August 28, 2016

North Country Trail: Spruce Pond to Jones Hill

This summer has been hot.  Not just regular old summer hot, but really freaking ungodly hot.  HOT hot.  I've mentioned this before (broken record alert!), but heat is not my friend.  I am immeasurably thrilled that the forecast for later this week and into the weekend is for significantly cooler weather.  But between appointments and birthday parties and non-compatible travel, it has been far too long since I'd been out hiking, and I just couldn't wait another week to get in the woods.  Since I knew temperatures were going to exceed 90 degrees today, I wanted a shorter hike, so we went with Option 3 from the hiking menu I made Frankie a few weeks ago.

This is a hike we did last summer, so it is familiar territory.  The hike is an out-and-back along the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT), approximately 3.1 miles roundtrip with 625 feet elevation gain.  We parked at Spruce Pond, crossed the berm, then turned right onto the blue blazed NCT.  After following along the shore of the pond, the trail climbs steeply, and then the terrain becomes more gently rolling until the viewpoint on Jones Hill is reached.  Spruce Pond is part of Morgan Hill State Forest and Jones Hill is part of Labrador Hollow Unique Area, but the land in between is private.  I am so grateful to the landowners who share their beautiful properties with hikers along the NCT (and elsewhere). 

There was a lovely breeze up on Jones Hill, where we hung out for a long time.  We had lunch there and Frankie blew bubbles.  The woods were beastly hot, but there were no bugs, so we converted our pants into shorts and managed to enjoy ourselves despite the heat.  Frankie did a lot of "crashing in the shrubbery" on the way back, falling on purpose and giggling ferociously, and wound up as filthy as he's ever been.  Milkshakes on the way home helped lower our core body temperatures, then showers at home before dinner.  Another day well spent!

Spruce Pond

signing the register

adding a rock to a cairn

dirt freckles

August 6, 2016

North Country Trail: Shackham Road to Tinker Falls

On a lark, I wrote up a "hiking menu" last night after Frankie went to bed.  I included some brief descriptive information about four different sections of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) and showed it to him in the morning.  While he ate breakfast, he read through the menu and announced he wanted to do hike number 2.  This was welcome news!  All the options were of interest to me, of course, or I wouldn't have included them.  However, I was most looking forward to this one, even though we hiked the adjacent section of trail last week.  Options 1 and 4 follow the abandoned Lehigh Valley Railroad, and as a result, are quite flat.  They are also located in a more developed landscape, closer to roads and houses and such.  Option 3 is a lovely hike that is also adjacent to last weeks hike (on the other side); Frankie and I did it last summer and will certainly repeat it at some point.  Morgan Hill State Forest, especially, and the abutting Labrador Hollow Unique Area, has a remote rugged aspect that really appeals to me, and Option 2 was all new territory for me.

the hiking menu I made for Frankie
We parked on Shackham Road at the southern NCT crossing, and set out northwest crossing a tiny bridge over the ditch and signing the trail register.  The trail steadily climbs upward, gaining about 450 feet of elevation before cresting a ridge and leveling off.  It was humid and the climb got us sweating, but the ridge trail was very pleasant.  Despite being completely forested, it was windy up there, and it felt great!  After the half mile ridge walk, the trail descends steeply down about 400 feet to the top of Tinker Falls.

We hung out here for more than an hour and a half.  The stream is almost entirely dried up -- I sat in the center of it for while without getting even slightly damp -- but we went upstream a short distance and found a few small pools.  Frankie threw rocks in one shallow pool, and we watched frogs in the other smaller but deeper pool.  I flipped over rocks and found a few salamanders.  We snacked, and sitting to eat was the only "rest" Frankie got.  Finally we decided to head back and started up the hill.  There are many switchbacks to ease the grade, and we were soon enjoying the breezy ridge again.  On the way back down the hill, Frankie tripped on a root and took a harmless, accidental spill.  He enjoyed it so much he kept re-enacting the fall for fun.  Whee!

signing the trail register

flowering raspberry (Rubus odoratus)

Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora)

looking downstream to the brink of Tinker Falls

snack time

green frog (Rana clamitans)

Frankie was very happy to find a heart-shaped rock
stuffing the heart-shaped rock in his backpack to bring home