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Chester Challenge --- 7/2/17

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  • Chester Challenge --- 7/2/17

    On Sunday I finally knocked off The Chester Challenge. Comprised of eight short hikes, the challenge requires you complete six of them to earn the patch. I had originally planned to do all eight in one day but reduced it to seven when I decided to skip the hike of Green Hill & Catamount Mountain in the Natural Stone Bridge & Caves attraction in order to cheap out on the $15 admission fee and to go a bit easier on the foot injury that has bothered me for the past three hikes now.

    The seven hikes took five hours and ten minutes including summit time of maybe forty-five minutes total... so about 4:30 moving. Some quick math puts me at about 2 MPH for the 9.2 miles with ~2200 feet of elevation gain on the day. Most of you could probably do it much faster than that. I wasn't out to set a land speed record and my pace felt leisurely. Overall a relatively easy day. No bugs, very little mud, and hardly anybody on the trails.

    Here's my review of the seven short hikes. My first septuple trip report...

    Meade and Beckham Mountains - It's a short steep climb to the summit of Meade. A bench and some interesting signage adorn the summit area including a large display labeling the names of distant mountains visible from the summit ledge (the viewpoints on all of the CC hikes had these). The walk over to Beckham is very short and there's barely a col between the two mountains. The Beckham summit is nondescript and treed-in but some nice viewpoints are close nearby. But be sure to follow the arrows on all of these hikes. Most of the trails in the Challenge are part of a labyrinth of old jeep roads, herdpaths, and trails that are rather easy to get turned around on. The trails are very well marked with discs and arrows but I could see how somebody not paying attention could easily wander off trail and venture down the wrong path. There are plenty of opportunities.

    Meade summit area

    display labeling view from Meade

    view from Meade

    I've never seen a sign like this before...

    view from Beckham...

    found this on my way back to the trailhead. I rang it.

    Kipp Mountain - Another short steep climb to the edge of the mountain's cliffs where a sign reading "Trail Ends" is nailed to a tree at a lookout with partially obstructed views. This spot is less than a quarter mile and 175 vertical feet below the summit. There is a faint herdpath leading upward along the edge of the cliffs that one would assume goes to the summit. The land was not posted so I don't believe it would be trespassing if you continued on but as I discovered after looking at my pictures when I got home there is a sign at the trailhead saying not to go off trail. Hmmmm... I bet a lot of people don't see that when they start their hike.

    view from Kipp near the "Trail Ends" sign...

    Stewart Mountain - Very short climb/hike to an unmarked treed-in summit with no view. A hundred or so feet away there's a ledge with a decent view obstructed by a handful of trees. Nice enough view in person but bad for sharing in pictures. Met a family of seven from Wisconsin on the trail that represented over half of the people I saw on the day.

    obstructed view from Stewart...

    Palmer Pond - meh. Short walk to the edge of the pond where beaver activity and the recent rains made for a messy passage any further so I didn't bother getting wet to circumnavigate the pond. The trail looked to be too far into the woods for any real views along the way so I just retreated to my car. This hike is a bit out of place among the others but it's a nice area. The small stream along the walk to the pond was a deep rich amber color. I assume from tannins in the water. That was the highlight of the short walk for me.

    the amber stream water...

    Palmer Pond...

    Last edited by Makwa; 07-06-2017, 09:33 PM.

  • #2
    Chester Creek Nature Trail - is just what it sounds like. A flat walk through some wetlands and along part of the creek behind the Municipal Buildings on Main Street with some displays, benches, and so forth along the way. I walked about a half mile in and turned around. I think I was fairly close to the end of the trail when I bailed. These kind of trails would never be on my to-do list but I had to check it off for the challenge.

    view along the Chester Creek Nature Trail...

    Dynamite Hill - is a disaster. The trail map on the Challenge web site shows one multi-use trail going to the top of the Hill and down the other side. When you put boots on the ground you instead find a maze of criss-crossing trails labeled for snowshoeing, skiing, and presumably hiking. They were heading off in every which direction and I had no clue where any of them led or for how far since the trail map I had in my pocket didn't show any of them. I got "creative" and managed to quickly reach the top of the hill. A lean-to was sitting right atop the high point with seven... count 'em... seven trails fanning out in every direction from it. Oh... and I finally found a map. Some trails ran east/west, some north/south, and others in concentric circles around the lean-to. It looked more like Plato's description of Atlantis than an Adirondack trail map. I stayed long enough to snap a few pictures and returned to the Visitor Center. It was closed. Why stay open on a holiday weekend in July, right?

    met this guy on my way up Dynamite Hill. It was the longest a snake ever sat still for me. Watched him from a few feet away for maybe three minutes.

    this should have tipped me off that the trails went around in circles...

