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Monday, January 13, 2014

Plotter Kill Preserve

With mild temperatures(by January standards) and slightly longer days now, I decided to head west to Schenectady County to explore the many trails of the Plotter Kill Preserve.  This preserve has three spectacular waterfalls: the Upper Falls, Lower Falls, and the Rynex Creek Falls at the junction of Rynex Creek and the Plotter Kill. It has two trailheads, both located in the town of Rotterdam, one off of Route 159 and the other on Coplon Road.  I chose to start off at the main parking area off 159 where there two other cars were parked as I got my ice cleats on. 
  Immediately upon starting my hike I noticed that the trails here were far more icy and snowy than those back home.  There are only snowbanks left in Nassau with grass showing everywhere else, but about 4 inches of water-downed snow packed the woods here.
This a very beautiful 632 acre preserve, well known for its three picturesque waterfalls which many would consider the most breathtaking in the Capital Region.  There are several miles of trails and trail options, some well marked, some not marked at all.  One should bring a trail map when coming here, because some of the trails do tend to criss-cross through the preserve.  There are many potential hazards here, especially so in the winter time.  Extremely steep cliffs and ravines make for dangerous hiking, mostly along the red trail which traverses the high ground around each ravine.  There are a couple of other spots where crossing the creek can leave you wet, as I found out very early in my hike.  The ice wasn't very strong at all and I plunged about a foot into the cold water.  

 After getting a wet foot, I decided to steer clear of the creek banks after that and to use the wooden footbridges provided.  There were a couple of other younger guys who were walking on the ice on the Plotter Kill near where I was and I warned them to be careful but they seemed intent on going anyway.
 The red trail hugs the steep cliffs and it is a very sharp drop off down to the creek.
 Only complicating the walking was a non stop sheet of ice over nearly the entire red trail, making conditions near the ravines dangerous.
 I decided to try to get away from the red trail to find better footing so I swung around to the yellow "Highland Trail" which is mostly a mixed woodland trail through snow.  There were some broken views through the trees from this higher ground.
 Rynex Creek cuts through a beautiful, steep ravine on its way down to the Plotter Kill  at the lower preserve area.
 It was extremely difficult to get any photos of the falls because of the conditions.  Along the upper blue trail, there is a steep foot path that leads to an overlook of the upper falls which is probably an incredible chance to get a photo of the waterfall.  Unfortunately today, the ice made it impossible to scamper down to.
Here is a map of the preserve.  As mentioned before, this can be very helpful when hiking this area and one must be conscience to not take any of the unmarked foot paths that meander through the preserve.
This is certainly a place I would love to come back to in the spring when the creeks are flowing freely and the footing is improved.  The waterfalls and nature truly make this a magical palce.  Looking forward to the warmer months and my return.

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