Frum Outdoorsman: Rare but Possible

The wanderings and adventures of an orthodox Jew

Archive for the ‘Hiking’ Category

My encounter with a bear in Harriman State Park

Posted by Frum Hiker on August 7, 2008

At about 6pm last evening I had the sudden urge to be hiking along a quiet trail in the woods, so I headed to Harriman State Park which is essentially my backyard- merely 15-20 minutes away depending on how many people are blocking traffic at the intersection of route 306 and maple ave.

I decided for the first time ever to hike the trails accessible from the first parking lot, I haven’t hiked up these trails since I was a kid, mostly because being the first trail head its always crowded- and the last thing I want to see in the woods are people, or mountain lions.

I headed in and hiked for a little over an hour until I reached a flattened area with some wild blueberries- Harriman has the most wild blueberries I have ever seen and I know of some great raspberry patches as well. I davened mincha and headed back down the way I came, rather then making it into a loop. I had forgot my headlamp and didn’t feel like navigating a down mountain trail in the dark.

The sun was giving off its brilliance as I ran and walked down the trail, I trail run uphill and walk downhill, to raise my heart rate. After dropping below the mountain line where I could see the sun it began to get pretty dark, it was already 8pm.

I have this fascination with the bracha asher yatzar, its one of my favorite things to say in the woods- I just like it. So I decided to take a piss even though I didn’t “really” need to. I finished draining the lizard and said the bracha. As I looked up at the trail I saw a medium sized black bear turn around about 50 feet up the trail from me and run away.

Oh man did that freak me out, I did let out a big “THANK THE LORD” but I stood there stunned for a several seconds and then looked where the bear ran, I thought I could see it standing behind a tree looking at me. The last thing in the world I wanted in the woods was a bear stalking me.

So I debated, I figured that I shouldn’t go down the trail I was headed, but it was getting dark and I needed to be away from that bear. I decided to bushwhack downhill to this creek I could hear and follow it out of the woods- I knew where it would take me.

I quickened my step and screamed out Mr. Bear every 10 seconds or so. How could this happen in Harriman of all places, this was the first time I ever met a bear on the trail. I have hiked all over in some of the most rural places on the continent and had never come in contact with a bear this close.

I saw bears on the trail in Alaska, but they were over a hundred yards away busy gathering berries for the coming winter, plus, I had a shotgun loaded with six 3inch slugs- way more then enough to take down a bear. I have seen Grizzlies in Montana, but also from several hundred yards away and that was from the road. The only other close call I have had with dangerous animals was when I was riding some ridge trail near Jackson , Wyoming when my buddy Jason and I came across several huge moose, moose are dumb and will charge and you don’t want a moose charging you.

So obviously I made it out, but I was scared- mainly because bears in such a crowded park are probably not as scared of people as they are in places like Alaska and Montana. In fact, its so unlikely to see a bear in these places because they smell you from miles away- depending on wind direction of course.

Anyway if I wouldn’t have decided to pee at that time or immediately said ahser yatzar which I sometimes forget to do, I would have walked right into the bear- which was obviously watching me- but I didn’t notice nor could I see that far in the fading light.

I find it good to document situations where Gods hand is present so we shouldn’t forget who is boss.

Posted in Harriman State Park, hashgacha prutus, Hiking | 23 Comments »

My brother needs to borrow a large internal frame backpack

Posted by Frum Hiker on June 25, 2008

My brother is going on a trip with the Jewish Outdoors Club to climb Mount Ranier- and he needs a 5500 cubic inch internal frame backpack. He just wants to borrow one- since he normally only does 5 day trips and never needs one so large. If anyone has one to lend or knows of anyone who may have one- please email me ASAP.

My brother is 5″4 so if anyone is between the heights of 5″1 and 5″6 it will do- ladies and gents either or.

