Monthly Archives: May 2013

Excelsior Glen and Hector Falls – New York Finger Lakes

Another quick post from my New York trip.

Excelsior Glen

After my morning at Watkins Glen (entry in the blog archives here) I scooted over to Excelsior Glen on the Eastern side of Seneca Lake about 2.5 miles from the lower entrance of Watkins Glen State Park. This little gem is on the right side of route 414. If you come to the split where route 79 diverges to the right, you’ve gone too far. There is room for two or three vehicles directly beside the road. The trail starts on the right side of the stream and weaves back and forth as you head up stream. I passed a tent that looked like it had been there a while, including a fishing pole and frying pan. The trail is well defined at first, but disappears and reappears as you continue up stream. The Finger Lakes Trail (longest continuous hiking trail in NY state) goes along the top of this gorge. There are a few major drops here with smaller cascades between. I saw some nice creepy crawly millipedes at the wetter areas along the sides of the stream bed.

Millipede 1








Millipede 2








Excelsior Glen

There was one huge drop at the upper end of the glen, but I didn’t get any good shots as the lighting was terrible. Rather than go back down the way I came, I decided to scale the left bank of the glen. I wouldn’t suggest this option…. The walls were made up of loose mud and clay, make looser by the local rain a day before. The side was so steep and unstable, I started to slide back down into the glen at one point…. not fun…. Once I made it to the top, I found the white blazed Finger Lakes Trail and walked that back to my car. Short walk and completely isolated. If Watkins Glen is crowded, this is one of the alternatives locations to go to.









Hector Falls

Hector Falls is right beside the road on route 414, two miles North of Excelsior Glen. The road bridges across Hector Falls Creek as it dumps into Seneca Lake. Gorgeous spot where I grabbed some lunch from the trunk and took a bit of a break. Well worth the time and since there was no effort….

Hector Falls

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Appalachian Trail – Monson to Caratunk – Moxie Bald Mountain and Pleasant Pond Mountain

I’m trying to keep up with the blog here, but the beginning of Spring/Summer hiking season in the North East has got me on the trail so much and running around taking pictures that I’m neglecting the site a little. So here’s to playing catch up….

Thursday, May 16th and Friday, May 17th I hiked 37 miles on the Appalachian trail from Monson, Maine, south to Caratunk, Maine. I am trying to knock off the Maine section of the AT and have a short section from Caratunk to Flagstaff Lake, and the famed ‘hundred mile wilderness’, which isn’t really all wilderness any longer. I had originally planned on a three day hike, but at the end of my second day, I only had 5 miles to go, so I dumped in the H2O and calories and finished in two.

On Thursday morning I dropped my truck off at the AT parking lot just north of Caratunk village on route 201. My wonderful Mom shuttled me to the AT crossing on route 15 between Monson and Greenville at around 7:30AM. I normally hike the AT South to North, but as the easiest portion of this section is on the North end, I decided to reverse direction.

Heading South from route 15 the trail was a little muddy and wet, but I expect that in the early season. The individual maintaining this section of the trail had already been through, clearing blow downs and digging out tranches to release some of the water. Nice to see the maintainers out early. Trail maintenance is all volunteer based and some don’t get out until later as the through hikers wont be through for a bit.

As I came upon Lake Hebron outside of Monson, I stepped over an inlet and was startled by six or eight 14-16″ fish in the stream! They were barely submerged! Upon closer inspection I identified them as spawning suckers. Really cool to see them sloshing up and down stream! You can access the AT close to this area by following Pleasant Street out of Monson. This is probably the best route for through hikers to take if looking for some real food or to grab a package pick up in Monson.

The trail deteriorated somewhat after this, but was only because the number of blow downs in the trail increased. The maintainer for this section had not been out yet. Not really a problem, but made the walking a little more difficult. The first major obstacle was reached next…. the East branch of the Piscataquis river. Water levels were average right now as we hadn’t had much spring rain and the snow melt was gone a while ago. This ford was calf deep and COLD, but it made my feet feel great!

I rested on the West side of the stream and the black flies descended! As long as I was moving I was fine, but stop and I was getting chewed! I grabbed a Cliff bar and headed out along the West branch of the Piscataquis and into Horseshoe Canyon. The AT winds above the North edge of the canyon. I think it would be a nice day hike to explore the waterfalls and cascades of the river, but not today. I had to cover some miles to make my evening destination of Moxie Bald lean to. I stopped at the Horseshoe Canyon lean to and grabbed a sandwich for lunch even though the black flies were terrible!

Leaving the lean to, I headed West continuing along the West branch of the Piscataquis to the crossing location. This spot is a much longer crossing and has a rope strung across in case of stability help in high water. Places on this crossing were almost waist deep. I have heard that this can be a difficult crossing in high water. I even remember talking to a through hiker last year that got stuck between the East and West branch for more than a day. He had crossed the East branch heading South during Spring rain and it rose so quickly that he could not get across the West branch when he got there.

