What You Missed
On Friday, April 13th I decided I wanted to hike somewhere near home but for at least 6 miles without doing any trail work. I asked Cindy if she wished to hike and she agreed as long as we did not have to drive very far. We talked about different possibilities and I suggested we head for Long Pond to do the big loop which is about 6 miles. We had not been to Long Pond in some time so I was anxious to see how the trails had faired over the late winter months. Just before 10:00 AM we started to get ready and Sheila was there to watch my every move. The temperature was still in the high 3's1 as we were getting early so I decided to wear a baselayer on top with my Mammut pullover. I did wear my Mammut Ultimate hoody and Columbia Omniheat pants with tights underneath as a baselayer. I opted to wear a regular pair of hiking boots rather than winter boots. My Keen Glarus boots are a great fit and more comfortable than any insulated winter boots I have. I also decided to use a pair of Leki Khumbu with external locks as my Leki graphite poles have twist locks which are unreliable. Every hike when I have used these poles they have shortened despite my best efforts to keep them tight! When we left the house at about 10:00 AM the skies were partly sunny. I got Sheila in the car and we put our gear in the trunk and headed out DeBruce Road for about 8 miles to Flugertown Road where I made a left. I parked in the lot a short distance up the road on the right where we found one other car. As we pulled in someone was walking across the road toward the car. Sheila put up a fuss so I left her inside as I opened the trunk to get out my pack. The man approached my car to ask me about fishing streams along the trail to Long Pond. I told him there were no streams and it was a better choice to fish the in the stream along Flugertown Road or in the Willowemoc. HE thanked me and departed so that I was able to let Sheila out of the car. Sheila had not hiked in two days and she was ready to go when we got to the parking lot. There was some snow where the lot had been plowed and a little ice on the trail but Cindy and I elected to carry our spikes rather than put them on immediately. I set my GarminGPS and we started out on the trail at 10:20 AM. Right from the start the trail was wet and somewhat muddy with some ice and snow along the way. We walked to the side in several places to avoid the icy spots. The first .6 miles gains about 350 feet to the highest point on the hike. It isn't very steep but does act as a nice warm-up! We had to be careful to avoid the ice which wasn't easy in some spots. Once the trail leveled it was easier walking but the amount snow and ice increased dramatically. There was several inches of snow on the trail and as much off the trail in the woods. At 1.1 miles we were at the spur trail that leads down to the shore of Long Pond. We turned right and went down to the pond so that I could take some pictures. At the shores of the pond I dropped my pack and got out my camera to take some pictures. Sheila tried to follow me through the mud but we discouraged her. The skies were overcast with some blue showing through and a few white clouds. The pond was frozen over with only a little open water neat the shore. I took a few shots anyway before going back to my pack. We returned to the main trail and arrived at the first trail junction. We turned right at the junction at 1.3 miles. We found plenty of ice in spots and quite a bit of snow but the walking was easier as the ground was flat. By 11:30 AM we had walked 1.8 miles and were passing the spur trail to the lean-to.
After passing the trail to the lean-to, we continued to find ice and snow on the trail but there was a little less than before. There isn't much to see on this section of trail but we kept busy by avoiding the icy and wet spots. I stopped to take some pictures of the fog rising from the snow along the trail and in the woods. We continued on the main trail to the point where it intersects a woods road at 2.6 miles. We turned left on the woods road and found it to be very wet with icy patches. I was glad the ground was still partly frozen or this would have been a muddy mess. We followed the road until the intersection with Basily Road at 2.85 miles where we continued on Basily Road by bearing left. This section of road was icy and had covered in packed snow. The ice continued for some time and then abated somewhat. Along the way the it began to rain and this continued fro some time. The rain varied from a few drops to a light shower. I finally decided to put on the pack cover to protect my camera and other electronics. As we approached the Peters Hunting Camp, I got ready to put Sheila on her leash. The area near the footbridge across the outlet to the beaver pond had freely flowing water and the beaver dam looked like it needed some repair. The bridge is starting to show its age and is not in good shape. I stopped to take some pictures of the beaver pond before we continued on the trail. The old bridge over the stream had deteriorated to the point that the hunting camp had to replace it. The new bridge is already showing signs of wear from snowmobiles passing over it even though there is a sign that states "Private Bridge". We crossed the bridge to continue the trip back to the car. The ford downstream of the bridge looked like it had been getting a lot of use by vehicles but the water can be a little deep and wide for foot traffic. As we started up the little hill from the hunting camp, the ice and snow on returned. I took a few shots of the valley which looked peaceful with the nice skies behind it. From this point on the ice returned and there was a significant amount of snow in the woods. In several spots I wanted to take some pictures but decided against it because it was still raining and I had my pack cover on. The creek was high and running fast as we continued down the road. We kept a fast pace even thought it was icy and eventually the road became paved. We continued down the road toward the car. As we approached the road bridge over the creek we could see quite a few trees had been gnawed down by beavers. The dam just downstream of the bridge was larger than before and was impounding a larger amount of water. We continued on the road back to the parking area. We were back at the car at 1:20 PM having hiked 6.0 miles in 2 hours and 55 minutes with 13 minutes of stopped time. The elevation gain was only about 540 feet most of which was at the beginning of the hike.