Posted in general Outdoors, Hiking, Jews, Rock Climbing | 1 Comment »

My indecisiveness in action

Posted by Frum Hiker on June 5, 2008

So I gave my buddy Ariel a call this week to see if he was going to be upstate at his camp in Tannersville New York and sure enough he is and he would love to have me which is awesome- because I haven’t seen him in years and I love the area- and will have some great stuff to do on Friday.

Then it hit me- what can I do to utilize my time the best on Friday since I have to be down in New York sunday morning to pick a friend up from the airport. Suddenly my logic started working and I came up so many options its driving me nuts.

Kayaking in North/South Lakes- great swimming and beautiful.

Ride one of my favorite loops in all of the Catskills, routes 214-28-42 back up route 23. I was already thinking of this- it is tiring and hilly but amazing.

Do small hike like Giant Ledge only a couple miles, longer hike like Slide Mountain or maybe Hunter Mountain.

Go mountain biking at Jockey Hill and Bluestone wild forest outside Kingston.

Roll down the windows, remove my shirt, throw on some bluegrass and wander around the rural byways of Greene and Delaware Counties.

Then I realized I have to work tomorrow- which means less time- I have taken off the last 3 Fridays in a row. I figured on working till 12 and then driving up- only an hour and a half drive. Its supposed to be 87 degrees. I’m figuring on mountain biking, hiking and a little driving/wandering.

Ah the life as outdoors nut isn’t always so simple.

Posted in Catskills, Hiking, Kayaking, Mountain Biking, Road Biking, Road Trips, Rural America | 1 Comment »

Urban Dictionary for Orthodox Jews and Monsey outdoors news

Posted by Frum Hiker on March 28, 2008

I have created with the help of a big fan of Frum Satire my other much more popular blog a site called Frum Slang which is in WIKI form and is intended to be a fully functioning urban dictionary for the frum community(yes it will be mildly offensive) but already it is becoming very funny and a pleasure to see which tersm people have added.

In other news I have been living in Monsey NY for almost a month and I think I am having way too much fun for someone in Monsey. Most people wondered if someone like me could handle such a community and you know what- I haven;’t noticed because I have been riding and hiking more then I have ever been able to do in Albany. While its not as good as being an hour from the Adirondacks. I have become accustomed to leaving work and being on my bike in sub 30 minutes time.

I have been actively riding around the Ringwood area which is 15 miles from my house. I have yet to figure it out, but Skyline Drive offers some great technical after work single track. I have ridden the small skatepark across from Ramapo College and the college itself has some great stuff to fool around on. Stewart State forest was ridden on Sunday (I fell head first into a thorn bush) and then I proceeded to ride a 40 mile road ride in Ulster and Prange counties. I rode Blue mountain reservation in Peekskill on Weds night- I found some great new stuff in there as well.

I have been really hiking big time in Harriman. I have done 3 full day 10+ mile hikes and already am planning on work-night backpacking- due to the fact its 15 minutes to my house. Insane man. I am ready to get my kayak into the water.

My work is awesome mostly due to the hours. I can work 12 hours days but in the middle I will go for a 4 hour bike ride. My boss actually likes what I do, it splits up my time, allows him to look at what I’ve done, and it lets me know I can skip out in the middle of a beautiful day.

If anyone wants to meet up in Monsey please contact me

Posted in Blogging, Harriman State Park, Hiking, Jews, Monsey, Mountain Biking, Road Biking | 2 Comments »

I moved to Monsey last week and I am loving it!!!

Posted by Frum Hiker on March 10, 2008

I know that may be paradoxical for someone of my age and marital status to say, but in a little over a week I have realized that the outdoor opportunities are endless within a half hour radius. Just 15 minutes from my door is Harriman State Park, 46,000 acres including 36 lakes- most of which have access for boats. Lots of trails including portions of the Long Path and Appalachian Trails both of which run right through the park. I am also very close to the Hudson Highland and Storm King areas which both have extensive hiking trail networks and I am a 20 minute drive from Ringwood state park which has some of the best mountain biking in New Jersey. To say the least I am pumped. Throw in a 40 hour a week job and the end of daylight savings time- I am going to be in amazing shape within 2 weeks.

