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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Coon Mountain(Adirondacks)

My second stop for the day was the Nature Conservancy's Coon Mountain Preserve.  This 318-acre preserve is located in the Town of Westport in the Champlain Valley and I was pleasantly surprised to see that I was the only car there when I arrived.  To find the trail, I took exit 31 off the northway to the tiny village of Wadhams and then went east on backroads to gravel Halds Road, where a parking lot is found on the left(north) side of the road.  A small kiosk and preserve sign mark the beginning of the trail.
I took the summit trail, where a small junction is met just .2 miles into the hike with the Hidden Valley Trail.
The trail passes through a hemlock forest briefly before continuing on an old road through hardwoods.  At the property boundary, the trail turns sharply and begins climbing directly up through a steep, rock strewn ravine.
This part of the climb was quite fun and interesting, with large rocky walls closing in on each side of the trail.
The trail climbs a little over 600 feet in one mile towards the modest 1,017 foot summit.  In actuality, there are 5 separate summits along the ridge.
There are basically two viewing points from the summit rocks.  A northeast view over a sea of green woodland and a nearby home as well as...
..a southeast view towards Northwest Bay on Lake Champlain.
A less panoramic but still superb view can be found from the second(west) viewpoint of nearby farmland with the High Peaks towering in the distance.
Although a short 2 mile RT hike, there is much to see on this mountain and is highly recommended.

Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain(Adirondacks)

Decided to hike the popular 2180 foot Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain in an area of the Adirondacks I am not all too familiar with.  Found off Route 9 between exits 32-33 off the northway, the stunning rock cliffs make for a dramatic approach to the trailhead. 
I parked at the southern parking lot and trailhead, and found two other cars already there at just  after 8am.
The trail drops into a hardwood forest and quickly crosses Cold Brook on a footbridge.
The trail heads west then turns north, climbing at a moderate pace with a couple of steeper areas, but nothing too difficult.  I soon arrived at a washed out old crossing over a beaver pond.
I followed the well beaten down path to the new crossing.
Looking back at the beaver pond, bathed in early morning sun.
The trail is marked in blue and is actually a jeep trail.  As it nears the junction with the Ranger's Trail, I passed an outhouse and Lean To. 
The Lean To.
Stopped for a few moments in the Lean To, soaking in the sights and sounds of the woods on a gorgeous morning.
At the trail junction with the Ranger's Trail, I came upon the ruins of the former Ranger's cabin.
Turned north onto the red marked trail and headed the last .3 of a mile towards the summit.  Came upon a large, rock ledge with numerous southerly views.
The drop offs from these ledges are quite steep and can be dangerous.
Continued the short distance past the ledges up to the summit firetower(and my finger).
I climbed up to the firetower, but unfortunately the top cab was locked so I enjoyed the views from just below the top.  There was a group of three hikers there ahead of me, enjoying the open rock views below the tower.  This is a nice view with the northway easily seen winding far below.
The west facing views towards the High Peaks.
There is also a great view of Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains of Vermont to the east, through the hazy sunshine.
Southeast views over Champlain.
The north facing view again with the Northway, as well as Auger Lake(top) and Butternut Pond(bottom).
The views are far streching and second to none from this relatively low summit(2180 feet).  Enjoy the views and breeze in your hair, but be warned, this is a popular hike and you will likely be sharing the top with many others.
Hiked a total of 4.8 miles RT, with an elevation gain of 1450 feet.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Old Champlain Canal(Halfmoon)

Took a nice, easy stroll along a section of the Old Champlain Canal Trail in Halfmoon this morning. Started at the trailhead located along Brookwood Road in overcast, damp conditions.
 The entrance from Brookwood Road.
 I began by heading south with fine views towards the Rensselaer County hills, including Bald Mountain and its TV towers.
 Unfortunately, many sections of the Old Canal are now overgrown and chock full of weeds.
 As I was enjoying my walk, a steady rain began to replace the mist that was falling.
Due to the rain, I decided to turn back at a little less than a mile south,  heading north towards Brookwood and then Lower Newtown Road.  The rain had stopped at this point, leaving this nice, glassy scene of the water just north of Lower Newtown Road.
 A bend in the Old Canal.
 Old concrete footings slowly fading with time.
 Interesting to see the stonework from the 19th century, where individual stones were used as ooposed to concrete.
 Heading north, approaching a one lane bridge.
 Looking down at McDonald Creek and Flynn's Culvert.
 One lane bridge over Flynn's Culvert.
 I opted to turn around at Flynn's Culvert as the rain began to pick up again. 
 Within a few minutes, the rain became steady and I was drenched.
Walked just under 3 miles total on a rainy spring morning.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Flag Rock(Berkshires)

Did an easy walk this afternoon at a relatively unknown Berkshire treasure known as Flag Rock.  Flag Rock is a small open rock peak located on the west side of Monument Mountain, and overlooks the tiny village of Housatonic.  While being unknown to outsiders, the locals know this place very well.  Finding the trail head can be a bit tricky.  Look for matted down grass and a tiny path entering the woods on the east side of Route 183, just north of Ramsdell Road next to a utility pole, and across from an open field owned by Taft Farms. Access is also available from the Trustees of Reservations Monument Mountain property, which recently(2014) acquired Flag Rock.
I followed an obvious, but unmarked foot path into the woods, which starts heading east then north.
 The trail is wide and easy to follow, soon arriving at a fork in the trail.  Stay left here.
 I passed by many large depressions beside the trail.
As you near Flag Rock, the woods to your left begin to climb dramatically and boulder strewn.
 I passed by this HUGE boulder along the trail(photo didn't do justice).
 After about 1.8 miles, I arrived at another fork in the trail.  This time I turned left again, climbing steeply on a less obvious foot path.  The woods change from hardwoods to soft before emerging at an opening at the summit area.
 Flag Rock.
The views to the west from the rocky 1454 foot summit are fabulous.  The village of Housatonic lies steeply below, with Tom Ball Mountain rising beyond.
 Downtown Housatonic.
 Looking southwest towards the Southern Taconic Range. Mount Everett is the high point along the ridge.
 Unfortunately the bare, rocky cliffs are filled with graffiti, but the views more than make up for it.  The drop off is precipitous so good footing is a must.
 Looking back up at Flag Rock.
 Looking directly west towards distant New York peaks beyond the ridgeline.
After enjoying the summit area, I finally turned back, enjoying a peaceful walk through the quiet woods on a beautiful 70 degree, sunny afternoon.
A great after work hike, with some climbing(elevation gain 650 feet) in 3.8 miles RT.