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Monday, February 11, 2019

Dippikill(Adirondacks)

Located in the town of Thurman, the 850 acre Dippikill Wilderness Retreat is a hidden gem right before your eyes in the southern Adirondacks.  The retreat is operated by SUNY Albany's student association and is the largest student-owned natural preserve in the country.  Luckily, the retreat's trails are open to the public and have much to offer.  I decided to pay the camp a visit this afternoon on a tranquil mid winter day.  I stopped by the camp office on Dippikill Road to sign in and pick up a trail map and then parked in the first parking lot, which provides access to the blue blazed Cross Trail.  I donned my snowshoes and headed out, passing by the scenic retreat's offices and horse stable.
The snow was deep but compact and held me up on a nice layer of crust.
I followed the Cross Trail to a junction with the yellow blazed Ridge Trail and then continued on that towards the summit.
From the slightly lower 1553 foot west summit bump, I enjoyed some nice northerly views towards Gage Mountain.
To the west, through the trees, stands the unmistakable profile of Crane Mountain.
The summit ridge was quite nice, with fairly open woods and screened views all around.
From a nice set of ledges just off the 1582 foot summit, impressive easterly views open up.
If you do check out these trails, be sure to pick up the spur trail below the summit, which provides similar(but still nice) open  view points.
A bit of a zoom down towards Route 28 and the snaking Hudson River.
NE views.
A bit zoomed out, you can make out the Hudson winding SE from the Glen(left) on its way down towards Warrensburg.
Wandered around until I found a small window facing north, where the distant high peaks are capped in white.
There are a myriad of trails in these woods, and thankfully all are well marked.
Followed the Ridge Trail, which drops steadily down below the summit ridge.
Soon, I picked up a wide, jeep trail(marked as the Valley Trail on the map), which passes by a picturesque beaver pond.
As the trails arrive at the north end of Dippikill Pond, there are two options.  One follows the east shore, the other follows the west.  I chose to take the east trail because it was a bit longer and the day was so nice.
I passed by several nice looking campsites along the pond's shores.  Each site has direct water access and a picnic table. 
Looping to the south side of the pond, I caught this nice look across the frozen pond towards Dippikill's summit ridge.
Near the south end of the pond by the launch site sits a handsome Lean To, labeled on the map as Campsite 1.
Campsite 1 definitely took the cake for me as the nicest site.
I followed a series of trails winding through the woods, back to the car.  Didn't see another soul all day, hiking about 4.5 miles with a little over 800 feet of ascent.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Albany Pine Bush-Rapp Barrens

While out running some errands after work this afternoon I decided to do a short walk in the Albany Pine Bush-Rapp Barrens section.  I parked in the small parking pull off along Lincoln Ave(Rapp Road North) and grabbed a trail map at the informative kiosk.
I began by turning left(clockwise) on the red trail heading east-southeast, soon dropping down to a bridge crossing over the headwaters of Patroon Creek.
The trail cuts through recent habitat restoration areas which leave it pretty open and vulnerable to gusty NW winds.
The red trail closely parallels part of Rensselaer Lake for a bit, providing a sense of tranquility for a few moments.  Any sounds of nature are quickly replaced by the sounds of rushing traffic from the Northway however. 
On a bright note, the water views are quite nice through this stretch, if you can block out the sounds of passing cars.
The trail becomes paved and turns right(NW) passing briefly between the Interstate on your left and the lake on your right.
This section of the trail was fully exposed to the cold northwest winds, which had me shivering.  A lone jogger(the only other person I saw on the trail) didn't seem to mind however.
One particular stretch of trail runs side by side with the Interstate before thankfully turning sharply right away from the road.
Within just a couple of minutes I arrived back at the car, completing a nice and easy 1.7 mile stroll.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

West Cave Mountain(Catskills)

