I just loved this hike - it made me so happy! At 5.8 miles roundtrip with 1,111 feet elevation gain, it was also one of my more ambitious school day hikes. Because I was alone, it was another out-and-back. I left my car at the grassy parking area on East Lake Road, which has a narrow entrance and is a little tricky to spot. I drove by it the first time, but managed to find it on the second pass. If you're coming from the north and get to the point where East Lake Road is immediately adjacent to the reservoir, you've gone too far. After passing a register, the trail starts climbing through private property along a ravine. The trail turns away from the stream after passing a cascade, and continues climbing generally eastward along a series of switchbacks, which disguise the elevation gain. Soon there is a nice view of the reservoir below.
After topping out on the first ridge, the trail turns north until reaching the edge of a cornfield, which it skirts briefly before descending the other side of the ridge. The trail crosses a power line, then descends to a low wet area and enters the State Forest, then crosses Stanton Road before climbing another ridge and crossing Tromp Road. Both Stanton and Tromp are seasonal roads associated with the State Forest, and appear to see very little traffic. From here it's another descent until the trail reaches Fairbanks Road. When planning the hike, I had originally intended to turn around here, since the NCT follows the road north a bit. I knew I'd be getting toward my school day mileage limit, and generally prefer to avoid road hiking. However, I decided to break my rule to do a little scouting for a future hike...
I had thought the next section of NCT, from Webber Road to Armstrong Pond, might be a good section to hike with Frankie, as a pond always makes a good destination when hiking with kids. But when I was reading CNY Hiking to prepare for this hike, I saw the section of trail by Armstrong Pond was proposed for re-routing in 2010. Since there is quite a bit climbing from Webber Road, I wanted to make sure I understood where we'd end up so as to avoid promising Frankie a pond and ending up at a dirt road instead. The good news is the trail does not appear to have been re-routed: it still passes by Armstrong Pond, which is gorgeous! I am excited to return there again with my boy.
For the return hike, I mostly just retraced my steps back to the car. My only additional diversion was following an orange blazed spur trail south just after crossing back over Tromp Road. The side trail is so little used that it is hard to distinguish. The unnamed pond is also accessed via a driveway from Tromp Road, which evidently makes the spot appealing to a different sort of recreationalist, the type who leaves garbage everywhere. The ground was littered with shotgun shells that had apparently been unloaded into a sheet of plywood at the far end of the pond. I had thought I might have a snack at the little pond, but I wasn't getting any warm and fuzzy feelings, so I just kept moving.
Overall, this is a magnificent hike that I thoroughly recommend!
|one of many switchbacks|
|There was graupel snow up on the ridge that melted off by the time I passed through again on the return trip|
|little pond at the end of the orange blazed spur trail near Tromp Road|
|coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) in bud|
|I was glad to have the backpack to store the ever-shuffling layers|
|Returning to the parking area|