Lake George

Lake George
Lake George - from Tongue Mtn Range - 11/11/2011

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Stevens Mountain - Brant Lake, NY - 1/28/12

Yesterday  (Friday), I worked all day in the rain at Gore Mountain Ski Area.  The ski conditions actually became pretty good as the snow softened up.  I'll be there again tomorrow, so today was a hiking day.   Leesa and I didn't want to drive far so I suggested another mountain ridge north of Brant Lake that I hadn't hiked before.

This ridge consists of Number Eight Mountain, Little Stevens Mountain and Stevens Mountain.  The ridge runs east-west just north of First, Second and Third Brothers.  I knew that there were some open ridge views.

Today's weather was mid 30's with a mix of sun and clouds.  We parked on Pharaoh Lake Road and hiked north towards Pharaoh Lake about a half a mile before turning right (east) to bushwhack up Number Eight Mountain.  There is an open ridge just before reaching the summit where you get great views of Brant Lake to the south.  The summit is treed.  We continued on with a steep descent in hardwoods approximately 700 feet before climbing 500 feet to the top of Little Stevens.

The summit of Little Stevens also has a great view to the south.  We continued eastward toward Stevens Mountain.  The ridge between Little Stevens and Stevens only drops a hundred feet or so before climbing Stevens.

The summit of Stevens Mountain has a great open rock summit.  Great views every direction except north.  On the summit of Stevens we met my friend Dave who had arranged a 12 o'clock hookup with us on the summit.  After enjoying the summit for a bit, the 3 of us descended the steep southern face following a blue blaze trail marked by the boy scouts.  This trail leads to Scout property on Curtis Reed Road.   Dave had permission to park and hike from their property, so we returned via the blue blaze trail to his car.  He then brought us back to our car.

Hike Stats:

Hike Distance:  5.25 miles
Hike Time:  5 hours
Total Vertical Gain:  2250'
Trailhead Elev.:  930'
Summit Elev.  (Number Eight Mountain):  1942'
Summit Elev.  (Little Stevens):  1719'
Summit Elev. (Stevens Mountain):  2162'
Finish Elev.:  1140'      

Brant Lake from shoulder of Number Eight Mountain
Looking up towards the summit of Number Eight Mountain

In the distance, are First Second and Third Brother from right to left

Little Stevens from Number Eight Mountain

Number Eight Mountain from Little Stevens

Looking south from Stevens.  This  is a fantastic summit
Looking SW from Stevens 

Lots of rock and ice on the southern face of Stevens 

Our route shown in blue

The bushwhack on this trip was relatively easy.  We managed to avoid blowdown and thick pine forest.  The hike was quite similar to First, Second and Third Brother except that Stevens Mountain has quite a spectacular open summit compared to the others. 

We enjoyed the day.  We wore MICROspikes the entire hike.  The southern exposed ridge faces have very little snow,  only ice.  Even the shaded areas on the north side only had 4-5 inches of snow.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

No Moose on the Loose.... 1/12/12

Last Saturday, 1/21, I had moose on the brain. I was still thinking back to 12/30/11 when I climbed Height-of-Land Mountain in Johnsburg, NY, just south of Gore Mountain Ski Area, and had seen all kinds of moose sign on the summit. I even heard one making an escape from me, but I didn't see it. So Saturday, Leesa and I went back there to find them.

Thick stuff... Good place to hide a Moose!

My last trip was with MICROspikes, but this time we made the trip with snowshoes, since there was about a foot of snow on the ground. We choose Saturday because the snow was fresh, and there was still light snow coming down. It would be easy to determine if there was fresh evidence or not. We parked at the trailhead for Second Pond and snowshoed about halfway to the pond before veering left (south) to climb the mountain. It took some time to break trail going up the fairly steep slope of the mountain. About two thirds of the way up we saw a few moose tracks traversing the slope. The tracks were from sometime the night before.

After we gained the summit ridge, we followed the ridge west but saw no sign of any moose in the location where I had seen all the activity 3 weeks earlier. I was disappointed. I don't know enough about moose to know if they tend to move around a lot, or if the find a nice location and tend to stay there. In any case, they were gone. We will have to keep up our search.

