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Friday, July 31, 2015

Big Crow Mountain & Nun-da-ga-o Ridge Loop(Adirondacks-High Peaks)

With a perfect summer forecast ahead of us for the day, I drove north to the Adirondack High Peaks to do a hike today, not really sure where I wanted to go.  As I got off exit 30 and drove along Route 73, I noticed all of the crowded parking lots along the road and quickly realized that everything was going to be packed today.  So I decided to dig into my mind for a place with nice views but small crowds and remembered reading about the Nun-da-ga-o Ridge Loop trail.  From Keene, turn north onto County Route 13(Hurricane Road) and continue for 2.2 miles to gravel O'Keefe Road.  Follow this to the very end of the road where a designated DEC parking lot is located.  This spot is known as Crow's Clearing, and there were only a handful of cars there when I arrived.
After leaving the parking lot, the red marked trail for the Crow Mountains heads north, and begins ascending almost immediately.
After about a half mile, the trail forks.  To the left is the official state maintained trail to Big Crow Mountain, and to the right is the Nun-da-ga-o Ridge Loop.  I opted to climb the .2 miles to Big Crow's summit first.
 Although only .2 miles to the top, this climb is pretty steep.
 Approaching Big Crow's 2815 foot summit.
 A panorama from Big Crow Mountain's rocky summit area.  As many as 28 major peaks are visible from here, as well as many 4,000 footers.
After exploring the open rock areas for a bit, I descended back down the steep slopes.
 Arriving back at the trail junction, I turned right this time following the Nun-da-ga-o Ridge trail.  This trail is unmarked but fairly easy to follow.  The trail travels through deep brush and forest before cresting at many open rock areas along the way.
 A view back to the west of Big Crow Mountain from one of the bald clearings.
There is no shortage of views along the hike, so plan to take your time and really enjoy yourself.  Here is a section of open rock walking along a ridge line.
 This long ridge is often referred to as the Soda Range.  There are countless outstanding view points along the way.
A zoomed in view of Whiteface Moutain.
 Breathtaking panorama to the south from another clearing.
Much of the unmaintained and unmarked trail is easy to follow, wandering through brushy areas like this.
 After about 1.5 miles from the trail head, there is a large rocky cliff that must be climbed.
 Ascending the side of the rock cliff.
Once atop the rock cliffs, there are an assortment of different areas to explore, each with a special view of its own.
After leaving that rocky cliff, another steep climb leads to the next.
 From this large clearing, there are some of the best views to be had so far.  I lingered for a bit here, enjoying the ideal conditions.
The trail leaves the rocky cliffs and re-enters deep woods, basically following the ridge line the entire way.  There are several ups and downs along the way, with a couple of fun scrambles.
A great view of Weston Mountain(the next destination) to the southeast from yet another bald clearing.
Coal Dirt Hill's 2927 foot summit sits nearby from here.  The trail does not go over the summit however, only skirting a shoulder of the mountain's south side.
 The trail drops steeply into a col, before climbing steeply back up towards Weston's summit.  The north side of Weston Mountain is very overgrown in spots and is obviously only sparsely used.
 A great view of the Soda Range from Weston Mountain's rocky summit.  This is the range that I had just hiked along for the past couple hours.
 A great view point to the south over Lost Pond from Weston Mountain's 3180 foot summit.
The steep descent off of Weston Mountain.
 You will soon pick up yellow discs once arriving at the Biesemeyer Lean To along the north side of Lost Pond.  This is the beginning of the DEC maintained trail again.  Unfortunately I didn't really check out the Lean To much because it was occupied by a large family.
The trail follows the west side of the pond, with a couple of informal paths leading to the shores.  Here is a great view south with Hurricane Mountain rising steeply beyond.
 A stunning panorama of Lost Pond.
 The trail continues to descend on its way towards Gulf Brook.  I passed another Lean To near the brook(offset several hundred feet up in the woods off the trail), but this too was being used already, so I didn't bother them.
 Soon the trail levels out and turns west towards O'Keefe Road, eventually completing the loop.  About .6 of a mile before the car, I came across this huge split boulder.  Thought it was pretty interesting to see and can only imagine how this has happened over time.
Felt absolutely amazing out today, with refreshing temperatures and low humidity.  If only all summer was like this!  Hiked about 6.6 miles total RT.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

High Ledges/Shelburne Fire Tower Trail(Pioneer Valley, Massachusetts)