On Wednesday, April 11th I wanted to go do some more trail maintenance on Round Top to see if I could clear the rest of a large blowdown that had blocked the trail. On Monday I had done enough work to allow hikers to easily duck under a trunk and elk on the trail but I wanted to completely remove the blockage. I like using my axes and hand saws to clear trees on the trails as it reminds me of working with my father and uncles when is was younger. We logged a lot for firewood and often used hand tools as chainsaws were cumbersome and expensive. I have two Silky saws which are Japanese and cut on the pull stroke. The Sugowaza is a 17" curved and fixed blade which fits in a scabbard. The Katana Boy is almost two feet long and is a folding saw with a nylon carrier. Both are remarkably sharp and can take care of some large tree trunks. I usually carry a Fiskars axe with a composite handle and rather small head. It is light an easy to carry for many miles. It also lives up to the "hype" as it is easy to keep sharp and cut well despite its small head. If I know I will be working close to a trailhead I may take my Council Tools felling axe that weighs in excess of 5 lbs! I got my gear together as Sheila watched carefully and made sure I would not leave her behind. I did not intend to hike much but I knew she would rather by outside than in the house. We headed out the driveway a little after 10:30 AM with the air temperature in the low 30's. I had decided to wear tights and a baselayer on top under a Mammut crew neck pullover. I wore my Columbia Omniheat pants and, as always, my Mammut hoody. I decided to put on my Keen Glares hiking boots as I suspected the remaining snow would be gone. I added a pair of gloves and a hat. I knew I might be warm working but had options to open pit zips or remove some layers. We walked out the driveway and crossed the field by the church and headed up the hill by the cemetery to the trailhead. Sheila pulled me most of the way to the top where we trend left into the woods. I let her off her leash and we walked to the area where the trees were blocking the trail. There wasn't too much left to cut but it was all big and I knew I would have to make several cuts to get pieces I could move off the trail. I began by taking some "before" pictures of the mess. Sheila posed by the trees so that I could show some perspective as to the size of the trunks. I got out the saws, axes and felling wedges and got to work. I started by cutting the end off the trunk that remained high off the ground. I cut it with the saw and it went quickly. It was already off the trail so that was no problem. The other end of the trunk near the roots was thicker and over my head. I knew cutting it with the saw would be difficult but was reluctant to work with the axe over my head. I decided to cut as much as I could with the axe and them switch to the saw to finish the job. This proved to be a good plan and although it was tiring it went more quickly than I thought it might. The large piece of trunk fell to the ground and then I had to find a way to get it off the trail. I dragged it a short distance and then was able to roll it downhill off the trail.
Just beyond the first blowdown was another piece of the tree that littered the trail. It was easy to walk around but I wanted to clean it up a little. I cut a section that was lying on the trail and was able to coax it off by moving it down hill. What remained were some harp points projecting from a remaining piece. I cut them off with the saw so that they were ;Es likely to injure anyone. I though I was done but I looked back at the main blowdown and saw one more trunk lying partly ion the ground and partly buried in it. This part could easily be walked over or around but I decided the job would not be complete without removing it. I started by cutting off a pice near the top of the tree which require I move some brush first. I chose to cut it with the axe and it went quickly. I then went back to the end near the roots where I had cut the first trunk earlier. This time the problem was that making the cut might pinch the saw as the two parts of the trunk were pinched together. I decided to use the axe to start and the finish with the saw. Cutting with the axe was hard because the angle was wrong but I removed enough wood to make using the saw pretty easy. After this cut I had a large piece of trunk, partly embedded in the ground, which I could not move. I tried freeing one end from under a larger piece of trunk. I tried removing some of the dirt from around the art that was buried. I finally decided to use the axe to cut the trunk in half. As I started this work, Sheila began to bark and I saw someone walking toward us. I think Sheila and I recognized that it was Lisa at about the same time. Sheila happily went to greet her and I stopped my work long enough to talk for a few minutes. Lisa continued on the trail to lop some branches. I sued the axe to divide the log which went very quickly. I was able to move both pieces off the trail and fill in the reining "ditch" with some dirt. When I was done, I actually shouted "And that's how it's done!" I picked up my tools and pout them in the pack. Before leaving I took some "after" pictures. I did notice one more piece of trunk I may have to cut. We walked down the cemetery hill with Sheila on her leash and crossed the road to our driveway. We were home by 12:30 PM after spending 2 hours working. I was tired but satisfied with the work I had done.
On Monday, April 9th I wanted to go do some more trail maintenance after a trip to Frick Pond to do some trail clearing on the previous Saturday. I like using my axes and hand saws to clear trees on the trails as it reminds me of working with my father and uncles when is was younger. We logged a lot for firewood and often used hand tools as chainsaws were cumbersome and expensive. I have two Silky saws which are Japanese and cut on the pull stroke. The Sugowaza is a 17" curved and fixed blade which fits in a scabbard. The Katana Boy is almost two feet long and is a folding saw with a nylon carrier. Both are remarkably sharp and can take care of some large tree trunks. I usually carry a Fiskars axe with a composite handle and rather small head. It is light an easy to carry for many miles. It also lives up to the "hype" as it is easy to keep sharp and cut well despite its small head. If I know I will be working close to a trailhead I may take my Council Tools felling axe that weighs in excess of 5 lbs! I decided I would go to Round top across from my house in Livingston Manor to tackle several large trees that had fallen less than 100 feet in from the trailhead and were blocking the trail. I got my gear together as Sheila watched carefully and made sure I would not leave her behind. I did not intend to hike much but I knew she would rather by outside than in the house. We headed out the driveway a little after 10:30 AM with the air temperature in the high 20's. I had decided to wear tights and a baselayer on top under a Mammut crew neck pullover. I wore my Columbia Omniheat pants and, as always, my Mammut hoody. I decided to put on my reliable Salomon B52 boots but left the gaiters home. I added a pair of gloves and a hat. I knew I might be warm working but had options to open pit zips or remove some layers. We crossed the field by the church and headed up the hill by the cemetery to the trailhead. Sheila pulled me most of the way to the top where we trend left into the woods. I let her off her leash and we walked to the area where the trees were blocking the trail. They were a little larger than I remembered and the job was complex. I began by taking some "before" pictures of the mess. Sheila posed by the trees so that I could show some perspective as to the size of the trunks. I got out the saws, axes and felling wedges and got to work. I first removed all the loose branches that I could and then cut away a few small branches to get everything cleared for the real work. I went to the far side of the mess and cut a few small branches away and then cut a larger branch that ran through the middle. My first thought was to create an arch so that people could easily walk under and over the remaining larger trunks.