We decended the north face of the mountain back to the Second Pond Ski Trail, where we found two persons had skied in and out accompanied by a dog while we were up on the mountain. Other than a couple of trees that have recently blown down across the trail, the Second Pond Trail looks like a nice ski trail. There is one moderately long hill of moderate grade to ascend/ski down but otherwise it's a relatively easy trail.

Trip Stats:

Hike Distance: 3.8 miles
Hike Time: 3.5 hours
Total Vertical Gain: 970'
Trailhead Elevation: 2280'
Summit Elevation; 3000'

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Trail Running with MICROspikes?

Yep, I've gone off the edge.   Last night I wanted to go for a run and to log some more miles for my 2012 challenge, but where was I going to run?   The roads near my house have no street lights, no shoulder and cars don't give you any grace when they go by you.   I thought of the bike path (the Warren County, NY Bike Path), but it was covered in a couple inches of crusty snow.   Hence the MICROspikes.

My route shown in red... Glen Lake Road to Lake George beach (4.25 miles one way)

No motorized vehicles are allowed on the bike path, so I would be safe from traffic.   There is no lighting along the path, but my headlamp could be used while running.   The unknown question was... would the MICROspikes work for a trail run?   I suspected they would so I donned my headlamp, trail running shoes and MICROspikes and set off.

Here's a different view from Google Earth

I parked where the bike path crosses Glen Lake Road in Queensbury.   I had intended to do a 2.5 mile down and back for a 5 mile round trip.   When I reached my intended turnaround (where the bike path crosses Bloody Pond Road), things felt great, so I decided to continue on the additional 1.5 miles to the southern shore of Lake George.   Lake George is the northern terminus of the bike path. As I reached the lake and turned around, I began to feel pressure on the outside of the ball of my left foot.   The MICROspikes were working great, but the trail running shoes apparently didn't have enough sole and side support to prevent the chains of the MICROspikes from applying added pressure to my foot.

Also just after I started back, a snow squall kicked in and the wind was whipping the snow around. By the time I made it back to the car, my sneakers had gotten somewhat wet, and I had the beginnings of a blister on the left foot.   The right foot was tender, but no blister.   I had managed to trail run 8.5 miles in the MICROspikes.   They are light enough that I didn't feel any extra weight on my feet.   They worked well and gave me the traction I needed. I just need to protect my foot from the added pressure of the chains.   Next time I take the MICROspikes out for a trail run, I will try running with my Merrell Moab low trail hikers and see if they provide more protection for my foot. The vibram sole and a bit more of a sidewall may be all that I need.

I must say I'm a big fan of Micro Spikes.   They are easy to put on and remove.   I've used them with great success on most hiking trips.   They provide great traction for low angle hiking.   As you get to more difficult terrain, crampons and ice axes take over, but the spikes can suffice for most terrain.   8.5 miles and 560 vertical feet added to my 2012 challenge!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

First, Second and Third Brother Mountains - 1/18/12

This mountain ridge is located just NE of Brant Lake in the Adirondacks of New York. First Brother and Second Brother Mountains are in the town of Horicon, while Third Brother Mountain is in the town of Hague. To access this area, take I-87 to Exit 25, then head east past Brant Lake to a left on Palisades Road. Travel north on Palisades Road 3/4 mile to State Land signs on the right hand side of the road. There is no designated parking area. I parked off the shoulder of the road.

Looking at my National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map 743 - Adirondack Park - Lake George, I was convinced this ridge would be a nice hike, possibly with views of Brant Lake to the south. As indicated on the map, there is a little sliver of state land that runs along the ridge of First Brother Mountain. As you get into the col between First Brother and Second Brother, state land becomes more prevalent. I parked on Palisades Road intending to bushwhack west to east across the 3 brothers, then back along the same course.

Brant Lake from the western shoulder of First Brother Mountain

The temperature was in the upper 20's F, but the wind was strong and there was a weather advisory for winds 20-30 mph with gusts to 50 mph. With this hike being below treeline, my exposure to direct wind would be limited. The elevation where I parked was 900'. Within minutes of beginning my climb, I saw yellow blazes on trees indicating the state land boundary. Shortly thereafter is the western shoulder of first Brother where you get a fantastic view SW back to Brant Lake. After an hour, I was on the summit of First Brother (elev. 1667'). Shortly before the summit I began to see a red blaze trail and I followed it since it was going right up the ridge the direction I was going. There are numerous viewpoints along the approach to First Brother. The summit is open hardwoods.

