Lake George

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

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hoffman Notch Trail - 9/22/12

The Hoffman Notch Wilderness in the Towns of Schroon, Minerva and North Hudson NY doesn't offer a lot of marked hiking trails, but the trail from Blue Ridge Road in North Hudson to Hoffman Notch is spectacular.  We took the afternoon to follow the trail south along Hoffman Notch Brook (which flows northward) until the brook veered away from the trail towards a couple un-named ponds south of Hornet Cobbles.  At that point, our goal was to bushwhack to the pond shown on the map in Hornet Notch (see map below).

Pictures of small of the new foot bridges!
If we had stayed on the Hoffman Notch trail, it extends 7.4 miles to Loch Muller. Approximately halfway through its' 7.4 mile journey to Loch Muller is a pond known as Big Marsh. South of Big Marsh, the trail follows the north branch of Trout Brook. In any case, our destination was the unknown pond.

Just before Hoffman Notch Brook reaches Blue Ridge Road it intersects with Sand Pond Brook. Beavers have flooded out the area thereby placing a small section of the trail under water. Fortunately trail crews have begun working on this trail in recent months and have put in at least 6 new foot bridges over the Hoffman Notch Brook between Big Marsh and Blue Ridge Road.

Hopefully they will address the flooded beaver area soon, but it's nice to see the progress. The crew has also done some work on the trail itself in addition to the brook crossings.

Hoffman Notch Brook has lots of inviting cascades

We made our way across the flooded beaver areas and then enjoyed the trail along the brook until it came time for our bushwhack.  It took us about an hour to reach the location where we turned off the trail.  The forest was a mix of hardwoods and pines at that location and not too difficult to navigate.  Unfortunately, Leesa stepped on a hornets nest in the ground shortly after our bushwhack began and she was rewarded with 5 bee stings.

A track tread relic and a reminder of earlier days in the Notch

After 20-30 minutes we reached our destination just as a light rain was beginning to fall.  It was nice to see a pond that very few people trek in to see.   I'm guessing that probably less than 25-50 people see this pond in any given year.

Rev took a couple swims but she's high and dry here

We didn't linger, as the weather was going downhill.  We also didn't know how much the bee stings were going to bother Leesa.  She claims she doesn't ever remember being stung by a bee as an adult.  I can't imagine that.  I get stung every year.

We retraced our route back out and just before we reached the flooded area again we saw a group of three people on there way in to do some rock climbing.   I was kind of surprised by that since it was already 4 PM.  They weren't carrying any gear to stay overnight. 

Our end destination... an un-named pond just SW of Hornet Cobbles

I'll be returning to this are to check on the progress of the trail crew in making a crossing over the beaver flood zone.  Once that area is easily crossed, it will be an enjoyable trip for anyone to hike south into the notch.

Leesa making her way across a beaver flooded Sand Pond Brook 

The trailhead at Blue Ridge Road

Our route shown in blue (click to enlarge)

Hike Stats:
Hike Distance:  8 miles
Hike Time:  5.5 hours
Total Vertical Gain:  800'

Monday, September 24, 2012

Cheney Pond - Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest - 9/23/12

We've been spending a lot of time the last few weeks exploring some smaller areas around the Eastern Adirondacks.  Just taking a little break from the high peaks as the crowds descend on fall colors there.
We spent Sunday afternoon at Cheney Pond in the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest.  The pond has easy access from Blue Ridge Road (also called Boreas Road or County Highway 2b).  I shouldn't say easy access, but high clearance vehicle access from a short 1/2 mile gravel jeep road.  The pond is about halfway between the Town of Newcomb to the west and Northway Exit 29 to the east. 

Cheney Pond lean-to, built in 2008

Front view

We had been to this pond before, and that was in the dead of winter on snowshoes, so of course it looked entirely different now.  This trip was a chance to drop the kayaks in the water and go for a short paddle.  The pond is only maybe 1/2 mile long but from the outlet of the pond, those wishing to explore can go through the channel into Lester Flow.  You'll have to bring your water shoes and pull your boat up and over a couple beaver dams, but you can eventually get to the location of the former Lester Dam after about 2 miles of paddling down Lester Flow.

Looking west from near the lean-to

It's also nice to park your boat on the east side of Cheney Pond and enjoy the nice sandy beach.  There is a nice lean-to located there.  It was built in 2008 and has been cared for.  Please keep it that way.  It's not intended to be a party spot!

Looking north from the beach at the eastern end of the pond

We enjoyed the beach walk and explored around a bit.  Some folks have gone into the woods behind the lean-to and chopped down live trees to try and burn them for a fire.  Sad that folks do this.  There is no need for it.  While we were at the pond, we didn't see another person.

