Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Maple Hill Wildlife Management Area, West Stockbridge

A few weeks ago, Michael and I decided to explore the Maple Hill Wildlife Management Area in West Stockbridge. We left the car in a parking area at the corner of Maple Hill Road and Rte 102 near the Turnpike. I didn't know what we'd find but I hoped maybe some nice views and meadows on the hillside.

But alas, much of the former pasture land was covered with barberry and other invasives and almost impassible. There were some interesting stone walls, a huge old oak and some open forest. We followed a few old trails to the top of the hill and got a nice view through the trees to the Williams River.

Shotgun deer season was over, but we saw some evidence of hunters including trash and a couple of folding chairs. Perhaps they should learn what most hikers have learned: If you pack it in, you must pack it out!

The mighty oak!

The barberries were thick and tall and had very sharp thorns.

Various kinds of vines stifled many of the trees.

I love the moss on this 5-foot tall rock.

We looked through the trees, past the Williams River and into West Stockbridge.

Years ago this tree was used as a fence post
on which to string barbed wire to contain cattle.
The tree grew over and around the wire until it looks like the wire is coming
out of the middle of the tree. Probably around the middle of the 20th century
this was open pasture land.

Here is a recent hunting tree stand
accessed by an attached ladder.

Large older trees along the stone wall perhaps mark a property boundary.

A beautiful nest woven with birch bark and grasses was on the ground.
Did you know that it is illegal to possess this?
The laws were passed to protect birds when several species went extinct around 1900,
mostly because of hunting for once-fashionable hat feathers.

The dried goldenrod, grasses and pricker bushes
were taller than I am. Ouch!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

New Southern Section of South Taconic Trail

I have a new favorite trail!

A six-mile extension of the South Taconic Trail going south to Rudd Pond and Shagroy Road in Millerton, New York,  has been completed. Volunteers from the New York/New Jersey Trail Conference worked two years and put in countless hours to create a path along the ridge top with amazing views. What a great job of siting the trail and making it a reality! A map is available to purchase here.

My friend Janice and I hiked it recently on a day that started out sunny and bright but clouded up and turned gray for the last third of the hike as you will see from the photos. The woods are open and light-filled this time of year and you can see through the bare branches to the views beyond. Since we were along the ridge top much of the way, we could see west to the Catskills often. I love this trail!

A gnarled pitch pine, one of many along the trail.
A sweet long waterfall on the way up to the ridge.
First view, as we climbed up a steep rock scramble.
It was a happy hike!
I love walking over rocks and this ridge has many opportunities for that.
A view of the farmland of Dutchess County with the Catskills in the background.
Looking north at the ridge we just walked over.
More westerly views.
A wonderful drippy waterfall.
More rocks and low vegetation.
Water and wetlands in the valley below.
The clouds were thick at the last viewpoint before we descended to Rudd Pond.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Hoosac Ridgeline Trail, North Adams

The Hoosac Range is northeast of Mount Greylock and just across the valley containing Adams and North Adams. The Berkshire Natural Resources Council trail from Rte. 2 to Spruce Hill is carefully and artfully designed by Peter Jenson. Completed in 2011, it's a moderate to easy trail with several views and interesting rocks and vegetation along the way.

I walked with the Taconic Hiking Club which has been leading hikes in the Albany region since 1932 and maintains the 37-mile Taconic Crest Trail. Last week there was a nice breeze which was a relief from the previous hot humid summer days. It's a 6-mile round-trip to Spruce Hill and back to the parking area on Rte. 2.

Thick tree roots flowed over the rocks in their attempt to hold the tree upright.
The trail was wooded and much of it was level.
Different colors and structure of mosses made beautiful soft patterns.
Cute little ferns came out of the rocks!
The first view point was wide and lovely.

That's Mount Greylock behind me.
I loved the moss and ferns on the rocks.
Spruce Hill was a our lunch location and turnaround spot. 
We took a short side trip to a beaver pond.
OK, so what does this burl look like to you? Yoda?
The trail was well-marked and it was easy to follow the red and white blazes.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Alander Mountain--from West to East

I have been up Alander Mountain three times this summer. The climb is moderate and doable and the views are magnificent. It has several trails on both the east and west sides and the South Taconic Trail runs along the top of the ridge. And it's practically in my backyard. What could be better!

I climbed it with the Silver Scramblers in mid-July. The weather was perfect, company was great and the views, amazing. We started on the Robert Brook Trail on Under Mountain Road in Copake, went north on the South Taconic Trail over Alander and down to Mount Washington State Forest Headquarters on the Alander Mountain Trail.

The trail began in a hardwood forest.
I'm smiling because, actually, I'm not lost!
The first opportunity for an extended view to the southwest.
Jay Weintraub is the leader of the Silver Scramblers.
Bella, the dog is an avid participant.
At the top were several beautiful red wood lilies.
Views all around.
The Catskills to the west.
Time for a short nap in the sun after lunch!
I love the open summit of Alander.
Views to the east of Bear and Brace Mountains.
July 16 and already a few leaves are turning!
Near the Mount Washington State Forest Headquarters,
the meadow has patches of Spiria, also called Steeplebush or Hardhack.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Monument Mountain Never Disappoints

On a weekend, the parking area for Monument Mountain can be filled with more that 100 cars. That's how popular this Berkshire natural attraction is. The trails are scenic, short (less than an hour to the top), and the view at the summit is amazing. Some sections are steep and some have beautiful stone staircases. Over the years much trail work has been done, but with all the traffic, parts of the trail are eroded and rocky with exposed roots.

I love the mountain and have been climbing it since I was a child. I have lots of great memories of various climbs with family and friends. As I walked down the Squaw Peak Trail and the Indian Monument Trail last week, my thought was, "Monument Mountain never disappoints!"

The lower sections of the trail are wide and easy walking.
Some sections require careful footing with exposed roots and rocks.
This lovely small waterfall was barely trickling last week,
although after a rainstorm, or in the spring, it rushes!
New this year is a stone staircase just past the waterfall,
built by a trail crew. Great work! Thanks!
Many rocks along the trail provide habitat for ferns, moss and lichens.
I just love the way the trail winds through the rock formations.
Lots of views become visible along the way.

Again, the rocks are amazing!
Windy Hill Farms apple orchard is at the bottom left of the photo.

More rocks!
The white pines frame the view into the Housatonic valley
with the mountains beyond.
It's the Old Man of the Mountain.
A rocky ledge extends south of the summit
with a separate chimney of rock standing by itself.

In the previous two centuries, the lower mountain was agricultural land.
In the 1800s most of the mountain's trees were made into charcoal used
by the thriving iron industry in the Berkshires
and nearby in New York and Connecticut.
OK! This has to be the largest mushroom I've ever seen.
It was over three feet across!