I continued towards second brother. In the col, and as shown on the map, there is a pinpoint where there is no state land. At that point, there was a no trespassing sign posted by the Boys Scouts of Camp Curtis Reed. The yellow blazes continued though, as did the red blaze trail. I followed the red blaze trail the rest of the day and didn't see another sign. I also didn't see any other hikers the entire day. What I did see was a group of wild turkeys, and numerous grouse.

Summit of Second Brother Mountain

I reached the summit of Second Brother Mountain which was marked on a rock outcropping with a pipe and a red blaze. This summit was soft woods and there were fewer viewpoints. I continued eastward onto a nice open shoulder of Second Brother. From here there were good views of Third Brother and also Stevens Mountain to the NE. As I dropped into the next col, the trees switched back to hardwoods. The steepest part of the hike was next, which was the ascent of Third Brother. For this, I put on my micro spikes. There was about 4" of crusty snow on the ground, but there were also a few icy spots and the micro spikes would help and even more so on the return.

Second Brother Mountain from Third Brother
The best view on this entire ridge is just before you reach the summit of Third Brother. There are open ledges with great views back to Second Brother and from west to south, including a portion of Brant Lake. Gore Mountain Ski Area could be seen in the distance. The actual summit was wooded and was marked by a small rock cairn with a red blaze on it. The red blaze trail appeared to end on the top of Third Brother. I contemplated the thought of continuing by heading north to Stevens Mountain, but it was noon and the winds were getting stronger. I could barely have my hands out of my gloves for more than a minute to take a few pictures I decide to leave Stevens Mountain and the ridge with Little Stevens Mountain and Number 8 Mountain for another trip.

Summit of Third Brother Mountain

Cairns on the rock ledges along the red blaze trail

I returned via my ascent path until I was up and over First Brother and onto the last descent. At that point, the red blaze trail turned north and I followed it to see where it came out. It came out right in front of Camp Waubeeka (the Boy Scout Camp), on Camp Reed Road. This road is a private road, so I wouldn't have been able to drive to the red blaze trailhead. I walked back to the car on the road from that point.
View to the west from Third Brother Mountain
Another view west
I recommend this hike for great views of Brant Lake (especially from the west shoulder of First Brother and the ledge on Third Brother) and for the variety of hardwoods and softwoods with rolling ridge terrain. It's not extremely difficult, but there was 2700 vertical feet from all the ups and downs.

Hike Stats

Hike Distance: 6.1 miles
Hike Time: 4 hours & 30 minutes
Total Vertical Feet: 2700'
Start Elevation: 900'
First Brother Elevation: 1667'
Second Brother Elevation: 1854'
Third Brother Elevation: 1997'

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Morton Mountain - 1/15/12

Monday was a great day skiing at Gore Mountain, but Sunday took quite a different turn for us.  We started the day in Schroon Lake, NY intending to head north to hike Lyon Mountain in far northern New York.  When we left the house, it was minus 9 degrees.  We got down to town and the car overheated.  I was able to get antifreeze and that seemed to cure the problem, but we weren't comfortable heading north, where it was minus 20 degrees, if the car was having problems. 

We got home and unpacked, switched cars and set off on a short adventure to Morton Mountain in Lake Luzerne, NY instead.    

We weren't expecting much from this hike, but it turned out to be better than we had hoped.  We parked at the designated trailhead and followed the trail east then north.  Shortly thereafter, Buttermilk Brook appeared on the left.  The brook has an incredible water slide combined with several small falls that made us decide we need to go back in the summer.   It is one of the nicest water courses I've seen (especially from a smaller brook).

After following the trail along the brook, we crossed the brook and bushwhacked up Morton Mountain to the west.  It wasn't a difficult climb and was a pleasant summit with open hardwoods.  With the leaves down, some views were possible.   

