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Friday, May 29, 2020

Cole Hill State Forest(Albany County Helderbergs)

Headed out to Cole Hill State Forest in the Helderbergs for a short little adventure in between thunderstorms this afternoon.  On my drive there, the nearby Albany County hills were getting slammed with severe weather, so I waited it out for a bit before getting started.
As soon as it cleared, I got started where the Long Path meets Cole Hill Road in the town of Berne.  Unfortunately, while the storms did knock the temps back a few degrees, it was still oppressively humid as I set out on the Long Path heading west, through damp woods.
After a little over 1/3 of a mile, the Long Path drops down to sprawling beaver pond and a foot bridge crossing.  Skies had already began clearing out by this time, spiking the humidity through the roof again. 
On the other side of the bridge, the Long Path turns sharply right, while a blue marked trail continues straight.  I turned with the aqua blazed Long Path, which also hugs the other side of the beaver pond, which is much more swamp like on this side. 
The trail follows the beaver pond for a while before swinging back to the left(SW), and dropping to another foot bridge crossing.  Yet again, the trail crosses a highly scenic beaver pond.
A beaver dam just upstream from the foot bridge.
Continuing west, the trail crosses over paved Willsie Road before beginning a slow climb into a hardwood forest.  Here, just a few yards off the Long Path sits an old, picturesque cemetery, hemmed in by stone walls.
After checking out the cemetery, I decided to follow a cross country ski trail that ended up petering out to nothing.  From there, I decided to just bushwhack my way back east across the road and towards the Long Path again.  Along the way, I stumbled across this small drainage area, where a couple of frogs jumping into the water surprised me.  Guess I surprised them too.
A little further along, I came to yet another beaver pond, this one the smallest of all.  The weeds around it were pretty wet, so I kept back a bit.
In one section of the woods, I came to a neat little area of dense pink lady slippers.  A very odd location, and the only ones I saw all day.
Back on the Long Path and heading for the car, strolling through the Avenue of the Pines.
Nearing the car once again, I took a last look up at the sky where the skies remained clear.  Within just a few minutes back on the road, however, the next wave of storms was already rolling in.
Hiked about 3 miles total in this quiet little section of the Helderbergs.  Didn't see another soul the entire time.  A fun little area to poke around in.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Pakatakan Mountain(Dry Brook Ridge Wild Forest-Catskills)

Decided to do a short afternoon hike up to 2430 foot Pakatakan Mountain, which is actually just a shoulder of Dry Brook Ridge, but hovers imposingly over the village of Margaretville.  I knew it wouldn't be a terribly long hike, but I did want to scout out some other peaks in the area, so I would make the most of my time.  I parked on the shoulder of the road at the trailhead located on South Spur Road just south of Margaretville, elevation of 1380 feet.  I was the only car there when I arrived at this trailed mountain.  We have been blessed with some really nice weather recently, but today temps were pushing 80 and it was getting quite warm and even a bit humid.
Right out of the gate, the trail begins to climb steeply up through rugged terrain.  I really love the rock formations on the first segment of this hike.
 I'm not always so good with my flower identification.  Spring beauties perhaps? 
 The woods are really starting to green up, and luckily there weren't really many bugs.
The steep climbing got me sweating pretty good on this warm day, but the spring time woods are just so refreshingly beautiful.
The trail doesn't actually go up to Pakatakan's "high point", but the highlight of this hike isn't even on trail anyways.  A herd path, marked with a rock cairn leads south to a nice little clearing and a set of ledges with framed views SW towards the Pepacton Reservoir.
 
 A zoom view towards the Pepacton.
Looking south across Cold Spring Hollow towards the unnamed ridge that is part of the Huckleberry Loop Trail.
Classic Catskills.
With more time I would've continued on, but I did want to check out some other off trail spots in the area for future hikes.  A nice and easy descent brought me back to the car in no time.  3.7 miles RT with about 1050 feet of climbing.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Dutton Mountain(Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest-Adirondacks)

Headed north today to check out 2314 foot Dutton Mountain, which sits almost directly at the edge of the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest, where it meets the Hudson Gorge Wilderness.  There are no trails on Dutton, so the entire hike would be a bushwhack.  Parked in a small pull off on 14th Road, where it crosses Deer Creek and started out following a fisherman path along the creek, heading NE at elevation of 1380 feet.
Followed the path for a short distance, quickly arriving at a pretty waterfall crashing down into a nice pool on the creek.
A little further upstream from the falls, I found a nice and easy place to rock hop across.
A couple small ups and downs brought me over to Dutton's steep south facing slopes.  The woods are literally greening up more and more every day.  Spring has sprung(even in the Adks!)
Heading up to the first imposing set of ledges at just about 1900 feet.
A carefully made my way up to the top of the cliffs, where there was a clearing but no real open views. 
About 1/4 of a mile further up the mountain, and a couple hundred feet higher, I found a real nice area of open ledges, facing south-southeast.
The best views were almost due south, where Gore Mountain stands impressively in the middle.  A hint of snow remains on the highest ski slopes.
SE views across the Deer Creek valley, towards Moxham Mountain.
After enjoying the ledge views, I continued up to the 2314 foot summit, which was fully wooded in spruce.
From the summit area, I decided to head towards the NW part of the mountain, where there is an extremely steep escarpment that drops down towards the Hudson River.
After dropping down to just below 1700 feet, I found a first open view down towards the Hudson.  What a steep drop off it is from here!
Looking into the heart of the Hudson Gorge Wilderness, where the river can be seen snaking its way through the mountains. 
I really took my time exploring the escarpment heading north.  The sheer drop off and views are quite impressive.
After arriving at the base of the NW knob of Dutton, I weaved my way up and around the steep ledges, soon arriving at my last destination.  A small firepit let me know I was in the right spot, a ledge known as Clear View Rock to locals, or Gun-Sight Rock.
The view lines up almost perfectly with the Hudson running west, hemmed in by the steep slopes of Fox Hill and Harris Rift Mountain on the left and Pine and Forks Mountain on the right.
A bit of a closer look at the old D and H Railroad bridge crossing the Hudson.
The open rock on Forks Mountain is quite a sight, and looks like it would make an excellent destination in itself.  Although tough to see, a careful eye may be able to pick out the Boreas River flowing into the Hudson at the foot of Forks Mountain.
Before dropping off the viewpoint, I caught one last look south towards the Hudson, meandering its way down into Warren County.
On my return, heading back SE, I found this old sign that  looks like it had been used for target practice.
 