I removed the middle branch rather quickly and made sure I got it well out of the way. The next trunk I handled was a larger one running right through the middle of the opening. I attacked this with the saws and was able to cut off the end nearest the top of the tree and move that piece out of the way. I then made another cut nearer the root end of the tree and on the right side of the trail. The trunk was much larger here but eventually succumbed to the saws. This piece was much harder to move out of the way as it had and odd shape and would not roll easily. Eventually I coaxed it off the trail and thought that perhaps I was done. I noticed that one of the remaining pieces of trunk had some sharp points and decided to cut them off. I started to saw them off and noticed the saw was not cutting as it should. I moved some wood aside to find that I was cutting into a rock that was embeded in the trunk! The saw still seemed sharp but did not cut well. I decided to cut off the entire trunk which was by far the thickest I had tried so far. I knew getting through the whole trunk with a saw would be difficult so I decided to cut it part way through with the axe and finish with the Katana Boy. I began to chop the trunk and eventually found that the heartwood was somewhat rotten. After a few more chops, I broke through the heartwood and a stream of dark fluid started to flow out. The tree was bleeding! Chopping became messy so I cut a channel to drain the fluid and chopped a little more. After this I started with the saw and although it was slow going, I was able to complete the cut. I had to use the axe as a lever to roll this one off the trail. I surveyed my work and was satisfied that people could now walk through by just ducking under the remaining trunk. I decided to leave that one for another day. I took my "after pictures" and then packed up to head home. We walked down the cemetery hill with Sheila on her leash. Another large dog whose owner had no control cam over to bother us all the way to the road. We crossed the road and were home by 1:00 PM after spending 2 and a half hours working. I was tired but satisfied with the work I had done.
On Saturday,April 7th when I got up I found several inches of snow had fallen overnight although the roads seemed almost clear. I wanted to go to Frick Pond to do some "emergency" tree clearing as there were several spots on the trail that were almost blocked by blowdowns. I wasn't sure I wanted to battle the snow and the trees but I decided to go to see what could be done. I asked Cindy if she wanted to go and she agreed. We started to get ready around 9:45 AM under the watchful eye of Sheila who did not want us to forget her. The temperature was only 28 degrees so I decided to wear tights and a baselayer on top under a Mammut crew neck pullover. I wore my Columbia Omniheat pants and, as always, my Mammut hoody. I decided to put on my reliable Salomon B52 boots, gaiters and added a pair of gloves and a hat. We had decided we would not take our snowshows as the weather had been warm during the week and the new snowfall was not very deep. I did elect to carry spikes to give me some choices as I did not know the trail conditions. I packed both my Silky saws, a Fiskars ax and two felling wedges. The two Silky saws are Japanese and cut on the pull stroke. The Sugowaza is a 17" curved and fixed blade which fits in a scabbard. The Katana Boy is almost two feet long and is a folding saw with a nylon carrier. Both are remarkably sharp and can take care of some large tree trunks. The Fiskars axe has a composite handle and rather small head. It is light an easy to carry for many miles. It also lives up to the "hype" as it is easy to keep sharp and cut well despite its small head. If I know I will be working close to a trailhead I may take my Council Tools felling axe that weighs in excess of 5 lbs! We got our gear in the car and Sheila in the back seat and headed out the DeBruce Road at about 10:15 AM. The farther we drove the more snow there seemed to be! After 6 miles, at Mongaup Pond Road, I turned left and continued to follow the road bearing left onto Beech Mountain Road at the fork. When we arrived in the parking area there were two other cars the smaller lot which was barely plowed. The larger lot had not been touched. One man and his dog were getting ready to hike up the Flynn Trail and I suspected that the occupants of the pickup truck had also gone that way. My plan was to head out the Quick Lake Trail to Graveyard Junction where we would turn right on the Logger's Loop to address a major blowdown blocking the trail. There was at least 5 inches of snow which made the scene quite beautiful but would not help as we tried to do our work. I knew that there would be a lot of snow falling onto us as we worked. I took some pictures at the parking area and then we headed over to the larger lot. We started out on the Quick Lake trail toward the trail register.