To start things off I went hiking in Harriman last sunday, snow covered trails made for slow going, but I hiked up to a startegic sunset viewing spot and sat on a rock and contemplated life and the woods, like a regular Whitman type. Then on Monday I road 20 miles on my road bike on the poorly paved roads of the park, its beautiful riding, but rough with all the bumps.

Friday I took my mountain bike out for the first ride of the season. If I was still in Albany, I probably wouldn’t have ridden until next month. I went to Ringwood and road the cannonball trail off of Skyline drive. I still can’t figure the place out so well, and road until it started raining on me and decided to just go back up instead of finding a loop- it was erev shabbos anyway. It was great riding and would have been better, but I realized my rear shock was blown and needs some new cartridges or something.

Today I hiked for about 5 hours through Harriman and it was amazing. I ended up hiking twice as much as I had originally planned due to trail flooding and no way to bushwack around. I ended up at the Lemon Squeezer which is on the AT and is this huge rock formation that you squeeze through to follow the trail. I also ended up, due to my detour on the Lichen Trail- which took me into the Ramapo Dunderberg trail. These two trails followed this ridge that made me feel like I was above the tree-line somewhere out west. Dead trees and pine trees swayed in the wind and boy was it windy, 35 mph winds, maybe thats why I met only two people on the trail for a whole 5 hours.

This week I am already planning to hike and get to know the trails better in my area. When it gets a little warmer I will be backpacking on the weeknights camping out and hiking out before work, I am pumped.

Posted in Harriman State Park, Hiking, Monsey, Mountain Biking, Road Biking | 1 Comment »

Cross country skiing yesterday

Posted by Frum Hiker on February 26, 2008

The sky burst into a brilliant layering of orange, green and purple, I was sweating profusely despite the fact the temperature was dropping pretty quickly. A slight breeze fluttered some leaves that had failed to fall with autumn. My skis gently glided along the ridge, I was looking out over a vast valley and the setting sun as making the mountains to my east look completely pink, they were amazing and I felt lucky to have gotten to this thin trail with a cliff on one side and a sharp drop on the other. I pushed up the hill and gilded with each ski until the snow cover was barely enough to ski, small forzen and rotten leaves poked through the ice encrusted surface and threaten to slow down my ascent. I wanted to ski to the top of the pass in order to catch the suns last rays- which I knew would be beautiful and clear judging from the bright blue sky and pink mountains to the east.

I stopped at the crest of a treeless hill and looked out upon the valley I was looking at before, this time my view was not obstructed by trees and I could see Mount Greylock the highest point in Massachusetts, just under 3500 feet marred with radio towers at the top, but still a breathtaking sight. I braced myself for a steep hill and knew I would probably fall, and when I didn’t I let out a whoop that echoed off the forest.

Instead of going to my car, I decided to ski up Petersburg Pass on the New York-Mass border. I skid up a trail that had not been skis on, I skid over crusty snowshoe tracks and broke the frozen snow that got deeper and more fluffy as I gained elevation. I liked looking back and seeing my two narrow tracks in the deepening snow. I also liked that all was silent, no one was around and that I would get to ski under the moonlight.

I skid until a sign said 1 mile to the Taconic Crest Trail, a trail I have hiked and biked many times, being that it is rather close to my house and affords amazing views at every ridge. I do have a place in my heart for ridge trails, I guess that is one of my things that I dislike about east coast hiking in that most trails are not on ridges and rather you must hike straight up and straight down just for the view.

I started hiking up sideways with my skis attached until I came to the top. I davened mincha as the sun disappeared amidst a flurry of colors and rays. It was great, I then took off my skis and just sat on a rock and waited for the moon as I contemplated life and the woods.

