The Crooked Canes Journal


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Balm of Gilead Snowshoe ~ Mar 25, 2015

Journal entry by Wanderer



Balm of Gilead Snowshoe 3/25/2015

The Balm of Gilead loop hike is not a particularly long one but what it doesn’t have in distance it certainly makes up in variety - add great snow conditions, perfect weather and good company and you have a formula for a “spectacular day” as Tom said. The weather forecast had a big role in moving the hike up one day but we managed to attract seven adventurers who trusted my decision and guarantee that we would be able to squeeze in the snowshoe before the predicted wet weather was to arrive later in the day. Many of our “regulars” are traveling about, seeking out warmer climes or visiting family so they will have to experience the trip vicariously using the journal.

On most of the journeys north to the North Creek area I prefer to take the route along the Hudson from Warrensburg – not much longer and certainly offering better views. The Hudson is still nearly totally covered in its thick crust of snow and ice but a channel can be seen beginning to open up, creating crevasses and spectacular images as it snakes its way along the river’s course. Like horses in a starting gate that await the doors to open and allow them to run, the river is waiting for warmer weather, snowmelt and spring rains to suddenly allow it to break free and run again, unencumbered by the minor inconvenience of thousands of tons of ice and snow that temporarily block its normal flow. It is an annual event that often provides for extraordinary views and sometimes damage to man-made structures in its way – I doubt that it will be much longer for the show to begin.

It didn’t take long after arriving at the trailhead parking area to decide that this would be a microspike start – the snow was firm enough to support you as long as you stayed on the trail. However, with the temperature already twenty-six, snowshoes would certainly be required for the bushwhack portion and any off-trail exploration at Hooper Mine. With blue skies and full sun, our group of explorers were on our way and headed up. It is not quite a mile to the overlook at the top of Balm of Gilead but it is mostly a steady, albeit gradual ascent. The reward today was crystal clear skies looking west to Thirteenth Lake and beyond. Too early for lunch, we took advantage of the roominess of our perch to put on snowshoes for the bushwhack to William Blake Pond – beginning just a few minutes down the trail.

With me in the lead – clippers in hand, removing some of the branches on the way, we headed on a bearing that would take us to the shore of the pond without encountering any steep cliffs. Don was skeptical of my route – only to be pleasantly surprised to arrive at the shore as planned. There was some hesitancy on the part of our newest member, Linda Plante, to cross the pond but I assured her that even a truck would be supported by the ice underneath the snow that blanketed the pond. We made it to the other side to locate our nests on the sunny bank for a long, enjoyable lunch. Quite unexpectedly, geese could be heard in the distance and in a few minutes a large flock of perhaps fifty appeared overhead in their familiar “V” pattern, heading north to some secret feeding area or open water only known to them – a certain indication that spring is on its way. There was still more to explore so the end of lunch order was given and we headed to the mine using an unofficial connecting trail.

It is a wonderful trail that connects the pond to the mine, passing thru beautiful mixed hardwoods. Mostly level, it isn’t too long before we reach the remnants of two storage structures, once used to store explosives used in the mining operation. They are also our clue to head off trail and up to the rim of the abandoned mine. From the rim, a view of the open pit mine can be seen, now overgrown with trees but still well worth the effort to meander along the edge. Panoramic views of the High Peaks are seen from the largest of the overlooks, with their white-topped peaks in contrast to the rust color of the mine’s rim on the opposite side. The garnet mine was opened by Frank Hooper in 1904 but only operated until 1928 when it closed because of the competition from the nearby Barton Mines and the scarcity of garnet in the Hooper Mine. We descended back to the connecting trail and then made our way into the floor of the mine to get a better sense of just how large it is and tried to imagine what it must have been like one hundred years ago, trying to extract the garnet from the rock. The mine is now owned by NYS and you are free to explore and harvest some garnet on your own – just bring a prospecting hammer!

The mine was the last of the triad of special places of today’s outing – each person choosing his or her favorite one. Thank you to Tom, Diane, Don, Linda P, Ed and Linda for joining me on this wonderful day.

Peter

14 photos



Signs along the way



View from Balm of Gilead - Thirteenth Lake and beyond



Balm of Gilead overlook



Tom using his "counter" to verify the count for the day - yup - 7! [Happy belated birthday Tom]



The "team" on William Blake Pond



Lunch and some sun



Geese in formation



Old explosives storage shed



View from the rim of Hooper Mine - High Peaks in the distance



View from the floor of the Hooper Mine



The Hudson River clogged with snow and ice ........



....... but starting to open up



Snake Rock - one of our put-ins for the Hudson River paddle - not quite ready just yet



Rockwell Falls in Hadley - not part of our journey but a pretty sight



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