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Monday, January 15, 2018

The Wildcat Range(Catskills)

After every conceivable issue the last few weeks, I finally had an opportunity to get out for a winter hike with my buddy Jim on Monday.  We discussed some options and settled on a full traverse of the Wildcat Range in the South-Central Catskills.  The range is not well known to many, but has seven summit bumps with two prominent Catskill Hundred Highest peaks among them.  It's claim to fame, however, is probably that the Wildcats are Slide Mountain's western neighbor.  Because there are no trails on the range itself, there are many different bushwhack options, with most centering on the two prominent peaks(West Wildcat & East Wildcat).  We wanted to add a twist to the hike, so we parked a first car at the Slide Mountain trailhead, then drove south about 15-20 minutes to DEP land along Wildcat Mountain Road.
 Wildcat Mountain Road is a lovely high elevation, dead end, gravel road with several camps and even a couple of year round residents.  We decided to walk the scenic road for about a mile, until its terminus.  Elevation to start the day was a lofty 2250 feet. Took a moment while passing by this apple tree in the front yard of a lonely looking seasonal camp.
The end of the maintained part of Wildcat Mountain Road is the start of DEC land.  A very rough road continues into an open hardwood forest.   
 Jim leading the way on a cold, but pleasant winter morning.  Temps to start the hike were in the single digits, but a lack of wind made for comfortable going.
 Gorgeous stone walls just off the woods road.
We were both a bit surprised to see almost no snow or ice until about 2500 feet. Even then, the snow wasn't much more than a dusting to an inch.  The ice was quite impressive however.  We carried spikes in our packs but bare booted the whole day.
 A light dusting of snow covering a batch of shining clubmoss and evergreen wood fern.
  A typical scene along the Wildcats in an almost 100% deciduous forest, making for great bushwhacking.
 A final push up our first small  peak, with crunchy, crusty snow underfoot.
 The first bump along the way is a 2865 foot summit without enough prominence to count as its own peak.  Was still very lovely, with a bit more snow and ice at this elevation. 
 The area between peaks is a checkerboard of public and private land, so we were very mindful of this, keeping one eye on our maps as well as the property markings.  
 Arriving at the first "official" peak of the day, the 3160 foot summit of West Wildcat.  
 A small rock cairn marked the summit, my 77th CHH peak.
After grabbing a quick bite to eat, we continued on in a northeast direction, climbing up and over a couple of other minor summit bumps on our way to East Wildcat.  Just before the ascent up East Wildcat, we arrived at the gorgeous "bavarian forest".  An unlikely dark, hemlock grove stands in stark contrast to the hardwoods that make up most of this entire range.
 Wandering through this magical hemlock stand.
Just beyond the dark forest, the ascent commenced.  Some of our steeper climbing of the day occurred along this stretch.  Nothing too difficult though.
Even over 3000 feet, much of the open areas were snow free, making for easy going. This was the last summit bump before East Wildcat.
Jim wandered along the southeast facing slopes in search of a view, finally finding a nice lookout towards Slide.  East Wildact's long ridge dominates the foreground.
A jumbled pile of rocks on East Wildcat's higher slopes.
As we gained some of our highest elevation of the day, the woods became noticeably more wintry.
The nondescript 3340 foot summit of East Wildcat.  My 78th CHH!  Yeah!
 We continued the bushwhack northeast, heading up and over a couple of other minor 3300+ foot twin summits before a steep drop brought us down to the Curtis-Ormsbee Trail.  From there, it was an icy 1.5 mile trail hike back to the first spotted car.  
Just prior to arriving at the car, we came to a difficult creek crossing over the West Branch of the Neversink.  High water and ice made things very tricky.  We both got wet feet, but managed to cross safely.  A long 11 mile(9.5 bushwhack) hike, with over 1700 feet elevation gain.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Wild Winter Weather

A bitterly cold stretch of winter had gripped the entire northeast for about two weeks, literally freezing up everything in its path.  The outside world was locked up in a world of thick ice and snow, until a couple of days ago, when a sudden jolt of unseasonably warm(low 60's) weather changed all that.  The sudden 70 degree surge in temperatures, ice jams releasing, and heavy rains lead to a dangerous flooding situation for many folks.  This included my wife and I who live on the banks of the Kinderhook Creek.  A short walk through our back field, provided me with a glimpse of the raging creek waters, roaring along. 
The creek had risen beyond its banks, but luckily not high enough to cause any real danger.  Very impress nonetheless.
Just as quickly as the temps had jumped up, they came crashing back down this morning, dropping from the mid 50's last night to the teens with ice and snow by the morning.  Nearly all of the snow had melted by last night, but this morning's wintry weather has provided the more usual January landscape that we are used to.  Lingering snow showers near our garden this afternoon.
 Our puppies absolutely love the snow and were more than happy to see it return. 
 Looks like winter is back, with bitter wind chills and overnight temperatures heading back south of zero.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Christman Sanctuary(Duanesburg)