Posted in Hiking, Skiing | Leave a Comment »

Thinking of Montana

Posted by Frum Hiker on February 3, 2008

The thing about grizzlies is, they scare me, black bears, the type we have east of the Mississippi really don’t give me the creeps, but grizzlies and their awesome abilities just freak me out. I was armed with a can of bear spray which I had just purchased for $50 in Red Lodge. It didn’t make me feel any safer, I felt like I was being stalked and the bears were watching me from high above perched up at some bear restaurant on a cliff while the chef another bear was sharpening his teeth and waiting for the kill. Maybe they were debating if I would need seasoning or not, maybe they were working out a price. Every time the wind blew, or a branch fell, or any other of the million sounds that emanate from the woods met my ears- I jumped.

I felt stupid with this bear spray which was just a feel good way of saying, large can of pepper spray that has a warning that “contents are under high pressure”, hey seltzer and deodorant have the same warning don’t they? I wished I had a shotgun or at least a .45 magnum or something, that would make me feel tough, it may not do anything in the case of a bear attack, they run 35 miles per hour and climb trees, but at least it made me “feel” safe.

I was hiking up a rocky trail in the middle of nowhere, the middle of nowhere being just outside the Beartooth Wilderness Area in south central Montana, just bordering the Wyoming border, if that actually helped you understand where I was on the United States map, I would love to meet you. Anyway, the weather could not have been more perfect, I had on shorts and a t-shirt, and I just started to feel my tzitzis sticking to my sweaty undershirt. I wasn’t stupid of course, and had packed a windproof fleece, a must for any person of the backcountry, as well as a siddur, some energy bars and 100 ounces of water. That is a bit much for a hike under 10 miles, but I am the type who reads way too many stories and books about folks who got lost or stuck and hadn’t packed enough to survive, so I over pack. Its bad because I over pack for shabbos as well, and always end up lugging this enormous bag of stuff besides my suit-bag always scaring my hosts when they think I misunderstood when they said “make yourself at home.”

I am entering this huge cut out of the ridge I am climbing up. From the parking lot, which was empty by the way, the wall of mountains looked like they were guarded by this gigantic rock face filled with trees and cliffs, I could see no streams and surely no way of getting through. I figured on a huge climb straight up and over, but luckily the trail builders had chosen the easy way an I was walking sideways up the huge ridge. Now I was facing a cut in the ridge, I could hear a swift moving creek somewhat below me, and its rumbles and quick peaks of white water gurgling over rocks and dead trees made me excited for its source. I knew its source was the two lakes I was hiking to, but had no idea what it would look like.

The trail leveled out and I began to walk pretty quickly on the hard packed earth. When I hike alone I always walk quickly, I do stop often to look around and enjoy my surroundings and sound like an old world preacher with the amount of wow-Baruch Hashems that are emitted from my mouth. The scenery was just starting to open up a bit and on the two sides of the cut that I was walking between I could see exposed rock. I was walking through a beautiful spruce forest and not much else was growing. I was relatively low, so it was semi-arid, the town of Red Lodge where I had gotten my bear spray was located at 5,555 feet so that was in the desert, I was at about 8,000 feet now and climbing.

As I climbed the forest became more lush and I noticed little colonies of wildflowers of pink and blue sprouting up every few minutes. Then I came to my first of many stream crossings. The stream was more of a trickle, but it provided me with such joy, water has this way of lighting up a hike, that’s probably why I do what they call “water hikes”, usually to lakes or waterfalls, most of the time they are too cold to swim in, but once in a while you can just jump right in, best part about it is you can utilize the lakes and streams as mikvahs, when no one is around, and no one ever is.

I crossed the scattered logs that had ben put down by past hikers so that peoples shoes should not get wet. That’s one of the things I love about hiking, the people, they are always so friendly and willing to lend a hand, give you some water or just have a friendly chat about anything. I always wear my yarmulke and tzitzis proudly when I hike, besides the fact that I have a philosophy that I do not hide who I am, even more so when I may meet another Jew by some chance. I have met other Jews on the trail or random places before, and would not have been possible if I had been wearing a baseball cap or my tzitzis had been tucked in.

I crested another hill and noticed that the valley I was walking in was coming to an end. I came to a grassy clearing that had some fire pits from past campers, most wilderness areas in the west restrict camp fires due to forest fires, but judging from the cinders on the wood, these fires had been recent, at least there were no empty beer cans lying around.

