April 30, 2016

Spruce Mountain Fire Tower

Last summer Frankie had a really bad allergic reaction to mosquito bites, so for the first time ever, I've been a bit conflicted about the change of seasons.  Spring has always been my favorite time of year, with the mild temperatures and awakening plant life.  Green!  Wildflowers!  Unfortunately, it also means the return of biting insects.  I have been watching trip reports carefully, hoping for a day of good weather to make a foray up to the Adirondacks in the narrow window between ice melt and bug emergence.  The High Peaks are still icy at high elevations, of course, but there are some fire towers in the southern Adirondacks that are clear now.  With gorgeous weather forecast for today, it seemed like my stars were lining up for a hike, and in a serendipitous case of timing, Jen was able to confirm the black flies aren't yet problematic at Spruce Mountain.  Hurray!

I invited Erin to join us, and after thinking a bit, she decided she and Alden would come along.  Since she didn't know how he would handle the long drive, she thought it best that we take separate cars, in case she needed to bail.  I had been considering temporarily moving Frankie's seat to her car, as his is easier to switch than the baby ones, but wasn't too upset to avoid that hassle.  Plus this way I wouldn't have to worry about Frankie getting sick in her car.  Turns out Alden was the one who threw up, so she got vomit in her car anyway.  Ugh.  Then I got confused and led us down the wrong road, where we ended up following an unnecessary detour and getting completely turned around.  Then Alden threw up again.  While Erin was cleaning him up the best she could a second time and Frankie was getting restless, I studied Google maps on my phone.  We weren't actually very far from the trailhead, less than 10 miles, and after figuring out that I had completely missed North Creek Road, we were able to get back on track.

We finally arrived at the trailhead, albeit quite a bit later than planned and more than slightly frazzled. Luckily, things improved from there on out.  We were a little concerned when the blackflies were swarming in the parking lot, but they didn't seem to be biting.  There was a bridge over a stream right at the start of the trail, and as we got further away from the running water, the blackflies largely disappeared.  Frankie donned his bug hat/net but took it off again when he realized he didn't really need it.

Alden walked himself for the first part of the hike, which thrilled him.  Eventually Erin had to stuff him in the pack because he was determined to hold leaves with two hand, which left none free for Erin to hold.  She let him out again near the top and then again when we were almost back, to his utter joy each time.  Although the trail gains just over 1,000 feet in the 1.3 miles to the tower, it never feels steep.  We leap-frogged with a four-year old hiking with her Dad, passing them when they'd rest/snack and vice versa.  Finally somewhat near the top, Frankie ditched Erin and I and went ahead a bit with them.  The kids really enjoyed hiking together.  Frankie called Avery "the girl" and she called him "the big boy" (Alden, of course, was "the little boy)." 

There is no view at the summit without climbing the tower, but it was restored last year and we all shuffled up in turn.  Frankie started in the lead, but got a little nervous about the height for the first time, so we let Avery and her Dad go ahead, and took it nice and slow.  This tower is taller than the others he's climbed, more than twice the height of the tower on Blue Mountain.  We finally made it up to beautiful, if slightly hazy views.  Erin fed Alden first, then brought him up to the cab briefly after the others had climbed down.  This was the first fire tower cab I've been in that is enclosed, which I found a bit odd, actually.  I like the feel the wind on my face.  I like to lean out a bit look down.  And I prefer my views unimpeded!  But maybe it's just me.  Makes me wonder how many of the other Adirondack fire towers are enclosed...  I think I'll have to climb some more to find out!! 

We had to hustle down again all too soon.  We didn't caravan for the ride home, as I wanted to stop at Stewart's to get milkshakes, and Erin wanted to beeline for home.  Both our return trips were uneventful: no wrong turns, no vomit.  Despite the bumpy road to get there, it was a pretty awesome day. 

sessile bellwort (Uvularia sessilifolia)


Rabbit made a brief appearance

trout lily (Erythronium americanum)

Frankie hiking with his new friend Avery and her Dad


me and my boy

I took this on the way down - our shadows are visible a few landings from the top

dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius)

April 24, 2016

Clark in April

Frankie was pretty tired today, hung over from a very busy yesterday.  We started the day volunteering at the Earth Day clean-up organized by the Downtown Committee.  One of the meeting places is right outside my office, so a contingency from my company always represents.  This was the third year Frankie and I have joined in, and it is a great experience, if a little depressing - because the garbage is continuously replenishing.  It's an impossible task.  Good for a kid to develop an understanding of why it is important not to litter, though.  Then yesterday afternoon was an epic three-hour knight themed birthday party, with much simulated sword play and endless running around.  Asher's father made "swords" from cardboard tubes wrapped in tinfoil and decorated "shields" from corrugated cardboard.  The kids loved every minute of it, and wore themselves out completely.

Still, it was a gorgeous outside today, and the woods were calling...  loudly!  I decided we'd have a lazy morning at home, then take a short hike at Clark Reservation after lunch.  It is close to home, and we haven't been there in a while, plus it has that pesky playground, which can be a selling point for Frankie.  And the wildflowers!  It is a beloved ritual to visit Clark Reservation in April to see the spring ephemerals.  We kept the walk short, 1.6 miles total, but made a loop that incorporated both our favorite trails, the Switchback Trail and the Pulpit Rock Trail.  After scrambling up the Pulpit Rock, Frankie declared that the hike needed more climbing.  I've got to get this kid back to the mountains! 

showing Kanga and Roo a trillium he found
squirrel corn (Dicentra canadensis)
white trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)

hateful stone dust has been applied to a few trail sections, diminishing the charm significantly
long-spurred violet (Viola rostrata)

the Pulpit Rock Trail
perfoliate bellwort (Uvularia perfoliata)

sharp-lobed hepatica (Anemone acuitloba)
blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides)

climbing the Pulpit Rock

lyre-leaved rock cress (Arabidopsis lyrata)
early saxifrage (Micranthes virginiensis)