Lake George

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

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Dix Mountain from Round Pond - 2/23/14

The Dix Trail from Round Pond in the Dix Mountain Wilderness is one of my favorite trails.  I've never had good visibility when I've hiked it in winter though, and while my wife Leesa has climbed Dix, she had never been up this trail before.  That was all the motivation I needed to decide it should be our plan for today.
We were on the trail at 8:30.  After reaching Round Pond in .5 miles, the trail climbs about 500' before following a roughly level course all the way to the Boquet lean-to.   
Boquet lean-to
The lean-to was occupied as we passed by.  It often is, even in the winter, especially on weekends.  Once passed the lean-to, the trail climbs at a moderate grade until you cross a slide.  After this point, the stretch of trail that follows is the steepest trail in the high peaks.
Fortunately, the hard packed snow was perfect for climbing and we had no difficulties, other than the steepness. 

View of Noonmark and Giant from the slide
The temperature was in the low 30's and we were blessed to have some blue skies for the majority of the day.  Leesa was dragging as we ascended the steep pitch, but she just plugged along at a slow steady pace.
The pitch eases up as the ridge trail is reached.  The remainder of the hike up the ridge is quite easy compared to most final approaches.


Pretty ice in the trees
I couldn't believe it, but the wind died down shortly before we reached the summit and we were lucky to have a relatively calm summit visit.

Approaching treeline

The views in all directions from Dix are stunning... the Great Range, Giant & Rocky Peak, Elk Lake, East Dix, Lake Champlain, and on and on...

The Great Range 
Rev on the summit ridge
Rev looking down at us
Elk Lake

 Of course I could have gone on snapping pictures all day, but you get the idea.  Summits on days like today are awesome.

The summit
Spotted Mountain and East Dix (Grace)
The Great Range again
Trees fighting the ice

Giant and Rocky Peak
a closer look and Giant and Rocky Peak
We went down the same way we went up.  Leesa practiced her butt sliding on the way down and I ran ahead of her in case I had to stop her.  Even Rev was a little unsure of the steep pitch on the way down.  Fortunately there was almost no ice to deal with and everything went smoothly on the descent.  This is still one of my favorite trails!
Trailhead sign
Hike Stats:
Hike Distance:  13.4 miles
Hike Time:  7.5 hours, including stops
Total Vertical Gain:  ~3500'    

Our Route (click image to enlarge)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Bald Peak (Giant Mountain Wilderness) - 2/22/14

One of the best hikes that I know of is the traverse of Rocky Peak Ridge in the Giant Mountain Wilderness.  I've been itching to do it again and I thought today I'd drive past the trailhead on Route 9 in New Russia and see what I thought about giving it another go.
The parking lot had not been plowed, but I was able to pull off the shoulder of Route 9 and park.  I checked the trail register and saw that a group had snowshoed in 4 days prior (2/18) and there itinerary was a traverse to Route 73.  I could still see their snowshoe tracks.  The rain of the previous day hadn't wiped them out.
I got my gear together, and just as I was getting ready to start out, 3 college guys pulled up behind my car.  They had spotted a car on Route 73 at Roaring Brook Falls and were planning a traverse.
I started up, hoping I could get to Rocky Peak and then I'd assess what to do next.  It was 30 degrees and the valley was supposed to reach the mid 40's, but it was supposed to be very windy up high.
I found the  climbing to be easy.  The 4 day old tracks provided a pretty good base.  I went up and over Blueberry Cobbles.  The skies were alternating between clouds and sun.  I could here the wind above the trees, but I was mostly sheltered.
Views to the south, just before Blueberry Cobbles


Looking back down to Blueberry Cobbles
My dog Rev and I made good progress until we reached the summit cone for Bald Peak.  The cone has quite a bit of exposure to wind and the wind was freezing the wet snow creating a slick ice surface.
I was breaking through the crust and my snowshoes were gripping fine, but Rev was slipping and sliding on top of the crust.  I had her harness on, with the leash clipped to it, so I could prevent her from sliding too much.  She was expressing displeasure about continuing the climb.  It wasn't feasible for me to pull her by the harness, so I decided we would turn around.


Bald Peak summit cone




Rev starting back down 
Soon I ran into the 3 guys that started out after me.  They were continuing to climb, and still planned to complete the traverse.  Going back down was easy, but the snow was quickly getting soft.  
The skies were increasingly blue as I headed down.  Some of the pics below are looking uphill, but they were taken on the way out.
I could see some streams forming from melting snow and in some spots, my tracks from the morning were now in deep slush. 