At this crossing, Bald Mountain Stream enters on the West and the trail continues, following the stream closely for a mile or so. I used to maintain the trail from here to the outlet at Bald Mountain Pond and it was a tough section. The maintainer before me had not done a very good job. As a volunteer maintainer, you are required to visit your section a specified amount per year. I think it was two, but not sure what it might be now, as I haven’t been a maintainer for a few years now. Anyhow, the prior maintainer apparently was filling out work sheets detailing work performed, but was not doing the work. Evergreen brush had grown in almost closing off the trail and I spent a couple of years trying to prune everything back. The current maintainer has done a spectacular job in widening out the trail as can be seen here. It is a pleasure walking this section…


The trail here is very level for about 3 miles or so, but toward Bald Mountain Pond outlet it gets pretty wet in spots. The outlet crossing is at the location of an old dam and was pretty easy to walk across, once again only calf deep. A couple more uneventful miles brought me to the Moxie Bald lean to.

I spent the night here listening to a couple of owls calling back and forth. I brought my 40 degree sleeping bag and it got pretty chilly that night, but with some extra clothes I stayed warm (except for my nose sticking out of the mummy bag). The morning provided a magnificent sunrise over the lake and after breakfast of coffee and instant oatmeal I headed out.

The days hike started out immediately with a pretty good elevation gain up Moxie Bald Mountain. There is a side trail to the top with the main portion of the AT routed over a cutoff path so in bad weather the peak can be avoided. Views were OK given that the conditions were deteriorating and it was pretty nippy up there. Had to put on a fleece and my gloves. Supposedly you can see Katahdin to the North East on a good day…. I may never know.

From the top, the trail winds down into the valley between Moxie Bald and Pleasant Pond Mountain, passing the Bald Mountain Brook lean to along the way. Not long after was the crossing of Baker brook, the inlet to Moxie Pond. This I have heard is the worst of the crossings along this section (four major ones in all). At high water this can be well above the waist and it’s pretty far across. Today I was able to rock hop most of the way.

I was able to rest once again after crossing Baker brook. Here the AT follows a dirt road North for a little bit. I saw my first people here. Three guys out to kayak and fish on Moxie Pond. They were here for the same thing as me….. get a little head space away from all other people. Once in the woods again the trail gains elevation steadily for the next couple of miles on the way to the summit of Pleasant Pond Mountain. The views from the top are limited, but you can get 360 degrees if you walk around the ledges a bit.

I didn’t stay at the top long as once again it was windy and cold. Continuing on toward my destination for the night, the next mile was a brutal straight shot down to Pleasant Pond. I was apprehensive as I have had knee trouble in the past and it always rears itself on the down hill sections after I am tired and beat up. Surprisingly my knees held up and I felt pretty good when I reached the Pleasant Pond lean to.

I soaked my feet in the pond, which is accessed from a .2 mile side trail. After putting my boots back on an cleaning up a little, I went back to the shelter. It was only 2:30PM and I only had an easy downhill 5 miles to go. I decided to dump in some water and calories and hike out instead of spending the night. It was Friday and I was running the Sugarloaf 15K road race on Sunday. If I got out tonight I would have 36 hours to recuperate. This section of the trail was very nice, following Holly brook most of the way through a mixture of soft and hard wood forest. Painted trilliums were everywhere…

This section of the AT has a few access roads into it that could be used to break up the hike into multiple day hikes that would be great for family outings. I think the most enjoyable would be either a hike into Horseshoe Canyon from Pleasant Street in Monson, or a hike to the summit of Moxie Bald Mountain from the Deadwater road off route 16 outside of Bingham, and the Trestle road in to Baker brook on Moxie pond. Great section of the AT that gets minimal use in the off season. Now I can check this section off and move on to the 100 mile wilderness…..

View AT Monson to Caratunk in a larger map

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Watkins Glen State Park

I traveled to the town of Watkins Glen on the second day of my New York trip. I didn’t realize until I got back home that Watkins Glen is pretty well known for its racetrack and the Watkins Glen International. I wasn’t there for car racing…. I was interested in Watkins Glen State Park. It’s an interesting entry into the State Park and the glen (gorge). As you pull off route 414 directly in town to enter the State Park, the gorge bridge is looming over the end of the parking lot! It’s right in your face off the main driving route! I’m not going to go into many details here as I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. Just a note….. this place is AWESOME!!! It looks like something out of Lord of the Rings! Definite must for any landscape photographers out there. It’s a dream….. The only thing I am disappointed with is that most of the glen trail was closed when I was there as the season is still early and they were cleaning up the winter debris.

