May 18, 2016

North Country Trail: Hemlock Glen, Morgan Hill

The rolling hills south of Tully are fast becoming one of my favorite local places to hike, and I've been itching to get back down to Morgan Hill State Forest, where I last went with Frankie in March.  The weather forecast was lovely for today, and Erwin was planning on joining me for another section hike along the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT).  Unfortunately for him, he remembered he had a dentist appointment, so he went to get tortured while I ventured out solo.  For this out-and-back hike, I left my car at the shoulder parking area at the southern crossing of Shackham Road, and headed east.  I hiked east until I reached Chickadee Hollow Road, then returned to the trailhead via the same route, for a roundtrip total of 7.7 miles with about 1,000 feet elevation gain. This is a little longer than I typically attempt on a school day hike, but summer vacation is coming fast, and I decided to risk skipping a shower and/or laundry to fit this hike in.  I made it back in plenty of time and it was SO worth it. 

This trail is spectacular, particularly the first mile and a half or so, which follows Shackham Brook, then ascends alongside a tributary into Hemlock Glen.  Parts of the trail are quite steep, but the scenery is stupendous: babbling brooks, cascades, wildflowers, and green, green, green!  Just magnificent...  I can't believe I've never gone here before.  There are a couple designated campsites along this route, two tent sites and one lean-to, all three with fire pits.  It might be a good place for Frankie's first backpacking trip.  Hmm...  The trail also passes very close to the summit of Morgan Hill, where a fire tower used to be.  Unfortunately it was removed in 1978, and the area is forested, so there are no views now.  Still, I highly recommend this hike.  All around, it was another glorious day in the woods!!

Shackham Brook
painted trillium (Trillium undulatum)
Hemlock Glen

foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia)
rosy twisted stalk (Streptopus lanceolatus)

downy yellow violet (Viola pubescens)

hairy Solomon's-seal (Polygonatum pubescens)

crossing of seasonal Morgan Hill Road

power line crossing
turnaround point at Chickadee Hollow Road
heading back

the trail follows an old road for a bit up on Morgan Hill
gold-thread (Coptis trifolia)

kidney-leaved crowfoot (Ranunculus abortivus)

Hemlock Glen lean-to
Hemlock Glen campsite -- this is right above the biggest of the cascades

backpackers by Shackham Brook

the tent site here is right next to the creek

the trailhead on Shackham Road
NYSDEC map of Morgan Hill State Forest.  I parked at the southern Shackham Road crossing, and hiked east/south to the mapped southern terminus of the trail (which actually continues) then back.

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