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Monday, August 14, 2017

The Other Nippletop(Adirondacks)

 I have read multiple trip reports on the many gorgeous mountains spread across the vast 45,208 acre Dix Mountain Wilderness Area and after seeing all of the open rock scattered about on many of the peaks from Google Maps, I knew I had to go.  Outside of the High Peaks in the Dix Range, none of these other mountains have trails or herd paths, so it would require bushwhacking to get there.  After talking it over with my buddy Jim, we opted to try for 3018 foot Nippletop Mountain.  Not THE Nippletop, but a much more secluded, less visited Nippletop.  There is access to many of the peaks in this area via several tunnels under the Northway.  Finding our access point today was a bit of a challenge, but well worth the effort.  We parked on the shoulder of Route 9, exactly 3.4 miles north of its junction with Blue Ridge Road.  The small dirt road marked Walker Road, "Private", is actually a right of way to access the Northway tunnel.  We followed this west for about half a mile before we came to a crossing of the Schroon River.  The area to cross is fairly shallow, but you will get your feet wet, so be prepared. 
 Once across the river, there are myriad of jeep trails that meander around.  We just stayed mostly straight following the sounds of traffic on the Northway.  Soon enough, we came to the tunnel crossing.  A little eerie but it gets you where you need to go.
 Very soon after crossing the Northway, we saw our first DEC state signs.  This is always a welcome relief, and we continued on a well defined woods road/ path to peaceful Walker Brook, flowing down through a beautiful hemlock forest.
 The woods road crosses over stone chocked Walker Brook and continues west with the stream within earshot.
 We followed the woods road for a little while, before thick blowdown eventually made us lose it altogether.  We shrugged it off and began the bushwhack from there, climbing steeply though an open forest.  The terrain on the lower slopes of the mountain wasn't terrible at all, just steep.
We passed several open rock slabs on the climb, eventually finding this one with a nice view of the north summit bump.
 From another open rock slab, we managed to find this nice view down to Exit 30 of the Northway.
 As the elevation increased the woods got a bit more scrappy, but still nothing terrible to contend with.  Here is yet another rock slab with views to the east.
We continued our ascent until suddenly we emerged at the beginning of the north(lower) summit.  The views from the open rock were absolutely stunning.  We decided to take a break there and soak in the outstanding views.  How were we to know that this was just the warm up?
 From the north summit, we got a nice look at the south, true summit.
 There are actually a series of open rock areas on the north summit, each with a better view than the previous.  Here is the view towards the Dix Range in the High Peaks as well as Camel and Camels  Hump.
 Dropping down off the cliffs of the north summit, where we were quite surprised to spot some early leaves changing color already.
A look up at our destination on the south summit from the col between the two.
The area between the two summit bumps was the thickest we had been in all day, with a lot of blowdown.  Nothing terrible though.  Here we are emerging through a field of blueberries at the summit.
The 360 degree open rock summit is a truly remarkable experience.  While only 3018 feet high, the feeling is that you are much, much higher.  There is much to explore up here, so we wandered around, enjoying every minute.  The west view here is towards Big Marsh Pond and Marsh Pond Mountain on its right.  To the left is Hoffman Mountain and Blue Ridge.
 The north view towards neighboring Niagara Mountain.
 The south view allows a glimpse down towards Schroon Lake and the Northway.
 A zoom view of Marsh Pond Mountain.
 I particularly liked this shot with Schroon Lake(L), Hoffman Mountain(center) and Big Marsh Pond(R).
 North views towards the High Peaks of the Dix Range with Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge in the distance.
Love seeing the open rock on the Dix Range and Wyman Mountain.  In the foreground is Camels Hump and Camel.
A view up at the summit from below.
 An incredible view of the North summit from the south summit.  Look at all of that open rock!
 We dropped down off the main summit cone trying to miss the steep, rock cliffs and ended up a bit further east near the cirque.  This way, while a bit rougher with blowdown was an interesting change from our ascent.
 Steep drop off near the cirque.
 Rock slabs on the cirque with the south summit ridge beyond.
 Emerging into a clearing on a rock slab, with a fantastic north view towards 2338 foot Old Far Mountain and the Northway winding below.
Early fall colors in the middle of August!  We were both astonished.
The descent was steady and steep but fairly uneventful.  Hiked about 8 miles RT with about 2150 feet elevation gain.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Round Ball Mountain(Columbia County)

