Friday, March 19, 2010

Hiking/Snowshoeing - Taconic Crest Trail

Today I led a hike for the Schenectady Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club on a section of the Taconic Crest Trail, which closely follows the NY/MA state line along the top of the Taconic Mountain ridge. With no snow in the valley and temps expected in the mid-60s, it seemed a little incongruous to be thinking of snowshoes. But we knew from others who had recently visited other sections of the trail that the snow was still deep on the 2,400 foot ridge. And by the time we had reached 2,000 feet on the access trail up to the Taconic Crest, we donned our snowshoes for the rest of the 8.5-mile slog, with over 2,000 feet of cumulative elevation gain.

We wove back and forth across the NY/MA state line all day, and found several state line markers, the stone one from 1916, and the older painted iron one from 1898.

Temperatures were in the 50s and low 60s, and we were snowshoeing in our shirtsleeves. It was a very clear sunny day, and the birches were brilliant against the cobalt-blue sky.

Snow conditions varied quite a bit depending on the direction of the slope and the sun exposure. The snow itself was mostly soft and wet, and got more like mashed potatoes as the day progressed. We never knew how deep our next step would take us. Here, we climbed up a south-facing slope with about a foot of snow in general, but many bare spots.

At another place on the ridge, the snow had blown and drifted deeply across the trail. Between the two ski poles shown here is another ski pole, about 4' long, inserted upside-down into the snow. There was at least 3 feet of snow in many of these drifts.

As we continued north along the ridge, we enjoyed semi-open views of Mount Greylock, the high point of Massachusetts, to our east.

At the end of the day, I had completed my last section of the Taconic Crest Trail in winter, qualifying me for a handsome patch from the Taconic Hiking Club. It took 3 winters and help from many friends, some of whom I expect to be breaking trail for next year as they continue their quest for this patch.

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