Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hiking/Snowshoeing - Taconic Crest Trail

Today, I led a Schenectady ADK hike to a section of the Taconic Crest Trail. Several of us are pursuing a patch from the Taconic Hiking Club for completion of all trail sections in calendar winter.

The hike today began at Petersburg Pass, high on the Taconic Ridge, and proceeded north along the ridge to the Prosser Hollow Access Trail. There, we would descend off the ridge to a pre-positioned car. The hike was approximately 6.75 miles, with cumulative elevation gain of 1378', and cumulative loss of 2479'. Downhill all the way. Yeah, right.

Getting started from the Petersburg Pass trailhead proved challenging, with temps hovering around +10F and a biting wind. It was hard enough just gearing up. The delay proved fortuitous in the end, since an Albany ADK trip over the same route got started just ahead of us and left us a nicely broken trail for the first mile or so. After we caught up with them, we all did our part.

Along the way, there are several very nice views to the west from open meadows along the ridge, but with the wind, we didn't tarry long there. Today, the real scenery was in the woods anyway. The trees were coated with several inches of new snow. In places, they were so bent over and plastered sideways with windblown snow that neither the trail markers nor the trail were visible. Route finding became a bit of a challenge at times for the person in the lead.

The snow was deep, and somewhere within its depth was hidden an icy crust. We rotated turns up front breaking trail, and never knew from one step to the next whether we'd break through the crust or not. It made for a much tougher trip than the mileage would indicate.

About mid-way in our hike along the ridge, we stopped at the famous Snow Hole, a deep fissure in the rocks that often contains snow even in the middle of summer. It's fun to crawl down in there on a hot day, but today would have been a little treacherous.

We stopped for lunch at a relatively wind-free spot along the ridge, and then descended to the junction with the Prosser Hollow Trail, where we left the Albany group as they continued north along the ridge. The trip down to the car went quickly, even though we were now breaking our own trail all the way. Then we all piled in, drove back to Petersburg Pass to retrieve the other car, and headed home after a tiring but satisfying day.

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