The last time I had been on this part of the trail Lisa and I were coming from the other direction and we totally lost the trail. With the blazes being few and far between and the numerous blowdowns and branches it was hard to find the trail. It doesn't help that in winter the trailbed is almost impossible to see. Just after walking down the steps, Cindy and I encountered the first set of branches blocking the trail. I took my "before" pictures and then I knocked the snow off and cut them with the saw while Cindy used the loppers to cut others. We dragged everything off the trail and, after taking some more pictures, we moved on. There was really quite a bit of snow but not enough to warrant snowshoes. We cleared several more spots before the register and then turned left on the woods road. This part of the trail was pretty clear and we picked up a few branches and lopped several others. I knocked the snow off some low hanging evergreen branches and most sprang upwards off the trail. We came to a spot where there were a few small trees across the trail so I documented it with some photos and got to work. I cut some small trunks and got them off the trail. While we were working, Shiela began to bark and we could see two hikers coming toward us from the trail register. We put Sheila on her leash and the couple stopped to say "Hello". Their British accent was obvious and they told us they had relocated to New York City from England because they like the Catskills so much! We talked a little more and I suggested they take a look at this website to get an idea of other places to hike. They were wearing snowshoes for the first time and there was enough snow to get an idea of how they work. They had rented the snowshoes for the day from Morgan Outdoors in Livingston Manor. Cindy and I finished our work at that location and after I took some pictures we continued on toward Gravestone Junction. We took some time to lop a few branches just before the junction and then turned right on the Logger's Loop. I took some pictures just after the turn since the sky was blue with white clouds and the snow still blanketed many of the trees. We continued for about .3 miles to the large blowdown I wanted to clear. The mess was much larger than I remembered with two trunks and lots of branches to remove.
The mess was much larger than I remembered with two trunks and lots of branches to remove. I took lots of "before" pictures and then surveyed the job to develop a plan. I started by cutting all the branches I could and dragging them well into the woods. Many of the branches were frozen deep into the snow and I had to pull on them to get them loose. Other times I would cut a branch and find it was pinned underneath another branch that was in turn pinned by another. I kept working and working on the branches until all were gone leaving only two large trunks behind. I took a few more pictures. As we were working another couple came toward us from Times Square. They looked ill-prepared for the snow but were cheerful in their greeting. I cut the top trunk twice as I knew I would not be able to move the pieces otherwise. As it was I struggled to get them off the trail. I was very tired by this time and contemplated leaving the final trunk as it was easy to step over or around. I decided I wanted to complete the job and started in on the last trunk. I had to cut this one twice also. Since part of it was almost on the ground I used the axe to sever it. As I tried to move it I found there was another branch hidden under the snow which was connected to the piece I was moving. I cut this branch and dug it out of the snow and then moved both off the trail. I finally started to cut the largest trunk with the saw. My arms were so tired I had to stop after every few strokes! I knew I would get the job done but it was tough going. Finally the last piece fell and I had just enough strength to roll it off the trail. I cleaned up the last few branches and then packed up my tools. I took my "after" pictures of what thought was a job well done! I had planned on clearing another tree on the Flynn Trail but knew that would not be possible on this day. I had started the work at 12:15 PM and finished at 2:20 PM! We walked back on the Logger's Loop to Gravestone Junction where I considered going down to Frick Pond but just turned left and headed back out the Quick Lake Trail to the car. It was 2:40 PM and we had spent 4 hours hiking 2 miles making it one of the slowest hikes I have ever done!
On Wednesday, April 4th I wanted to get out on a hike but didn't have much time to spend. There had been a few "warm" days in a row with cold nights so I expected the snow on Round Top to by pretty hard especially on the packed trails or perhaps gone altogether. I decided just to head across the street and hike on Round Top. Sheila seemed thrilled at the decision and couldn't wait to get going. I had a few things to do first and we did not get started until 11:00 AM. The temperature was in the low 30's as I started to get dressed. As I got dressed I decided to put on a pair of tights under my Columbia Omniheat pants even though I knew I would probably be warm once I started hiking. I also put on a light, long-sleeved baselayer under my Mammut crew neck shirt. I put on my Mammut Ultimate hoody and wore a hat and a pair of gloves. I donned my Salomon B52 boots but decided I did not need gaiters. Sheila would not leave my side as I was getting ready as she wanted to make sure she was going too! I stepped out onto the back porch and headed out the slippery driveway at 11:00 AM. We crossed the street with Sheila on her leash and walked to the back of the church where I released Sheila from her leash. There was very little snow in the field and the road up to the top of the cemetery was almost completely bare. We began the ascent of the steepest hill behind the church. The hill is short but really gets the circulation pumping and is the steepest and longest climb on the "trail". When we got to the top of the hill, we started out on the trail by turning left at the trailhead. There was a little more snow in the woods but no more than a few inches and it was pretty well packed. When we arrived at the large blowdown blocking the trail, I deiced to work my way through it rather than walk around it as we had been doing when there was more snow. It wasn't hard to sneak through the opening and it let me get a good look at the mess. I came to the conclusion that clearing the blowdown would be a real challenge. At the first trail junction we turned right and continued up the trail. There was still some snow on the trail but not enough to require any traction devices. As I walked, I removed a few loose branches from the trail and tried to free some of the trees that were still bent over.
