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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Bushwhacking Buck and Little Buck Mountains(Adirondacks-Lake George Region)

The forecast was for bright sun and warm, slightly humid conditions, so I headed north to do a fun bushwhack of Buck and Little Buck Mountains.  Satellite imagery shows what looks like a lot of possible open rock on the SW slopes of Buck, so I figured I'd give it a look.  Starting from the Buck Mountain Trailhead(elevation about 390 feet) along Pilot Knob Road(which was nearly packed-even on a Tuesday), I headed on the trail towards a crossing over Butternut Brook.
Picturesque Butternut Brook.
Stone walls serving as a reminder of the past.
A short distance past the brook crossing, I left the trail and headed into the woods.  I quickly encountered open hardwoods, which were an absolute pleasure to hike through.  At about 1100 feet, I began hitting a series of open ledges in a park like setting.
From these ledges around 1100 feet, I spotted this great view SW towards Lake George, with Long Island dominating the water view.
Also from these ledges, I encountered this fantastic view south towards the Pilot Knob ridge.
All along this SW ridge of Buck, the hiking was simply perfect, through beautiful open, airy woods.
As I ascended, I continued to hit more and more open areas, which kept me wanting more.
From about 1700 feet, I found a broad, field like area, with great views towards Lake George...
...and towards Pilot Knob ridge.
Pilot Knob's NW ridge heading down towards the lake.
The fun scramble up through the open field like area.
More Lake George views from the top of the clearing.
Pilot Knob's entire ridge can nearly be seen from this open rock at the very top of the clearing.  This made a perfect spot to stop and take a break.
As I continued my hike up, I continued to hit open areas, filled flush with low bushes and fern glades.
I couldn't help but notice that there were random blue trail markers in these woods.  A faint herd path could be found near them, but certainly doesn't look to be maintained at all.  Not too sure about any info on this.
Passing by this vernal pond a little over 2000 feet. 
Wildflowers in bloom in the Adks!
The west slopes just below the summit got quite steep.  One final push got me up there.
Emerging from the woods just west below the summit, I had nothing but open rock between me and the top.
Arriving at the 2334 foot summit of Buck.
Of course, there were a handful of people on Buck's summit.  These folks, however, were the only ones I'd see all day.
The Tongue Range stands impressively from Buck's summit area.
Northwest views towards Montcalm Point.
A zoom view towards Little Buck, with its open ledges clearly visible.
I dropped directly off the north slopes of Buck, which was a very steady, steep descent through mixed woods.  The woods were mostly open, but with quite a bit of blowdown, which slowed me down a bit.
After the steep descent, a small ascent brought me up to a 1690 foot "bump", where Buck Mountain could be seen just above the tree tops to the south.
From the 1690 foot sub bump, I descended even more, dropping into a deep hemlock forest.  A quick climb up, brought me into more hardwoods on Little Buck, where I swung around to the SW ledges near the summit area.
The ledges were much more open than I expected, and made a fine place to enjoy Lake George views that few people enjoy.
Buck Mountain towers above, over 700 feet higher to the south.
Little Buck views.
Dome Island and the town of Bolton to the west.
The ledges on Little Buck are wide open and very enjoyable to explore.
After enjoying the open ledges, I continued on a scant .15 of a mile up to the true 1605 foot wooded summit.
Headed down off the summit, carefully descending to the west slopes of Buck, which were steep and cluttered with blowdown.  I didn't really want to climb all the way back up to the summit, and didn't really need to, so hugged the steep slopes until I neared my initial route up Buck around 1800 feet.  From there it was an easy bushwhack back along the SW flank of Buck, until a final drop brought me back to the marked DEC trail.  A short 3/10 of a mile trail hike brought me back to the car.
A long but fun day, with over 10 miles RT and 3300 feet elevation gain.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Saunders Mountain(Adirondacks)

The Dix Wilderness Area is reputed to have tremendous bushwhacking opportunities, as I found out in a couple of visits to the area last year.  I visited Nippletop, Elizabethtown #4 and Spotted Mountains and was blown away by the amazing views and open rock that they had to offer. 1982 foot Saunders Mountain is yet another peak that is said to have bare rock and gorgeous vistas, so I headed that way today.  There are a couple of different ways to access the Dix Wilderness west of the Northway, and today my starting point would be in the DEC parking area beside Courtney Pond on Route 9 in North Hudson.  Elevation to start the hike was about 1000 feet.
A red marked DEC trail skirts the edge of Courtney Pond and heads south then west for 1.1 miles towards the interstate.  The last part of the trail, is the "spooky" tunnel under the Northway.  It's really hard to describe how dark it is once you're in there.  Thankfully, I had my cell phone light to guide me.
The maintained trail ends after passing under the Northway at Shingletree Pond.
I looked for but couldn't find any sustained herd paths, so began my bushwhack immediately past the pond.  The lower elevations were covered in open spruce, which meant pine needles and soggy areas.  This vernal pond caught my eye in the dark forest.
I headed NW, going up and over a small 1500 foot peak, with a couple of decent views towards nearby Buck Mountain.
A steady drop brought me down into more dark woods.  Eventually I hit the stream that drains from the slopes of Buck and Saunders Mountains.
As I gained elevation, and got within 4/10 of a mile of the summit, I began to hit large, open rock areas.  This made for fun scrambling.  I spotted this garter snake along the way, out enjoying the open rock too.
The bare rock only got better and better as I climbed, allowing for my first sustained views of the day.
Ascending the mostly open slopes, accompanied by a ferocious wind.
This dead tree proves just how tough life can be in these mountains.
The final push towards the summit, with ever strengthening winds.  Storms were in the area, with threatening skies above.
The open summit area was fun to explore, if I didn't get blown over from the strong winds.
There was so much open rock to check out, with vistas opening up in nearly all directions.  Here is a northerly view point.
Northeast views towards the Hammond Pond Wild Forest.
A zoom view towards Giant Mountain and Rocky Peak Ridge to the north.
Neighboring Bear Mountain, with the much larger mountains in the Dix Wilderness towering behind.
The great view towards the Dix Range and all the way towards Giant/ RPR.
Buck and Bear Mountains literally look close enough to touch!
Beyond Bear Mountain, Wyman and East Dix(Grace) can be seen.
Southeast views down to Jug and Little Far Mountains, as skies tried to clear.
A nearly vertical drop from the southwest edge of the open rock.
Spring wildflowers in full bloom!
Followed the nice and easy DEC trail back to the car the last 1.1 miles to end the day..and the rain held off.
Hiked about 6.5 miles RT(2.2 trail-4.3 bushwhack), with nearly 1900 feet elevation gain.  Thankfully, the black flies were barely noticeable.