With a small window of time after work I opted to head south to hike a tiny sliver of public land up the south slopes of 3040 foot West Cave Mountain in the Catskills.  West Cave Mountain is far better known for its north facing slopes which form part of the Windham Ski Area.  I started from a small unmarked parking area off of Goshen Street in the town of Jewett, where NYC watershed land provides access via an old tote road.  Elevation at the parking area is 2030 feet.  With rain knocking on the doorstep, I quickly threw on my jacket and headed up the old road, with only an inch or two of snow on the ground.
The old tote road literally heads north, straight up the slopes of the mountain.  At about 2600 feet, the trail comes to a large bend and steeper area.
Once above the steeper section, the snow got a few inches deeper and views of the nearby peaks to the south began to poke out above the trees.
Ah, yes, the views were only getting better as the road climbed.
Just shy of 2900 feet and after less than a mile of climbing, I arrived in an enormous clearing, with tremendous views.  Some of the very best I've seen in the Catskills.  Tower Mountain(L) with westerly views stretching all the way over to Grand Gorge.
The most dominating feature of this clearing was the Colonel's Chair of Hunter Mountain and Rusk Mountain immediately to the south.
A zoom view towards the ski slopes of the Colonel's Chair, with swirling storm clouds moving in.
Tower Mountain and Patterson Ridge are directly in front of you to the west with Bearpen and Vly in the distance.
 
To the SE, East Jewett Range and Onteora Mountain spread out before you.  
A neat look east towards Thomas Cole Mountain, whose summit is in the clouds at just below 4000 feet.
Storm clouds brewing.  Luckily temps in the upper 30's meant just rain(with a little freezing rain up high).
An amazing place.  No exaggeration when I say this could be my favorite place in the Catskills.  Simply incredible.
Some of Ski Windham's slopes can be seen on neighboring Cave Mountain(with Thomas Cole Mountain beyond).
After enjoying the unbelievable views, I continued the last 2/10 of a mile up to the summit.  The last 1/10 was a true bushwhack, but within a matter of moments, the quiet woods are replaced with gondolas and skiers at the top.
I did a quick check of the ski slopes(staying off the groomed slopes) and enjoyed the north facing view over the village of Windham, with Richmond, Pisgah and Hayden to the north.
As I left the summit, a light rain began to move in, so I quickly descended the mountain, making it back in no time.  Found a classic Catskill stone wall near the parking area, completing a nice and easy, but spectacular adventure.
About 2.3 miles RT, with just over 1000 feet of ascent.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Brown Mountain(Lake George Wild Forest-Adirondacks)

The forecast called for a very mild winter day with abundant sunshine, so I took advantage and headed north to do a snowshoe hike in the Tongue Range of the Lake George Wild Forest.  My goal for the day was to summit Brown Mountain and then drop down to a long set of ledges on the east slopes of the peak, facing Lake George.  I parked at the north parking lot for the Tongue Range(the Deer Leap Trailhead) on Route 9N and laced up my snowshoes to head out.  It was already close to 40 degrees when I started, at an elevation of 1065 feet.
I followed the DEC trail, which climbs steadily past its junction with the Deer Leap trail, towards Brown Mountain's summit.  The true 1966 foot summit sits just off trail.  A gain of 900 feet in about 1.5 miles.
The wide open woods near Brown's summit were extremely pleasant, offering up screened views to the south and east.
I continued a short distance south beyond the summit before leaving the trail, heading east and dropping below an impressive set of ledges.
I continued east through deep, softening snow before finally arriving at the breathtaking ledges that ring much of the east slopes of the peak.
 
Hard to beat the commanding views across Lake George towards Black Mountain. To the left(north) is Elephant Mountain, with Sugarloaf peeking out behind
South views towards Five Mile Mountain from the ledges. The cliffs were quite extensive and allowed for much exploring.
NE views towards Spruce Mountain with even more of the incredible ledges visible below.
The SE view stretching down across the lake towards Buck Mountain.
Although the snow was deep and mushy in the woods, the open ledges were bare in spots.  I wandered around for quite a while, checking out the multitude of views to be had.
After finally getting my fill of the ledges, I headed back into the woods towards the trail, with a bit of up and down along the way.
 
The warming temperatures were really turning the snow into mush.  The "gloppy" snow made for slow going in the deeper woods.  Even with temps close to 45, two feet of melting snow and thick ice were a constant reminder that winter was still hanging on.
I soon arrived back at the trail and followed it back out to the car.
Here is my route for the day.  About 4.4 miles RT with just over 1000 feet of ascent.