Search This Blog

Monday, January 5, 2015

Albany Pine Bush

Kalli and I each had the day off together so we went out for a few small walks in the Albany Pine Bush on a blustery and cold January day.  There are many different trail heads spanning over 3000 acres throughout the Albany area.  Our first stop were the trails found at the Discovery Center located off of New Karner Road. The Discovery Center is a nature center offering exhibits and activities as well as guided hikes, lectures and school programs.
 A green marked Discovery Center Trail leaves the parking lot and leads a short distance away though the fields.  There are several informational boards along the way which provide terrific insight to the natural area.
  After leaving the short green trail, we picked up the blue marked loop trail.  Wide trails and good trail signage make it a nice, easy walk.
 Following the wide blue trail which forms a .92 mile loop.
 One of the unique features of the Pine Bush is the abundance of sand found here.  It is very rare to find sand at an inland location such as the Capital Region, but it was left behind when a glacial lake known as Lake Albany began to recede many thousands of years ago.  Today, frozen footprints were all that were found in the sand.
 Strong winds made for bitter wind chills, so we kept up a brisk pace.
 The Albany Pine Bush is one of the largest of 20 inland pine barrens in the world and is the sole remaining undeveloped portion of pine barrens that once covered 40 square miles.  There are some nice views to be enjoyed from atop the sand dune in this section.
 Steps accompany a steep section of trail.
 This dry, sandy area is a fire dependent ecosystem and needs periodic burning to survive.  This picture nicely captures a prescribed burn area of sand dunes.

After leaving the New Karner Road trails, we headed a bit southeast down Western Ave to Fuller Road where access to Rensselaer Lake is found.  This popular public access area is found in a large parking lot at the roundabout just off exit 2 of I-90.  Rensselaer Lake(also known as Six Mile Water Works) was mostly frozen over on this cold winter day.
 The shoreline was the only place we could find on the main lake that wasn't covered in a sheet of ice.
 The open lake and surrounding area made this a brutal area for the strong, biting winds.
 Almost like a trap door.
 Blowing in the wind.
 As we walked along the shoreline, a snow shower  quickly moved in, leaving brief white out conditions just across the lake.
 Only a couple minutes later, the passing snow shower had moved on, allowing a return of the bright sunshine.  We continued underneath the Northway and along the north side of Rensselaer Lake's two branches.
 Looking back under the interstate, where slowly flowing, open water remained.
 Just past the interstate the lake splits and forms two long thin sections which eventually dwindle down to barely noticeable streams.  A wide, red marked loop trail winds through these woods here, but we followed an informal, small footpath that closely hugs the shoreline.
 The bright afternoon sun casting long shadows on the frozen lake.
 The bright red of winterberries really stood out against the bland landscape.
The headwaters of the Patroon Creek, basically nothing more than a small stream here, are found near Rapp Road and crossed on a tiny foot bridge.
Patroon Creek's headwaters.
After nearly reaching the Rapp Road trailhead, we turned around and returned back to the car before heading a bit further west into Guilderland.  Located just off of Western Ave and at the very end of residential Willow Street is the trailhead of this next section.  Known simply as the Great Dune, this area contains the largest sand dune in the entire preserve, as well as other smaller sand dunes.  This would be our last stop for the day, as the sun was beginning to set.
 Late afternoon shadows and quickly dropping temperatures marked much of this 1.82 mile loop trail.

There are three different trail options through these woods, but we stuck to the well marked red trail.
 A footbridge along the trail crosses a southern section of the Kaikout Kill.
 The setting sun through the cold winter woods.
 Leaving the woods as darkness descends.
 Although a very cold January day, it did feel great to be out enjoying the fresh air together as we walked about 4.5 miles along three very distinctly different areas of the Albany Pine Bush.

No comments:

Post a Comment