I followed the blazes for the yellow trail up to the trail junction. I turned left at the trail junction and followed the yellow rail along the base of Round Top. The trail was pretty open as I had done some maintenance to remove the blowdowns. At the next trail junction, we turned right on the blue trail and headed up the steepest hill to the summit of Round Top. Here there was a little more snow and I thought having microspikes would have been a good idea. On the summit we followed the trail over the top an then down the other side. This part went quickly went quickly . At the yellow trail we turned right and then left at the next trail junction to head down to the lookout. At the lookout we turned left and descended the hill to the first trail unction. This hill had a little less snow than elsewhere as it is most exposed to the sun. I was tired but knew I needed at least an hour of exercise. We turned around and headed back up the hill to the lookout. We turned right at the top following the yellow trail on the long, gentle climb to the junction with the blue trail. We turned right and followed the yellow trail along the base of Round Top to the next junction. Here we turned left and followed the blue trail to the summit. Once again we crossed the summit and started down the other side. On the steep descent to the yellow trail I had to watch my footing as the packed snow was a little slippery. We turned left on the yellow trail and then right at the next trail junction. It was enjoyable following the old woods road back down toward the first trail junction. When we came to the path I had made up from the trailhead to avoid the blowdown, Sheila automatically turned left even though the trail was not very distinct. I called her back and we continued on to the trail junction. I still wanted a little more distance so we turned around and walked back up the woods road on the yellow trail to the junction with the upper blue trail. This time we continued straight ahead up to the summit. We crossed the summit and then headed down the steeper side toward the lower yellow trail. At the junction we continued straight ahead back down to the lookout. At the viewpoint we turned left to follow the yellow teal back down to the first trail junction. We continued straight ahead and walked back out to trailhead passing through the blowdown again. At the trailhead we turned right and descended the hill. We walked across the field to the driveway and home. We had spent a little over an hour walking a little more than 2 miles. The walk was a good workout even though I feel I could do it blindfolded!
On Saturday, March 31st I got up at 7:00 AM to drive to Berry Brook Road to meet two hikers at the Mary Smith Trail trailhead. Kevin and Brian are from Canandaigua and are hiking the Finger Lakes Trail. I saw Kevin's post on the FLT Yahoo group and volunteered to give them a ride. From hiking the Finger Lakes Trail farther upstate, I know how great it is to get a ride so that a hike can be all trail without the return trip. I drove from Livingston Manor out Old Route 17 and then north on the Beaverkill Road. I turned right to take Campground Road down to the Beaverkill Covered Bridge. After driving through the bridge, I turned right on Berry Brook Road which eventually becomes Holiday Brook Road. I drove north toward the Pepacton Reservoir passing the trailhead for Huggins Lake. As I pulled up to the parking area, I could see a pickup with two men so I stopped and got out of the car. It was about 7:45 AM and I was glad we had found each other without a problem. After a short introduction, we got in the car. I turned around and stayed on Berry Brook Road all the way out to Route 206. I turned right and headed north again toward the reservoir. After the top of Cat Hollow, I found Jug Tavern Road on the left. I turned and drove to Campbell Mountain Road where I turned right. The road is dirt and had plenty of frozen ruts and the temperature was only 26 degrees. We were soon at the point where the trail crosses the road. I stopped to let Kevin and Brian out. I wished them "Good luck" and then headed home through Roscoe. When I got home, I had a few chores to do. It was just before 11:00 AM when I finished so I asked Brad if he wanted to hike. He said "Yes" so we started to get ready to go. The temperature was in the mid 30's so I decided not to wear a baselayer. I put on my Columbia Omniheat pants and a a Mammut crew neck pullover. I wore my Mammut hoody and a lighter hat and gloves. I put my Microspikes but decided the recent warm temperatures and two days of rains had reduced the snow pack making snowshoes unnecessary. I decided to wear gaiters but pit on my Keen Glarus boots which are regular hiking boots. Brad and I got our gear and Sheila in the car and headed out the DeBruce Road. Sheila had been very quiet but did not let me out of her sight as I was getting ready. After 6 miles, at Mongaup Pond Road, I turned left and continued to follow the road bearing left onto Beech Mountain Road at the fork. When we arrived in the parking area there were several other cars in both lots. A couple of groups of people were getting ready to hike and all of them seemed to be heading up the Flynn Trail. It had been my plan to go that way but I immediately decided to head out the Quick Lake Trail to avoid the crowd. Before we left, I advised one couple who were headed toward the cabin that they might want to start at the beginning of the Flynn Trail. As we started out the woods road toward Frick Pond, it became immediately obvious to me that we were going to be in trouble without snowshoes. There was still at least a foot of snow in the woods and almost as much on the trail. There were a few open spots with running water on the trail to Frick Pond but the rest of the trail was covered in snow and ice. The temperature had risen to 40 degrees and there was a bright sun in a cloudless sky. This contributed to very soft snow in many places. We were able to avoid sinking in too much but I knew this would get worse. At Gravestone Junction we turned left to head down to Frick Pond. The water level in the pond was a little higher than it had been and there was a pretty solid looking sheet of ice over much of the pond. I had thought I would not stop to take pictures but I couldn't resist the blue sky and icy pond. After taking a few shots, I put the camera in the pack and we continued on the Quick Lake Trail around the pond bearing left at the next trail junction to stay on the red trail. This part of the trail was wet and the snow continued to be soft. I began to think that I would cut the hike short at Iron Wheel Junction by taking the Logger's Loop back to the car! soon came to the "pine promenade" and the little stream through the woods. The water level in the stream was higher than it had been in some time and I had to walk upstream to cross without getting wet. I stopped to take a few pictures before we continued on the trail toward Iron Wheel Junction. I did remove a few loose sticks along the way but left a larger blowdown which would require a saw. Just before the junction there was a large branch and a pile of smaller ones on the trail. These branches had been hung up for some time and had finally come down in the strong winds. We arrived at Iron Wheel Junction at 1.6 miles.
