No announcement yet.

Woodhull... or should I say Wood-DULL -- 8/7/15

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Woodhull... or should I say Wood-DULL -- 8/7/15

    Well they all can't be gems. Sometimes the hiking gods throw a clunker at you. Woodhull Mountain in the Black River Wild Forest is part of the Fire Tower Challenge and quite frankly was perhaps the most boring hike to a mountain I've ever made. I only had two of the Adirondack fire towers left to visit as part of the Challenge so I finally decided to take the 15 mile round-trip to the sub-2400 foot tall Woodhull on Friday. Just south of Old Forge in McKeever the trailhead is approximately a half mile off Route 28.

    Investing the time to trek fifteen miles to climb this particular mountain sounded silly in my opinion. Thankfully, the unique feature of the long trek to Woodhull is that the first 5.5 miles of the approach is on a multi-use trail that you can bike in on. That biking probably shaved a good hour and fifteen minutes of walking in each direction. But... I am not a mountain biker. Repeat... I am not a mountain biker. The equipment I brought with me to accomplish this task was my crappy old Huffy I purchased at Walmart for like $79 over 15 years ago. In a past life I used it as a beach bike when I spent a lot of time on Cape Cod. The forks are bent, the brakes don't work too well, it weighs far too much, and the salt air had its way with the various finishes. And taking it off-road yesterday revealed its major design flaw: the shock from every bump it hit in the road shot up through my "undercarriage" until I didn't think I could stand it any more. Horribly uncomfortable but I only needed to make it eleven miles with this heap before returning it to my sporting goods graveyard.

    The road, or should I say left rut and right rut, is almost flat the entire way. A few very small ups and downs but generally flat. Though flat, it's bumpy, rocky, full of branches, grown-in in places, and generally miserable. What the road lacks in comfort it makes up for in... hmmm... I guess it doesn't make up for it. The ride in on the bike is a total snooze but it's straight-forward and it goes by quick enough. Covered the 5.5 miles in a snail-like 50 minutes and finally reached the end of the road. You know you're there when you come to a small clearing with a large boulder on the left side then go down a small incline to a brook with a bridge spanning it. I chained the bike to a tree in the woods and proceeded on foot. In hindsight I should have left it unchained and hoped a deep woods bike thief would steal it.

    The climb to the summit/ fire tower from the bridge is 2.0 miles with 750 feet of elevation gain. There's nothing tricky or difficult about the trail. In fact, the most interesting things along the way are the trail markers. Let's see... blue, yellow, bottom of tin cans painted red, and long metal rectangular ones. Bridge to summit in exactly 45 minutes.

    When I arrived at the top and stood at the base of the tower a family of four approached from the other side of the summit area. The side where the trail leads down to the land owned by the Adirondack League Club. They were members and very friendly folks. The highlight of the day for me was hearing that the father was revisiting the tower for the first time in 40 years. He had climbed it as a boy and was now climbing it with his wife & daughters. We chatted a bit and they even lingered on the summit for a few extra minutes to make sure I got safely down from the tower before they started their descent.

    You can climb the tower but the cab is closed. But be careful as there isn't any fencing on the landings. The view is kinda blah compared to the other spectacular panoramic views that are usually the payoff with fire towers. I'd probably rank only Cathedral Rock as having a worse view than Woodhull among the fire towers that you can climb. So I snapped my pictures, ate my lunch, and headed back down.

    So this was Fire Tower #23 of the 24 in the Adirondacks for me. Only Lyon remains then all five in the Catskills.

    Here are some pics form the bike/hike...

    Start here. You can actually drive another quarter mile or so on the road to the left to another small parking area if you so desire.

    Map of the trail system at the register

    Typical section of the road

    Foot trail starts here

    Trail markers

    Typical section of the hiking trail

    Woodhull fire tower

    Views from the tower

  • #2
    Funny you would post this today, as I did Arab (absolutely spectacular - plus a super friendly steward with 2 super gentle giant Newfs!)) and the Cathedral Rocks today. Your views would blow Cathedral right out of the water that was not least I saved the best for last, and did Arab at the end. I was thinking of you as I am pretty sure you had stated (last year maybe?) that part of the challenge is actually getting to these firetowers. I think I drove 7 hours today and I don't think I even hiked 2 hours.... I was tempted for a bit to add Azure to the day, but I will save it for later.

    I am planning on renting a bike in Old Forge as my bike is about the same quality as yours. works well for the subdivision, but I am not hauling it to Woodhull Thanks for the TR, or should I say the warning ? I have 14 ADK towers and 1 Catskills done, still plenty left to go!
    46/46 as of August 1st, 2014!


    • #3
      Yes... that was me. In fact I think I said it commenting on a day when I did 4 fire towers: Arab, Cathedral Rock, Kane, and Bald. Whereas my 46 took me to 12 different trailheads (if you count the three parking areas in Upper Works as different), the Fire Tower Challenge requires you to find 24 different out of the way trailheads all over the Adirondack Park and 5 more in the Catskills. It's actually a good lesson in geography and as with working any other list it forces you to areas you might not ever visit. I've driven through and stopped in towns all over the park, some of which I'm sorry to say I never knew existed. I saw some neat roadside displays, historical markers, old cemeteries, and local events that I would have never seen without the Fire Tower Challenge. For example, driving home from my 4-tower day I passed through Tupper Lake during their Woodmen's Day celebration. I plan to go back there some year in the future and enjoy that festival. The one knock against the Challenge is what you noted above... some days with lots of driving and not so much hiking. But the silver lining is that you can sleep later on those days.