Some good fall colors

We did see a pair of loons and a half dozen mergansers.   The weather made our day quite interesting.  It went back and forth from blue sky to dark clouds.  On our paddle out we got "spit" on by some rain clouds.  The sun was once again back out as we drove out.  Adjacent to the boat launch area is a legal camping site.  It could be a great spot if you think you can get the area to yourself for the night.  

We had interesting weather while here, with sun, clouds and little rain

On this day, we just took advantage of the fall colors and the changing weather to enjoy what mother nature has to offer, and it was spectacular!

Here is one of those clouds coming in

Back to blue sky

We got wet from these clouds

A little more sun...

Heading east on the outlet channel towards Lester Flow

Picnic Rock and some fall color

Back at the launch after a successful paddle

Cheney Pond Map


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Kayaking Lake George - Pilot Knob to the Narrows - 9/18/12

Sometimes my little adventures happen on the spur of the moment.  This was the case on Monday.  I was at work eating my lunch and looking at the weather forecast and thought... geez... this is the last day in the upper 70's in the 10 day forecast.  I should be going out for a paddle.  The next thing I knew, I was leaving work and heading for Lake George, NY to drop the kayak in the water.

My launch point at the north end of Pilot Knob Road

I had a new trip in mind and thought it would work out perfectly.  I needed 3 hours to do an eight mile loop and have some time to explore a few islands.  The plan was to launch from the little beach at the north end of Pilot Knob Road and paddle north to the beginning of the Narrows and back.  This would provide me with the chance to paddle past 6 state owned islands that have campsites on them.  On this Monday in September, I figured nobody would be there and I could explore each of the islands to see which ones I liked.  It turned out I was right... all the islands were empty.

Looking south from Perch Island

With a three hour trip planned, I launched the kayak at 4 PM.  Twenty minutes later, I had circled around Point Comfort and landed on Phelps Island.  Phelps has 7 sites and is in a relatively quiet spot (considering it's on south end of the lake).  I liked site 2 and the north end and site 6 at the south end.   I noticed that most of the docks have just been rebuilt and are in excellent condition.  Many Lake George Island campsites have tent platforms, and I believe all have a fire ring and a picnic table.  The docks are sometimes shared and sometimes private to the site.

The one site on Recluse Island... quite nice!

I continued my journey by paddling further north past Watch Point to the next island, Recluse Island.  Recluse is a 1-site island and is very nice.  It has a great area for a tent and also has a nice rock point at the north end.  It's also great to have the whole island to yourself!  The only downside (in my mind), is that it sits close to the shore, and there are several rental cottages nearby.

Looking north from Recluse Island
My next stop was Perch Island, another 1 site island.  It's a nice island, but is somewhat close to Log Bay and Log Bay Island (a popular cruiser island).    The sites on Log Bay are cruiser sites, meaning that you tie your boat to the dock and sleep on your boat. You have a picnic table on the island, but you sleep on your boat. This area gets quite busy and sometimes quite loud during the summer season.

Also adjacent to Perch Island is a small island called Iroquois Island.  Iroquois does not have any facilities for use by the public.  Back in the boat once again, I paddled past Log Bay Bay Island and out to Huckleberry Island.  Huckleberry has three sites.  It was 5:20 at that point.  I had just enough time to swing around Hens & Chickens Island (actually comprised of five islands), but just one island with campsites (2).  
The north end of Recluse Island

After my pass around Hens and Chickens, my time was half up and it was time to retrace my route more or less.  I passed the opposite sites of the islands on my way back.  The return trip was into the wind, and there was a little choppiness, but I still made good progress.  A beautiful sunset was developing.  Without any stops on the return trip, I made it back in just over an hour.  Funny how 2 or 3 hours out on the water can feel like such a long time away from the busyness of life.  What a great afternoon-early evening.

Looking south on Recluse Island

I loaded the boat back on the car and watched a pregnant woman doing some swimming exercises and yoga in the water as the sun was dropping down.  All was quiet.

Heading into Log Bay.  Shelving Rock Mountain in the background

Perch Island (right), Iroquois Island on the left

The Lac du Sacrament steamship, out for it's dinner cruise

Unfortunately, it was time to head back

Point Comfort

Pilot Knob beach, my launch site

A parting view of Pilot Knob beach

Paddle Stats:
Paddle Distance:  8 hours
Paddle Time:  2 hours, 30 minutes
Islands visited:  6!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Jay Mountain - Upper Jay, NY - 9/16/12

Jay Mountain in Upper Jay, NY is worth a hike at any time, but today we went there to enjoy some fine early fall weather and to check out the re-route of the lower portion of the trail below the beginning of the ridge.