We soon came to the "pine promenade" and the little stream through the woods. The water level in the stream was higher than it had been in some time and we walked upstream to cross without getting too wet. As we continued on the trail toward Iron Wheel Junction, the conditions continued to be difficult as we would walk on top of the snow for a few steps and then break through. This was very tiring and tough on the leg muscles! We arrived at Iron Wheel Junction at 1.6 miles and found the snowmobile trail packed but softer than I would have liked. I consulted with Brad and we both agreed to try the big loop up the Quick Lake Trail toward Hodge Pond. We turned left on the Quick Lake Trail and started the long uphill climb toward Junkyard Junction. The trail here was a little more solid in most places but there was still the "suspense" of breaking through occasionally. I realized that I was sweating a lot so I stopped to take some pictures of the trail. I got a drink and opened all of the zippers on my Mammut hoody. I also took off my hat and gloves as I was very warm. The long climb and slippery conditions continued to wear on me so I was glad to have Brad along. We were headed for Junkyard Junction at 3.2 miles as Sheila followed a few game trails. On previous hikes the snow had been so deep that she had been following in my snowshoe tracks most of the time. On this day she was making up for it! We turned right onto the blue Flynn Trail. I had hoped that someone had broken and packed the trail or that the snowmobiles had made a few passes. We had no such luck as the trail was completely untouched! There was plenty of snow broken up by areas of standing water and the walking was miserable. By this time my feet were completely soaked and I was glad the day was getting warmer. There were no major blowdowns but we continued to remove branches that littered the trail. When we got to the gate, we turned right to stay on the trail and head down toward Hodge Pond. At 3.75 miles the Flynn Trail heads right and we followed it toward the outlet end of Hodge Pond. This part of the trail was a little more packed until we broke out into the field where the sun had completely softened the snow. The trail broke out into a field which we crossed and continued to follow the Flynn Trail toward the outlet of the pond. We walked through the clearing at the outlet end of the pond almost to the shore where I dropped my pack and got out my camera. This area was mostly clear of snow which was a welcome respite. The pond was covered in a layer of ice. I took shots of the pond with the blue skies . Before packing up, I got out a bar and offered one to Brad. I also took a long drink as my muscles were starting to feel like they might cramp.
I packed up and we walked back to the Flynn Trail to the point where it re-enters the woods. The snow always drifts here and I could see several drifts. Unfortunately the drifts were all soft and we kept sinking through. As we walked up the hill on the Flynn Trail the snow was soft under the direct rays of the sun. We kept talking to try to keep from thinking about the difficult conditions. At the top of the hill we stayed to the right to follow the Flynn Trail. A left turn follows a woods road out to what remains of the Beech Mountain Boy Scout Camp. The Flynn Trail is relatively flat to the junction with the Big Rock Trail at 4.5 miles. Along the way we met one hiker coming toward us on snowshoes with his dog. We passed with a quick "Hello" and I envied his footwear. I hoped when we got to the junction with the Big Rock that the Flynn Trail would be packed by snowshoers. We continued straight through the junction with the Big Rock Trail to follow the Flynn Trail back to the car. It was clear that the snow was even softer now and not packed at all by snowshoes. Fortunately, the snow was only a few inches deep in most places and we were going downhill most of the way. I was surprised that we did not see any of the other people who had headed up the Flynn Trail. It wasn't even clear whether or not we were seeing their snowshoe tracks. At least my feet could not get any wetter and they were not cold. We continued our descent until the gate was finally in sight. Just before the gate we turned left to follow the Flynn Trail and to avoid the private property around the cabin. The final part of the Flynn Trail through the woods did not have too much snow. When we arrived back at the parking lot there were only two other cars present. We were back at the car by 2:55 PM having covered 6.4 miles in 3 and a half hours with an elevation gain of 910 feet. I think we were both happy to be back at the car. As I drive away the car thermometer read 48 degrees.
