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Thursday, January 13, 2022

Taconic Trail State Park Loop(Northern Berkshires/ Taconics)

Headed just over the state line into Massachusetts this afternoon to do a loop hike up the Taconic slopes north of Route 2 and then back down south of Route 2, utilizing the Taconic Trail State Park trails as well as the Taconic Crest Trail.  I parked at the trailhead for the Sara Tenney Trail in a large pull off along Route 2(Elevation 1560 feet) approximately 1.5 miles east of the NY state line.  After carefully crossing the road, I turned left onto the RRR Brooks Trail, which basically parallels Route 2 climbing steadily northwest.  I decided to bare boot the hike because there was only a light coating of fluffy snow atop 2 inches of crunchy frozen snow.

There were more animal tracks than hiker footprints in the fresh snow, as I made a very pleasant ascent up to the Shepherds Well Trail.  Once on the Shepherds Well Trail, and passing over the 2000 foot mark, fresh snow seemed to coat every single branch on every single tree.

Emerging into a large clearing at about 2260 feet, ice now began to replace snow on the exposed bushes.

The views from this clearing are nothing short of spectacular.  The view east encompasses the valley of rural South Williamstown, as well as the massive Greylock Range. Brodie Mountain is visible to the south and the eastern flanks of the neighboring Taconic Range to the far right.

From the same clearing, the south view takes in Mount Raimer in the foreground and Berlin Mountain beyond.
To the west/ southwest Route 2 at Petersburg Pass can be seen just below Mount Raimer, which towers above.  The old ski slopes of Petersburg Pass can still be seen with the leaves off the trees.

After enjoying the wonderful views, I pressed on, continuing my way along the Shepherds Well Trail, soon coming to a large meadow just below the summit of White Rocks. 

The trail meanders north after the meadow, dropping slightly, before climbing up and meeting the Taconic Crest Trail.  This was the only spot I saw other hikers all day, as a small group was heading north on the Taconic Crest Trail.
Once on the TCT, I headed south, losing some more elevation, before climbing briefly back up to a great west facing view point into New York State. 

From the viewpoint, it is a short but steep drop down to Route 2, which I crossed over and into the large parking lot for Petersburg Pass.  At the far SE corner of the lot, the Sara Tenney Trail, barely noticeable, drops into the woods.

The Sara Tenney Trail descends sharply SE, crossing the small North Branch of Hemlock Brook and continuing down the east slopes of Mount Raimer through a large, picturesque stand of paper birch.
A nice benefit of hiking in the winter, is that you can see many things through the bare trees that you wouldn't spot otherwise.  Across the deep valley of Treadwell Hollow, a keen eye can pick out Route 2.

The Sara Tenney Trail continues its descent into Treadwell Hollow, where there are still many remnants of past human use, such as this old, abandoned car.

Crossing over wintry Hemlock Brook.
The trail bottomed out at 1240 feet, nearly 800 feet below Petersburg Pass!  As I climbed up and out of Treadwell Hollow nearing the car, I emerged into clearing skies and bright, welcome sunshine.

A very pleasant 4.5 miles RT with over 1100 feet of total ascent.  Thankfully got out and enjoyed the brief sun and mid to upper 30 degree temps before a blast of arctic air hits us this weekend.

Map below.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Rips Rock and Unnamed North Mountain Ledges(Winter Clove Property/ Windham-Blackhead Range Wilderness-Catskills)

Headed down into the Catskills today to check out some well known ledges(Rips Rock) and some lesser known ledges(unnamed 2400 foot ledges) on a cold winter day.  I parked at the Winter Clove Inn (Elevation 915 feet) and set out on their trail system, with wind chills in the single digits.  The trails are much better marked than my last visit here, as they meander past small streams and old stone walls.  I threw my spikes in my pack, but bare booted it the entire day, as there was only about a coating to an inch of crusty snow.

There a maze of seldom used trails that spread out from the Inn, with many different options available to hike.  As I slowly gained elevation, I saw a small clearing and Lean To, so I made a quick pit stop to check it out. Although it is much smaller than a typical Lean To, and with a dirt floor, I still found it quaint.


From the Lean To, I basically followed the Webster Pass Trail, ascending gradually, making one side trip to check out frozen Lost Pond.

The Webster Pass Trail meets up with Rips Rock Trail, which climbs much more steeply, criss-crossing a small stream several times along the way.


As I began to ascend more steadily, I thankfully began to warm up, soon coming to the spot known as Indian Lookout.  From here, there is a nice view east over the Hudson Valley from a small opening in the trees. Just left(out of frame)and barely visible from here, is Cairo Round Top.


The climbing continues west into a draw, with enormous cliff bands emerging above to the right.  The red blazes turn left and circle around an impressive gorge, with North Mountain's ridge suddenly coming into view high above to the right.

A short distance further, the ledges really begin to open up, now providing a spectacular view over a much of the Hudson River Valley.  At an elevation over 1800 feet, this is the area known as Rips Rock. 

The drop off from these ledges is very steep, with the deep cut of Stony Brook far below.  With the leaves off the trees, Mountain House Turnpike can clearly be seen as well.

From Rips Rock I turned back, retracing my steps down into the deep draw, where I left the trail and began my bushwhack west, climbing steeply up.  There were several large cliff bands I had to contend with, each presenting their own unique challenge. 

After negotiating one such area of cliff bands, I found the open ledges I had been looking for.  At just over 2400 feet, the view east was even broader than the one from Rips Rock.

From this perch, I found a great view south at the next ridge coming down off North Mountain.

Contouring my way south, I found a smaller ledge, but with spectacular views.  The view east from this ledge takes in Rips Rock and Stony Brook clove to the right.  The woods on the left are basically the route I had taken up from Rips Rock.