I walked passed the grassy clearing and through a thick stand of pine trees with a carpeted floor of pine needles. It felt like walking on a plush oriental rug, after walking up the hard packed rocky trail and I relished it for all of 3 minutes and then I was awed by a beautiful silvery lake. The water was completely still, save for a few small ripples where a stream was adding its contents to the beautiful masterpiece that lay before me. On the far side of the lake was a rock wall that stretched about 1000 feet straight up, it was made up of loose rock that appeared to be gravel from far away, this rock otherwise known as scree, and I knew better then to think it was merely small pieces of gray gravel-like rock, big chunks usually the size of cars were probably mixed in the rubble that had fallen down from the top which was blanketed in snow.

I continued on because I had saw on my topographical map that the next lake was much larger and surrounded by much more extreme scenery. I continued to walk and passed over the stream which was flowing into the small lake. I walked though a forest of shorter trees, I was almost above the tree line at 9,000 feet or so.

Suddenly I stopped in my tracks, and just stared. I was on a field of sub alpine grasses and a few large boulders lay off to my side, but what lay in front of me was one of the nicest most awesome things I have ever seen. There was this perfectly clear glacial lake, in back of it was this amphitheater of rock, this mountain looked as if it were cut out and made to accept this lake in the middle. The mountains surrounding the lake appeared as if they jutted out of the lake itself, they were gray and filled with snow and large gray rocks. Green was scattered up the sides of them and at the very top they were covered in glaciers, the glaciers were all producing these magnificent waterfalls, the kind that look like tiny slivers of water, like a sink faucet, yet they were cascading hundreds of feet into this stream that would eventually widen and become a river as it plunged out of the mountains into the lowlands.

It was rather windy and I noticed that the clouds were thickening up. I took a bunch of pictures and then filmed myself to document my feelings of gratitude to Hashem and joy at being able to bask in all his glory and creations. I washed negel vasser in the lake and davened a most amazing kavanah filled mincha. Like always I wondered if I was the first to bring sparks of kedusha to this place of beauty in the middle of nowhere.

I then sat on a rock and just gazed at the mountains, glaciers, and the clear lake that was so clear you could see the rocks 100 yards out. I scanned the open hills with my binoculars for bears, ate an energy bar and started my hike back down.

As I was hiking passed the first lake I had come to, I met a man and his two little kids coming up the trail. They looked like they were going to pass out, I told them that the next lake was worth all of their pain, we chatted about the altitude sickness they were obviously suffering from and I went on my way. I had an advantage over anyone that flies into high altitude locations, in that by driving I had acclimated already. As you drive west you start to rise pretty long before you hit the Rockies, which spread from Northern Canada down to Mexico. Even the western end of Kansas is all 4,000 feet or more above sea level.

I headed down ever mindful of the bear threat and a little spooked by the sounds of the wilderness once again. I returned to my car and was sweating once again, it was getting dark so I decided to cook my dinner in the parking lot and find a place to camp afterwards. It really isn’t so smart to cook and camp in the same place, while in bear country. Bears have an incredible sense of smell, and can probably smell whatever you have been cooking, deodorant and toothpaste are also things you should not use while camping out in grizzly country.

For dinner I chose one of the Osem instant meals I had, unfortunately for the kosher crowd there have never been any good camping or hiking foods that are quick nutritious and easy to prepare. I have tried every self heated kosher meal and find they are too heavy to hike with and rather tasteless otherwise. I have tried many items, but in the end I find that the Osem meals in the bags are lightest and easiest for trips of any sort. They only take 15 minutes or less and provide you with a whole bunch of carbohydrates and protein, and fat which you undoubtedly need when exerting so much energy. Unfortunately they also come chock full of sodium and MSG, so I try not to eat them unless I feel very weak.

