September 4, 2017

Three Generations on the Bog Trail

Frankie was in the midst of one of his epic breakfasts, where he grazes and nibbles intermittently, but mainly focuses on reading drifts of Highlights and Ranger Rick, when I noticed a text notification.  I had a message from Erin that she was heading to Beaver Lake and had also invited our Dad, Bruce.  Apparently Alden was sad that we weren't coming.  I casually mentioned this to Frankie, and he wanted to leave -- immediately.  I told Erin we might come and find them, but not to wait for us, as we were still in pajamas and have a much longer drive.  It was obvious where they would go.  Alden is two and I remember those days: the Bog Trail is the only trail that matters. 

September 1, 2017

Giant Mountain

 Giant Mountain
4,627 ft.  |  Ranked 12/46 in height

In 2015, we spent a long weekend in Keene Valley, at a rental house with a direct view of Giant Mountain.  Frankie, who was four at the time, immediately declared that he wanted to climb "that mountain."  He was not remotely discouraged when we told him it is a very hard hike.  Over the course of the weekend, and continuing back at home afterwards, Frankie repeatedly expressed his desire to climb Giant.  He talked about it persistently, adorably calling it "Gigantic" for a while.  He was not to be deterred.  I didn't want to rush into to anything though - Giant actually is pretty gigantic.  I have taken Frankie hiking pretty regularly his whole life, but they were/are typically short hikes close to home, hikes without significant elevation gain.  At that point he had climbed only very small Adirondack mountains fully under his own power: Bald Mountain and Mount Jo.  His longest hikes had been a pair of four milers, in Tuscany and at Highland Forest.  Nothing remotely comparable to a High Peak.

August 31, 2017

Poke-o-Moonshine via the Ranger Trail

We had been planning on climbing Giant today, if the weather was good, in hopes of avoiding the holiday weekend crowds.  However, the forecast was not great, with rain predicted, so didn't set alarms for this morning.  Giant is a big mountain with big views.  Frankie has been looking forward to climbing it for so long, we wanted him to get to enjoy it on a nice day.  The  forecast for tomorrow is clear, so deferring a day seemed like our best option.  It was also much later than planned when we arrived in Keene last night, and then we went out for dinner after we got settled in the vacation rental.  As a result, it was pretty late when we finally got Frankie to bed last night; another good reason to have a slow morning today to rest up for the big push tomorrow.

August 26, 2017

Great Bear in August

We hadn't been to Great Bear since April, so Erin and I decided to meet up there for a Saturday morning hike.  It always has good reliable rock throwing, amazingly enough -- you'd think the boys would have thrown them all in by now.  We hiked our default loop down to the river and back.  The boys found an additional opportunity for throwing fun in an old dead red pine from which big chunky blocks of bark had sloughed off, forming drifts on the ground.  These apparently made perfect missiles to be launched into the forest.  Poor Alden took a few spills running, always running, but that is to be expected at his age, and he still had a great time, overall.  Frankie played with various sticks in passing, but there was no hoarding.  The weather has seemingly turned, and it was a lovely cool morning.  Such a relief to get a break from the ubiquitous oppressive humidity!  All in all, a great little hike.

August 19, 2017

Fellows Hill Loop

The orange-blazed Fellows Hill Loop is part of the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) system.  The 3.6-mile loop is located in Morgan Hill State Forest, and can be accessed from the snowplow turnaround at the end of the paved section of Herhily Road, or from the the parking area at Spruce Pond further south along the dirt road portion of Herhily Road.  I was curious to explore a new trailhead, so I parked at the snowplow turnaround, which was empty.  There is a small footbridge crossing the ditch on the east side of the road, with orange blazes clearly visible on both sides of the path.  The trail to the west wasn't immediately visible, but since I wanted to go east first, up Fellows Hill, this didn't bother me.

August 12, 2017

Rock Throwing at Three Rivers

Another Saturday morning, and another meet up with Erin... we decided to try another "new" place for the boys to throw rocks in the water.  This a great way for us all to spend time together.  There is enough of an age gap between Frankie and Alden that when we meet at a playground, they naturally end up doing different things.  When we hike together, Frankie definitely has greater range and can handle more difficult terrain than Alden, but we can compensate for that by choosing short hikes with lengthy stops to play.  Nature play is a great equalizer; it is something a wide range of ages can enjoy together.  Small, medium, or large -- I've yet to meet a kid who doesn't like throwing rocks in the water.  Plus, hiking is obviously much more pleasant for Erin and I!

