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The NY/NJ Trail Conference has recently published FREE brochures and maps for all five of the Fire Towers located in the Catskill Park. Click here for info & download links.

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Hiking Pillsbury Mountain near Speculator NY

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by Ralph Ferrusi , Poughkeepsie Journal, link to original post with PHOTOS

Hike name: Hadley Mountain fire tower
Location: Southern Adirondacks, inside the Blue Line, near Lake Luzerne
Length: 3.6 miles round trip
Rating: According to “Views from on High,” the Fire Tower Challenge bible, a Difficulty Rating of 2; 1 being “Easy,” 4 being “Difficult.”
Dogs: Even though it’s only a 2, Fido, I’m glad you passed on this one.
Map(s): “Views from on High,” Page 70. New York State Atlas/Gazetteer was a big help navigating to this one.
Features: A good, brisk winter’s workout. Stupendous 360-degree mountains-everywhere view from the tower, way up to Marcy and Whiteface in the north, with the Great Sancandaga Reservoir gleaming to the south.
Watch out for: Bottom Line: we were six hours in the car, two hours on the mountain …

The “Views from on High” description of the trail ascending at a “moderate pitch” lulled me into a false sense of security. John P. Freeman must be some kind of mountain goat, because I would describe several of the pitches as pretty darn steep, and the climb to the ridge line as pretty much unrelenting. Not Breakneck unrelenting, but definitely “talking to myself” unrelenting.

On this frigid winter’s day, our Katoola MICROspikes sorta-crampons were the gear of choice.

We’d brought snowshoes, but a returning hiker in the parking lot said we wouldn’t need them on the heavily-packed-down trail.

Background: Here we go again. I’m goal-oriented, to put it mildly. You don’t walk from Georgia to Maine twice, bang out 114 Northeast 4,000-foot mountains, 46 Adirondack 4,000-footers and 35 Catskill high peaks and travel to 54 countries without some kind of numbers obsession.

I think goals are a good thing, and Kath suggested we look into a fire tower challenge she’d heard about. Online research uncovered the Fire Tower Challenge: Once upon a time there were 69 fire observation towers in the Catskills and Adirondacks, manned by observers diligently scanning for forest fires. Most of the towers dated to the early 1900s. For various reasons, including aircraft surveillance, they were gradually abandoned; the last observers left in 1990.

The towers decayed rapidly, and many were dismantled. Between 1993 and 1997, grass roots movements began lobbying to save some of the remaining towers.

Five Catskill towers have been restored: Balsam Lake, Hunter, Overlook, Red Hill and Tremper. All five have appeared in Hike of the Week columns. John P. Freeman’s 2001-vintage “Views from on High, Fire Tower Trails in the Adirondacks and Catskills” describes these towers, along with 23 remaining Adirondack towers. The EMS store on Route 9 had a copy. Don’t head to the ’daks without it.

Hike description: It was 4-above-0 when we left Stormville, and still bitter cold when we reached the trailhead at noontime. The trail was hard-packed and blue ice in spots, and we MICROspiked round-trip. It was steep enough to have me counting “one/two/three/four” to myself in several places.

It was a relief to reach the ridgeline and turn right, toward the summit dome.

Views opened up on the dome, and all of a sudden, there was the tower. Views were stupendous, but the icy wind soon had us hustling back down to the Hyundai. Eight down (we’ve done Saint Regis and Rondaxe), 20 to go …

How to get there: Thruway or Taconic north to Northway Exit 16. Follow signs to Corinth, jump on 9N north to Lake Luzerne, cross the Hudson to Hadley, then right (north—signs for the tower!!!) on Stony Creek Road. Left just after crossing railroad tracks onto Hadley Hill Road, 4.5 miles turn right on Tower Road, 1.5 miles to large trailhead parking lot on left.

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A new lean-to has been built in a nice drier location about 100 feet up the hill from the old Parks Hollow shelter in Sugar Hill State Forest.  The two Parks Hollow lean-tos are located near the Mohawk horse/snowmobile trail, east of Maple Lane and north of Sugar Hill Rd., south of the Fire Tower area.

Hikers can access the lean-tos via a quarter-mile blue-blazed side trail which leaves the FLT ~.4 mile E of Maple Lane.  The short trail into the new lean-to is rutted and wet from construction. The Forest Ranger/trail section sponsor intends to post  signs into it this winter and will take in a refurbished table when the road dries a little more.  The old shelter will stay for awhile and can still be used.  The new lean-to was an eagle scout project.  There is still no outhouse but the Forest Ranger is hoping to interest another scout in building one for his eagle project.

source: FLTC e-list

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By ALAN GREGORY, standardspeaker.com, link to original post

Many beautiful mountains can be seen off in the distance from the east shore of Lake Champlain and the city of Burlington’s waterfront in Vermont, the Green Mountain State.

Few people have the time, money or endurance to enjoy them way they ought to be: up close and personal. Folks who live on either side of the big lake that divides the North Country are in luck (even the out-of-shape ones).

