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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Exploring Ragged Mountain/ Raven Rocks(Mount Greylock State Reservation-Berkshires)

Picture perfect summer conditions accommodated me on a fun bushwhack/ trail hike on the east side of the Mount Greylock State Reservation in the Berkshires after work this afternoon.  I started from the barriers on Thiel Road(part of Greylock Glen) in the town of Adams at an elevation of about 1180 feet.
I did a quick loop on one of the Greylock Glen trails which offered up a spectacular view of Greylock's east face from an open field.
Back on Thiel Road, I stayed on it until the end, passing over a small, pretty stream on my way to the Thunderbolt Trail.
Almost immediately upon hitting the Thunderbolt Trail, I left it, heading straight up the steep slopes of Ragged Mountain.  The rock formations were absolutely incredible in some sections. 
A typical stretch of buswhack through open hardwoods.  I startled a black bear out of a tree at one point, as he leaped down in front of me, quickly darting away into the forest.  This was quite a rush.
My bushwhack was steadily steep, gaining over 1350 feet in about 1.3 miles.  Once hitting the summit cone, I ran smack dab into the trail, which brought me to a nice vista of Mount Greylock, nearly 1000 feet above.
Upon leaving the summit area, I picked up the unmarked herd path which heads northeast towards an area known as Raven Rocks.  The herd path is very well defined and easy to follow most of the way, but does seem to fade away to nothing in a couple of spots.  I easily found my way, anyway, over to the rock ledges that make up Raven Rocks.
Raven Rocks, where the views to the east begin to unfold. 
From this vantage point, Greylock's summit is still visible, but a bit further away, and somewhat hidden by Ragged's summit bump.
The views to the east towards the town of Adams are outstanding from here.  Although over 1000 feet lower than Greylock, they are nearly every bit as good as the views from the top.
The huge quarry at Specialty Minerals stands out, as does the Hoosac Range further to the east.  The power line cuts up the range heading into the Savoy State Forest area.
A zoom view towards the ponds at Greylock Glen.
The town of Adams sprawling out below.
After soaking in the views from Raven Rocks, I continued northeast along a good herd path, which stays on the long, bumpy ridgeline of Ragged Mountain.  I soon came to another series of rock ledges, smaller than Raven Rocks, but still quite impressive.  The view here is north towards one of the other small bumps on Ragged's ridge. 
The north view towards the large mass of East Mountain.
A look back towards Greylock, with Mount Fitch to the north now becoming much more visible.
The open rock on the second small summit bump on Ragged beckoned me.
A look at some of the rock ledges along the way.
A good herd path continued up to the second summit bump, where the open rock on top was the best yet.
I was completely floored with the wide open area to explore as well as the incredible views.
From the open rock, the views east began to open up again.
The jaw dropping rock ledges on Ragged's second summit bump.  To say I was surprised would be an understatement.  Mount Williams can be seen in the distance.
Ragged Mountain and Raven Rocks from the second summit bump.
Mount Williams sitting just to the northwest across a deep valley.  Pine Cobble and some smaller peaks in Vermont can be seen on the horizon.
Soaking in the views from a lower ledge. This is another look south at Ragged's true summit, and Greylock beyond.
A closer look at Mount Greylock's summit.
I decided to continue on to a third summit bump, but found no herd paths anymore.  I had to swing around a couple of steep cliff bands, but had no issues making my way through the mostly open woods.
The third summit bump to the north, provided even better views over Mount Williams shoulder to the northwest, with Pine Cobble rising beyond.
The sprawling vista from the third summit, with a shoulder of Mount Williams(L), East Mountain(center), and yet another summit bump on Ragged(R).
As much as I would've loved to continue exploring Ragged's magical summit ridges, I unfortunately had to turn back.  The late start and growing shadows were beginning to catch up to me.  Instead of ascending and descending all of Ragged's ridgeline bumps, I opted to bushwhack straight down, heading southeast.  It was a very steep drop.
Luckily, about halfway down the mountain, I picked up a good herd path which was heading in the direction I wanted to go, so I followed it.
Once off the steep parts of the mountain, I once again left the herd path, crossing through a magical woodland on my back towards Thiel Road.
Arrived back at the car, with about a half hour of daylight to spare.  A fun day in the woods, with about 6.5 miles RT and over 1700 feet elevation gain.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Field Farm(Berkshires)

Did a short after work hike today at the Trustees of Reservations Field Farm property in the town of Williamstown.  There are about 4 miles of marked trails that meander through these 300 plus acres of pristine land, nestled between mountain ranges.  The entrance to Field Farm is marked with a Trustees sign off of Sloan Road in South Williamstown.  I grabbed a trail map at the kiosk and proceeded on the pond trail, which almost immediately brings you to a gorgeous, shallow pond.  Brodie Mountain can be seen rising above to the south/ southeast.
 The trail basically circles around the pond, offering up a quiet spot to soak in the nature.
Continuing past the pond, I picked up the South Trail, which crosses Sloan Road and enters a large field beside a beaver swamp.  From here, the view of Brodie Mountain to the south is quite impressive.
 I wandered around in the open fields, admiring the views of the nearby surrounding mountains.  Just to the west, the Taconic Range can be seen rising above.
From the trail along the beaver swamp, the Taconics appear much closer.  Misery Mountain, a long ridge with several small summit bumps, makes up this part of the Taconic range.
 
