The Crooked Canes Journal


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Bald Mountain Bushwhack ~ Nov 1, 2012

Journal entry by Wanderer for Tom



Hi everyone,

Location, location, location! That was certainly true for the eleven hikers who joined Tom on the hike to Bald Mountain today. While most of the capital district and the Saratoga area experienced rain during the day, we only had some occasional “spritzing” of it during our 5 mile hike.

Bald Mountain is located in Vermont just across the border from Whitehall at the Helen Buckner Preserve on the east side of the Poultney River at the southern tip of Lake Champlain. There are a couple of marked trails within the Nature Conservancy Preserve that lead to the bushwhack to Bald Mountain but over the years we have started at the trailhead at the end of the dirt road that follows the river. Our plan was to make a large loop with an up and back bushwhack to the top of the cliffs of Bald Mt. from the loop. I don’t think we have ever done the same route twice and the events of this outing suggest that we should consider placing some sort of flagging to steer us in the right direction for future trips.

The trees were void of most of their leaves which allowed us to get a glimpse of the valley to our west as we gained elevation and the pace was slow enough to get in the all important visiting. It was a raw day and you were quick to cool down if you stopped for an extended period but, nonetheless, it wasn’t long before we had to strip off some layers. Progress was good and we soon reached the area that we were to begin the bushwhack. The adventurous nature of some of our group decided to look for a new, easier route to the top, so we spread out to see if we could locate a new approach. I wasn’t sure who found a road that seemed to go in the right direction (I think it was Lenore) but we took it anyway and although we had to go over a small ridge we did manage to get to the last steep part with little trouble. We gained the summit ridge and now had to decide on which overlook provided the best views, agreeing on the furthest one north which also provided the most options for getting out of the wind. We settled in and enjoyed a leisurely lunch with some pretty views of Whitehall, the mountains to our west and the southern tip of Lake Champlain (which is more of a river connecting the main body of the lake to South Bay). Of course lunch had to end and we started down.

As I mentioned earlier I don’t think we ever followed the same route in the past, whether going up or down and today was no different. We arrived at our first steep section but for some reason decided to go on to the next ridge to see if there was a better way down. Unfortunately, the route down from this ridge was steeper than the previous one and caused some in the group to hesitate, choosing to go on to the next ridge. It didn’t matter to me because Ray was in my group and he is the GPS Guru and I knew we would eventually get out under his guidance. We could always send in help to find the rebels.

Our group of seven made it down safely but it was very slow going and now we had to find the rest of our group. We headed in a direction that would allow our paths to cross and sure enough, after a few minutes were reunited. Our group was together again and we made excellent progress but soon realized that we didn’t recognize any of our surroundings – were we lost or did someone just magically place us in another valley? Oh well – we were on a logging road so let’s just follow it and maybe it will be the quick way out. Unfortunately, the road brought us to a wet area which forced us to rethink our travel plans and huddled around the GPS Guru for some enlightenment. Ray showed us our current track and it wasn’t difficult to see that we either had to bushwhack a mile through unknown terrain or try and get back to our original route by backtracking a quarter of a mile. Backtracking won out and thanks to Ray we were back on our original trail. We completed our loop through the Preserve’s adjoining fields and back to our cars.

It is always nice to add some adventure to our outings to peak the interest of participants so they do not become bored – this hike certainly did all of that but also provided a good time for all. Thanks to Lenore and Jack, Claire and Kirk, Fran, Karen Burke, Joanne, Mary Ellen, Bill (newcomer), our GPS Guru Ray and of course our leader Tom.

Peter

11/7/12 - Ray Bouchard added 16 photos.

24 photos



Trailside Ridge



South Bay and the Fields of the Preserve



Looking North Towards Lake Champlain



Part of the Group Having Lunch



Our Lunch Spot



Follow the Leader



Cliffs of Bald Mountain



Looking Back



One of many beautiful rock formations that we observed as we worked our way up to the top of an esker. - by Ray



The leaves may make the forest floor appear a bit dull and drab but the lush, green moss covering the rocks gives testimony to the fact that life and beauty still abound if you merely look. - by Ray



Peter and his pack were well protected from the intermittent drizzle. - by Ray



Fossils embedded in a rock slab that is probably limestone (calcium carbonate) or dolomite (calcium magnesium carbonate), both of which exist in this area according to the brochure. - by Ray



A close up of one of the fossils. Perhaps one of our members could identify it for us. - by Ray



I believe Bill, Jack and Peter are having a strategy meeting. OK guys, which way to the overlook? - by Ray



Well at least we're on the trail. Hey guys, wait for me. - by Ray



Maiden Hair Fern seems to have survived the cold so far. - by Ray



Once you see the distinctive chunky bark of a Chestnut Oak with its deep ridges you will never forget it. In case you were wondering, it is an oak tree not a chestnut tree. - by Ray



Perhaps someone can identify this pretty yellow mushroom. - by Ray



Who would have expected such a beautiful blossom to be gracing the forest floor on November 1. Thanks to Fran Herve for correctly identifying it as a "Herb Robert". One of my wildflower ID books stated that it blooms into September. Another stated that it bloomed into October but this one and several others that we spotted later on as we scrambled up the rock cliffs to the overlook seemed to defy all odds. One of my books mentioned that they prefer soil that has calcium mixed in it so perhaps there was some limestone even at the higher elevations. According to the brochure that the Preserve provides, the bedrock in this area contains very old Precambrian gneiss and quartzite occasionally mixed with limestone and dolomite. - by Ray



A word of warning for those that might consider going beyond the marked trail during spring, summer or early fall in order to climb the cliffs to the overlook. Don't! We were legal and the day was cool enough that all the rattlesnakes were lying deep in the rocky crevices sleeping. I think! I'm not sure I was totally convinced because I found myself briefly touching the tops of the rocks as I pulled my bod over them in order to get to the top. - by Ray



We encountered a rock wall at the beginning of the final ascent. I suspect it's testimony to a lot of hard work by a burly farmer and his sons. Somehow I don't think that kids complained of being bored or having nothing to do back then. - by Ray



The top of the rocky cliffs and our final destination. Ah! Lunch at last. However, the tree projecting over the abyss is a stark reminder that life among the rocks is tenuous at best. - by Ray



A reminder that farming was quite common on the hills overlooking Lake Champlain. Plowing and planting in soil that is rich in clay was a bit of a challenge so most resorted to raising sheep and dairy cows. - by Ray



The undulating hills above the lake create a pastoral scene that reminds one of what life use to be like before people flocked to the city to become rich. - by Ray



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