I finally made it up to the summit of a longtime favorite the other day. Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain, one of the first peaks my wife, Monica, and I hiked after I reported for duty at the SAC (that’s short for Strategic Air Command – for those people too young to remember the Cold War) bomber base at Plattsburgh, N.Y. It is among the dozens of Adirondack high points that can be seen from Burlington. From Plattsburgh, Poke-O-Moonshine is a mere half hour away, just three miles from Exit 33 of Interstate 87 (the Adirondack Northway). A recently opened new trail offers an easier route than I first hiked in 1987 and a way that everyone can enjoy the breathtaking views seen from the rocky top.

Derived from Algonquin words “Pohquis” (it is broken) and “Moosie” (smooth), Poke-O-Moonshine has dramatic cliffs and a much deserved name. It has been called a gateway to the Adirondacks – the first major mountain formation providing a welcoming entrance to the rest of the 6-million-acre Adirondack Park for those headed south.

“Poke” is a popular draw for rock climbers who navigate its vertical east-facing cliffs and make their own route. Up until recently, hikers only had one option – a strenuous uphill trail that rises 1,280 feet in 1.2 miles. On paper, 1.2 miles doesn’t seem like much, but people who have climbed it know the muscular truth.

Immediately after the sign-in register (signing in at trailheads is a must for Adirondack hikers.) the trail abruptly turns steep and hikers until recently had few opportunities for a break until they the summit.

A recent land acquisition by the Adirondack Land Trust has changed that by turning 200 acres that were once privately owned into a public hiking path – part of the Forever Wild forest preserve owned by the people of New York. The new route follows an old logging road that climbs the same height over nearly twice the distance as the old trail (the one my feet still remember after more than two decades), making it much more of a hike than a strenuous workout.

The word has not gotten out yet because the route is so new, but I urge new Adirondack hikers to check it out – with good hiking boots on, of course.

A refurbished fire tower marks the final destination for hikers, when it’s open during the summer months. Once marked for demolition, it is now on the National Register for Historic Places. A 360-degree panorama from the top offers breathtaking views. To the east, Lake Champlain can be seen with the Green Mountains off in the distance. To the north is Lyon Mountain, another peak whose historic fire tower has been refurbished and saved from demolition. To the south is Deerfield Mountain with the Jay Range behind it. Hurricane, Giant and Gothics peaks can also be seen. To the west is Whiteface, the Olympic mountain near Lake Placid, the Olympic village made even more famous in 1980 when the American ice hockey team defeated the Soviet team in the “Miracle on Ice.” The views from atop Poke-O-Moonshine are magnificent and truly rewarding for such little effort.

The new trail is easy to navigate without large rocks or ruts, and there are a variety of things to see along the way that are not part of the old trail experience. My canine friend, Kestrel, a 12-year-old Sheltie, and I marveled at the mastery of dam-building by the resident beavers. There are two separate ponds along the trail; even though we didn’t see any beavers in action, we better understood the saying “busy as a beaver,” as demonstrated by the impressive size and effectiveness of their dams.

The new trail begins a mile south of the old one. The trailhead sits at the edge of the yard of a quaint farmhouse.

It is an experience that will long be a fond memory. It’s made all the more special by this fact: All the land you set foot on is public land. In fact, more than half of the 6 million acres in the park is now owned by the public. And the state Constitution guarantees that lands part of the Adirondack Forest Preserve can’t be logged. Next best thing for conservations is this: The same land is rich with wildlife; the habitat for which is high quality because it hasn’t been fragmented by roads, natural gas drill pads, landfills, utility line corridors, and blighted by billboards, junk yards, trophy homes, McMansions and turf farms.

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Written By: Chad Beatty, Saratoga.com, link to original article

The morning started like any other Saturday, enjoying a hot cup of coffee and working on projects with my son. Little did I know that the day would take an exciting turn when I received a call from family friend Leann Driscoll.

“I feel like going for a hike; do you guys want to hike up Hadley Mountain with me?” she asked. “I have never been there but I heard it is a beautiful trail and a good workout.”

That sounded like a good idea to my wife and me so we decided to cut our chores short, spend the day with nature and get a workout at the same time.

All I can say is it was one of the best decisions we have made for quite some time.
A few hours later and a short drive around Sacandaga Lake and we were at the beginning of the trail ready to begin our adventure.

The trail, which is approximately 2 miles long, is filled with scenic overlooks, huge stones, vibrant greenery and, if you looked hard enough, fresh blueberries. Although I went into the hike expecting good views, I was caught off guard by the intensity of the views and the feeling of freedom.

As I stood on one large boulder precariously positioned at the edge of a steep drop-off, I couldn’t help but take a deep breath of fresh air, stretch out my arms  and with a big smile on my face, thank God for the beauty of the Adirondacks and the ability to hike the mountain.
As we reached the apex of our journey, the summit, we found ourselves staring up at a restored fire tower with a 360 degree view. We were welcomed by summit steward Dan Rockefeller who gave us a brief history of the tower and invited us up to check out the scenery.

As we reached the top of tower it was as if we were standing on top of the world. Strong wind gusts added to the feeling of invigoration and adventure. Like early explorers surveying the region, we gazed out in all directions and took in the beauty of the Adirondacks.

The hike finished with an exciting downhill trek which burned our quads and left us thirsting for liquid. When we reached the base of the mountain we refueled with plenty of water, recounted the day’s highlights and thanked Leann for what turned out to be a fantastic experience.

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Click here to read: The allure of Pillsbury Mountain & see  a slide show

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