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Griswold Family Vacation -- 1/24/20 and 1/25/20

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  • Griswold Family Vacation -- 1/24/20 and 1/25/20

    Sometimes working a list has its disadvantages. With the notable exception of the ADK46 almost every list out there includes some short hikes that necessitate combining them with others nearby to make a trip inside the Blue Line worthwhile. Because who drives 150 miles to do a 60-90 minute hike then gets right back in their car and drives home? Certainly not me. So instead you create an itinerary with numerous stops which invariably all get rushed. These days play out so that you don't linger on each summit eating a picnic lunch or just killing time because you have no place better to be. In summer you can relax a bit but in winter, when it's colder and daylight is at a premium, the feeling of being rushed is more pronounced. It's all kinda like the Griswolds at the Grand Canyon in "National Lampoon's Vacation" ( Sometimes I even find myself doing the Chevy Chase head bob as I'm enjoying the view. Get back to the Family Truckster... Walley World awaits!

    That's how my Friday went. I needed the Bald Mountain fire tower up in Old Forge for one of the lists I'm working this winter. Unfortunately, I didn't have anything else within forty miles to hike as over the past few years I've pretty much exhausted all the hikes I wished to take in the Old Forge/ Inlet area. So after finishing Bald I drove the hour from Old Forge into the Indian Lake area to tackle Sawyer Mountain and Watch Hill. It was a long slog but it was the only plan that made sense to me given I needed those two for another list and Indian Lake was kinda on my way home. During my three short stops I was the only person on each mountain. It was a very peaceful day, the conditions were great, and the weather was warm (mid-afternoon temp was 39*). Luckily, none of the associated issues with warm winter weather beset the hikes. Each micro-expedition was a few miles round-trip with 500-650 feet of elevation gain.

    And in keeping with the theme of small hikes recently I decided to have a quick half day out on Saturday as well. That day had a weather window to work within that rushed things along. The forecast for early that afternoon was rain so I started out just after sunrise to squeeze in my stops. I stayed within an hour's drive of home and hiked to the Spring Overlook in Moreau State Park and to the gazebo on Pilot Knob in the Schumann Preserve. These both were of the two-mile round-trip and 600 feet elevation gain variety as well. Another quiet day as there were less than a half dozen people out on each and I had all of the viewpoints to myself.

    Anyway, here's some quickie observations of all five locations and a few pictures from each...

    I've lost count how many times I've been up Bald. Maybe a half dozen now? Once you've done it in winter and any other season it starts to get repetitive. The hike is very short. Even moving slowly you're lucky if you're out of the car for an hour. But the view is nice and I had the place to myself. There's been enough snow recently that the trail and early winter ice was completely covered except for a few five to ten foot long sections.

    Bald Mountain fire tower...

    Views from Bald...

    Sawyer is about halfway between Lake Durant and Indian Lake. The view at the end of the trail is decent. The one benefit of this hike in winter is getting views of the area you wouldn't get with leaves on the trees. Blue, which you cannot see from the summit overlook, was visible through the trees from another vantage point on the descent and a few other vistas opened up that you don't normally see in summer. It's a nice walk through open forest and much more enjoyable in winter than in summer in my opinion.

    View west from Sawyer...

    Blue through trees to the northwest...

    Watch Hill
    Watch Hill holds the distinction of being the only hike I've completed in winter that I hadn't first done outside of that season. The trailhead for the tiny hill on the western shore of Indian Lake is on Route 30 about eight miles south of Route 28 very near the Snowy Mountain trailhead. The trail meanders all over the place to get you to the top. What was about a third of the mile as the crow flies turned into about a mile and a half of walking. I did no prep for this hike other than printing out the map. I thought it would be a quickie little 200-300 foot ascent. I was looking for a very cheap view. I was surprised that my GPS track spit out 550 feet of elevation gain when I checked the hike stats upon arriving back home. The upper reaches of the trail climbs steeply through pine trees along a narrow ridgeline and the payoff is the view of Snowy and other mountains to the west and south as well as a slice of the southern part of Indian Lake. I was hoping for a bigger view of the lake to the east but I could not find a viewpoint that wasn't blocked by trees. From the summit the trail descends a half mile down to the shore of the lake but by mid-afternoon I was not in the mood for the extra effort even though it would have been rather minimal.

    Snowy from Watch Hill...

    View southwest to west from Watch Hill...

    Spring Overlook
    Sitting just a few miles outside the Blue Line, the Spring Overlook is in Moreau State Park. The most direct route is from the southern trailhead on Spier Falls Road which is almost totally unmarked. If you posses an eagle eye you might notice one ribbon and one tiny trail marker just off the road as you whiz by at 45 MPH that presumably indicate the trail starts at a gate a hundred or so feet off the road. It took me a while to piece that all together. The unmarked parking area is a few hundred feet up the hill. The first half of the trail is on an old jeep road which turns to hiking trail just a few hundred vertical feet below the overlook. The road and trail were covered in 4-6" of unconsolidated snow. A little tiresome but relatively easy going. Anyway, once on the hiking trail, and after a small climb, you're finally at the Western Ridge Trail which leads to two overlooks. The first is the Western Ridge Lookout and the second at a higher elevation just a few hundred yards later is the Spring Overlook. The views at each are essentially the same though the lower Western Lookout has a wider view with fewer trees in the way. The sights include the mountains to the northwest and the sharp bend in the Hudson River just above Spier Falls Dam.

    View from the Western Ridge Overlook just below Spring Overlook...

    Schumann Preserve at Pilot Knob
    This small network of trails is on one of the parcels of land protected by the Lake George Land Conservancy. The story of the property is interesting if you care to give a look...

    Only the orange trail seems to be getting any use this winter. It's a relatively easy trail with a fair number of switchbacks and numerous stone staircases. The view from the gazebo is nice. That looks west across and north up Lake George. The gazebo itself is starting to show its age and needs some work. I snapped some photos and after fifteen minutes or so began my descent, hoping to beat whatever rain might be on the way. It didn't end up raining until I was unloading my car back home just a few minutes after the forecast said it would.

    The Gazebo at the Schumann Preserve...

    Panoramic view looking at Lake George to the west and north...

    Link to photo album if you are unable to see photos or want a larger view...

    Couple of nice days out though a bit of a cannonball run to fit everything in. Only have a few more small hikes to check off the lists this winter and another half dozen regular size day hikes to get to. Hopefully the weather continues to cooperate in the coming weeks.
    Last edited by Makwa; 01-27-2020, 12:47 AM.

  • #2
    Makwa love your creativity and writing. Great use of time and exposure to those “other” peaks.
    "Climbing is about freedom. There's no prize money; there are no gold medals. The mountains are all about going there to do what you want to do. That's why I'll never tell anyone else how to climb. All I can say is, This is how I prefer to do it."
    Ed Viesturs


    • Makwa
      Makwa commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks Jack. I appreciate the compliment.