      Arab was excellent. For sure one of the more enjoyable fire towers. Did you see any hummingbirds? There is a hummingbird sanctuary on Arab. The observer's cabin and mini museum was great too.

      There may be another option for Woodhull. The road to the right in the picture above runs about 3 miles in to another parking area. From there to the summit is only 4.5 miles or so. Gives you the option of a 9-mile hike-only day or the 15-mile bike & hike. I'm not 100% certain of that road being open for those 3 miles but maybe if you do some research you might be able to find out if the hike-only option is always doable. Might save you the rental cost on a bike. See map/ details here... I just found this link tonight and not sure if info is absolutely current. Beyond the hike-only option if I had read this before my trip I may have taken my bike down the road to the right instead so I would travel on the "good gravel road" instead of the "rough woods dirt road" since I really wasn't aware the surfaces were that much different. "Views from on High" makes no mention of the alternate route other than labeling it on their map as "Jeep or Snowmobile route".

      Anyway, the bike portion is frustrating because you really can't enjoy being in the woods at all. It's as if you're wearing blinders looking directly in front of your front tire to make sure you stay in the foot wide lane you're in and looking for rocks and branches that might upend you. The miles go by and all of sudden you're at the end of the road without having seen anything around you the whole way. Then you start walking and you feel like you're crawling as compared to the speed of the bike. The whole trip was one odd sensation after another. Takes you out of your normal hiking routine and comfort zone which is probably why I didn't enjoy the day as much as I should have.

      Good luck with Woodhull and have fun with the rest of your Challenge.
      Last edited by Makwa; 08-08-2015, 10:53 PM.


      • #4
        Yikes, that was a lot of driving! Until recently, a lot of my fire tower hikes have been done as either an easy day with friends (let's hang out on the summit and drink wine and eat cheese! or let's do a hike and then explore nearby village/swim in a lake), or a recovery day after a big hike, or I am just passing through kind of day. Bald was an exception as we paired it with Vista trail and made a traverse out of it - which was spectacular. I am still trying to maintain this philosophy to my FT pursuit, but sometimes you got to have days like the one I had on Saturday. I wanted to stop by at the Wild Center to make my driving count, but I started late and stayed on Arab for about an hour, so basically, I ran out of time for a good visit.

        I loved Arab! my favorite FT thus far. I have indeed seen the hummingbirds, had a nice chat with the steward and enjoyed the company of his 2 giant Newfs, the berries, and all the outlooks and ledges (some of which had benches!). and the views were great.

        many thanks again for the TR and for the additional tips. I am planning to coordinate with friends on Woodhull, so it's great to have the options... It is a seldom visited tower, so there's not a lot of intel on it. I know it is not required to do all of the ADKs FTs but I feel it is like cheating to omit some out.

        and I completely agree that from geography perspective, it is a fantastic opportunity! I have seen so many places that I only was aware of from the map or other people's stories, or from history books. But still no moose sightings, no matter how deep I go into the park :(
        46/46 as of August 1st, 2014!


        • #5
          Yeah, the hike/bike into Woodhull Mountain on the old road (actually an old railroad grade) can be kind of "bleh," but there are some real gems in the area if you're willing to explore a bit. There is a designated tent site south of the bridge at the end of the road/railroad grade (the bridge in your fourth picture), useful for those looking to split the distance up over 2 days. Remsen Falls is also worth visiting (actually an impressive set of rapids), and there is at least 1 designated tent site there as well (there is also remnants of an old lumber camp not too far away). And you've got the lean-tos on Woodhull and Bear Lakes which also make great places to camp.

          My understanding is that that the south road to Woodhull Lake is seasonally open to all motor vehicles to a point about a quarter mile short of Wolf Lake Landing. The last quarter mile can be used by persons with disabilities driving motor vehicles with a CP-3 Permit. The rest of the southern route to Woodhull Mountain (shown on some hiking maps) is unmaintained and nothing more than a herd path that is difficult to follow in places at this point.

          Here's a few photo albums from trips I've taken in the area:

          Last edited by DSettahr; 08-11-2015, 04:17 PM.


          • #6
            thank you so much for sharing the photos!! I loved the 2nd album; what great photography and nothing like the spring flowers! So what's the lean-to count is as of today?

            and thanks for the info on the hike as well as the alternative route details.
            46/46 as of August 1st, 2014!


            • #7
              Originally posted by YanaLG View Post
              thank you so much for sharing the photos!! I loved the 2nd album; what great photography and nothing like the spring flowers! So what's the lean-to count is as of today?
              As of right now, I am at 187 lean-tos that I have spent at least one night in, out of 342 total in NY State. So about 54.67% of the way done.


              • #8
                more than half-way there!!! that's awesome
                46/46 as of August 1st, 2014!