A nice water slide 

Water flowing over ice

Morton Mountain summit

A open one holer!... found this on the SW slope of the mountain

Below are some pictures of Buttermilk Brook.  It really is a nice brook.  We'll be back in summer.

Hike Stats

Hike Distance:  2.4 miles
Hike Time:  2 hours
Total Vertical Gain:  575'
Summit Elevation:  1063'
Trailhead Elevation:  584'

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Huckleberry Mountain - 1/14/12

When I hiked Crane Mountain in Johnsburg, NY on 1/2/12, I noticed a an impressive open ridge to the north. After I got home, I studied my maps and did a little research to find out about the ridge.  It turned out to be Huckleberry Mountain.  There are a lot of Huckleberry Mountains, but this one looked like a nice open south facing ridge.

Leesa joined me on this hike.  We had a late start at about 11:30, but the hike was only a 3.3 mile round trip hike.  It was no picnic however.  The incline to the summit ridge was fairly steep but it was the blowdown that made it difficult.  Some bouldering was present also, but you could pick your way around it. 

Our approach was from the NW, as is shown in the map at the end of the post.  There is a parking  area on Hudson Street in Johnsburg where cars can hike to do this ascent.   We used our snowshoes for this hike.  There was about 8 inches of snow on the ground.

The wind was pretty strong on the ascent.  We were lucky that it totally died while we were on the ridge!  It started again on the way down. Our timing was perfect.  The ridge has a lot of brambles and slash, but if you hug the southern edge of the ridgeline there is no issue.

I suspect that at some point in the past there was a fire on the summit, judging by the dead trees and new growth.
Boulders on the ascent from the NW
The beginning of the summit ridge
Here is a good shot of the ridge
Pausing for a photo
The summit
Our route shown in blue

Hike Stats

Hike Distance:  3.3 miles
Hike Time:  3 hours 40 minutes
Total  Vertical Feet:   1247'
Trail head Elevation: 1309'
Summit Elevation:  2444'

All in all we had a great day hiking under beautiful blue skies.  It was great to finally be able to use the snowshoes.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Fivemile Mountain - 1/13/12

The Tongue Mountain Range, in Bolton, NY is flanked by Northwest Bay on the west and Lake George on the east.   It offers one of the greatest hiking opportunities in the area by providing over 15 miles of hiking trails and five distinctive summits along the north/south ridge.  

I had previously hiked most of the range, but I had not reached one summit (the highest one), Fivemile Mountain.   It would be a good summit for today since the summit is relatively sheltered and the weather forecast for today was pretty miserable.

I parked on Rt 9 and started the hike at 10 AM.  It was 32 degrees and raining.  There was 3 inches of new snow on the ground.  The rain continued for the first 3 miles.  Just as I was approaching a leanto shelter (located between Brown Mountain and Fivemile Mountain) the rain changed to sleet.  By the time I reached the summit of Fivemile Mountain, the weather had finally changed to snow.

The weather began to clear on the way back

Pt.of  Tongue is the southern point of the 11 mile long range 

The leanto shelter located between Brown and Fivemile Mountain

Visibility was nonexistent on the summit, but things improved a little on the way back.  Best of all, I've now accomplished all the summits on the range.  I was pretty wet by the time I got back to the car, but I still think any day outside is a good day.

Looking south with  the route shown in blue 

Today's route

Hike Stats

Hike Time: 3.5 hours
Hike Distance: 6.6 miles (7.2 according to the trail head sign)
Total Vertical Gain: 1790'
Elevation at Trail Head: 1060'
Elevation at Fivemile Mountain Summit: 2235'
Elevation at Brown Mountain Summit: 1965'


Monday, January 9, 2012

Bushwhacking - A Pleasure or a Curse?

Most serious hikers and backpackers have done a bushwhack hike at some point, whether intentionally or not.  Have you ever lost your trail and found yourself tramping through the virgin forest?  Have you ever taken a shortcut from a marked trail and it didn't quite work out?  Have you ever been on a trailless hike, relying on a herd path that wasn't so obvious?  Perhaps your whole intent on a hike was to bushwhack to a summit or a point of interest.  What did you learn from any of those experiences?  Are you now more careful in following a trail?  Do you carry more precautionary equipment in case you find yourself off-trail?  Maybe, just maybe, you've discovered that you like bushwhacking.

