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Friday, August 9, 2013

Hike to the Dickinson Hill Fire Tower

We took the hike to the recently refurbished Dickinson Hill Fire Tower in Grafton a couple of days ago.  To get there, turn north onto North Long Pond Road between the Grafton General Store and the Grafton Center town square.  You will pass Mill Pond on your right and come to an intersection -- across which is Second Pond -- turn right here and continue north on North Long Pond Road.  As you proceed north, Long Pond will be off to your left.   Proceed, almost to the end of North Long Pond Road, until you see the sign on your right for the Fire Tower trail.  There's a gravel area you can pull off into.

Grafton Fire Tower Trail Sign
The sign says .7 miles.  I think it's tad longer, but not a real long hike.

Most of the trail looks like this... wide, stone trail/road.  Unlike our recent, virtually bug-free hike on the Taconic Crest Trail to the Snow Hole, you'll want insect repellent with you on this hike.  Not horrible, but the mosquitoes were around.

When you come to this thingamajig, keep going straight.  It's not clearly marked here, but taking a left would take you on to the Chet Bell Trail and not to the fire tower.

Stone wall - Grafton, NY
One of a number of stone walls on the way to the fire tower - - remnants of plots of land probably rented from the 9th patroon of Rensselaerswyck, Stephen Van Rensselaer III.  They must have farmed Rensselaer Greywacke here.

A sign here would have been nice.  We thought we made an error.  Fortunately, we guessed right continuing past the house and soon got to a sign on the right point to a trail into the woods and to the fire tower.

As you pass the white house, check out this huge, gorgeous tree in their yard.

Grafton Fire Tower
There's also a large radio tower installation across from the fire tower.  Right about now, you're probably expecting a beautiful panoramic photo take from atop the tower.  Not going to happen -- I fear heights.  Fortunately, someone who didn't have fear of heights, uploaded the following video to YouTube (click here).

I can attest that the Friends of Grafton Lakes State Park's Fire Tower Project was a success.  It is well-restored and a fun hike.  Click here for the trail map to this and all the Grafton Lakes State Park trails.

Click here for a fascinating article and video on Helen Ellett, who spent 18 years as the fire tower observer here.
Other Hikes
Fitch Trail Hike
Grafton Lakes State Park Hiking Trails
Grafton Lakes State Park Trails
Hopkins Forest
The Long Pond Environmental Education Center
Mattison Hollow
Merck Forest & Farmland CenterPark McCullough House and Trails
Robert Frost Stone House and Museum and Trail
RRR Brooks Trail
Snow Hole
SVC Hikes

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Hike to the Snow Hole

Most of the Trail to the Snow Hole is on Hopkins Forest Land

We took a long overdue hike to the Snow Hole located in the Taconic Mountains Monday.  An easy hike since you are already almost at the highest point when you park and simply follow a well-marked, well-worn trail.  Click here for a map of all the Hopkins Memorial Forest trails, including the one to the Snow Hole.

1. Drive east on Route 2 as though you were headed to Williamstown, Massachusetts to the highest point on the Petersburgh Pass, just before the Massachusetts state line.  The parking area is 5-1/2 miles east on Route 2 from the intersection of Routes 22 and 2 in Petersburgh.

2. Slow down when you get to the hiker's road sign on the right.

 3. The parking area is right after the sign below (on your right):

3. Pull into the large, and safely off Rt. 2, parking area on your right.

4. Carefully cross Route 2.  The start of the Taconic Crest Trail is directly across Rt. 2 from the parking area.  There's no sign, simply the start of the trail shown below.  The first 100 yards present a moderately steep -- but quite doable -- climb.

The Snow Hole is 2.7 miles from here -- 5.4 miles total.  With our various stops and slow pace the total hike took about 3 hours.
Always a good idea to sign in.  Note the Taconic Crest Trail marker.  This is a well-marked trail
Most of the trail looks like this.

I spotted a good number of moss-covered white quartz outcroppings.
You will walk through the remnants of a very old apple orchard, an exposed area that was hit by a blow-down, and you will leave the Hopkins Forest in the state of Massachusetts and enter New York State Forest land.  Multiple signs indicate that the trail is closed to mountain bikes, ATVs, four-wheelers, dirt bikes, etc.

After the blow-down area, you hit a grassy area with a fork.  I suspect the break to the right loops around,  but I know going straight ahead (left fork), gets you to the Snow Hole.

And then.... an opening with a fabulous view to the southwest...

You're almost there when you reach these signs.  The arrows point in two directions because there's a loop around the Snow Hole.

One more stretch and then... I've never seen anything like it before.... the Snow Hole!

"The rocks are cleft in several places, and in one to such a depth that the snow and ice remain there through the year.  The snow hole is about 30 feet long and nearly as deep at the east end, ascends to the west or toward the summit of the ridge and is from 10 to 20 feet wide.  When I visited in June the snow was 6 feet deep on ice of unknown depth."

Prof. Chester Dewey of Williams College
American Journal of Science and Arts, 1818, vol. I, page 340

No sign of snow that I could see, but I played it safe and didn't get too close.  I can't imagine what some pioneer thought when he/she came across this thing for the first time!  Whoa!!!!  What the ?????

A very nice hike.  Not difficult, good trail markers, nice path, gorgeous scenic vista, and then this Snow Hole thing!
Other Hikes
Fitch Trail Hike
Grafton Lakes State Park Hiking Trails
Grafton Lakes State Park Trails
The Long Pond Environmental Education Center
Hopkins Forest
Mattison Hollow
Merck Forest & Farmland CenterPark-McCullough House and Trails
Robert Frost Stone House and Museum and Trail
SVC Hikes

See also
Snowhole - Snow in August?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

North Berkshire Panorama

Berkshire Panorama off Bee Hill Road
Take a drive to Williamstown across the Petersburgh Pass on Route 2 and keep your eyes posted for Bee Hill Road on the right just before you come all the way down the hill that would normally take you to the intersection with Route 7.  Turn left onto Bee Hill Road -- a narrow dirt road -- drive a short ways and turn into the parking area on the right to enjoy Sheep Hills a fabulous view in a very bucolic setting.  There are two scenic walking loops on the property. Just a tad further down the road is a pull-over area to access the Fitch Memorial Woodlands trail.

Bee Hill Road, Williamstown, MA

Parking area off Bee Hill Road

North Berkshire Panorama Plaque
You are overlooking Sheep Hill, the former home and dairy farm of Arthur E. and Ella M. Rosenburg and their four children, now a conservation property of the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation.  The steep and open meadows below showcase the panoramic view to Mt. Greylock, Massachusetts' highest point and one of the first state reservations in the country, and other geographic landmarks.  Popular destination points are depicted in the panoramic drawing....

A bit hazy the day we visited.  I'm looking forward to returning when the autumn colors peak.

Very Cool Wooden Bridge on Bee Hill Road