From the ledge, taking in the up close view of the next ridge south.

From the open ledges, I pushed on, continuing a very steep climb up through more rugged cliff bands.

I circled over to the steep, east facing escarpment wall, checking out some screened views north towards Stoppel Point and the Blackheads.

I carefully made my way along the escarpment wall, finding a couple very good views east. It was tough to find a lot of leg room, but I was able to find one good ledge at about 2500 feet, with views northeast.  Afternoon shadows began to encroach in the valley directly below.  A careful eye can pick out the lake effect snow bands off in the distance too.
North views along the Wall of Manitou towards Acra Point.
I carefully made my way down off the steep ledges up high, working my way back down to the trail, which I followed back to the car.  Once back down low at the Inn, I made one last short walk over to Artist Falls, which is one of the most picturesque spots in the Catskills. 
I hiked about 6 miles RT, with nearly 2000 feet of total ascent for the day.  Didn't see another person all day on this cold mid winter day.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Unnamed Hand Hollow "East" Summit(Hand Hollow State Forest-Columbia County)

Had a small window of time to get out and hike this afternoon so decided to check out a small, unnamed peak in the Hand Hollow State Forest in rural Columbia County.  The land I'd be exploring was part of a 2019 state acquisition that nearly doubled the size of the Hand Hollow State Forest.  A designated parking area off the south side of County Route 34 provides access to this newest parcel of state land.(Elevation 980 feet).  After leaving the car, I crossed an open meadow before picking up a woods road and dropping down to an easy rock hop crossing of Hollow Brook.

There are numerous rough logging roads in these woods, but I stuck to the most obvious one, which heads directly south up the slopes of the peak.
Once up high, the roads tend to peter out, but the woods are remarkably open so navigation is pretty simple.  From about 1500 feet of elevation, over 500 feet above my starting point, I enjoyed filtered views to the north.
Unfortunately the state land does not continue to the summit, instead dead ending near this wolf tree on the summit ridge.
I wandered a bit, exploring some of the nooks and crannies of the slopes, seeing what the woods had to offer, but unfortunately, the early sunset chased me back to the car earlier than I had hoped.  A nice and easy 1.8 miles RT, with nearly 600 feet of total ascent.

Map below.  Red P=Parking


Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Misery Mountain North Peak-West Ridge Ledges(Taconic Trail State Park-Berkshires)

Finally broke out into some sunshine today, so I took advantage of that by doing some exploring along the NY/ Massachusetts state line in the Taconics.  My intent was to hike up to Misery Mountain's north peak via trail and then bushwhack over to some ledges on its west ridge.  I got started from the trailhead for the Phelps Trail off of Oblong Road(Elevation 1115 feet) in Williamstown.  There were a couple other cars there when I arrived but interestingly enough I didn't end up seeing anyone all day.

The Phelps Trail is a nice hike west, directly up the Taconic slopes, climbing steadily most of the way, utilizing switchbacks to ease the ascent.  A bit higher up on the mountain, I spotted several areas of classic New England stone walls between 1700 feet and 2100 feet.
There a couple of decent views from the trail, where the terrain drops off steeply to the east/ northeast.  This small window provides a glance into some of the peaks in southern Vermont.
Zoom view into Williamstown and snowy East Mountain above to the north.
A few paces further and at a slightly different angle, a good view opens up east towards the Hopper and the snow capped Greylock Range.
Although it was cold, there was no snow at all until about 2200 feet, when the first traces began to appear.


The Phelps Trail ascends steeply for just under 2 miles up to the ridge, where the blue and white blazes of the Taconic Crest Trail then appear.  At 2450 feet, the trees and ground were covered in a light, but pretty coating of snow.

Once on the Taconic Crest Trail I headed north, traveling through a magical wintry forest.


Misery Mountain's North Peak sits at an impressive 2553 feet, but its summit is fully wooded and rather unimpressive.  The freshly fallen snow was truly captivating though.


From the North summit, I left the trail and headed west on a fairly skinny ridge dropping slowly through open hardwoods interspersed with some scratchy undergrowth.  In search of views from the steep, wooded slopes I stumbled upon an open, meadow-like area, with peek a boo views to the northwest.

Continuing on, I soon crossed the state line into NY, now entering the Taconic Ridge State Forest.  I was now within striking distance of the ledges I was seeking so I contoured over to a very steep area of ledges facing south and pressed my way through.  

Suddenly I hit could see the clearing I was looking for and voila!  From a small set of ledges, I enjoyed a fantastic view of the Taconic ridge, stretching south.  The Taconic Crest Trail basically follows Misery Mountain on the ridge seen here, with the snow line firmly entrenched at about 2200-2300 feet.

There are actually a couple of open ledges that provide slightly different angles.  This lower ledge provides a great view SW towards Misery's west ridge and SE Hollow in Berlin below.

A very unique view of the Taconic Ridge, literally almost close enough to touch.

Within just a few minutes, skies began to quickly clear out, providing a spectacular snow capped view of the ridge.


After enjoying the great vistas, I continued on west, ascending to the top of next high point on the ridge.  Sitting at 2365 feet, this "summit" sat in a remarkably level clearing, where I would guess fern glades grow wild in the summer.

This high spot proved to be my turnaround spot, so I headed back east on the ridge, meeting back up with the Taconic Crest Trail in less than half a mile. From there, it was an easy, straightforward hike back to the Phelps Trail and then to my car.  A wonderful little spot-just off the beaten path.

Hiked 5.3 miles RT with over 1800 feet of combined ascent.

Map below.  Blue P=Parking  Blue Circle=Appx Area of ledges