Sunday, December 11, 2011

Hiking - Baldwin Mountain

Yesterday, I joined a Schenectady ADK trip to Baldwin Mountain, a small trailless peak near Newcomb, NY. I was actually the only one who signed up for this bushwhack, so leader and friend Herb and I threw cold-weather common sense and safety out the window and did this one with a party of only two.

Herb had picked this destination based on a large open area on the south side of the summit, as shown below by Google Earth. I had also noticed a smaller open rock area, so we decided to try to get to them both, in addition to the actual summit.

We parked at the entrance to the Santanoni Preserve, a popular cross-country skiing destination later in winter. Signing in, we were somewhat surprised to find a couple of other past entries, also headed to Baldwin Mountain. Then we started the walk down the closed carriage road until we reached the point where we needed to set off through the woods. There was about an inch of new snow on the ground, and we noticed various animal tracks as we walked.

Leaving the road, we headed basically northwest toward the base of what I was now calling a "slide". Herb didn't share my optimism, and would only call it a "possible open area". I was pretty sure we would be ascending the open rock, with wide views behind us all the way up, but he wasn't yet convinced.

In this first leg of the trip, we found sporadic remnants of an old road that made the going much easier than we'd expected. Arriving in the general vicinity of the base of the slide, GPS guided us through some thick spruce and then out onto the open rock of the old slide. The views south were stupendous, and even better than we'd hoped for.

After spending some time here enjoying the views, we headed up the slide and back into the woods toward the actual summit. There were no views here, so after enjoying a snack, we headed down the SE ridge toward the other possible open viewpoint. We tried to stay on the northern side of the ridge, in hopes of finding an open view of the High Peaks to the north, but never found a really good one. With the leaves off the trees, there were several glimpses of the snow-covered peaks, and an occasional small opening like the one below, but nothing that provided wide sweeping views.

Arriving at the next knob that promised the possibility of the other open rock view, we fought our way through some very thick spruce to the top of a sheer drop over an open rock face. This was certainly the other possible view we'd identified, but it paled in comparison to the earlier one from the slide.

Back on the top of the ridge, we stopped for lunch and plotted our next move. We decided to stay on the ridge as we descended back to the carriage road, and looked for other possible views to the north. We didn't find any, but it was worth a try, and was on our way in the right direction anyway.

We managed to hit the carriage road near where we'd left it, and started the easy walk back to the car. All told, we covered a little over 6 miles, most of it off-trail, and got to see some views that few have probably seen. It was an interesting trip, and we were both glad we'd decided to go in spite of our better judgment.

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