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Friday, December 31, 2021

Swatling Falls Nature Trail(Town of Halfmoon, Saratoga County)

Headed over to Swatling Falls Nature Trail this afternoon, a small trail which is part of a peaceful development in the town of Halfmoon under dreary conditions.  An unmarked but obvious parking lot can be found at a bend in Swatling Road(Elevation 175 feet), with two trails breaking off in separate directions from there.  A paved trail heads left behind the development, and the other(main) trail goes right, following along a rough road.

Within moments of stepping out of the car, a light mist began to fall, but luckily the temperature was near 50 on this cloudy but mild New Year's Eve. 

The trail quickly heads into the woods and within just a few moments the sounds of McDonald Creek can be heard.  Picturesque Swatling Falls, the trail's namesake, can be enjoyed from above from here.  Unfortunately it's difficult to get a good angle of the falls from below, but still a very pretty spot. 

Looking upstream on McDonald Creek, just above the falls.
Bend in the creek.
Trail markers lead uphill from the creek, unfortunately dead ending at the top of a small bluff.

Turned around at the end of the trail, retracing my steps back to the parking lot, where I then proceeded to check out the paved trail.  This trail isn't really scenic, as it literally passes through back yards, with the creek barely visible several yards away and in the woods. There is an out of order-but sturdy looking foot bridge that crosses the creek at one point-presumably linking to future trail developments.

The paved trail quickly loops back to Swatling Road, which I simply followed back to the car.  A light mist turned into a light shower as I arrived back at the car, completing a short but pleasant 1 mile walk on a dreary New Year's Eve. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Dog Hill(Town of Prattsville, Northern Catskills)

Decided to utilize a  parcel of DEP land to hit a series of south facing ledges on 2024 foot Dog Hill, a small, un-trailed peak just outside the Catskill blue line near the Schohaire Reservoir.  DEP land comes close to but doesn't go all the way up to the true summit, so I figured I'd check out the ledges and then do some exploring up towards the property boundary.  

To get started, I parked at Gate 8 on the east side of the Schoharie Reservoir near the Greene County/ Delaware County town line(Elevation 1235 feet).  I crossed the road and headed into the woods, quickly picking up a rugged old woods road.

The woods road climbed steadily, closely paralleling a small stream which drained the upper elevations of the peak.

After crossing over the stream, I picked up another woods road, which climbs more steeply up towards the ledges that I was aiming for.

Once up high, I circled over to the ledges, quickly finding some solid views.  While not completely unobstructed, the views south over the Schohaire Creek and towards Bearpen Mountain's ridge were very good.
I contoured along the edge of the ledges, taking in good views SW towards Roundtop and Shultice.
South/ southwest views!  I would imagine that once these trees leaf out during the warmer months, these views would all but disappear.
I picked up a herd path and stayed on it heading NW, gaining additional views.  These views were more west facing towards Shultice and Irish Mountains.
Once I hit the property boundary, I headed back up and over to the top of Dog Hill's south knob.  There was a large clearing atop the knob with screened views all around.
After enjoying the views, I pressed on north towards Dog Hill's summit, passing by handsome old stone walls.
There was nothing of real note up high, save a small open meadow and pretty woods, so I made my way back down.  As always in the Catskills area, I picked up a good woods road on the descent.

A nice 2.6 miles RT, with 750 feet of ascent.

Map below.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Turner Mountain(Cowee Forest-Rensselaer County, NY)

Decided to check out a couple of Turner Mountain's multi summited peaks in the hills of Rensselaer County early this afternoon.  1660 foot Turner Mountain is part of the Cowee Forest, which was bought by the Conservation Fund back in 2017 before eventually being passed over to the New York State DEC.  I caught this nice glimpse of two of Turner Mountain's peaks(true summit left) from a nearby back road on my way.  Cool and windy conditions marked my first hike of this winter season.

The start of the hike is from an unmarked ATV trail off of Garfield Nassau Road, with sporadic pink flagging along the way.(Elevation to start was 1065 feet).

The ATV trail is nice and easy to follow, with just a gradual climb at first. Sitting just a few yards away, is a small but pretty drainage, which runs down the slopes of the mountain.
Several other woods roads/ ATV trails break off from the main trail, so I simply bushwhacked my way up to the top of 1660 foot Turner Mountain, where the remnants of an old beacon tower remain.

The summit was pretty open, and screened views could be found in  nearly all directions.  I wandered around the north slopes of the peak, catching some decent glimpses north towards the forested peaks of the Rensselaer Plateau.

Circling back over to the east slopes of the summit, I picked up another good woods road which dropped me down into the saddle between the two peaks. 

The woods road turned sharply north down in the saddle, so I opted once again to bushwhack through fairly open woods, heading east.  Just below the east summit ridge, I plopped right into a pretty wetland area.

