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Friday, September 22, 2017

Wilson Powell Wildlife Sanctuary(Columbia County)

Visited the 145 acre Wilson W Powell Wildlife Sanctuary, located in Old Chatham, after work this afternoon.  The Sanctuary is owned by the Alan Devoe Bird Club and protected by the Columbia Land Conservancy.  From the hamlet of Old Chatham follow County Route 13 southwest, then turn left onto Pitt Hall Road for a short distance before bearing left again onto Hunt Club Road.  A sign indicates the entrance to the parking lot uphill on the right.
 Leaving the parking lot I headed northeast towards Reilly Pond, crossing a beautiful open meadow.
 Bluebird skies made for a perfect photographic backdrop.
 Late season wildflowers.
 A short distance in, I arrived at the shore of Reilly Pond.
 Reilly Pond is a very shallow body of water, chock full of plant life.
 A sign on a rock near the shore indicates that the pond was named for Edgar Reilly, a local Conservationist and Charter Member of the Alan Devoe Bird Club.
 Retraced my steps back toward the parking lot on the main trail at the Sanctuary, blazed in white.  This trail turns southeast, entering a woodland.  Beautiful old stone walls closely parallel most of the trail.
 A little ways in a small sign nailed to a tree indicates a right turn to access Dorson's Rock.
 A small climb brings you up to an open rock perch with very nice views.
 The westerly vista is the best, with views stretching over the treetops, across rolling farmland and Albany's skyline barely visible on the horizon.
 Dorson's Rock is actually a series of ledges and can be explored for different views.
 Further down the open ledges one gets a sense of the sheer drop below these cliffs.
 After enjoying the scenic views, I headed back into the woods on the white trail, looping around the southern edge of the Sanctuary and then picking up a green blazed connector trail, which crosses a ravine.
Followed the green trail to a red trail and then an orange trail before eventually arriving back at the white blazed main trail.  All of the trails pass through very open woods, making for very pleasant conditions.
A bend in the trail, wrapping around another stone wall on the way back to the parking area.
Hiked about 2.5 miles total on a picture perfect first day of autumn.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Albert Community Forest(Rensselaer County)

The Rensselaer Plateau Alliance's second community forest has recently been opened just outside the village of East Nassau at the end of gravel Hayes Road.  The 353 acre property was acquired from Mary and Kevin Albert, funded by grant from the US Forest Service and a donation by the Albert family.  There is no trail signage as of yet but trails are in the process of being built and flagged.  I parked beside an old cabin at the very end of the road.
Just beyond the end of the road an orange trail heads off into the woods.
 The woods are peacefully quiet and laced with beautiful stone walls.
 The orange trail loops through the southern section of the forest, passing through a gorgeous hemlock forest and running beside a rocky streambed.
 Emerging into a small clearing.
 The woods are already cluttered with fallen leaves as we turn the season.
 The orange trail ends back on Hayes Road, where I turned right and walk back towards the parking area, before turning left onto a blue marked trail.  This trail covers the north side of the forest.  They are in the process of building a footbridge over a damp area.
The blue markers run out after a bit, but there is flagging all the way up to the north end of the forest, where a woods road and posted signs marked my turn around. 
Retraced my steps back to the car for about 1.8 miles total at this new community forest.  I believe the RPA is planning on building more trails in this beautiful, quiet corner of Rensselaer County in the near future.  It is always nice to see the hard work and dedication of many volunteers coming together for all to enjoy.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Blackhead Mountain Bushwhack to Arizona Mountain(Catskills)