Headed out to the Nature Conservancy's Christman Sanctuary after work today to take full advantage of a beautiful mid winter day.  The 120 acre Sanctuary is located along the Schoharie Turnpike in the town of Duanesburg.  I donned the snowshoes, not really sure if I would need them or not.  Turned out that I probably didn't need them as the trails were fairly well packed down, but I kept them on anyway.  Dropped down on the blue trail through a dark hemlock forest to a yellow spur trail, which closely follows the completely frozen over Bozen Kill. 
 Our recent frigid weather has turned the Bozen Kill into a frozen wonderland.  Thick ice and snow cover the creek bed, leaving nothing but icicles where the cascades had been flowing.
 A look at the main 30 foot falls, completely frozen solid.  Notice the people below the frozen spectacle.
 Even water draining off the steep rim above the creek, has transformed into a frozen work of art.
 I followed the blue trail all the way around the north end of the preserve, before crossing over the frozen creek to the south orange marked loop.  The orange trail climbs up above the creek, passing by trusty old stone walls.
 The southern trail didn't seem to see as much foot traffic, but was just as beautiful, passing through a gorgeous mixed forest.
 The bright late afternoon sure felt good on this mid January day, seen here shining brightly through the open hardwoods at the far southern edge of the property.
 Wandering along the 1.1 mile orange trail, where I kicked up a couple of white tailed deer, that made a hasty exit.
Snowshoed about 2.5 miles total on a gorgeous winter day.  These are the winter days that are hard to beat.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Roger Perry Memorial Preserve(Dover, NY)

Got out for a short snowshoe trek in rural Dutchess County this morning to break the snowshoes in this season.  A moderation in temperatures to the mid 20's felt nice, but overcast conditions with light snow moving in put a damper on the day. The preserve is owned by the Nature Conservancy and can be found just east of the village of Dover Plains on Sand Hill Road.  A small parking lot with a kiosk can be found on the south side of the road.  Unfortunately, there is no winter parking for the preserve, so I parked along the shoulder of the road, as far as I could off the road.  Just past the kiosk the trail begins, clearly blazed with red trail markers.
Almost all recent snow remains on the trees and bushes because it simply hasn't warmed up enough in a couple of weeks.  Today would be our first reprieve from the Arctic freeze.
A limestone outcrop provides a small overlook towards the long ridgeline of East Mountain,
Looking northerly towards East Mountain's ridge beyond a dense conifer forest.
I passed by some sort of berries that really caught my eye.  Appear to actually be blueberries, but they must be some kind of unedible winterberry.
The trail loops back directly below some of the ledges that provide the views up above.
While the upper loop has seen recent snbowshoe activity, the lower loop had only been previously broken by deer prints.
A nice, short loop in an area I haven't been to in a while.  Light snow began to break out on my drive home.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Long View Park(New Baltimore)

A very cold stretch of winter weather has taken its toll on my car, meaning my inability to get out much recently.  Now that its all fixed up and a brief break in the bitter weather, lead me out for a short post work walk today at Scenic Hudson's Long View Park in the town of New Baltimore.  Felt downright balmy out, with temps in the low 20's and full sunshine as I stepped out of the car at the trTailhead along River Road.
 Shed detail at the Armstrong Farm.
The trails drop down across wide open fields, leaving you exposed to the cold winter winds.
There was only a couple of crusty inches of snow on the ground, making for easy walking.
 I looped right first to the small pond and Hudson River overlook.  A rock cairn marks this clearing.
 Overlooking the mostly frozen Hudson River.
 I dropped down the only steep part of the park, where the trail leads to the Hudson's shoreline.
The bitter winter weather has frozen over nearly 100% of the river, with the popping sounds of the ice the only sound I could hear.
 Large ice blocks breaking off along the shore.
A fairly short, pleasant 1.5 mile hike with a couple of different loop options.