With severe weather firing up to the west this morning, I opted to head east towards Central Massachusetts and the rural town of Shelburne to hike an area known as High Ledges.  This 629 acre property is owned and managed by the Massachusetts Audubon Society and is found off of quiet, gravel Patten Road.  From the exit to Shelbune Falls on Route 2, continue east for a few more miles until you see Little Mohawk Road on the left(north).  Turn here and continue uphill until Patten Road is found on your left at the first junction.  Look for signs that indicate High Ledges parking areas.  Continue past the overflow parking area until you arrive at the formal parking area, which is well marked.
The official trails do not begin until after you hike down the road about .15 of a mile past the parking lot.
The trail begins as an extension of Sanctuary Road just past a gate.  A short distance in, you will arrive at an informational board with trail maps.
Several smaller trails branch off to the north, but I stayed on Sanctuary Road.  I soon arrived at this eerie, large, old, white oak tree.
After a little less than a mile of easy hiking, I arrived at The Ledges.  From this rocky perch, there are panoramic views of the Deerfield River Valley as well as Shelburne Falls.
There were a few other people out on this muggy morning, but I was lucky to relax alone on the ledges alone for about 20 minutes, soaking in the views.
A very interesting, large stone fireplace is found right next to the High Ledges.
I retraced my steps back along Sanctuary Road to the spot where a smaller trail leaves the Audubon property and crosses a stone wall.  This is the Ridge Trail, which leads about .6 miles to a firetower lookout.
Just past the overgrown entrance to the trail is a sign, letting you know you are in the right spot.
The trail winds through mostly evergreens with slight elevation gain.  Soon arrived at a large clearing where a radio communications tower stands.  From here, the trail skirts the outer fence to the right and then follows an obvious four wheel drive road towards the fire tower.
 Following the four wheel drive road, which climbs up to the top of  Massaemett Mountain.

Arriving at the Rock fire tower on Massaemett summit.
Built in 1909, the rock tower has a "medieval" feel to it.
Unfortunately, the top portion of the tower was locked, leaving only the views from the windows(still nice though).
The view back north past the trail I had just walked up towards the High Ledges ridgeline.
Even with an elevation of 1588 feet, there are no views from the ground, so you must climb the tower for any views.  Here is a great vista to the south with clearing skies above.
Hung out for a few minutes before retracing my steps back to the car.  Hiked about 3.2 miles RT under very humid conditions.  After grabbing some lunch, I began heading back home and ran into some storms.  I decided that I'd make a side trip north to the ruggedly handsome Deerfield River where it winds down through the steep Zoar valley of the towns of Florida and Charlemont.
There are many formal and informal access points along this stretch of the river. 
This river is well known for its incredible fly fishing as well as whitewater rafting and tubing.
Explored some of the areas along the Deerfield's quiet shores until the rain became quite heavy and chased me back to the car.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Record Hill at Anthony's Nose(Lake George-Adirondacks)

Visited the Anthony's Nose Preserve, a Lake George Conservancy that was just opened to the public earlier this spring, located on the northeast shores of Lake George in the town of Putnam.  Trail access can be found by taking Route 22 for about 19 miles north of Whitehall, then turning left onto County Route 1, and following that for 1.8 miles to Schwerdtfeger Road.  Parking is currently located along the west side of the road, where a parking lot will soon be created. 
 Blue LGLC discs mark the beginning of the trail, which heads west into the woods.
 After a short distance the trail turns north, swinging through an open canopy of hardwoods.
 The trail is only .75 of a mile long, but is a stiff climb nearly the entire way. 
 The extreme heat and steep climb made me work up quite a sweat.  
Partial views to the south and east from a rocky clearing on the way up.
Another partial view on the way up, this one to the south over Lake George.

Approaching the rocky summit of 1265 foot Record Hill.

The vista directly to the west over nearby Anthony's Nose.  The LGLC opted not to build a trail to Anthony's Nose because the cliffs are a regular breeding location for the threatened peregrine falcon.
Views to the south over Lake George with Friends Point jutting out from the west shore.
Directly across from the second viewing spot is Rogers Rock on the western shorelines of the lake.
Lingered at the top for a bit, with peregrine falcons circling above.  Unfortunately, the searing heat proved to be too much, and I headed quickly back down the mountain to the comforts of the air conditioned car.
Hiked a total of 1.5 miles RT, with a total ascent of over 700 feet on a very hot afternoon.