August 9, 2017

Gothics, Armstrong, and Upper Wolf Jaws

4,736feet  |  ranked 10/46 in height  |  28th peak climbed 
4,400 feet  |  ranked 22/46 in height  |  29th peak climbed 
Upper Wolf Jaw
4,185 feet  |  ranked 29/46 in height  |  10th peak climbed (repeat)

I have been itching to get up into the Adirondack High Peaks for what feels like forever; it is more or less a permanent affliction.  So when Erwin planned a short trip with Frankie to South Carolina to visit my mother-in-law, I saw a potential opportunity.  I didn't have enough vacation time to join them on the trip, but would still have one day off while they were gone.  Obviously I wanted to hike!  This happened once before, in 2015, and I was able to hike Santanoni and Panther with my Dad, so there is established precedence.  Erin wouldn't be able to join me due to logistical issues, and I'd felt my Dad out for general interest earlier in the summer.  Unfortunately, he's been dealing with some back pain, of the same kind that bothered him on our hike in the Santanonis, and didn't think it would be wise to attempt a High Peak.

August 5, 2017

Stillwater Fire Tower

Frankie and I had so much fun with our day trip up to Black Bear Mountain last weekend that we decided to go on another adventure today.  We hadn't planned ahead for a big outing today, hadn't set the alarm or prepped snacks, and Frankie is slow on mornings when nothing is scheduled.  He was having one of his long leisurely breakfasts, engrossed in his Ranger Rick and Highlights magazines when I planted the idea, and he was into it -- and he didn't have to rush because I had to get ready.  Stillwater Mountain it is a short easy hike, making it manageable despite the long drive and our sluggish start, but it also has a fire tower to make it more exciting.  It is on private land with a fall hunting closure, and is located on a long dirt road that I'd be nervous about traversing in winter and spring.  These factors combined to make it the perfect choice for a last-minute summer hike. 

July 29, 2017

Black Bear Mountain

Black Bear Mountain was the last of the three Fulton Chain Trifecta peaks Frankie and I needed to climb to complete the challenge, so we've been eager to get back up north since returning from our trip.  My car troubles are sorted out, and we finally got some nice weather.  Seize the day!

July 22, 2017

Rock Throwing at Clark Reservation

When Erin told me she has been searching for good places for Alden to throw rocks in the water, I immediately thought of Clark Reservation State Park.  It has been my old reliable, my default spot for short hikes for many many years, because it is close and convenient, and so very cool.  Of course, it isn't as close to Erin's house, and she has her own default spots, but it does have a good spot for rock throwing.  Apparently they have been trying many different spots near her house with little luck, so Erin was willing to check out Clark.

July 16, 2017

FLT/NCT: Hoxie Gorge, Stone Road to McDermott Junction

I was looking at my spreadsheet for the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) and realized all my hikes so far in 2017 have been on school days.  Since Frankie hadn't been out on the "interstate trail" in so long, we decided to rectify that.  I selected a section of the NCT that follows the white-blazed Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) through Hoxie Gorge State Forest.  We accessed the trail via an orange-blazed spur trail on Stone Road that serves as a bypass during the fall when there is a hunting closure on a portion of the trail crossing private property.  Parking is along the shoulder of Stone Road and is inconspicuous when approaching from the north; the FLT signs are obscured by vegetation.  The spot is much more visible from the south.

June 29, 2017

Puez-Odle Altopiano

This is an incredible hike, just continuous non-stop jaw-dropping scenery from start to end.  It was my absolute favorite day of an amazing trip.  This loop hike is located in Naturpark Puez-Geisler, which is part of the Dolomites World Heritage Site.  It starts and ends in the ski town of Selva di Val Gardena.  We parked in a pay lot along the main street, then walked uphill along Streda Dantercepies for about half a mile before reaching the base station for the Dantercepies cable car.  There was no queue, so once we secured our one-way tickets, we stepped into a small cable car for the speedy ride up.  There is an elbow in the line, but we stayed in the cable car through the mittelstation, all the way to the end of the line. 

June 18, 2017

Hoher Kranzberg - Ferchensee Loop

Kranzberg is a small mountain located in the Bavarian Alps, rising from the western edge of the charming village of Mittenwald.  There is a chairlift that carries riders part of the way up the mountain, with a hut located not far above the top of the lift.  We planned a loop hike that started with a ride up the the Kranzberg Sesselift, followed by a hike up to the panoramic viewing area at the top of Hoher Kranzberg, then a meandering descent that would take us by two alpine lakes, Ferchensee and Lautersee.  The maps illustrate five restaurants along the route: St. Anton, Kranzberghaus, Ferchensee, and two along Lautersee, so we brought snacks, but nothing substantial.  We planned on eating lunch at Kranzberghaus, the hut closest to the summit.

riding the Kranzberg Sesselift
The chairlift ride was so fun!  It is a one-seater, which had us somewhat concerned.  Research suggested that small kids ride on laps, but 6 years seemed to be a threshold for riding solo.  Frankie was initially quite skeptical about riding alone, but the guy running the lift just stuffed him right in, and he ended up loving it.  From the top of the chairlift, Berggasthof Sankt Anton is immediately visible, just 0.1 mile up a paved trail.  This is a full restaurant and offers lodging, too, as well as a playground and farm animals.  The views here are already astonishing.  We popped inside briefly so Erwin could buy a drink and it smelled amazing, but we wanted to make some progress before making a lengthy stop, so didn't linger long enough for a meal.

