March 20, 2016

North Country Trail: Shackham Road to Spruce Pond

Today I decided we'd continue our exploration of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) by heading back to Morgan Hill State Forest.  Last summer, we hiked the abutting section of trail, from Spruce Pond to Jones Hill, but had never been on the portion southeast of Spruce Pond.  We left the car at the small roadside parking area along Shackham Road, and took the NCT to Spruce Pond, then returned the way we came for a round trip out-and-back of approximately 3.8 miles.  Some people apparently make a loop by using the seasonal Herhily Road, which is also a designated snowmobile trail, but I'd rather walk the same single-track twice than walk on a road, so that's what we did.

I selected this section of NCT over others on deck because a friend told me, based on all the painted trees he saw on a recent hike, that it appears a timber harvest is planned in this area.  I figured the trail would be more scenic if we got there before the lumbering started.  There were some recent skid trails all torn up, but no active harvesting.  With the mild El Nino winter, we had very little snow this year, so the skid trails were a mess, but the overall mission was successful.

The day started chilly, lots of funky ice everywhere, but it wasn't bitter cold.  It warmed up a bit, so the mud was nicely squishy for the return trip.  To reduce trail erosion, we walk through the mud, rather than around; this policy naturally appeals to kids.  I had to extract Frankie from his mud encrusted snowpants before we could get back in the car.  If there was a prize for muddiest pants, this kid was a shoo-in.  Buying good gear for him really pays off though!  I was worried the mud might be too much for the washer to handle, so decided to rinse the worst off in the utility sink.  For both his mittens and snowpants, I just slid my hands inside and scrubbed them against each other under steamy running water.  It took a while but my hands stayed completely dry, even under such abuse.  Comfy kids will be happy outside longer and be ready for bigger adventures.  Plus, any quality gear that's in good shape when Frankie outgrows it will go to Alden eventually.  Win-win!

Rabbit from Winnie the Pooh's 100 Acre Woods joined us for this hike

Frankie made it his mission to stomp all the ice in the trail ("to help spring come")
winter harvesting didn't offer much protection to the forest floor this year

helping a stick ford a stream

approaching the register
Frankie signed his name in the log book

throwing rocks in the water from "Frankie Island"

have we graduated to logs?  mercy!

staring in awe at the "interstate trail" sign

Spruce Pond

having a snack

the only road crossing on this hike is a seasonal dirt road

visiting with Loggy again on the way back

back to the trailhead on Shackham Road
NYSDEC map of Morgan Hill State Forest.  We parked along Shackham Road and hiked to Spruce Pond (and back).

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