hitting a few yard sales along the way).

      As we drove south from Indian Lake we began to plan our next trip to Pillsbury mountain, we were thinking about going in to one of the leantos and then trying to bushwhack up from the opposite side. Nate mentioned that it would be a good idea to drive in to the trailhead to see if my car would make it all the way (that way we could take his truck on the next trip if necessary). We did some Hyundai off roading and made it to the trailhead (which was packed) and noticed that the leantos in the area appeared to be well used (so our plan wouldn't have worked very well). At the time my ankle felt a lot better so I said "F" it, let's just go do this.

      The climb up Pillsbury begins with a steep descent down to a stream crossing and then begins a moderately steep climb to the summit. The majority of the climb is the same pitch with the exception of a small plateau before the summit plateau. This mountain toys with you a bit as you're climbing and reach a nice consistent flat area you think it is the summit plateau, but instead you come to the steepest section of the trail yet which climbs at least another 50 feet. After this last section the trail traverses the summit plateau to the fire tower. As usual we enjoyed a break at the summit before our descent. The descent was uneventful (albeit slow) and eventually we were back at the car.

      By this point it was getting late and we were all getting pretty hungry so we stopped at our favorite gas station in Speculator (Mountain Market or something) to get a few deli sandwiches. After dinner our drive home was the same old drive.

The Good and The Bad

The Good:

Views from the fire towers
Yard sale finds
Great temperatures
No Rain

The Bad:

BUGS BUGS BUGS! (at least they weren't biting though)

The Drive

Completely avoided the thruway, took 31 across to Verona, and then took the normal route up 365.


  • none
  • Fire Tower Book
  • National Geographic ADK Map

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