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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Pecks Brook Lean To and Falls(Mount Greylock-Berkshires)

When I got out of work this afternoon, the temperature was in the mid 60's, and even with a solid wind, it still felt very nice.  Due to the mild weather, I thought I'd grab a quick hike up the east side of Mount Greylock State Reservation to the Pecks Brook Shelter and waterfalls.  Access is off West Mountain Road in the town of Adams, at the first parking area on the right.  I was surprised to find that I was the only car there when I arrived.  I was going to be hiking the blue blazed Gould Trail up through Greylock Glen, which leaves directly from the parking lot.  The trail head is unique in that the summit is clearly visible right behind it when you start.
 The trail immediately passes a large area of white birch.
 Staying on the blue marked trail past a trail junction, you soon cross over babbling Pecks Brook on a  footbridge.
 The trail climbs steadily nearly the entire way, climbing the southeast face of Greylock and along the north side of Pecks Brook ravine.
 Most of the hike is through hardwood forests, with a couple of softwood area interspersed.  Once some elevation is attained, there are screened views that unfold to the east.
 After passing another trail junction(the Cheshire Harbor Trail cut off through the ravine), a sign for Pecks Brook Shelter and spur trail will be found at 1.4 miles into the hike.  Elevation at this point is just shy of 2500 feet, with an elevation gain of nearly 1200 feet from the car.  The spur trail is also marked in blue and crosses a tributary of Pecks Brook on its way towards the shelter.
About .2 of a mile and 150 feet lost in elevation, the spur trail arrives at Pecks Brook Lean To.
 The Lean To sits literally on the edge of the ravine.
 Looking out from inside the Lean To, with obscured views beyond the ravine.
Steeply downhill from the Lean To are a series of beautiful falls formed on Pecks Brook.  Please be careful and watch your footing if going down for a closer look.
  It's pretty easy to follow the many different cascades and chutes upstream from the bigger falls downstream.
More picturesque cascades upstream.
 I bushwhacked down the very steep slopes in front of the Lean To to a great view of lower falls on Pecks Brook.  This is the best of the many falls on the brook, although hard to see because of the steep walls of the ravine. 
 There are also a nice series of falls formed on tributary to the left, but these are even more difficult to see because of the terrain. Here is the best shot I could get.
After climbing back up out of the ravine, I retraced my steps  to the Gould Trail and followed it down.
 On the descent of the mountain, I passed by this hollowed out tree, which literally could fit an average adult inside.
 Finally arriving back down at the footbridge crossing Pecks Brook and back to the car.
Hiked a little over 3.2 miles RT on a breezy but mild last day of March.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Halcott Mountain(Catskills)

Headed south to the Catskills this morning to hike 3520 foot Halcott Mountain, a true bushwhack hike, as well as my first solo bushwhack.  Although the calendar is almost ready to turn to April, extremely windy and wintry conditions greeted me as I arrived at the parking area along the west side of Route 42.  There is a well trodden path that leads away from the parking lot and heads south past a DEC board towards Halcott Falls.  This is where I got started at an elevation of 1852 feet.
Halcott Falls are very nice any time of the year and come tumbling down only about a few yards into the hike.  This is a nice spot to stop and take a photo before you really get going.
I crossed the stream above the falls and continued south past another stream(Bushnellville Creek), crossing this one quite easily as well.
A short distance past the second stream crossing, I began to ascend through an open forest.
The climb was steady, with steeper pitches followed by small level spots.
I love these Catskill ledges, some big...some small.
As I approached 2300 feet in elevation, snow began to appear in the woods.
Coming to an area of somewhat steep ledges.  They were tough, but nothing overly difficult to negotiate.
Even with the whipping winds, the blue skies have a way of offsetting any chill I felt.
As the steady ascent continues, the snow(about an inch of fresh powder) covered everything and screened views began opening up behind me.  Here is a nice look back north towards Deep Notch, where Route 42 winds through.
The climb was enough to get me huffing and puffing as I continued heading upward.
Snow covered slopes.
I found a nice break in the trees which provided a good view east towards Balsalm, Sherrill and North Dome.
After about 1.8 miles and an elevation of about 3500 feet, I arrived at a large plateau.  I continued north along this flat area for a couple hundred yards and then arrived at the last push up to the summit.
Arriving at the 3520 foot summit of Halcott Mountain! The summit is fairly nondescript but there is a large rock which provides a sliver of a view to the south.
My summit photo.  #25!
The summit canister.  Elevation gain from the parking lot is just under 1700 feet.
The "view" south from the large rock ledge near the summit canister.
After signing in to the canister and gulping down some Gatorade, I headed back down off the summit, at first following an obvious herd path and then simply climbing down the head wall near Bushnellville Creek.  Looking back up a small, dried up stream on the descent.
I soon arrived at the creek and basically followed it down the steep slopes of the mountain.  As I began to near the road(about .3 of a mile) I came to a series of picturesque falls on the creek.
Each falls downstream seemed to be more impressive than the one before it.
A look back up at several falls.
I soon could hear the sounds of Route 42 traffic through the trees and I crossed the creek, heading north about .2 of a mile back to the car.  Hiked about 4 miles RT, but being a true bushwhack hike it is certainly much more difficult than a trail hike.
A final view south back towards Deep Notch from a clearing along Route 42.  The side profile of Sleeping Lion Mountain(the peak just north of Halcott) can be seen clearly in this photo.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Rensselaerville State Forest

Took a ride out to rural western Albany County after work this afternoon under brilliant blue skies.  Rensselaerville is a quiet yet beautiful town which borders Schoharie County to the west and Greene County to the south.  It is a place of much natural beauty and is best approached from the east by following Route 85(Delaware Turnpike) all the way to its terminus in the quaint hamlet of Rensselaerville.
Turning right onto Albany County Route 353 brings you through the heart of the village and then climbs up rolling hills to gorgeous open fields and views.  There are several roads which branch off to the south(CR 359/360, CR 358) that provide incredible southerly views towards the Northern Catskills.  Here is a nice shot of an old barn with the Catskill Peaks dominating the skyline.
If you have the time, I strongly urge you to explore the back roads of this area.  You will not be disappointed.  I eventually made my way west along County 353 down to County 358, and then Cheese Hill Road.  I parked at the intersection of Cheese Hill Road and the CCC Road.  The first thing I noticed as I stepped out of the car, was the sounds of song birds in the air.  The rushing people and passing cars were far from sight and mind here.  Yes, this was a perfect spot for a quiet walk.
I began walking the CCC Road, a road that was built in the 1930's as part of reforestation work and made up of red slate.
There are many woods roads that double as hiking trails which criss-cross this forest. None are well marked however, so be careful and have a map if you are going to explore these woods.
I followed a woods road east down to a picturesque beaver pond.
Enjoying a relaxing spot along the shore.
Stone walls line the woods, a reminder of our farming past.
Passing through a pine plantation.
This is a high elevation forest, with an average elevation of 2100 feet.  This makes for a good cross country skiing destination in the winter, but poor drainage makes for very muddy trails in the spring.
Even the main roads of the forest see so little traffic that they themselves can be hiked.  I hiked the CCC Road to Scutt Road, and then turned and followed Scutt Road to the south.  I only saw one other car my entire road walk.
A nice view past a fence and across open fields towards the hills of Schoharie County from Scutt Road.
I hiked about 4 miles total on a picture perfect early spring day in the beautiful hilltowns of Albany County.