A nice shot of the Dix range






When I got back to the car, I saw that it was 45 degrees!

Roadside sign
Hike Stats:
Hike Distance: 6.2 miles
Hike Time:  3.75 hours
Total Vertical Gain:  ~2400'

The route

Sunday, February 16, 2014

XC Ski on Valcour Island (near Plattsburgh, NY) - 2/16/14

I was driving home from work on Thursday afternoon, listening to the radio, when I heard that Lake Champlain was 99% frozen for the first time in many years.  My immediate thought was that it would be a great time to xc ski to Valcour Island.
Valcour is just south of Plattsburgh NY and lies just .6 miles offshore.  I believe the entire island is owned by the State.  The island contains 895 acres and is about a mile wide and two miles long.
In recent years the lake hasn't been frozen to allow winter access to the island.  My wife, Leesa, has been wanting to do this trip, and now was the time.
The island has a fascinating history beginning with the Revolutionary War.   It also has a neat lighthouse on Bluff Point.  For a nice map, check out Andy Arthur's map.  One more thing to look at is this newspaper article from the Press Republican from 1992 talking about skiing to Valcour.
The stars aligned for this trip.  We had bluebird skies, 20 degrees F, light winds, 8-12 inches of fluffy snow and a frozen lake.  If you ever have the chance to do this trip under similar conditions, it's a great day. 

Sign for the Peru boat launch
We pulled into the Peru boat launch site at 9 AM and got our gear together.  There were 2 guys in the lot getting ready to pull a portable ice fishing shanty out onto the lake.  Our dog Rev was excited, as usual for a new adventure.  

Looking towards Valcour Island from the boat launch
The skiing was easy on the windblown snow on the lake and it only took us less than 15 minutes to reach the island.   
Leesa and Rev on their way towards the island
We "landed" just south of the Bluff Point Lighthouse, and went to check that out first.  The lighthouse was locked up, but it appears to be in pretty good shape.

The 1874 Bluff Point Lighthouse
Nice trimwork

Osprey Nest in a former communications tower


The view west

Rev at the lighthouse


A two seater!

The trail network on the island is essentially 3 loops:  a northern loop, a central loop, and a southern loop.  We decided to head for the southern loop first, and if the skiing was good, we would consider doing the entire perimeter loop instead of the sectional loops.  This is what we ended up doing.  The snow was just perfect for skiing.  About half of the perimeter was broken out.  I broke trail on the rest, but it wasn't difficult.
After an hour form the car, we were skiing south on the western shore of the island.  45 minutes of skiing brought us to the SW corner, after having passed an impressive old stone house.  It was windy but as soon as we hit the southern end of the island and turned east we were sheltered from the wind.  After 30 minutes more, we reached the SE corner of the island.  We stopped there for some snacks at a sunny warm spot. 

Different trail markers.  Valcour gets it's own branding!
Custom picnic table decorating
Old stone house on the SW portion of the island
Next we made our way up the east coast of the island.  This side of the island had some nice bays and harbors.  We explored the nooks and crannies.  Tiger Point was especially nice (at least in winter).

Tiger Point on the right

Ice art

Rev on Tiger Point
We were still feeling good halfway up the eastern side, so we continued north and ignored the bailout loop options heading back westward across the island.
There weren't many trail discs on this side of the island, but the location of the trail was pretty obvious and it hugs the edge of the water pretty closely.

Old fireplace near Spoon Bay
The tough part of the day came at the northern end of the island.  As we reached the NE corner of the island and turned eastward, we were greated with a severe windblown shoreline.  There were snowwaves with high drifts followed by ice or little to no snow, then more drifts.  Leesa found herself on the ground at one point after slipping on the ice with her skis.
As we reached the NE corner of the island and began to head south, things got a little better, but the skiing was not as easy as on the south or east side.


Leesa working hard on the home stretch
A field from an old farm site on the NE part of the island 
We soon returned to the lighthouse and got back out onto the ice just south from there.  Again we had a quick 10 minute ski across the ice back to the car.
We both really enjoyed this trip.  The terrain is pretty much beginner level, but it's a unique experience skiing around the island and it's not often that it can be done.  It's definitely worth keeping in mind for the right conditions (as we had today)! 
If you want to see even more pictures from this trip, I've got them posted on a Picasa Web Album.   
XC Ski Stats:
Ski Distance:  10 miles
Ski Time:  6.5 hours
Total Vertical Gain:  ~ 600' 

The route (skied counter-clockwise)  Click image to enlarge,
As viewed on Google Earth