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Rounds Mountain, NY

This site seems to be either very quiet or dead, but I’ll post this anyway…

Today, I joined a Taconic Hiking Club outing on the Taconic Crest Trail, along the border between New York and Massachusetts. With 14 people on the trip, and needing to leave cars at either end of the hike, I won’t go into the logistical details. Suffice it to say that it got complicated to the point of being laughable, but everything worked out.

After getting the transportation figured out and dropping cars as needed, we all started north from the trailhead on Madden Road, near Hancock, MA. After some steep climbing, we soon reached the open summit of Rounds Mountain. It was very windy and exposed here, and with temps only around 20F, we didn’t tarry long. It was an extremely clear day, and the views were great to the south, west and north.

I quickly downed a cold, dry White Castle cheeseburger (note the expression), and got going again to get out of the wind.

Back in the woods, there was about 3-4″ of fresh powder on top of 8-10″ of very firm base, so the walking on snowshoes was pretty easy, and the trail was well-marked. We split into many different and varying groups over the course of the day, but all managed to be in the same place for lunch.

Continuing along the Taconic Ridge, and climbing and descending several more minor summits, we arrived at the junction with the Robinson Hollow Access Trail, just recently reopened. From there it was all down hill to the pre-spotted cars after about a 6.3-mile hike.


February 4, 2010 at 6:43 pm 2 comments

Rusk Mountain – New York’s Catskills

After our last off-trail hike to Moose Mountain a few weeks ago, Holly wanted to learn more about map and compass navigation. Normally, I do the route planning, give her a compass bearing to follow, and she gets us to the destination through the woods very well. But she wanted to understand better how that compass bearing was arrived at. She suggested a trailless Catskill summit, since deer season hadn’t yet opened to our south, and I chose Rusk Mountain as a simple and relatively short learning exercise. It’s about 3/4 mile on a trail, and then about another 1.25 miles on a straight line to the summit. It’s quite steep, and there are no views, but it would serve our purpose well.

Arriving at the trailhead, I helped her understand the map and the route and she came up with a bearing she wanted to follow. And off we went. It was a beautiful day to be out, with temps in the 50s, no wind, and an extremely blue sky as a backdrop to the yellow beech leaves still remaining on the trees.


After struggling upward through the beeches (and a few especially nasty sons of beeches), she nailed the summit dead on. We knew this because on the trailless Catskill summits, the Catskill 3500 Club maintains canisters where hikers register a successful ascent. This then qualifies them, after completing all of the 3500-foot summits, for membership in the Club. We’re both already members, but the canister was still a welcome sight.


The summit is otherwise very nondescript, with no views whatsoever of the surrounding territory. We ate our lunches, and of course the requisite cheeseburger, signed the register, and then headed back down.


On the way down, I made a small mental error, following a bearing that caused us to intersect a stream a little farther up its bed than I would have liked. It wasn’t a big deal, just a little rocky and sloppy for a ways as we followed it down, but then we were back on the trail and reached the car in good time. Ice cream at the Prattsville Diner completed a great day in the woods.

October 26, 2009 at 5:08 pm Leave a comment

Pharaoh Mountain – Adirondacks

At 2533 feet, Pharaoh Mountain is the highest summit in the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness Area of the Adirondacks.   (Oddly, there are 2 identical entries here for Pharaoh in the Essex County, NY Summits list – do I get double points?)

Today, I joined a Schenectady ADK trip to its summit, approaching from the south via Pharaoh Lake. It was a 13.8-mile round trip, longer than we had realized because a former 1.1-mile road to a more interior trailhead was now unmaintained and impassable to all but high-clearance vehicles.


As we reached the end of the road and the old trailhead, the morning fog was just burning off.


Further along, we came to a very large beaver dam and pond. This shot only shows about a quarter of the total length of this dam.


Our destination, Pharaoh Mountain, towered above the pond behind the dam.


On the summit, clouds were beginning to fill in, and it was cool and windy. We ate lunch and enjoyed the view to the east toward Vermont in the far distance, with part of Pharaoh Lake directly below.