A short climb up from the wetland brought me to the top of the east ridge, where the slopes drop directly off to the south.  Very nice screened views can be enjoyed along this stretch.
To the south Taplin Pond can be seen through the bare winter woods.
Unfortunately public land ends abruptly atop the ridge, so I followed the yellow state blazes north towards the east summit.  The ridge walk north was quite pleasant, but much more of a true bushwhack with a lot less woods roads to follow.  This vernal pond was frozen over, marking one of the only wintry signs I saw today.
The east summit sits at 1625 feet, just slightly lower than the true summit, which can easily be seen from here less than a half mile away.
This would be turn around point for the day, but instead of following the state land line back south atop the ridge, I decided to drop down the west slopes of the peak, with fleeting sunlight illuminating Turner's true summit in front of me.
Eventually meandered my way back to a good woods road, which I descended back down to the original ATV trail and my waiting car.

A fun little adventure in a new, undeveloped public area.  Hiked about 3.2 miles RT(with lots of wandering) and gained nearly 900 feet along the way.

Map below with Red P=Parking   Blue X's=Summits   Black circle=Rough area of south facing ledges

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Candlewood Hill(Clarence Fahnestock State Park)

Headed south today to do a little exploration of Candlewood Hill's summit ridge in the Clarence Fahnestock State Park, located just west of the Taconic State Parkway and near the Dutchess and Putnam County lines.  While the true summit only rises to a modest 984 feet elevation, Candlewood Hill actually has three separate summit bumps, running along a long north-south ridge.  There are a couple of different ways to access this trail, but either way is off the beaten path so you have a pretty good chance of solitude on this hike.  I parked west of the summit at the very end of the driveable section of Bell Hollow Road, just past the last house and off to the shoulder(Elevation 460 feet).

To begin the hike, I headed north along the rock filled, deteriorating Bell Hollow Road for just over half a mile, slowly ascending nearly the entire way.

Bell Hollow Road eventually meets up with driveable Sunken Mine Road, having gained over 250 feet from the beginning of the hike.  Although it is driveable(not maintained in winter) it is a very low traffic, rough road, making for pleasant hiking.
After less than 3/10 of a mile on Sunken Mine Road, I picked up the red blazed Candlewood Hill Trail, which is a foot trail that  enters the woods, climbing 250 feet in just over a quarter of a mile.

Nearing the summit of Candlewood Hill, the views quickly begin to open up all around you.  North facing views of the surrounding hills are the first to greet you-but they are just the tip of the iceberg. 

Candlewood's summit is a real joy to explore, with many good views from multiple open patches of rock.  The sheer drop off on the west facing ledges make for some incredible views down into Bell Hollow.
The best views of all are to the south from a large area of open rock.  This sweeping view takes in the long southern ridge of Candlewood, as well as a corner of Oscawana Lake.  To the right of the ridge is the deep valley carved out by Canopus Creek.
West views across Bell Hollow towards the next ridge, where the Appalachian Trail actually runs.

After enjoying the many wonderful views atop Candlewood, I continued on, dropping south down the rock filled slopes.  A large bee hive caught my attention directly above the trail, making me thankful that it is mid December and not mid Summer.

The red blazes begin to drop more steadily until coming to a junction with a yellow marked trail.  The red trail simply drops back down to Bell Hollow Road, completing a loop hike for those who may be pressed for time.  I decided to take a left onto the yellow blazed trail, which soon climbs back up towards the next summit bump along the ridge. 
This summit bump is a bit lower than the first at only 925 feet, but offers up just as many awesome views.  From just below the top, I enjoyed this view east out over Oscawana Lake.
To the west, an expansive open rock ledge provides a great view with the Hudson Highlands even visible on the distant horizon.

Far reaching views to the south/ southwest!

From a spot a bit further down the ridge, below the second summit, I found this sweet view towards the third summit along the ridge.
The approach to the third summit bump begins to see a change in the character of the surroundings, with many more stone walls and old hunter's tree stands.
Stone art along the trail.

The third summit bump is even lower than the first two, at only 843 feet.  Unfortunately there are no great views from this bump either, although the woods are very nice and open with screened views all around.

Continued south along the skinny ridge to a fourth, lower summit, where the trail begins to descend to the east.  Turned back there, retracing my steps north up and over the second and third summits and eventually to the red blazes once again.  Once on the red blazed trail, it was a short and easy drop down to my waiting car on Bell Hollow Road.

Arrived back at the car, barely beating the incoming rain.  A very pleasant, quiet 5.5 miles RT with 1800 feet of combined ascent.

Map below.   Blue P=Parking on shoulder of road   Red X's=Three Summits of Candlewood Hill