Monday, March 19, 2018

PA Appalachian Trail - Section 2 - Smith Gap Road to Superfund Trailhead

Date Distance Time Elevation Gain Average Moving Time Year to Date Miles
3/18/2018 12.1 miles 8 hours?

Map: Appalachian Trail Guide, Pennsylvania plus map that comes with the guide
Parking: One car at Smith Gap Road 40.8255, -75.4143. One car at the Superfund trailhead 40.7832, -75.6041.
Directions: Start hike at the Superfund Trailhead and hike north to Smith Gap Road.

We were able to join up with a blogger friend to do a longer section of the Pennsylvania AT. At this point, Pennsylvania is getting to be too far to just go down for and out and back, so having two cars was really nice. We had been watching the snow depth maps for a couple of weeks, hoping to do this section. The start of the hike at the Superfund site at Lehigh Gap is a steep rock scramble, so it was necessary to have dry non-icy rocks for the day. We drove through the area, and the town below the AT had no snow! The rock scramble area was also clear. The rest of the trail was snow covered.

You can read about the superfund site here:

We joined up with blogger Daniela and her dog Brodie. Her blog is a great resource for finding hikes in our area: I was really happy that Brodie is a sweet dog, and he and Trek got along fine.

The beginning of the hike was a steep climb towards the rock scramble. I think its about a 1,000' elevation gain in 1 mile. Both dogs needed assistance with the rock scrambles. I would definitely recommend having 2 people to assist with lifting a dog - because it would be hard to maintain your balance on a ledge and lift a dog by yourself at the same time. We often needed someone above the dog, and someone next to or below the dog. It wasn't a trivial rock scramble. We took our time and figured out the safest way to get up. After the rock scramble, we still had to cross a couple of boulder fields. We ended up on a snow covered woods road. Hiking was slow due to the rocks and the snow. We all wore trail runners because the snow wasn't deep, but it just takes more time. Crossing snow covered boulder fields was also tricky - because you can't see if there a hole underneath the snow you're crossing. This was a long day, but really good prep for doing more Pennsylvania day hikes on the AT. We repeated a small section that we had hiked before - between Stempa Spring and Smith Gap Road.

Heading towards the rock scramble

Trek and Brodie

Stuck - we went on the left side, but he still needed lifting at the top

Figuring out a way up

Long Path, Landing Road Southbound to Route 9W, Hudson Palisades

Date Distance Time Elevation Gain Average Moving Time Year to Date Miles
3/17/2018 7.7 miles 3 hours 52 minutes 2,146'

Map: NYNJTC Hudson Palisades Trails, Map 110

Parking: End of Landing Road where it is blocked off. There were many signs about dogs as we drove in. Areas where no dogs allowed. Signs saying dogs are allowed only May through September. My map says dogs aren't allowed on the bike paths.

Directions: Head south on the Long Path from the parking area. Hike to where the trail joins Route 9W. Turn around and head back on the Long Path. Turn right on white blazed side trail and take it to the road. Turn around and return to the Long Path. Turn right on the Long Path. Continue north. Turn left on yellow blazed side trail and take it to the road. Turn around and return to the Long Path. Turn left on the Long Path and return to parking area.

Our goal today was to find an 8 mile hike. We are trying to gradually increase our weekend hike mileage to prepare for a hiking vacation. We headed back to the Palisades area. Our hike looked a little short, so we added a couple of side trails to it. The white trail was muddy and overgrown - not really worth taking unless you are doing a loop with the bike path. The yellow trail was more snowy and brings you to a major road with a parking lot on the shoulder. It appears many people take the yellow trail to the view where it ends at the Long Path.