The climb up to Hoher Kranzberg is steady.  The trail is mostly paved, so the footing is easy, but there is little shade.  Looking forward to lunch kept us kept us motivated in the hot sun.  Unfortunately, as we approached the top, we discovered that Kranzberghaus is closed for renovations.  This was a bit of a disappointment for all three of us.  However, we rallied and made the last ascent to the lounge chairs at the summit and the views were more than enough to make up for it.  I gave Frankie some red pepper and cucumber to tide him over, and we eventually pushed on, hoping to eat at Ferchensee instead.  The trail crosses a grassy plateau filled with wildflowers before entering the woods and beginning the long descent.

The forest is dense initially, deep with welcome shade, replete with moss and crowberry.  Erwin mentioned that Smurfs live in this part of the world, and that they love woods like this.  Frankie has brought a Smurf along on many previous adventures, and seized on this notion with much excitement, looking and listening for Smurfs the entire way down.  Descending further, the woods become more open, with sunlight streaming through and peek-a-boo views of the mountains, particularly the jagged Wetterstein range.  Just gorgeous, all the way down.

We eventually popped out at Ferchensee, agog with wonder at the sight before us and more than ready for lunch.  We lucked into a prime table right by the water, and congressed with fish, big and small, as well as some ducks, including a mama with her fluffballs.  When we asked about menus, we were told that the lunch service was officially over, but the kindly waitress took pity on us and listed several options that were still available.  We gratefully seized on a few of those, sharing a dumpling duo and weinerschnitzel with fries, along with mixed salads.  Perfection!  Those dumplings were the best we had on the trip.  Others folks arrived hungry after us and were also given the benefit of kindness, making due with sausage salad and apfelstrudel.

After finishing our meal, we took the trail around the far side of Fershensee, to enjoy the views toward the Karwendel range, then headed on toward Lautersee.  Most of the descent had been completed, so the grades were easier here.  Although spectacularly beautiful, Lautersee is more developed, with both a hotel and a hut, along with some residences in between, so we were glad to have taken our longest break at Ferchensee.  We did stop to get Frankie some ice cream, though, to keep his tank fueled.  After Lautersee, there is another big meadow, then more open woods and more meadows, a slight rise and more gentle descending.  Astounding sights in every direction.

Finally, the last descent to the parking lot, and more glorious views over Mittenwald.  I was running the Map my Ride app on my phone, and Frankie was exuberant when I pointed out that he was setting a new personal distance record.  He immediately began agitating to walk into town after we drove back to our apartment, to get dinner and rack up another 1.5 miles for the day.  Go Frankie, go!   

This hike is stunning at every stage.  I cannot recommend it highly enough!

Bergstation Kranzberg Sesselift
view from Berggasthof Sankt Anton
 the Karwendel range towering above Mittenwald

playground at Sankt Anton

meadows along the trail up toward Hoher Kranzberg
northeast view toward Wildensee

lesser butterfly orchid (Platanthera bifolia)
lesser butterfly orchid (Platanthera bifolia)

lounge chairs to soak up the views at Hoher Kranzberg

Kranzberg Gipfelhaus

photo by Erwin
bird's-nest orchid (Neottia nidus-avis)

rampion (Phyteuma sp.)

bird's-eye primrose (Primula farinosa)

we had a late lunch at Gasthaus Ferchensee
view of the Wetterstein from the table

enjoying some erdbeereis at the Lautersee Hotel
Frankie loved the ice cream bowl
Kapelle Maria K├Ânigin
Kapelle Maria K├Ânigin

small cow-wheat (Melampyrum sylvaticum)

almost back!

This circuit includes 6.5 miles of hiking with approximately 900 feet elevation gain.  The parking lot for the chairlift facility is relatively small and was full the Sunday of our hike; plan on arriving early on weekends to secure a spot.  There are large maps posted at the base of the mountain and at the top of the chairlift.  We took pictures of the maps to refer to during the hike since we didn't have paper maps.  The trails are well-marked and generally easy to follow.  This is a spectacular hike!  
chairlift to St. Anton, 830 to Hoher Kranzberg, 813 to/around Ferchensee and beyond, 828 past Lautersee to chairlift parking
chairlift to St. Anton, 4a to Hoher Kranzberg, 4 then 6 to Ferchensee, 5 to Lautensee, 5a back to chairlift parking