On Monday, March 26th, I had planned to hike somewhere and thought about going to Trout Pond. In the morning I had an e-mail from a person who wanted to hike from Campbell Mountain over Cabot Mountain and was asking about snow conditions. I responded that I though there was plenty of snow and that snowshoes would be a good idea. After sending the e-mail, I decided that I would go and hike Cabot Mountain from Beech Hill Road and see for myself. I maintain this section of trail for the Finger Lakes Trail Conference and also wanted to evaluate the condition of the trail to see how much work I would have to do to get it in shape. When I got up the temperature was only 25 degrees but I knew that the snow conditions would be better at lower temperatures. I decided to wear tights and a baselayer on top under a Mammut crew neck pullover. I wore my Columbia Omniheat pants and, as always, my Mammut hoody. I decided to put on my reliable Salomon B52 boots, gaiters and added a pair of gloves and a hat. We had decided we would take our snow shows and carry spikes to give us some choices as we did not know the trail conditions. We both chose our Tubbs Alp Flex VTR snowshoes which are a little smaller than some and have the BOA binding system. I knew we wouldn't need the flotation since the trails were pretty well packed even though the snow depth was still over a foot. The BOA system uses a dial to tighten a thin but strong wire and seems to evenly tighten the binding around my foot. Sheila was ready to go as we pulled out of Livingston Manor at 9:25 AM. I drove north on Old Route 17 before turning right on the Beaverkill Road. I passed through Lew Beach and turned left on Beech Hill Road Road. I drove up the road about 2.6 miles to the small pullout on the right side of the road at the beginning of the trail but found it was not plowed. I found a wider spot in the road just before the parking area and got the car off the road as far as possible. From the amount of snow at the trailhead it was obvious that I would be wearing the snowshoes for the whole trip. The temperature was still in the high 20's and when I got out of the car a slight breeze was blowing. I put on my snowshoes and set my electronics and we walked up the side of the road on the snow banks from the plow at 9:40 AM. We turned down through the field where there was well over a foot of snow. I was able to walk on top of the snow without a problem although the sun was shinny brightly in a cloudless, blue sky. We entered the woods where the first part of the trail is flat but with a few wet spots. I avoided the water as in makes the snow stick to the snowshoes. We walked along a stone wall trying to follow the sparse blazes. In other seasons the trail bed helps guide hikers in the right direction but it is hard to find when the snow is on the ground. The DEDC has decreed that volunteers may no longer mark trails. This job falls on the foresters who have many other tasks to perform. Unfortunately, the trail marking has suffered as a result. At .2 miles the trail begins to climb and in about half a mile it gains almost 600 feet averaging a 20% grade. This is not as steep as the other side but is plenty challenging. I immediately engaged the lifts on my snowshoes which help take some strain off the calf muscles. I was still walking on top of the snow which made the climbing easier but not easy. We continued up the trail which has a few switchbacks and several flatter areas. The climb seemed shorter than I expected but there were a few shorter climbs which I did not remember.
At about .7 miles the trail levels off and then rolls over several bumps to the Cabot Mountain Vista at 1.6 miles. A few of the spots on these shorter climbs were exposed to the sun and were beginning to get soft. In other spots the snow had drifted and was not quite as consolidated as on the steeper climb. I began to break through the top layer of snow which made the hiking harder. I was happy that I was not sinking in very far as in most places there was between 18 and 24 inches of snow. Sheila meanwhile was having a great time bounding ahead and them coming back to find me. She occasionally followed some game trail but this meant she had to wade through deep snow. We finally arrived at the lookout at 10:55 AM after what seemed like a very long walk along the ridge. The sun was bright but high in the sky so I took some pictures. The view was good but there isn't too much to see except the mountains in the background and Little Pond below. I got a drink and a bar and started back after only a short break. As I expected the snow was now melting in the areas exposed to the direct sunlight and it was beginning to stick to the snowshoes. I hoped this wouldn't be too much of a problem especially on the steepest descent. I knew that the trip back should go more quickly than the trip up but that I would be hampered by the consistency of the snow. The walk across the ridge seemed to go quickly and the snow was not as sticky as I thought. We were soon at the steep descent which did go quickly as I was able to stay on top of the snow. The only problem was that this pout a lot of pressure on my feet as they slipped forward in the boots. Once we got to the flatter area at the base of the descent, I knew we were almost back to the car. The snow in the open field was still supportive and we were back at the car at noon. We spent 2 hours and 15 minutes hiking 3.0 miles with an elevation gain of 900 feet! I was definitely tired but could easily have done a few more miles given the same conditions. I would not want to do this hike without snowshoes.
On Friday, March 23rd, I wanted to hike a 3500 foot peak for the first hike of spring and was thinking of Slide. I mentioned this to Cindy and she assured me she would not hike Slide. I didn't want to go too far from home so I countered with Balsam lake Mountain and she agreed. I wasn't sure of the condition of the Beaverkill Road above the monastery and suggested we hike from the Millbrook trailhead which is right on Millbrook Road and is usually plowed. When I got up in the morning it was only 25 degrees so I was in no hurry to get started although I didn't want to wait too long as I was afraid the snow would get too soft later in the day. Cindy and I got dressed and got our gear ready to go. It was still in the high 20's a little after 10:00 AM so I decided to wear tights and a baselayer on top under a Mammut crew neck pullover. I wore my Columbia Omniheat pants and, as always, my Mammut hoody. I decided to put on my reliable Salomon B52 boots and gaiters and added a pair of gloves and a hat. We had decided we would take our snowshoes and carry spikes to give us some choices as we did not know the trail conditions. We both chose our Tubbs Alp Flex VTR snowshoes which are a little smaller than some and have the BOA binding system. I knew we wouldn't need the flotation since the trails were pretty well packed even though the snow depth was still over a foot. The BOA system uses a dial to tighten a thin but strong wire and seems to evenly tighten the binding around my foot. As usual Sheila was very excited as we put her in the backseat. We headed up the Quickway and took Route 206 towards Downsville. This route is a little longer than the Beaverkill Road but has less twists and turns. It seemed that every time we passed a spot where we had hiked before Sheila began to whine as if to say "Let's stop here!" I took a right on Route 30 when we reached the reservoir and then took the BWS roads to Millbrook Road. I turned right and drove passed Kelly Hollow and soon after pulled into the parking lot that serves Balsam Lake Mountain and Dry Brook Ridge. There was only one other car in the lot and we both parked parallel rather than pulling in because of the impressive snow banks. One check of the trail convinced me that we would be wearing snowshoes the whole way. I set my electronics and we put on our snowshoes. As we were getting ready a stiff breeze picked up and both if us felt chilly. we started the hike by crossing the road at 11:30 AM and climbing up the high and hard snow bank to get onto the trail. Unlike the climb from the Beaverkill Road which starts out almost flat, the ascent from Millbrook starts with an uphill gaining over 200 feet in the first half mile. The temperature at the parking area was 28 degrees but once we were on the trail, we both were comfortable and began to warm up on the ascent. The trail is really a wide woods road which is passable by a high clearance vehicle. There was a well-packed trail which showed the tracks of many snowshoes, at least one cross country skier and a snowmobile or two. Not far into the ascent Sheila alerted and we saw another hiker with a dog coming toward us. E both put our dogs and leashes. As the other hiker passed with a beautiful Irish Setter, I tried to strike up a conversation but Sheila was barking and growling at the other dog. Sheila only does this when Cindy is along!