I fired up my compact camp stove and poured the contents of my meal into my pot of boiling water. I then consulted my map of the area and decided that I could camp anywhere I pleased. Sleeping on the road is always an issue especially if you want peace and quiet. Too commonly I find myself sleeping near highways and railroad tracks. I prefer free national forest primitive campgrounds, which have only spaces for your car and tent, but no toilet or garbage facilities.

I ate my meal out of the pot and gazed at the darkening canyon around me, I put on some pants because I could feel it getting cold and prepared my sleeping gear. The clouds had made me concerned and although they were scattered now I felt that I should sleep in my tent, I try and sleep tent-less as much as possible, because I love to gaze up at the stars, until you visit the west you will never see such stars I guarantee it, shooting stars are also very common.

I finished my food, washed my pot onto the sandy parking lot and started to drive on the dirt road to find a nice place to sleep. The dirt road was a four wheel drive type road and riddles with holes, and rocks. My car has four wheel drive and I was enjoying splashing through the mud and keeping it in second gear to prevent grinding my gears.

I saw a spot and pulled onto an even worse road, I checked the road ahead to see I wouldn’t get stuck, which is never fun and proceeded cautiously down this very steep hill to a spot by a roaring brook. Streams are great to sleep next to because they drown out the scary silence of night.

I backed my car under a stand of tall evergreens and set my tend up about 20 feet away. I thanked God for giving me a flat spot without roots or rocks. There is nothing quite like having to camp on bumpy ground, forcing you to wonder why you didn’t fork out the fifty bucks for a hotel room. My spot was perfect and in the fading light I turned on my headlamp and sat on a rock over looking the roaring stream with a pirkei avos in my lap.

After a half hour or so of learning I felt sleep coming to my eyes and davened a heartfelt maariv, and thanked Hashem for such a beautiful day and asked him to protect me from hungry bears that night. I was very scared, this would be my first time sleeping by myself in a back country setting. I have been all over the east by myself, but Montana was way different then Maine.

I slept soundly, but for the first hour or so I got really scared every time a tree squeaked in the wind. I davened to Hashem for safety and thought about the ironic situation that I was in, since the day was filled with love and fear. I thought of having both yeera and ahava for Hashem as I drifted into a fitful sleep.

Posted in Hiking, Jews, Montana, Road Trips | 8 Comments »

Tree Hugger Humor!!!

Posted by Frum Hiker on November 8, 2007

So there are these two trees growing in the woods, and this sapling grows between them.

The one tree asks the other, is that the son of a birch?

No its the son of a beeech.

These two trees are debating back and forth like crazy until this woodpecker shows up. They ask him to settle the debate.

So the woodpecker rocks over to the sapling and flies back a few minutes later. He says your both wrong.

Thats not a son of a birch or the son of a beeech.

That’s the finest piece of ash I’ve ever had my pecker in.

From the book: A Blistered Kind Of Love – By Angela and Duffy Ballard.
A book I am really enjoying about a couple hiking the PCT (pacific crest trail)

Posted in Hiking | 4 Comments »

Hiking the Tongue Mountain Range

Posted by Frum Hiker on November 1, 2007

Small shafts of bright sunlight shined through the canopy of swaying trees. The sunlight shifted with the sway, and all that could be heard was a slight rustling of the curled and colored leaves. Bright red and orange leaves hanging on for dear life struggled to stay hooked into their life source with each passing breeze, every few moments a new breeze would send several leaves into flight as they swirled and plummeted to the already blanketed ground.

I stopped for a moment to wipe my sweaty brow, I listened intently for I could have sworn I had just some sort of sound, but all was quiet, in fact, other then distant breezes shaking the forest above me not much could be heard. An airplane in the distance, a chipmunk squirming into a dead log, my heavy breathing. My brows fluids deposited onto the sleeve of my long sleeve t-shirt I continued with renewed vigor of the steady incline, I was making a racket as I plowed up hill parting the thousands of leaves with a crunch as if I was parting the red sea.