Back across Sloan Road, I picked up the North Trail, which follows a wide, mowed path through wide open hay fields.  The view north provides a small glimpse of the mountains in neighboring Vermont.
 One of the very best things about hiking through these hay fields, are the unimpeded views.  Here is a good look at an east ridge of Misery Mountain across the fields.
 The North Trail does briefly enter into the woods, where I captured this framed view of the Taconic ridge to the west.
 Once on the west side of the hay fields, the views towards the Greylock Range become downright spectacular. 
 The area just west of Greylock's summit is called the Hopper, and can clearly be seen from this vantage point. 
The North Trail eventually loops back to the parking lot, making for a nice, easy stroll.  About 2.3 picturesque miles total on a warm summer day in the northern Berkshires.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Bird Mountain & Herrick Mountain(Vermont)

Bird Mountain is one of those peaks that has been on my radar for a real long time now.  Ever since the first time I saw it rising south of Route 4 west of Rutland, I knew I had to go there.  While rising only to an elevation of 2216 feet, it certainly isn't going to be on many high peak lists, but its unusual shape and sheer rock cliffs make it incredibly enticing.  Add in the fact that there's no trails on the mountain(other than ATV trails on the east side of the peak), and I was ready for the challenge.  My buddy Jim accompanied me today, as we planned out a two car traverse over Bird Mountain and neighboring Herrick Mountain.
Our first view of Bird today was from Birdseye Road, south off of Route 4a. 
Our starting point for the day was from the east side of the mountain at the Birdseye WMA, on Birdseye Road.  Elevation was only 975 feet to start.
Upon entering the WMA, we crossed through a recently logged area, with spectacular views of Bird, rising nearly 1300 feet above us.
A closer look at Bird.  Very impressive!
We realized that attacking the mountain's steep south side was not a good idea, so we headed north to a bit easier ascent.  While being easier, this is no way meant it was easy.  We climbed at a very, very steep pitch through a hardwood forest.  The hot summer weather had us both dripping in sweat almost immediately.
Once up over 2000 feet, the ascent lessened considerably. We turned south heading towards ledges on the peak's east side.  From there we got very nice views towards Herrick's north summit bump, where it appears there was/ is some kind of quarry.
A broader shot of Herrick's north summit.
After a couple of minutes enjoying ledge views to the east, we continued on up to the 2216 foot summit.  Just prior to the summit we found a great view of the entire Herrick Mountain massif to the east.
From the true summit, we enjoyed amazing west views all the way towards the Adirondack High Peaks.  Route 4 can be seen winding in the valley below, with Lake Bomoseen being the body of water.
After a couple minutes at the summit, we headed back down to the lower cliffs on the east side of the peak.  A very dangerous, vertical drop was just a few feet away.  We found a safe spot to relax and enjoy our lunch here.
Northeast views towards West Rutland.
A closer look at Route 4a, with the unnamed West Rutland Peak rising directly above to the north.  The Green Mountains of central and north Vermont can be seen rising beyond to the northeast.
There really is no gentle way down Bird, we did our best to find a safe route down.  Loose rock and incredibly steep sections made this an adventure.
One of the challenges of heading over to Herrick Mountain was that we had to basically circle all the way around Bird, meaning a long bushwhack route south then east.  After finally getting around Bird's steep south rock face, we arrived in a very large meadow, elevation of about 1500 feet.  This provided us a nice view up towards Herrick's ridge to the east...
...and Bird's sharp south face to the north.
We were both staggered by just how incredible Bird looked from this meadow. 
Zoomed in on the incredibly impressive rock face on the south and east face of the mountain.
We continued east, soon re-entering the woods, and quickly finding ATV/ wood roads laced throughout the woods.
The road we were on didn't go the direction we needed, so we headed into the woods, straight up the west shoulder of Herrick's north peak. 
 
 We circled our way up and over the cirque and soon hit a reliable ATV/ woods rod again...heading straight at the top.
About 2/10 of a mile before the summit, we arrived at a cell tower, and a jaw dropping west view back towards NY and Bird Mountain.
Even from this far away, the rugged cliffs on Bird look amazing.  This is a great shot of the entire Bird ridge.
After soaking in the amazing views near the cell tower, we continued up the short distance to Herrick's 2726 foot summit.  While no views were to be had, there was a pretty fern glade that covered much of the summit area.
A few feet away from the fern glade, we found the summit canister(a Vermont trademark on many of its trail-less peaks)Unfortunately, the paper inside was very wet with condensation so we couldn't write anything. 
We followed a series of woods road/ logging roads and ATV trails down to the spotted car on the east side of the peak.  A very hot, but enjoyable traverse in a gorgeous area of Vermont. Round trip distance was about 7.5 miles with 2700 feet elevation gain.