At .8 miles we began a switchback which eventually brought us to a flatter area at about 1.25 miles. I had not hiked from this direction many times but it seemed longer than I remembered. The tradeoff between the two starts is that the Beaverkill start is flat for some time and then has a steep climb. The hike from the Millbrook side climbs from the beginning but is not as steep as from the Beaverkill Road. Along the way there were some interesting rocks including some that had been eroded so that there were only a few "pillars" left separating some layers. I stopped to take a picture or two and also took a few of the trail. The trail remained well-packed all the way and we were making pretty good time for the conditions. At 2.1 miles we came to the turnoff to the left for Graham and I knew the trail to the summit of Balsam Lake split off just ahead. The pat to Gram showed far less use than the one we were on. My plan had been to continue straight ahead and walk down to the steeper trail up the mountain. I like the challenge and this would allow us to make a sort of lollipop loop out of the hike. When we got to the point where the trail split, I could see Cindy needed the shortest and easiest approach possible. At 2.3 miles we turned right and started up the trail to the fire tower. Just after the start of the trail there is a metal gate and the fact that our feet were nearly even with the top of the gate attested to the snow depth. The sun had come out and the skies were a clear blue. The snow was beginning to soften and was just short of clumping on the snowshoes. I wondered what it would be like on the way back. The climb alternates between steeper and more level sections and it was tough going on both. I slowed to stay with Cindy and used the lifts on my snowshoes to make the steeper climbs easier. They go up and down easily by suing poles so I kept putting them up where needed and collapsing them on the flats. We continued on our ascent and soon came to the 3500 foot sign. There were some pretty impressive drifts along the way. I noticed that the trail blazes were much lower than I remembered. I put my pole next to one and had Sheila pose while I took a picture. Walking through some of the areas where there were balsam fir was interesting as the snow depth and the low boughs combined to form a narrow passage. Just a short distance from the cabin I turned around to find that I could not see Cindy. I waited a few minutes and then walked back to find her. She wasn't too far back but told me she had gone as far as she could. I knew that the cabin and tower were just minutes ahead but I also knew she had made up her mind. I decided to continue to the summit. Soon I could see the cabin and just after that we broke out into the Dearing with the tower.
It was 1:45 PM and we had hiked 3.1 miles. There was nobody else at the tower and the clear was very sunny with sparkling white snow. I was surprised that the door to the cabin was blocked by snow as if no one had sued it in some time. I walked over to the picnic table to get ready to climb the tower. The top of the table was just a little bit BELOW the level of the snow! I posed Sheila and the table and took some pictures. I removed my snowshoes to climb the tower but decided not to put on my spikes. I walked over to the tower sinking over my knee in one spot where the snow was soft. As I started to climb the steps, I realized that spikes would have been good idea as there was a lot of ice and snow! Sheila started to climb the steps with me but I told her to "Stay!" As I climbed the steps and rose above the treeline, I was hit by a gusting wind that chilled me immediately. I continued to the upper landing just below the cab and began to take pictures in all direction. I would have liked to see some puffy, white clouds in the sky but the mountains were beautiful. I took a lot of shots before realizing that someone else was with me. Sheila had quietly climbed all the way to the top of the tower. I was ready to leave anyway because of the chill wind and was surprised that Sheila had no problem negotiating the steps on the decent. I did have some problems as the icy steps were harder to handle going down than coming up. I took a few pictures of Sheila and the returned to my gear at the table. I donned my pack and we headed back down the trail to reunite with Cindy. She was right where we had left her which was farther away than I thought. We started back on the trail and it was definitely easier going down than up. Cindy did take one spill when her snowshoes lost traction due to the clumping snow. This was also a problem for me as the snow was very soft. Once we made the left turn onto the trail back to Millbrook Road we picked up the pace a little but we were really in no hurry. Once we passed the turn to Gram the snow was not quite as soft on the descent. This was because this area was not getting as much direct sun and because the skies were cloudy over. In fact, the skies were becoming a little grey and the wind was picking up. We kept up a good pace which was made easier as the snow was not clumping. After passing the trail register, Cindy slowed as her knees were bothering her on the long descent. When I got to the road, I waited and for some time before she appeared on the final descent. We hopped up on the snow bank and then crossed the road with a few snowflakes in the air! We were back at 3:30 PM after hiking 6.0 miles in 4 hours and 5 minutes with a 1275 foot elevation gain. The trip out took us about 2 hours and 15 minutes but the return took only 1 hour and 35 minutes.