Crossing back over Deer Creek just before getting back to the car.  Cleaned up briefly in the refreshingly cool water, enjoying the solitude of the woods.
Hiked about 5.5 miles RT(all bushwhack) with over 1600 feet of total ascent.  Didn't see another soul all day.
Today's route seen below.


Monday, May 18, 2020

Wolf Creek Falls Preserve(Albany County Helderbergs)

Visited the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy's 135 acre Wolf Creek Falls Preserve, located in the town of Knox this afternoon.  Perhaps it was the overcast skies and rainy morning, but I was still pleasantly surprised to be the only car there when I pulled in.  I have visited this preserve on numerous occasions but it is still one of my favorites, and seems to fly under the radar.
I explored the various trails on both the north and south side of Bozenkill Road.  On the north side of the road, there are numerous small, picturesque cascades on Wolf Creek.  From the creek crossing, I caught this awesome shot, where last night's rain had the water rushing along.
Just upstream about 15 yards from the creek crossing is another pretty shelf falls.
Passed by remnants of an old foundation along the white trail.  The foundation walls seem to be in very good conditions still and there are other artifacts laying around as well.
Even in the hilltowns, spring is finally catching up. It was really nice seeing so much green in the woods!
As stated, there are many different small sets of falls at the preserve that can be enjoyed from the trail, or just a few steps off trail.
More falls.
The sun began to push through the clouds just as I was taking this shot of a small cascade near the white trail.
There are a TON of old stone walls found throughout the preserve.  I'm sure most of this land was farmed a few generations ago.
Took my time strolling most of the trails at the preserve.  Walked about 3 miles total on a mostly cloudy, but comfortable spring day.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Unnamed St. John's Lake Ledges(Wilcox Lake Wild Forest-Adirondacks)

Headed north after work to do a small bushwhack hike to some unnamed ledges near Harrisburg Lake in the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest on a beautiful spring day.  The peaks I was climbing have no official name, but are located very close to St. John's Lake, hence the name.  Parked in a large, unmarked parking lot off Harrisburg Road, where a sliver of state land comes down to meet the road and provides access to the mountains.  You have to look carefully to find the start of the trail, but it leaves the corner of the parking lot at an elevation of 1575 feet and heads north.
The trail is sporadically marked and tough to follow in spots, but does offer a nice footbridge crossing over a pretty brook.
The trail abruptly ends where the state boundary line opens up just over 1/3 of a mile in.  I then made my way NW up through an open hardwood forest when the black flies began to swarm.  Horrible little demons!  They were just terrible for the next hour or so and almost made me turn back.  They weren't really biting, however, just swarming, so was still able to enjoy a very nice ascent.
As I closed in on the summit, I swung around to the west ledges, which were boulder filled and steep.  
There are several okay views along the way, but persistence pays off, as a sprawling area of open ledges just below the summit offer spectacular views.  Harrisburg Lake and many of the peaks that make up the western part of the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest can be seen to the west/ SW.
 A fun scramble between ledges.
 From another open ledge, I enjoyed this zoom view down to Harrisburg Lake to the SW.
 To the west, this zoom view takes in a multitude of peaks.
There are multiple photo ops from the numerous open ledges, each with a unique perspective down on Harrisburg Lake and its surrounding mountains.  A truly amazing spot...partially ruined by swarming black flies.
 The area of open ledges continues almost all the way up to the summit.
 The wooded, nondescript 2528 foot summit sits less than a 1/10 mile away from the ledges.
Just off the summit, I found screened views to the east in a bit of a clearing, but nothing compared to the the west ledges.
A nice and easy descent west brought me down into the col between the two peaks.  Just above this spot, on the next peak, is an old woods road, that is now a pretty good unmarked foot trail but didn't go in the direction I needed so I crossed it and continued on.
Unfortunately, as soon as I began to ascend, I hit a wall of spruce.  I was actually a bit shocked to see just how much spruce was on this particular peak....probably the most I have seen on any southern Adirondack peak, and especially below 2500 feet.
I fought my way through the spruce, picking up rough game paths along the way to help out.  Staying below the summit ridge, where the open rock was  I soon hit the first of two open ledge views at about 2400 feet, with a perfectly framed look down at Harrisburg Lake.
The second ledge is just a few yards away(although you'll have to fight through spruce to get there).  This ledge is a bit more open and at a slightly different angle, with Harrisburg Lake again front and center.
After enjoying the ledge views, I carefully made my way down through the scratchy spruce to the SW, circling back under the steep ledges from below.  They look even more impressive from below!
Thankfully the bugs eased up the second half of the hike so I could actually enjoy myself.  Looks like the bug net will be coming every hike from now on, just in case.  Hiked 4.3 miles RT with 1400 feet of total ascent.
Today's route below.  Red=Ascent   Blue=Descent