A small number of trees are already at their peak

Jay was actually our backup plan.  We thought that if we could snag a parking spot at the Garden in Keene, NY, we would revisit Big Slide Mountain via The Brothers, but no such luck.  We didn't arrive at the Garden until 9 AM, and we suspect the lot was filled long before then.  No worries, Jay Mountain is as good a backup plan as you can find.

A lunar landscape feel

We got to the Jay trailhead around 9:30 AM.  There were about seven cars already parked alongside the road.  As we got out of the car, we were warned to have the car fully off the edge of pavement, or we had a good chance of getting a ticket with associated fine of up to $150 for parking on the pavement.  We heeded the warning and moved the car a couple inches to get it off the pavement.  The warning came from Christine Bourjade of the ADK 46-r organization who happened to be hiking Jay as well on this day.  She was hiking with Pete _____ (sorry, I don't know his last name) who I have already seen twice on the trail in the last year, 1st while heading for Street and Nye last December, and in February in the col between Blake and Colvin.

Some low grasses in the warm sun

Anyway, we signed the register and headed up.  Just two months ago, or so, the Jay Mountain trail was re-routed below the ridge to alleviate erosion problems caused by improper trail layout.  See the DEC discussion on the topic.  The original trail basically went in a straight line right up to the ridge.  I never had a problem with it, nor did I notice any erosion problems, but I'm not an expert on trail design.

Whiteface Mountain and Esther in the background

After 10 minutes and a quarter-mile, we came to where the old path was blocked off with branches, and the new path swung to the left.  We took the new trail to see how it was laid out.  Whereas the old trail went pretty much due east to the ridge, the new trail curves generally NE, then SE before crossing the old path, then North NE to reach the ridge just east of the western end of the ridge.   There are probably 15-20 blue trail discs that have been placed on the new trail.  As we reached the ridge, we noticed that they did put in a short spur to see the viewpoint from the western end of the ridge which was now bypassed if you did not take the spur. 

Looking west along the ridge

The new trail follows a steady moderate grade by making a series of switchbacks.  This increases the distance from the road to the ridge.  The old trail was 1.5 miles to the ridge.  By following the new trail, it is now 2.1 miles to the ridge.  I thought that the new trail wasn't bad, but I would prefer less switchbacks.  Generally on the ascent, I don't mind going straight up.  On the way down, a few switchbacks help the knees out a bit.

Leesa and Rev on the summit

We got to the ridge and basked in the sunshine.  It was a beautiful day.  This was the 1st time Leesa had been on Jay without snow on the ground, so she enjoyed the opportunity to linger and stroll on the ridge without getting cold.  The ridge runs for approximately 1.5 mile to the summit.  It is open rock for more than half of that time providing excellent views of the high peaks to the SW (with Whiteface and Esther due West).  To the East and NE, Lake Champlain is clearly seen on a clear day.

A nice rock for lunch

We continued along the ridge to the summit.  The herd path along the ridge is unchanged and is generally on the south side of the ridge (right side as you are heading for the summit).  There are a series of small cairns along the way.  The path is narrow, but generally can be followed without too much difficulty.  When we reached the summit, we were rejoined by Christine and Pete who caught up with us while we lingered at the top.  We could see several other groups of people at various times and points along the ridge.

One of the things I was doing on this trip was a little reconnaissance for a future bushwhack trip to Arnold Mountain.  It's open rock summit is easily visible about 2 miles north of the Jay ridge.  There are several other un-named bumps along the way to Arnold that also have some open rock.

Shortly after beginning our descent, we ran into "Master Grasshopper" and his wife from the ADK High Peaks forum.  We stopped and talked to them for a few minutes and they gave us some great ideas for bushwhacks in the Dix Mountain Wilderness Area.  Thanks, and nice meeting you!

Good girl gets a snack...

Once we left the ridge, we descended on the old herd path and returned to the car.  As I've reported in earlier posts, Jay Mountain is not to be missed.  It is truly a fantastic ridge that provides almost constant views,  There is also interesting rock all along the way.

Looking south to the Saddleback Mountain of the Jay Mountain Wilderness Area

Looking east along the ridge

I always see rock figures on the Jay ridge, and today was no excemption

I've never failed to see a rock figure on Jay Mountain.  I don't know who makes them, but they are creative. Watch for them...

Jay Mountain Road, south of Saddleback Mtn.

There is no place to get water on this hike, so be sure to bring plenty with you.

Screen capture from Google Earth looking east. Old path goes straight.  New path goes left and right.

Hike Stats:
Hike Distance:  7 miles
Hike Time:  6 hours 30 minutes, including lots of stops
Total Vertical Gain:  2800 feet