On Wednesday, February 28th, I wanted to go for a hike on a beautiful day with the forecast for sunny skies and highs in the 50’s! Lisa from Morgan Outdoors in Livingston Manor had contacted me the night before and asked about going for a hike and I thought the walk from Alder Lake to Big Pond and back would be nice. We wanted to survey the condition of the trail to see what work would have to be done in the spring. I have adopted this section of trail for the FLTC and did several days worth of work last spring. When I got up in the morning, the temperature was only 25 degrees but the sun was out. I decided to dress warmly despite the forecast. I elected to put on a full baselayer with tights under my Columbia Omniheat pants and a long-sleeved top under a Mammut pullover. I always wear my Mammut Ultimate hoody and I put on a heavier hat and gloves. I knew we would not need snowshoes and I also decided against gaiters. I wore my Keen Glarus hiking boots since I did not feel I would need insulation but I did put my spikes in the pack. Just before 8:00 AM I put my gear in the trunk and Sheila in the backseat. Sheila was obviously happy to go as I drove out Old Route 17 to the Beaverkill Road. I turned right and drove up Johnson Mountain to Lisa’s house arriving at exactly 8:00 AM. Lisa was ready to go and and we started toward Alder Lake under sunny skies. Sheila was happy to be hiking and greeted Lisa enthusiastically. I drove up the Beaverkill Road through Lew Beach and Turnwood. I turned left on Alder Creek Road and drove toward the entrance to Alder Lake. As we neared the end of Alder Creek Road, I turned right and found the gate to Alder Lake closed. I backed up and turned around to park on the side of the road near the creek just before the entrance to the Cross Mountain Hunting Camp. We got our gear out of the car and started our hike at 8:20 AM with the thermometer on the car reading 28 degrees. We could hear the water in the reek and it sounded high! We walked down the bank to the creek which was running with a good volume and looked for a good place to cross. I walked upstream a little and found a narrow spot with some stones to step on. We crossed and started to hike along a broad woods road which was marked with red blazes. The sun was out although it was still cool. The sun on the leaves left over from the fall and the warmth of the rays set a perfect tone. Over the next half mile we gained about 300 feet climbing to the shoulder of a ridge. The trail was easy to follow and we had a great time talking about various projects we had planned. We noticed that there were posted signs on either side of the state land. From the ridge we started to descend on the same woods road to a small stream. The trail was wet and muddy in spots and there were many blowdowns across the trail. Some of the smaller branches we removed but others required a saw and an axe. A few were large enough the that a chainsaw might be the best answer. I was surprised since I had spent so much time on the trail last spring. At least there were no nettles or briars in this area. As we descended, we did come across one spot that was covered in snow. The descent was almost a mirror image of the ascent as we dropped about 300 feet in half a mile. Just before the stream crossing, I stopped to take some shots of a beaver meadow with a ridge behind it. As we approached the stream, the trail markers indicated a slight turn to the west off the woods road and across the stream. The woods had been very open but there was a very large open area just below the stream crossing. I took some pictures of the area and of the stream.
We crossed the stream and found that the trail began to follow another well-defined woods road. We also found that we were again climbing to the shoulder of another ridge. There were extensive stone walls in this area which hearkened back to a time when the land was farmed. There were also two foundations which could have been houses or farm buildings. As we topped the hill and the trail began to flatten, we came to Ana area that is always wet and muddy. This day was no exception but we were able to work around the mud without too much bother. The trail stayed muddy for some time. In a little more than half a mile we regained 200 feet and at 1.8 miles the trail turned to the west heading directly toward Big Pond. Along the way we began to find some very large trees across the trail which we could navigate but which could be removed. On a short ascent we came to the area where I had spent some time last spring cutting a sea of briars that had all but obstructed the trail. Some prickers were beginning to encroach on the trail and I knew I would need to do some work in the spring to keep it open. We reached the top of a small hill where the trail began to descend and due to Lisa’s time constraints we decided to turn around. I knew we would not get to Big Pond and did not want to descend the hill just to turn around and walk back up it. We had been hiking about and hour and a quarter and thought we had made about 2 miles. We turned around and set a good pace on the way back stopping only occasionally for a picture or two. On the walk back we began to realize the stone walls in the area formed an extensive network which we had simply not seen on the way out. The walls were on both sides of the trail and, in some places, the trail crossed the walls. I have always been impressed by the work it took to collect the stones and the skill needed to turn them into stone walls that have stood for so many years! We were soon back at the initial stream crossing and we knew it was a short walk back to the car with only one ascent. All along the ay we had been hearing the “honks” of geese and seeing huge V’s flying overhead. One V was completely white except for a few blacker birds. Other V’s were almost completely dark. By the time we returned to the car 10:50 AM I was very warm as the temperature had risen into the high 40’s and the sun’s rays were more direct. It had been a beautiful day to hike and the out and back allowed us to see different aspects of the trail. We had hiked 4.1 miles in 2.5 hours and a vertical gain of only 930 feet. We had plenty of time for pictures and exploring this interesting area.