Saturday, August 26, 2017

Climbing Scarface

Two friends and I are working on the "Saranac 6" challenge, climbing designated 6 mountains near Saranac Lake, NY. We are all retired and are 46ers from years past. this challenge is more our speed these days (especially mine, they are 10 years younger). I refuse to be 'over the hill' so I have dubbed us "OMG", the Over the Mountain Gang.

This past Thursday we tackled Scarface near Ray Brook, NY. It was an interesting hike on what is the most moss covered mountain I can recall climbing. We found the two overlooks the guidebook mentioned and according to book we were not required to go to the actual viewless summit but we did because the guidebook said the trail to the summit was an "unmaintained path" but we kept seeing trail markers so we went all the way. The guidebook was correct about the summit being viewless but it was along a ridge through some interesting woods so it was no hardship.

We turned around and returned to an open area we had passed to take a lunch break before heading back down. There was no view there either but there were rocks to sit on. That was more appealing than damp forest floor. Thanks to a lot of conversation, stops for photography and the fact that I don't hike very fast these days, we took just over 9 hours, but it was a fun day and that was the point.

Dave Allen at the first overlook we came to

A tree with pine cones at the first overlook.

Dave (unintentionally) managed to get in this shot too. I didn't notice at the time.


Trail. I am standing in front of a step up. the camera is about 8" above the rock. My old knees won't do steps that high. I found a way around.

OMG at the summit.

A pair of trees at our lunch break site. They had blown over, apparently long enough ago that moss and grass were growing in the remaining dirt under where they had stood. In spite of that, they had new growth (the light yellow tips) on their branches. The roots on the downside are still feeding them. That is Rick Reed's pole and pack.

Dave and Rick having lunch.

This old yellow birch is nearly 4 feet across at the bottom. A beautiful tree.

Dave and Rick on the bridge near the trailhead. We also saw a lot of fungi/mushrooms. Here are a selection of those I stopped to photograph. A couple of them were varieties I had never seen before. And one autumn leaf photo. Yes, a few leaves had turned already.

That last one looks like pizza but I would be hesitant to eat it.

Postscript: This is part of the trail too but I didn't take that root.
(Sorry about the pun. I couldn't help it. It was too good to pass up.)

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Owls Head Peak Again

As I threatened I might in my last post, this morning I got up at 3 am and drove down to the mountains in time to catch the sunrise on Owls Head Peak. I climbed by headlamp and made it with only a few minutes to spare. The photo above was made from an open area on the way up. I didn't want to miss that lovely color over Giant of the Valley. When I reached the summit I went to the Northern end and made several overlapped images that I stitched into this panorama which would be roughly 10X36 if printed at around 300 pixels per inch.

I had the pleasure of having the mountain to myself for over 2 hours before people started showing up. In order to have a solitary experience on a mountain in the High Peaks area these days (even ones that are not High Peaks) you have to either climb or descend in the dark. When I arrived at the parking area, mine was the only car. By the time I returned to my car it was one of seven, plus a motor home and an extended van that had disgorged a group of about 16.

I photographed my way back down. I managed to rephotograph some subjects that I hadn't been able to get good photos of previously due to poor light. (Too bright, contrasty, etc.). My preferred light is bright overcast but nature rarely cooperates.

The actual sunrise (above). The ones at the top were made while the sun was still below the horizon.

A mountain ash and pine on the East side of the summit (above) and five photos of Ents below.

Another view toward Giant after the sun had risen. The cliff on the left is a popular rock climbing site followed by a detail of the cliff.

This view of Cascade Mt. is from the area below the climbing cliff.

More Ents, or at least parts of Ents who have 'passed on' in the case of the upper photo.

That will most likely be my last trip to Owls Head for the foreseeable future. I have quite a large collection of photos from there. I should put them in a book. I hope D.E.C. gets on the new trail project soon. I am going to miss Owls Head. Be sure and click on the images for larger views,  especially the panorama. Share by pointing your friends to this page. Do not repost elsewhere without permission.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

My Last (?) Visit To Owls Head Peak

Summit view toward Cascade Mt.

I revisited Owls Head yesterday with very mixed feelings. It is unquestionably my favorite small mountain but they are closing the trail because of abuse. I was dismayed at the condition of the trail when I climbed it last year and it is even worse this year. In recent years it has become extremely popular, especially with families and casual hikers because the summit experience is huge relative to the effort required to climb it. 

But the real reason for the closure is not the condition of the trail, as bad as it is. The reason is that the trail crosses private land at the start and this year on Memorial Day weekend there were so many people climbing Owls Head that their parked cars blocked the landowners from getting to their homes. They hit the limit of their patience with inconsiderate hikers and immediately closed the trail on weekends with a permanent closure to take effect after Labor Day. The closure saddens me but I totally sympathize with the landowners having been through a similar situation myself.

When I arrived there were more cars there on a Wednesday than I had ever seen before but I found a spot near the trailhead that had been vacated. I was met by a couple just coming down who told me that there was a crowd on top along with numerous dogs. I was to see dog poo on the trail going up (bag it out people) and smell other leavings that were obviously human and much too near the trail. 

When I first visited Owls Head at least 20-30 years ago the trail was a single narrow path. No more.

Large sections are trampled to the point that no vegetation is left except the trees. As much as I hate to see the trail closed, Owls Head is in need of an intervention.

I took my time climbing, taking photos as I went and many people passed me on their way down. I had arrived at the trailhead and begun my climb shortly after noon and I find that most casual hikers tend to time their hikes to summit at noon or shortly before so they were already on their way back down. I took a couple of side trails to photograph the views and woods.
A side trail that hasn't been trampled to death.

An oak sprout.

A venerable pine.

Gnarled roots of a fallen pine.

View toward Giant of the Valley from a lower outlook.

A glacial erratic, a remnant of the last ice age.

Somewhere along the trail (the boundary isn't marked) you cross from the private land to state land which includes the summit. 

An open rock stretch before the summit.

The last stretch skirts the left of a cliff that is popular with rock climbers.

Life is rough on a mountain anyway and hordes hikers make it rougher. 
This tree looks more like an oversized bonsai.

A climber setting the route for his companions in the woods below.

In spite of the negativity of the situation and the condition of the trail, it was an awesome day to be in the woods and to stand on top of a mountain. D.E.C. has proposed to create a new trail up the other side of the mountain but bureaucracy moves slowly. I don't expect that it will be in place by next year or even the following year. I'd be pleasantly surprised if it happens within 5 years based on past experience with D.E.C. action while I was a lean-to adopter. 

A panorama looking East from where I ate a late lunch.

 A pair of young ladies who were joined by the rest of their family a few minutes later.

A broad panorama looking South including (left to right) Giant of the Valley, Porter, Cascade and Pitchoff Mt.

On my way down I shot one last view of Giant framed by a pair of boulders. I had spent nearly 4 hours on the mountain, climbing enjoying and then descending. The time spent on top was a wonderful escape from the current turmoils of our sorry excuse for a civilization. When I got back to the parking area only 4 cars remained including mine. I have two more weeks. I may be back but I am thinking of arriving and climbing in the dark to see the sun rise over Giant then leaving when the crowd starts to arrive.

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