We figured there was enough snow meltage in the last week that we could get by with trail runners. My feet were so much happier. We ended up carrying microspikes, and actually used them at times. That's the first time I've worn microspikes with trail runners. They were a bit loose, but it worked well enough. The temps were around 28 degrees when we started. It felt windy, so at times it was quite bitter, especially since this is a ridge walk. At other times we were warm. We saw many more people than we did last week. Trails still were mixed conditions - dirt, snow, icy patches. We looked up a lot to see if we could spot any bald eagles, but sadly saw none. I was so thrilled last week to see my first one in this area. We mostly kept Trek on leash for this hike. There are some cliffy areas, plus we periodically would run into other people/dogs. I did catch someone's loose out of control dog for them (the dog wanted to visit Trek). This hike has nice views of the Hudson River and the Tappan Zee bridge.

Trek looking out at the Tappan Zee bridge

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Long Path, Landing Road Northbound to Route 9W, Hudson Palisades

Date Distance Time Elevation Gain Average Moving Time Year to Date Miles
03/11/2018 6.5 miles 4 hours 8 minutes 1,715 feet

Map: NYNJTC Hudson Palisades Trails, Map 111

Parking: End of Landing Road where it is blocked off. There were many signs about dogs as we drove in. Areas where no dogs allowed. Signs saying dogs are allowed only May through September. My map says dogs aren't allowed on the bike paths.

Directions: The trail crosses Landing Road right next to the parking area. Hike north on the Long Path to Route 9W. Hike back the same way.

I was eager to get out and try hiking somewhere new today. We had to stay local, so I chose this part of the Long Path. We've never hiked here before, surprisingly. We decided to wear boots. Oh how my feet long for trail runners! Soon, very soon. This hike has lots of hills, so it provided a good workout. The snow conditions varied - from bare ground to postholing in 10" of snow. It wasn't worth bringing snowshoes, because everyone else had already postholed, and the deeper snow sections didn't last long. The snow was slushy, but we both weren't feeling like microspikes. Hiking was slow, less than 2 mph. I want to move faster! It was definitely good training though. We hiked down to 9W, where the trail meets a side trail to the bike path that can be used to form a loop back. From what I read, dogs aren't allowed on any bike paths here. I did look down and saw dogs on the bike path though. We decided to hike back the way we came and not take the bike path. We'd get a better workout that way after all. This hike is on a ridge, with good views of the Hudson River.

On the way back, I looked up and saw a bald eagle sitting in a tree right in front of us. Neither of us have seen one in the wild, so we were just star struck. It was large and stunning. It watched us. I tried to quiet Trek's jingling tags, but the eagle decided to fly off. Glen wasn't able to get a photo of it in the tree, but did get a blurry photo of it flying away.

Glen's Strava app and my Garmin watch had very different mileage for our hike. I did some research and found this very helpful guide which has mileages: We didn't quite make our 7 mile goal today, and Glen was feeling too tired (heavy boots suck), so we ended back at the parking lot instead of trying to add in extra hiking.


Old cemetary

Bald eagle taking off

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Old Croton Aqueduct Trail, Quaker Ridge Road (southern intersection) to Nelson Park, Westchester County

Date Distance Time Elevation Gain Average Moving Time Year to Date Miles
3/10/2018 6.7 miles 2 hours 30 minutes 581 feet

Map: Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park, Map & Guide
Parking: Gerlach Park. The park isn't labeled on the map, but it shows up in dark green to the right of where Old Albany Post Road becomes Quaker Bridge Road. The map shows 3 black dashed lines in the park, which represent the steps going from the park to the trail.
Directions: Take a right out of the park's parking lot and walk down the road (Old Albany Post Rd/Quaker Bridge Rd). Turn right onto the OCA trail. As an alternative, you can take steps uphill in the back of the Gerlach Park parking lot, which will take you directly to the OCA trail. Walk past two weirs. Next to a school there is a ventilator where you turn left and walk diagonally through a park playground (Nelson Park). There is parking on Edward Road on the side of Nelson Park. Turn around, and return to car (there is a shortcut where you can take a set of stairs at the back of the Gerlach parking lot up to the OCA trail). A map is definitely needed. The trail signs (either signs that say OCA or blue blazes) are sometimes easy to miss, especially in the road walking sections.

