Monday, November 16, 2015

Silent hike in the Ramapo mountains

Ramapo silent hike
Sunday was a beautifully sunny day, and I joined the Ramblers for their first-ever "silent hike." For maybe a third of the hike we took a vow of silence, although we were promised to be released from our vows if any true emergencies arose. (None did.)  "Silent hike" was actually a misnomer, though: With the leaves fresh off the trees, we kicked up quite a ruckus as we walked.

The Ramapo mountains are part of the Appalachians, although "mountain" seems excessive, as the tallest are about 1,200 feet. Still, they are scenic, and the leafless trees meant we had better views than we would have in summer.

Ramapo silent hike

Monday, November 9, 2015

Hiking Mt. Falcon

Summer home
I was in Denver for a conference, so I stayed an extra day to spend time with friends. On Sunday, we hiked Mt. Falcon in nearby Jefferson County.

The hike was 8 miles round-trip, with 2,000 feet of elevation gain. It was an unseasonably warm and beautiful day, even though we saw some small patches of snow, and we took it at a relaxed pace.

The hike has two non-natural highlights. One is the ruins of a mansion belonging to an early media magnate. The other, pictured above, is the site of a planned summer home for the president. Mind you, nobody checked with the White House, yet thousands of Colorado schoolkids donated their cents to the cause. Nothing was ever built.

The views were nice as well, very open in all directions. I've never seen Colorado at this time of year before. Everything was browner than summer, although the peaks weren't as snowy as they'd get in winter.

But I didn't see any falcons.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Hiking Graham and Balsam Lake

Most of the 3500 peaks are either fully marked trails or true bushwhacks, but there are a couple of exceptions - hikes with unmarked trails. One of those exceptions is Graham. The trail to Graham branches off from one of the official trails to Balsam Lake, following an old road on private property. On my last trip, I had hike Balsam Lake but not Graham because I hadn't called ahead for landowner permission.

This time, I hike it with the 3500 Club. The route-finding was very easy, and the hike wasn't too hard either. It's nearly all old road, mostly steep but with a flattish area in the middle, and no more serious "bushwhacking" than one downed tree.

There is a modest view at the top, as well as on the way up if the leaves are off the trees. The top itself less than attractive, thanks to the remains of a microwave tower.

I'd had a wild idea that I wouldn't repeat any of the peaks, except the winter ones, but the group decided to go on to Balsam Lake. I certainly didn't want to be the one to deny a fellow aspirant the chance to get another peak in, so off we went.

It was interesting to see that nearly all the leaves were off the trees, unlike my previous two hikes. It wasn't the difference of a day but micro-climate differences.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Twofer: Plateau and Sugarloaf Mountains

PlateauSugarloaf and Plateau are two Catskills 3500 peaks that are near each other on the Devil's Path. Several approaches are possible, but the easiest one if you want to do both is the one I chose, starting from Mink Hollow Road and heading south to the Path.
Technically, the first bit is trail-less, which is bizarre. It's an old road (the continuation of Mink Hollow Road) that in about .3 miles becomes an official trail. So why not that first bit? In any case, it's easy enough to follow, even without blazes. (I actually missed the start of the blazes on my way up, maybe because they were yellow and didn't really stand out in the changing leaves?)

Less than a mile in, after only moderate climbing, the road hits the Devil's Path. I opted to head west to Plateau first, which proved to be a good choice for a couple of reasons - for one, heading east on Sugarloaf would have had me staring into the sun.

The hike up to Plateau is very rocky, and it was complicated by the inches of leaves that covered the ground. That made going slow even on the relatively few flat bits. The hike gradually got steeper, but I wasn't in any real hurry. Besides, I kept stopping to turn around and admire Sugarloaf behind me (above photo). Finally I reached a nice viewpoint quite near the top, looking roughly northeast. From there it wasn't far to the top, which - go figure - was a long, flat ridge.

The way back down was slow because of the leaf-covered rocks, which, spoiler alert, I wasn't going to encounter on Sugarloaf, making it another good reason to do it first, before I was completely wiped out.

Sugarloaf is roughly the same distance and steepness, and as they're neighbors, you might think it was much like Plateau. But it is mostly covered in spruce rather than deciduous trees, and it has just the right amount of rock scrambling (that is: a lot). It was a fun hike up, even though there are no spectacular views at the top - although you can turn around and see Plateau most of the way up.

I only encountered one other hiker, a gent hiking alone on Sugarloaf. Apparently the previous day's fair-weather hikers had all been scared away, although it was really a great day to be out. The sky was cloudless and the visibility was excellent. The leaves were actually past their peak, unlike at Overlook.