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Oh deer.. three days of local snow and ice -- 2/24/23 thru 2/26/23

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  • Oh deer.. three days of local snow and ice -- 2/24/23 thru 2/26/23

    Last week's tiny dump of snow in the Capital Region was capped off by some rain that produced a nice solid crust of ice locally. So on the weekend, I took the opportunity to visit a few nature preserves near home here and stomp around atop that ice on three short outings.

    Late Friday afternoon I headed over to the Lisha Kill Natural Area and did a 2x loop of the trail system over there. That amounts to around a 4.5-mile outing with 800-900 feet of cumulative ele gain. It's my go-to hiking workout. It's a very pretty setting and the trails are great. There were just two sets of footprints heading away from the parking area, and they were frozen over and appeared to be from the previous day so I had the place entirely to myself.

    I wore my broken Grivel Ran microspikes for the occasion. They are basically junk and I do NOT recommend purchasing this inferior product. I managed a whole seven hikes worth of use out of the spikes before breaking several of the chains on them in the Jay Range a few winters back. But I figured why not press the Grivels into service on easy terrain and beat the hell out of them rather than putting more wear & tear on my Kahtoolas. I performed a half-a$$ed repair job with some zip ties on the broken spikes and off I went.

    The ice was unique, to say the least. The walk did not produce that typical pleasant crunching sound you get walking on snow and ice. Instead, each step on the crust sounded like I was slamming the ice with a hammer. It was LOUD!!! It was the loudest little hike I've ever taken.

    There are three distinct loops that make up the trail system here - Frank's Trail, The Grattan Family Trail, and Paul's Trail. Frank and Grattan were problem-free. However, getting to Paul's Trail requires a water crossing on a tiny tributary of the Lisha Kill. In warm weather, this spot is easily rock-hopped or even just splashed across in one or two inches of water. However, on this day the water was higher and the rocks were buried below the snow and ice. I ventured out on some unstable ice bridges to get across. I could see the water flowing underneath and the ice was pretty thin, but I hoped it would hold for the five or six strides I needed to cross. Of course, the ice broke immediately and my entire right boot submerged in the icy water. Then my left boot. Then my right knee as I slipped trying to extricate myself quickly. I crossed and just kept going. I only had another 30-40 minutes left on the hike so I wasn't too concerned about being wet. Evidently, I was the only person stupid enough to make the crossing as there were no other human tracks on the trail on the other side of the water.

    But there were thousands of deer tracks. They were everywhere. I have only seen deer in here a few times in my dozens of visits to this spot but on my way back toward the trailhead I saw two white-tailed deer scampering about. One large buck was bounding along a ridegline with the setting sun streaming light through the leafless trees behind him, and a few minutes later a doe quietly leapt and pranced around in front of me for a few seconds then darted off. I wish I had a pic of the buck but by the time I got my gloves off to snap a pic with my cell phone, he was long gone. Too bad as it was probably the most artistic view of a deer I've ever seen out in the woods.

    The Lisha Kill

    The next two days I visited the Reist Sanctuary which is located behind the Paul Schaefer home/ Kelly Adirondack Center. It is a mostly flat loop through a pretty landscape. It is also very quiet here most of the time. I never see more than a few people on my short outings. On Saturday, I went just before sunset and did a quickie two laps around the property and never saw another soul.

    I had popped three more chains on the Grivels the day before but didn't bother to repair them for this little walk as I wasn't overly concerned about 100% perfect traction on the relatively flat trail system. The layer of ice was still pretty much intact though punching through it with the spikes was nowhere as loud as the previous day at Lisha Kill. The first lap was in decent lighting and the second lap was mostly in the dark but I never needed to pull the headlamp out of my pocket to light the way back to the car.

    On Sunday there must have been a bunch of people out on the trails during the earlier part of the day because the snow and ice was chewed up pretty good by the time I got there about a half hour before dark. I saw a woman with her dog starting down the trail as I pulled into the parking area. After I geared up with the broken Grivels for a 3rd straight day, I caught up with the woman pretty quickly and whizzed on past as she rushed to leash her dog. Lap number one went quickly and then at the start of lap two just where the trail takes a hard left to the west I ran into a deer. This was my third close encounter with this same friendly deer over the last several months. Just like the previous times, I turned a blind corner to find the deer standing right in the middle of the trail less than five feet away. This particular animal doesn't exactly have the quickest reflexes. Each time we met up I could have reached out and touched it had I so desired. Then the deer finally notices me a few feet away and runs off about twenty feet, stops, and stands there staring at me for minutes on end. So I stop too and participate in the stare-down while taking some pics with my phone. The deer never budges. It stands there motionless the whole time almost as if it is pretending to be invisible. I am always the first to leave. This day was no different as I eventually got bored and started my second lap.

    The stare-down

    About five minutes later, and about a hundred yards beyond where I passed the woman/dog combo earlier, I noticed blood on the ground. It's sure easy to spot when everything is white. The chewed-up trail was mostly jagged ice and that must have cut the dog's paws up pretty well. I followed that trail of blood for the last mile of the loop all the way back to the parking lot. I have to assume this woman was a novice on snow and ice. She probably started out with good intentions but it quickly became a bad day for her pet who paid for its master's inexperience and bled for a good long while. Poor dog.

    So, three nice short outings in the snow and ice. Saw my fill of white-tailed deer and put some more miles on those Grivel microspikes. I'm determined to get my money's worth out of them.

  • #2
    Fortunately, I won’t have much of a problem in Harriman State Park. From what I’ve read there is not much ice let alone snow in the park due to the warm weather. Im going to check out the Jackie Jones fire tower and the Big Hill shelter this weekend.
    Nothing like being in the woods.


    • Nivek
      Nivek commented
      Editing a comment
      We just had like 3 inches of snow in this area and some ice.