The summit has several views in different directions. Here, we’re looking more northwest toward the Adirondack High Peaks on the horizon.


Since the forecast was calling for an increasing chance of rain as the day wore on, we left the summit and made good time back to the outlet of Pharaoh Lake. The sky was getting gloomier by the minute, but we never did get any rain from the ominous clouds reflected in the lake.


The last 3.6 miles back to the cars seemed like an eternity, but the old road provided good walking and we reached the cars about 8 hours after we started.

October 22, 2009 at 7:12 pm 2 comments

Moose Mountain – Adirondacks

Every year, on Columbus Day Weekend, Holly and I head to the southern Adirondacks and bushwhack about 90 minutes to the cliffs on Moose Mountain. While the more popular areas of the Adirondacks are teeming with leaf-peepers, we’ve never seen another soul on this hike. There’s no trail, and we use GPS, map, and compass to navigate to the cliffs on this isolated summit.

Today, many of the more brightly colored leaves had already fallen victim to last week’s high winds, but the yellows and oranges were still brilliant in spots.

This summit is only about an hour from home, and we’ve hiked it every year since 2001 on this holiday weekend. While this year’s colors were pretty subdued, it’s always nice to be able to just park the car on the side of the road and set off through the woods completely on our own, and find our way to these unspoiled views. In the next few years, there are plans to build trails here, and we’re not looking forward to the day when this becomes a more popular destination.


October 12, 2009 at 6:11 pm 2 comments

Steep Scramble to a Rocky Summit

Catamount Mountain stands alone north of Whiteface Mountain and the Wilmington Range, and at 3173 feet, it’s a most impressive view from the road approaching the trailhead. The trail starts out flat, and then climbs from right to left in the picture below, crossing the two smaller bumps before the steep climb to the open summit.


Getting over the first bump was no worse than any other Adirondack hike, but getting to the second bump was a little more of a challenge. The first of two “lemon squeezers” got us close, and then there were several more steep pitches before this minor summit.


From this intermediate summit, the actual summit still towered several hundred feet above us with its steep rocky slabs.


Reaching the real summit, we looked back down to see other hikers coming up over the bump we had just climbed.


The view to the north included many other mountains and lakes, in a distant area of the Adirondacks that we rarely visit.


After the ceremonial cheeseburger, the trip back down was almost as slow as the trip up, as we were being very cautious descending the steep rocks. This was really a mountain to remember.


September 25, 2009 at 10:33 pm 3 comments

Two Glorious Fall Adirondack Summits

Today, from Lake Placid we headed north and west into the Santa Clara Tract, a large area of state land recently purchased from a large lumber company. There is still some working commercial forest in the area, where conservation easements allow recreational access to its many ponds and remote summits.

Azure Mountain

Azure Mountain has one of the relatively few remaining fire towers in the Adirondacks. It’s maintained, and staffed during the summer months, by Azure Mountain Friends, a local volunteer group, in concert with NYSDEC. From the tower, there are 360-degree views, but the views from a south-facing ledge seemed even more impressive and close-up. The fall colors were magnificent, and we hated to leave.




The Pinnacle

This small peak lies a little north of Azure, with a short walk of only about a half-mile to its summit. The views were not quite as expansive as from Azure, but they were a great reward for very little effort.



September 24, 2009 at 9:50 pm 2 comments

Owl’s Head – Adirondacks

We’re staying in Lake Placid this week, at a friend’s condo which he generously offered us.  On the way driving up today, since we were early anyway, we stopped to climb little Owl’s Head Mountain, only 0.6 miles each way, but with wonderful views.  It was a crystal-clear day, and the views were superb.


This is where I’m a little unclear about the rules.  Since Sir Loin and Maid Marion have already burgered this summit, does my burger count?   I downed one anyway.


September 20, 2009 at 8:19 pm 1 comment

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To encourage, enable, and document the consumption of a Cheeseburger on every summit on earth.
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