Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Stone Valley Semi-Hidden Gem

I looked up a few hikes to try while I was up in the "North Country," and picked out two that seemed particularly easy to access.  Unfortunately, the directions and signage were less than stellar, and the trailheads were overgrown.  The promised loops and views were nowhere to be found - very dissatisfying.  But third time does for all, as they say, so instead of following the official narrative about how best to access the Stone Valley Cooperative Recreation Area trails, I followed the map.  

I started at the intersection of Main St and River Street in Colton, NY.  There was ample parking, just as promised on the map. And the trail was supposed to begin next to the dam.  

There were no signs welcoming hikers or otherwise acknowledging the existence of a trail, so I walked a while on the road, up to the dam.  

Barbed wire and a "NO MOTOR VEHICLES" sign.  That's kind of promising, isn't it?
But most likely there'd be a sign or a trail blaze or something at the end of the road to mark the trailhead, right?  I had high hopes for the signs on the gate.

Instead, it turned out that these four signs provided no hint at all of a trail.  I was particularly troubled by the "No Trespassing" sign, which seemed, somehow, let's say, a little less welcoming than it could have been.  But perhaps I'm just a little over-sensitive.
"NO TRESPASSING" - just what you want to see at the start of a hike
However, if you then turn 90 degrees to your right to face the tall fence, you can see two more signs.  If you ignore the second "No Trespassing" sign (which is clearly intended only for the fenced-in area around the dam), there's sort of a reluctant indirect acknowledgement that there might be a hiking trail somewhere in the vicinity.  This acknowledgment takes the form of a dire warning to "trail users" about the imminent death by drowning that may come upon you, should you happen to find a trail somewhere and follow it.  Not that they're going to tell you where it is, mind you, because that's all on you, O Seeker of Danger.

Water level and flow on river can
increase rapidly without warning
Please stay on trail [if you can find it]."

Okay, great!  So I go around the gate (this is permitted because I am not a motor vehicle), and I keep looking carefully all around for a blaze or something.  The road more traveled goes straight ahead, but there is a very narrow and forbidden-looking bridge over the pipe.  Which way is a hiker to go?

Well, they haven't put a barricade or locked door to keep me from going across the bridge, but what does that sign mean?  Do they want me to stay off the pipeline by using the bridge to cross the pipeline?  Or do they want me to stay off the pipeline by going straight ahead on the wide road next to the pipeline?

Still no indication that an official trail is in the offing in any particular direction, but I decided to cross the bridge rather than risking another repeat of a boring and ugly service road where I can be dive-bombed by pesky flies.

So I crossed the pipeline (via the bridge) and entered the woods.  The ground was a little worn (kind of like a trail!), and I followed it in and then - after I turned the corner and lost sight of the bridge - finally, the official start of the trail!!!

In fact, a sign instructed me to sign the register so The Powers That Be could find out if I got washed away.  (But I lifted the metal cover for the registry bin, and lo! it was empty!)
IMPORTANT NOTE to The Powers That Be: If you are reading this blog entry, let the record reflect that I survived the hike.  kthanksbye
Official trail markers!!

The new blaze seems to be slipped
under the old one

Sign down!
The walk itself was delightful, a fair amount of descent and ascent, while generally heading downhill, the ground soft underfoot, the river rushing along with some nice waterfalls on the right.  The woods were lush, with mossy rocks and fungi of various shapes, sizes, and colors, including wonderfully bright reds, yellows, and oranges to which my phone's camera could not do justice.

And lots of signs warning me to stay out of the river bed.  OK, got it.  No place for a nap!

The mosquitos were out in single spies, not battalions, and were kind enough to stay away from my face and ears.  So they weren't too terribly distracting, though I killed a few that tried to settle in for a good long feast on my legs.  

Beautiful bright red fungi!

Bright orange fungi

The trail passes through mossy rocks

the bright yellow didn't come through well in the picture

two-tone fungus

The path leadeth me beside still waters.

A small square window into the heart of the tree stump?

Outcropping of rock mid-river looked a bit like a diving platform

An almost ethereal sprinkling of tiny mushrooms across several logs...

...Fungus City!

Butterfly caught in mid-flight!
This was a there-and-back again hike; the "there" portion took an hour because I kept stopping for pictures, but the "back again" segment took 45 minutes.  Because I did this essentially "over lunch," I didn't have a lot of time, and was not in regular hiking gear (I was "dressed for success" except for my  hiking sneakers).

I only wish I'd had a full day to go up and down the entire trail, both sides - and maybe some insect repellent as well, since I'm dreaming.  

I may or may not have eaten a single daylily petal in memory of my paternal grandmother.
Daylilies along the river

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Black Flies on the Service Road

After today's program, I went back to the hotel, changed into hiking gear, and set off for the north end of the trail on the west side of the Raquette River in the Stone Valley Cooperative Recreation Area.  I found the trailhead and the no-parking areas, and tried parking in an unmarked section.

It looked promising at first, and then steadily less promising after I missed the official trail turn-off and ended up on the service road next to the pipeline.

But still, the service road went through a bit of forest and field with some wildflowers and wild raspberries (yum!).  And it was scenic enough if you looked only to your left.


I kept going, hoping against hope that there would be an option to turn off into the woods.  Meanwhile, the flies were buzzing constantly in my ears, which was maddening.  Flailing at them didn't help.  Moving faster didn't help.  Staying out of the shadow of the pipeline didn't help.  How I wished for bug repellent!  But I eventually discovered that if I raised my arms over my head, so that my backpack blocked the back of my neck and my arms were sort of covering my ears, the buzzing stopped.  This is a tiring position to hold for any length of time, unfortunately, even if one rests one's forearms atop one's head.  But every time I stopped, the flies came back. Sigh.

Eventually, the service road petered out.  It was before my timer went off, but I was very grateful to turn around by then!

The unappealing trek back to the parking lot.  

Meanwhile, the clouds grew ever more dramatic
I spotted the official turn-off for the official trail on the way out, and could easily see why I missed it (set back, at an odd angle, and overgrown).

But it was a good thing that I'd gone the wrong way and cut my trip super-short, since the sky opened up as soon as I was inside the car!!!  I had time for a shower and some catch-up on email and voicemail before meeting my colleagues for a late dinner at Jake's, where I indulged in the pork carnitas taquitos and a kale & watermelon salad.