The sugar maples were bursting forth in this red like never before, it must should have been past peak foliage I thought to myself as I drove past the placid gray waters of Lake George on my way to this most magnificent trail system, but nevertheless here I was walking through a fall forest of color and crunch. The damp leaves in the nearby water filled depressions sent lovely damp autumnal smells to my nose. Smells that only come with autumn, smells that remind me that snow is near and the days of summer are gone, a distant memory only to return with a bud on a tree and maddening rain storms to wash away the remnants of winter in the forms of overflowed ice choked creeks and flooded basements.

I stop again, amazed that such silence exists so close to such vast human development, why the road is only a couple miles away, a road that during the summer is choked with tourists who come up to the area to eat soft serve ice cream from road side stands and miniature golf before retiring to the million dollar beach. Thankfully the tourists were gone as well, to be replaced by contractors fixing the damage and a few locals like myself trying to shake off society and be y ourselves in the wild.

Suddenly the light fades, I can see perfectly but I just passed into a thick and dense patch of evergreens, fully green and full of needles they make he trail into a soft carpet like path. Tall grayish cliffs rise up to the side of me with trickles of water seeping from the moss that dots the rock outcroppings. Suddenly I am once again in the bright forest of deciduous trees and crunching along savoring the few scrambling rodents and sucking in the smells of vast amounts of dead fall and decaying leaves.

At the intersection of a few trails I whip out a banana and debate where to go, to the left I can see a steep incline and a mountain of 2200 feet. A fellow hiker with a tripod sticking out of his pack, whom I passed a bit earlier recommends going his direction, although superb views he assures me are in store either way you go. I begin to walk with him and decide to engage him in conversation. I passed him before because I wanted to be alone, lost in my thoughts and fantasies, he was the first person I spoke to the entire day.

Joe was from Queensbury, which is just down the road near Glens Falls. He appeared to be very knowledgeable of the area so I decided to use his knowledge to my advantage. Turns out Joe worked for International Paper for many years and managed a tract of land in the Adirondacks totaling 350,000 acres, I was impressed. We spoke of the best areas to hike in order to be alone. I have always heard the Pharaoh Lakes wilderness area to be best- and he readily agreed, unless I wanted to venture out to the Cranberry lake region in the west of the park.

He has never seen a bear in the wild, in fact he has only seen 10 bear all of which were crossing roads during his 35 years working. That is better then me because the only bears I ever saw on the trail were on an open ridge while hiking in Kenai Fjords in Alaska, and they were 300 yards away. I have seen numerous bears on roads in Glacier National Park, northern British Columbia and the parks in Alberta, but never in the east.

We spoke of hunting season which was taking place at the moment, I told him that most of my favorite mountain biking trails close for bow season and open for shotgun season and that I debate every time whether to ride or not, always opting for many articles of clothing in orange blaze if it is too nice out not to ride. He likes the hunting downstate best, since the weather is milder the deer stay out longer and are more active, unlike upstate where most of the vegetation is gone by the end of October.

Then he made a turn towards the Fifth Mile Leanto and I decided to continue on to the mountain itself because for viewing I would rather be alone. I hadn’t driven 75 miles north of my house to share the views and contemplations that I have while looking over vast mountains, lakes and valleys. I hiked down onto a ridge and up again, all the while glimpsing light views to the east and west. The sun was making it so the views to the east were in better detail.

The first ridge I came to nearly took my breath away, I bounded out onto the grippy, moss covered rock that protruded out of the woods onto this small grassy knob looking to the east. Big, dark and mysterious Black Mountain was facing me directly across Lake George, its dark rounded top was covered in pine, but as my eyes slowly scanned the sloping ridges that appeared to jut right out of the perfectly flat Lake George I realized that they were a maze of yellow, red and orange colored trees.

Tongue Mountain Range

In the distant many of the leaves were already gone, but I should have known the leaves in the valley would still be hanging on. You see the lake moderates the temperatures as do valleys themselves. The lake was probably still warmer then the air causing the valley to remain warmer and letting the trees hold their leaves longer. North to south was a huge mountain range jutting out of the lake, I could see Vermont’s’ Green Mountains off to the north east, probably somewhere around Ticonderoga.