Met up with my buddy Jim to do an interesting traverse bushwhack/ trail hike to a familiar mountain, but with a different twist.   We both thought it would be interesting to bushwhack up the long southern ridge line of Blackhead from the Colgate Lake area and then head up and over Arizona Mountain, before dropping down to Dutcher Notch and eventually down the eastern escarpment to a spotted car.  We left my car at the end of Storks Nest Road and then drove Jim's car over to Colgate Lake's second parking area to get the day started.  The hike started on the yellow blazed trail through open fields with views of the surrounding peaks, at a fairly high elevation of about 2160 feet.
After about a third of a mile,  at a bend in the trail, we began the bushwhack, entering the wide open hardwood forest.
There were several steep grades we had to negotiate but nothing terribly difficult.  We took our time and really enjoyed the gorgeous late summer conditions. 
We were both quite astonished by the open woods that we were climbing with very little dead fall or anything to slow us down.
Fall colors are really starting to show up, with the best still yet to come!
 We found lots of berries still on the vine, making the many animals that call these mountains home quite happy.
As we climbed, we hit several classic Catskill stair-steps, which took turns with the steeper sections until we emerged at a large area of witch hobble and berries around 3600 feet.  The trees began to grow shorter in stature as well, allowing us to catch occasional glimpses towards the valley and neighboring Black Dome.
After fighting and clawing through a stretch of thicker witch hobble we emerged at a clearing with beautiful rock ledges above, just calling our names!
Jim arriving at the top of the clearing, scoping things out.
From our rocky perch, we enjoyed a magnificent vista back over the long ridgeline we had just climbed.  Lake Capra(L) and Colgate Lake(R) sit down in the valley with the long ridge of West Stoppel Point above.
Jim really soaking in the views.  This made a perfect lunch spot with a gentle breeze to keep us cool.
A view to the southwest into the East Kill Valley with a drainage sandwiched between the lower slopes of Blackhead(L) and Black Dome(R). 
Early fall colors on Blackhead's southern ridge.
Hard to beat this view!  The Devils Path peaks can be seen rising beyond in the distance.
Turning left provided a view back towards Arizona Mountain and Stoppel Point beyond.
The wide open meadow like area above the ledges.  Hard to believe we were over 3700 feet here.
We found our way down to a nice view towards 3450 foot Arizona Mountain, our next peak(not enough prominence to count officially as its own separate peak).
Stumbled across this conifer, which looks like it has succumbed to an unfortunate fate.
After a very short area of dense conifers, we suddenly emerged at the blue marked escarpment trail.  From here it would be an easy day.  We continued over to hit the 3940 foot summit, which we have both hit on multiple occasions, before heading south towards Arizona.
The drop off Blackhead is pretty steep, losing 500 feet in less than half a mile.  At the base of the drop is a nice view towards Acra Point and the valley below.
Arizona's summit bump ahead.
Swirling clouds over the valley quickly breaking up as they hit the escarpment.
More vibrant colors of fall.
Emerging at a large clearing on the summit of Arizona.  A really nice spot.
 From the meadow like summit of Arizona is a nice little view back towards Blackhead, which rises 500 vertical feet above.
Continuing south along the trail, we found another view spot over the valley with clouds casting shadows far below.
As we lost a little more elevation the trail passes through a beautiful, dark coniferous forest before arriving at an informal path that leads several yards away to an incredible view spot.
The views from this location, while not open or unobstructed are great nonetheless.  Here is a look down towards Lake Capra and the East Kill Valley, framed beautifully with the surrounding foliage.
A few feet away is a view down over Dutcher Notch and across to Stoppel Point.  The long ridge of North Mountain can be seen beyond.
Kaaterskill High Peak and Roundtop can be seen just beyond the col between Stoppel Point and West Stoppel Point.
A zoom loo at the imposing eastern escarpment.
A very cool rock formation forms a natural tunnel that you can pass through.
After a very steep descent off Arizona, we arrived at 2550 foot Dutcher Notch.  This is a four way trail intersection in a small level clearing at a low point between the peaks.  We turned left here, heading east down towards our first spotted car.
The yellow blazed Dutcher Notch Trail loses 1400 feet in less than 2 miles on an old, rocky road that was used as a farm to market passage in the nineteenth century.  This was one of the more pleasant stretches as the trail drops off the eastern escarpment down to Storks Nest Road.
Arrived back at the car feeling great.  A little over 7 miles RT with about 2200 feet elevation gain(mostly on the bushwhack).