We've had a lot of snow, and we were looking for an easy trail in case we'd need to snowshoe. We headed over to the Old Croton Aqueduct trail, where we ended up last time. I thought we'd have to park further north and repeat a portion that we have already done. The map doesn't show parking areas, so sometimes you might have to drive around and look for some. We got lucky today - finding one that was really close to where we ended on Old Quaker Ridge Road last time.

We saw that there was not much snow, so we left our snowshoes in our car, and just brought our microspikes. We ended up not needing microspikes either. This section is very urban. I really didn't enjoy it - too many houses, graffiti, and trash everywhere. We met a couple who thought Trek was a service dog. Ha! I guess because of his pack? They were looking to adopt a rescue, so I referred them to a shelter that a friend of mine works at. We must have looked pretty out of place with our backpacks walking in downtown Ossining. Someone asked us if we were backpacking. I told him we were training to backpack, which is true in a way. Our hiking goal this week is 7 miles each day. I should be thinking about working on very gradually increasing my pack weight as well.

Parking area

OCA intersection at Quaker Ridge Road

Road walk section

The highlight of the trip - carved stumps in someone's front yard

Vince Camuto Community Center - another parking area

Ventilator right before Nelson Park

Parking area at our turnaround point, at the end of the park.

Nelson Park

Stairs from Gerlach Park to OCA

Blue Trail Loop & Yellow Trail Loop, Ward Pound Ridge

Date Distance Time Elevation Gain Average Moving Time Year to Date Miles
3/4/2018 3.8 miles (blue) and 2.7 miles (yellow) 80 minutes (blue) and 53 minutes (yellow)

Map: Pick up a map when you pay for parking.

Parking: Enter park, pay for parking and drive to the parking lot for the blue trail. Drive to a separate parking area for the yellow trail. There is plenty of parking. Cost is $10 without a Westchester County Parks Pass. $5 with a Parks Pass. I went on a weekend, when they do charge. In the winter we haven't been charged on weekday evenings.

Directions: Blue trail loop counterclockwise. Yellow trail loop counterclockwise.

I had wanted to go to PA this weekend, but we had a bomb cyclone. It sounds so dramatic. We had 4 trees come down in our yard and some snow. Most of the snow has melted, the trees will have to wait a bit until we can get a tree company out here. We are without power, but are so grateful to have a gas generator - our house is warm. We didn't go out on Saturday - it was still pretty windy. Sunday was better, so we did a local hike. I didn't want to go too far with the generator running at home.

I am trying to increase my mileage gradually each week to help prepare for spring hiking. It's harder to get many miles in during the winter. I always think I'll hike tons in the winter, but most years don't work out that way. This week the goal was to hike 6 miles both days. Saturday was a bust, so I treaded for 6 miles at various inclines. How boring is that? I was so excited to get outdoors on Sunday. My body is sore today. I'm starting to add strength training back into my life. My hamstrings are tight. It's so odd - I never used to have tight hamstrings when I trained. My hip was sore too, so more Aleve for me tonight.

We got a late start, but were able to do two loops at Ward Pound Ridge to get our 6 miles in. I was surprised at the number of cars in the parking lot. I'd figure most people would be dealing with house issues after the storm. We did the blue trail first. Going counterclockwise puts the steeper sections in the beginning and the easier woods road section at the end. The trails were wet, slush, and a little slick in the steep spots.

We drove over to the yellow trail and did a loop there next. This trail had a lot more blowdown from the storm. We did some trail maintenance - throwing branches off the trail. Trek loves it when we do trail maintenance. He thinks we're playing a game. Thus, 50% of the branches we throw off the trail end up back on the trail. Maybe he thinks they're more aesthetically pleasing there. The yellow trail is easier than the blue trail.