Visited Round Ball Mountain Conservation Area just north of the Columbia County/ Dutchess County line after work on a warm summer afternoon.  I stopped at the junction of Route 22 and Carson Road to capture this shot of the 1318 foot peak to the northwest.
 The Columbia Land Conservancy originally purchased 105 acres in 2008 along Carson Road in the town of Ancram before adding an additional 310 acres just north of the original preserve in 2012.
 I was the only car in the lot when I arrived and set on the trails, which are mostly mellow and pleasant.
 The yellow and green trails both wind their ways around the slopes of the mountain eventually meeting up with a red/purple trail, which heads up to the summit area.
 I had previously visited this preserve several years ago in the winter and enjoyed some nice views.  Unfortunately, summer tree growth obscured nearly all views, with just a couple of small breaks in the canopy allowing for views to the Taconics.
 Wandered down the slopes towards the north end of the preserve, where a blue marked trail and footbridge crosses a small stream.
The small stream was barely more than a trickle during the middle of summer.
 I followed the blue marked trail onto the new section of the preserve, which drops down to Catalano Road with some very nice views east to the Taconics.  Unfortunately the trail leaves the woods and heads along the road from here before entering the woods again, eventually leading 4 miles north to a network of trails on the slopes of Fox Hill.  I didn't really want to do a road walk, so I turned back here, retracing my steps.
The blue trail follows the edge of a steep drop off to the east, where it looked like views were to be had.  The tree growth was thick however, so I bushwhacked about 50 yards off the trail and discovered excellent views to the Taconics.
Farmland sitting down in the valley.
 Got back to the car and drove north to a rough, grassy parking lot along the west side of Route 22, which allows access to the north trails.  I took a blue marked trail, which climbs up the slopes away from the road, passing by handsome old stone walls.
Although high above the valley, there are almost no views at all to be had.  A small opening in the woods provided barely a glimpse of the nearby Taconics.
 The blue trail  heads south to a junction with a red marked trail, which forms a 2 mile loop along the slopes of Fox Hill.
The red trail is wide and easy to follow, following a myriad of old woods roads.

Although it comes close, the red trail never heads all the way up to the summit of Fox Hill.  It does, however, make for a very pleasant woods walk through a hardwood forest and fern glades aplenty.

Hiked a little over 5 miles RT on a very nice trail network.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Fishing Trip to Andrew Brook(Adirondacks)

Headed up north with my dad for a small fishing trip to Andrew Brook, part of the new state land in the Boreas Ponds Tract.  We parked in a new DEC parking lot on the north side of Blue Ridge Road(almost due north of Sand Pond) and began our hike beyond the gate.  Unfortunately, I left my camera home, so all photos are from my cell phone.
The hike wasn't a total bushwhack, but certainly wasn't on anything resembling a marked trail.  We followed a very old woods road, which was very wet and in and out of some serious blowdown.  It was quite hard to follow in some spots
About 20 yards off the old road, we spotted what looked to be an old hunting cabin.  There wasn't much left, other than the tin roof, which looked like it was in great condition.
After about 2.2 miles we arrived at the calm waters of Andrew Brook.
We crossed to the north side of the brook and found a couple of nice spots to throw a line in.
 We caught many brook trout as well as dace and shiners.
Returned via the same old road back to the car in the early afternoon for a total of about 4 and a half miles RT.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Mountain Meadow Preserve(Berkshires)

Straddling the Massachusetts/ Vermont state line, the Trustees of Reservations 180 acre Mountain Meadow Preserve offers easy to moderate hiking on up to 4 miles of trails.  I parked at the end of Mason Street in Williamstown, which is found east off of Route 7 just below the state line.  As I arrived in the parking lot at an elevation of just under 700 feet, the sun was shining bright, but the humidity was quite strong and thunderstorms were firing up all around the area.  I began by following the Niles Trail, which follows a wide, mowed pathway uphill towards the main meadow.  Immediately upon arriving at the meadow, I was struck by the amount of wildflowers blowing in the breeze.  Here is a look east towards Mason Hill.
 I turned left to follow the Meadow Loop, where I was soon greeted with pleasant views towards the Greyock Range.
 Continuing along the loop, I arrived at a small clearing atop a knob in the meadow, where there are some views west towards the Taconic Range.
 Seating atop the clearing.
 Once leaving the meadow loop, the Niles Trail continues east and enters the woods.  From there, the trail splits and I took a left onto the summit trail.  The summit is fully wooded at an elevation of about 1120 feet.
 I continued along many of the trails which follow a series of woods roads towards the Vermont state line.
 A spur trail heads south to a clearing known as Mausert's Camp, a family getaway that burned to the ground over 40 years ago.  All that remains today are a pair of rustic chimneys.

 Mausert's Camp. 
 I followed a series of trails running the perimeter of the Preserve to the south, then east and back north into Vermont.  There are no markings telling you when you cross the state line.
 Passing by a spot referred to as the gravel pits.
 I headed all the way north to the Vermont parking lot, then followed gravel Benedict Road back to the Niles Trail.  The Niles Trail heads due south from the road, passing another large meadow, where unfortunately there are no views.
I continued south onto the Williamstown side of the preserve again, heading all the way back to the car from there.  Hiked nearly all of the trails at the preserve for a total of just under 4 miles RT.