Why would you want to bushwhack?  Bushwhacking or "whacking" is not for everyone.  You need to carry additional supplies.  Navigational skills are a must.  Your pace will likely be less as you find yourself spending some of your time negotiating obstacles and studying your course.  What if you get hurt?  The chances of getting hurt while whacking are greater than while following a trail.  Most likely no-one will be passing by to help you.  And what if you encounter severe blowdown or other obstacles?

Thick but passable...

So what's the other side of the coin?  For starters, whacking can be a safe and enjoyable experience (with proper preparation).  As with vacation planning, sometimes half the fun is the planning itself.  If you enjoy trip planning, whack planning may interest you.  For some people, the navigation/orienteering aspect of a whack provides pleasure.  For others, solitude is important and they want to be away from a constant stream of hikers. You may find a thrill in being "off the grid" in a Thoreau type of way.  The natural world may be what you are seeking or the primitive feeling of relying on yourself, your gear, and your knowledge to traverse a remote area.

A little hard to get through

To increase your chance of having a sucessful whack, you need to study your proposed route in advance.  Look at a good topographic map of the area.  What do the contours tell you?  Are there streams, creeks or wetlands that you will have to navigate.  Are there cliffs?  Are there lots of little hills to get confused by?  Topography can be studied.  Traditional water courses can be studied.  Keep in mind that water can change based on mother nature.  Periods of heavy rain or spring snow melt runoff can greatly swell most water courses.

Hardwoods usually are not too bad, especially when the leaves are down

Google Earth can be a great tool to use to visualize an area in 3D before you go.  You can even get a sense of whether the area is forested with hardwoods or softwoods.  Of course you can't zoom to a level where you can determine blowdown, but it's a great tool.  On Google Earth, you can also identify features and locations that you want to get to, and alternatively, those you want to avoid.  You can note elevations and can establish coordinates of areas you are trying to locate. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can also be great planning tools.  It is also helpful to seach the internet for information about your destination.

In addition to maps and your trustworthy compass, a
Global Positioning System (GPS) device is invaluable.  A good GPS unit can double as an electonic compass.  Many units have built-in altimeters so you can accurately know your elevation.  Many also have topo maps built-in, or they can be added on.  With a GPS Unit, you can set a course toward a predefined set of coordinates (waypoint), or you can save waypoints, or tracks (a series of waypoints).  Saving a track can be valuable so you can see how you are traveling on a map.  You can also use a tracback feature to retrace your route if you want to go back the way you came.  Make sure you have a new set of batteries and a spare set.  Geocaching is a great way to practice your navigation skills with a GPS device.  Most smart phones can run GPS apps.  I use Backcountry Navigator Pro on my Android phone as a backup to my GPS unit.  Battery life on the smart phone wlll be a problem.  You will need a spare phone battery and/or a solar charging device to get a day of more use out of your cell phone.

Of course, technology doesn't replace common sense.  If the sun is out, you can use the location of the sun to determine the approximate time of day and approximate direction you are heading (or the direction you need to head).  Know your weather forecast, and watch for changes in weather.  If you run into obstacles like heavy blowdown, your progress with slow greatly, and it will become easy to get twisted around.  Sometimes you'll come to a stream that you thought would be crossable, but it's not!  You could come across timber growth so thick that it is nearly impenetrable.  These are some of the unknowns and challenges that make whacking a pleasure or a curse.

If your intended route crosses private property, don't forget to get permission from the land owner, to hike on their property.  It pays to be respectful.  For you own safety, be sure to leave an itinerary, even a rough one, with someone you trust.  Make sure you've got all the
gear, food and information you need to survive outdoors if need be (especially in the winter).  Remember to leave the backcountry the way you found it so others can enjoy nature as it should be.  Remember the Leave No Trace principles!

Maybe you've guessed by now that I find bushwhacking to be a pleasure.  If you haven't tried it, you owe it to yourself to try it once (on something within your own skill level).   Not every site worth seeing on earth has a road or a trail leading to it.   Happy trails hiking!