I could also see the peninsula I was standing on very vividly. The Tongue Mountain Range jutting out on this rather wide peninsula in the middle of Lake George was where I was standing. I looked back at the ridge that Joe had hiked to and it was the most vivid scene of all. It was a huge rounded mountain full of robust colors. Very little green stood amidst the hundreds of brightly lit trees, with the sunlight beaming onto it and changing its color combinations every couple minutes as it disappeared behind wispy clouds that were dominating the south west portion of the bright blue sky.

Small islands stood out in the middle of the lake with one rather large, lush and green one hugging the opposite shoreline. I sat down onto some brown tall grass and marveled at the sights. After a while I dozed off with a cheek to cheek smile plastered on my mouth. I woke up to the sound of birds in the distance several minutes later and could see a rather cute and small white bird eying me intently, wondering “hey how did you get up here” 1700 feet or so above the lake.

I took several pictures and then headed back down towards reality. The best thing about fall in my mind is the shortened days and how it allows you to visualize many different shades of forest with limited time. The closer to sunset it gets, the more orange the hues become and the shadows grow long, until its almost dark under the canopy of leaves. The may not have even gone down yet, but its ebbing can be sensed hours before its actual conclusion.

I walked casually down hill, stopping every couple minutes to listen for animals scurrying away from me. I also enjoyed the silence immensely and prayed it wouldn’t end, though I knew it would. I got back to my car feeling refreshed with a renewed sense of appreciation for the southern Adirondacks and a thirst for more of autumns wonders.

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What have I been up to the last few weeks

Posted by Frum Hiker on October 29, 2007

I have been out and about taking advantage of the pre-ski season warmth that is gracing the land. Tonight is going to be a frost and with that most of the leaves will continue to fall and hopefully some low pressure systems will grace the area and bring some damned snow already. I wanted to be able to ski some over the Thanksgiving holiday, and most New York State mountain biking trails are closed for hunting season. I remember last year that towards the end of shotgun season they open up, but for now I am limited to some trails in the Adirondacks and stuff down near Poughkeepsie.

Since the last time I wrote, I have done a sunset, night hike up overlook mountain and it was beautiful with an almost full moon illuminating the colorful forests. Gold is dominating in the Catskills. I have been riding my road bike pretty steadily in the past week due to my non-diverse mountain biking options. I did get to ride the Skidmore trails in Saratoga a few times and I ride the Vassar Farms trail in Poughkeepsie as well.

Last week I rode over 100 miles on my road bike. I am addicted to this time of year, 55 degrees, shorts and a long sleeve tee- light breezes and fresh smells of composting leaves and bright sunshine reflecting of the orange and red hues being forced out of the trees. Oh how I love those sugar maples. I road around Scohairie County this week, and wandered up to Thompsons Lake State Park and discovered that the lake offers a great fishing and kayaking spot less then 20 minutes from my house- I was overjoyed at the discovery.

I kayaked today down in Harriman State Park and it was lovely, my hands got cold- because I didn’t think I would need my gloves, but the pre-peak foliage was well worth the minor pain. I had some chilling times sitting on my boat in the middle of Silvermine lake, I had to get around the bend away from the city folk who always like to make noise when faced with the silence of the woods. I also bushwhacked to the top of this craggy knob off of Route 106 to view one of the most gorgeous sunsets ever. This burst of orange pink and red coupled with lumpy cumulous clouds really made my day.

I have been checking out some quick hikes in my area, since the days are getting real short and although I am bound to do some solo pre-winter High Peaks backpacks- I need some good day hikes. I have been looking at the Lake George area and although I have ridden the Tongue Mountain Range near Bolton on my mountain bike, hiking can take me deeper and it is easy. Hadley Mountain looks like a great jaunt and I would like to get up Slide Mountain within the next few weeks.

Posted in Adirondacks, Catskills, Hiking, Mountain Biking, Road Biking, Skiing | Leave a Comment »