    Lean-To atop Dynamite Hill...

    The map...

    Cougar Hill - another mess of trails. They start behind the North Warren School near the back end of the parking lot. The bridge that marks the start of the trail at the informational display was closed. A notice there says you have to walk to the tennis courts to get to the trail. Great. I guess I'll just walk around campus until I find them. I then burned the next ten minutes making forward progress of about 20 yards. And then I had no clue which trail I should be taking. Why? No map on the Chester Challenge web site and a whole buttload of trails to choose from as I was discovering for the first time. There were discs/arrows pointing all over the place. Let's see... Cougar Hill Trail? That sounds right. Or maybe the Cougar Hill Nature Trail? Maybe it's that one! Cub Trail? Eagle Trail? X-Country Skiing Trail (that half way up all of a sudden has signs that say no cross-country skiing is permitted). I was operating in the dark until I found the map at the "interior" trail register that I failed to notice at the informational kiosk. It was the kind of map you'd draw on the back of a napkin to give to your Luddite friend who doesn't own a GPS directions to your house. It had none of the features a map generally has.... like which way north is. It turns out the map was oriented with east facing up and north to the left. It was a bit confusing but I quickly pieced it together. I just walked uphill on the nearest trail until I reached what I believe was the high point in the middle of a small logging operation. Maybe? The sign there seemed to indicate I was at the top but who knows? It wasn't exactly crystal clear.

    Bridge closed...

    just the start of my questions...

    The summit of Cougar Hill?

    Other than all the minor irritations nothing really interesting happened on the day until I was changing and cleaning up to head home. I was the only car in the school parking lot except for one guy in a giant SUV who was teaching his 12-year-old kid to drive. 12?! Or maybe he was a 13 or 14 year-old whose growth had been stunted by smoking? I don't know but he definitely was not old enough for a learner's permit. He had to sit in his father's lap as they did loop after loop after loop around the parking lot while I worried about getting run over each time they rolled by. Plus I didn't want my car demolition derbied by a uncoordinated prepubescent Malachi Brother wannabe. But the coup de gras was them both exiting the vehicle to stand side by side in the school parking lot to urinate. Male bonding at its finest.

    After that excitement I drove over to the Crossroads Store to get my patch.... because I'm a patch whore. You can't do it by snail mail like every other hiking challenge in the Adirondacks. There's not even a form. You physically have to show up at the Town Clerk's Office, Dynamite Hill Visitor's Center, or the Crossroads Store and sign a register. But of course none of this info about the Crossroads Store is on the web site. Luckily I happened to see a note at a few of the trailheads. One thing I noticed as I was filling in my particulars in the challenge register is that only two of the twenty or so finishers on the page actually went on the Natural Stone Bridge & Caves hikes. Next to your name/ address you have to check all the boxes of the hikes you did. There were a lot of blank boxes under Green Hill & Catamount Mt which start at that attraction so I know that very few people have been ponying up the $15 admission fee to hike there. To have a challenge that includes that is silly anyway but it was interesting to see how few people are playing along given that you can skip one or two hikes of the challenge and still officially finish. If there was some kind of "Ultra" designation or the like I most likely would have stopped though.

    Overall, an okay challenge. Some major improvements to the maps and trail descriptions are much needed and some updates to the web site are definitely in order. A LOT of incorrect info needs to be fixed and the notable omissions must be added. If you have a day to kill give the Chester Challenge a go. It's a pretty area and it's rather quiet if you're looking for some solitude. I did it in just over five hours including summit time but the driving between stops and gearing up seven different times added about 90 minutes to the day. If you start early enough you could even add in the eighth stop if you have the desire and fifteen bucks. Oh... and the patch is rectangular rather than round. But to their credit... free... unlike other challenges that nail you for $5 or more for the patch.


    • #3
      Excellent pics! Looks like a fun hike.
      Nothing like being in the woods.


      • #4
        Excellent pictures. Looked like a fun hike. Only have to do six, eh? That two mile an hour pace seems doable for me.
        Nothing like being in the woods.


        • #5
          Did many of these on snowshoes and micros this past winter spring. Minus the pay to play. Highly recommend


          • #6
            I did the Chester challenge 2 weeks ago and had to laugh at your post about Dynamite - so true! I was confused too! But found the circle map - haha. Sooooo glad I didn't meet the snake however. I left Meade and the hike in the stone bridge for another trip. Tho I'm used to doing these challenges as ultra hikes
            HIKING: "It's what I do"