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Taughannock Falls State Park

Taughannock Falls State Park is located on the West shore of Lake Cayuga near the small town of Trumansburg, NY. The name Taughannock comes from the Algonquian-speaking Lenni Lenape (Delaware) Indians, referring either to chief Taughannock or the word taghkanic (great fall in the woods).[1] The main drop is 215 feet high, making it 33 feet higher than Niagara Falls and is among some of the highest East of the Rockies.

I stayed at the State Park campground from Wednesday, May 8 – Sunday, May 12. I arrived early in the evening to find that I was the only camper in the tenting area. There was one RV in that portion of the campground, but I was all alone and had the bathroom/shower all to myself! It was early in the season and the masses hadn’t begun their Spring outdoor adventures yet. No complaints from me. The weather for the time I was there was supposed to be unsettled, but I lucked out and only got stuck hiking in the rain for an hour or so one morning, otherwise I stayed dry. The last night of my stay, a threesome from Pennsylvania moved in right next to me (out of the whole tenting area, why next to me?). Without getting into details, I’ve determined that it doesn’t matter where you are from, rednecks are rednecks ;-).

There is a nice trail around the North and South rim of the gorge that is about 2 1/2 miles total. The campground is directly on the North Rim Trail adjacent to the lower falls. I hiked this trail my first evening at the park.

Taughannock Falls

Taughannock Falls – Main Cataract

The above photo was captured at the observation deck on the North Rim trail. I chose to walk the trail, but you can drive to this spot. I was lucky enough to be here in the evening while it was misting, so there were not many other people. With some patience I captured the deck while no one was around. There is some light editing with Lightroom 4. Graduated ND filter above the falls, some saturation of the pool below the falls, brightening of the white falls, and darkening of the observation platform.

.8 sec @ f 14, ISO 100, 35mm

Taughannoc Falls - Upper Falls

Taughannoc Falls – Upper Falls

The above photo is of the Upper Falls taken on a bridge linking the North and South rim trail. I used a Singh-Ray Gold-N-Blue polarizer to capture the yellow/gold of the water reflections. The stone bridge at the top of the photo is a regular traffic bridge on the main highway above the State Park. Once again, some light editing to tone down the highlights, but bring out the details in the shadows.

1.6 sec @ f 14, ISO 100, 18 mm

Taughannoc Falls - Side Stream

Taughannoc Falls – Side Stream

This spot is to the left and upstream from the Upper Falls. I had read about this little side stream entering the main river near the traffic bridge at the top of the State Park. What I had read didn’t give a specific location, so I’m glad I found it. This is an HDR composite of 3 bracketed shots .5 sec, .8 sec, and 1 sec @ f 8, ISO 100, 40 mm. As always, when using a tripod for bracketed shots, I turn off image stabilization and I focus manually. I use an HDR plugin for Lightroom from Photomatix.


There is also a level, easy walking path through the gorge that will bring you to the base of the falls and an observation deck. It’s about 3/4 mile one way. It follows the river and really gives a perspective of the depth of the gorge. Much of the river flows over hard, flat limestone, which is riddled with small pools and ripples. I’m amazed that some of the area literature still claims that the ripples are from beach waves that hardened over millenia. This was disproven long ago. They are the result of chemical erosion. It works something like this: Limestone is made from calcium carbonate. Rain as it falls collects a small amount of carbon dioxide from the air producing a weak carbon acid that calcium carbonate is vulnerable to. Over time this creates puddles, ripples, and in many cases caves and potholes. Enough Mr. Science. It’s just that I’m surprised that the wrong information is still out there… even in some of the Park literature. Should I be??

Taughannoc Falls - Base View

Taughannoc Falls – Base View

View of the base of the main drop from the stream bed. Very little post processing.

.4 sec @ f 8, ISO 100, 20 mm

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New York Finger Lakes

From May 8 to May 12 I spent some time in the New York Finger Lakes region exploring the amazing glens and waterfalls. I stayed North of Ithaca at Taughannock Falls State Park near Trumansburg; home of Taughannock Falls. At 215 feet, it is one of the larges waterfalls East of the Rockies. Over this five day period I explored the area around Ithaca and Cayuga Lake. There are many National Forests, State Forests, State Parks, and many other natural areas that are protected and maintained by local conservation groups. The embedded Google map shows the major areas I explored. My goal is to post a separate article for each place I explored, so stay tuned!

Taughannock Falls

Taughannock Falls

View New York Finger Lakes Adventure in a larger map

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Emerald Pool – Bickford Slides – Brickett Place – Evan’s Notch, Maine

On Sunday, May 5, I got an early start and headed to the South end of Evan’s Notch on route 113 on the North side of Fryeburg. I first headed to Emerald Pool. From the junction of ME 113 and US-302 in Fryeburg, Maine, take ME 113 north for 17.3 miles and turn right into a parking area for the Baldface Circle Trail. Cross the road from the parking area and the trail starts on the West side. About .7 miles up the trail, Emerald Pool is just downstream to the right. The spot is very well marked with trail signs. This is supposedly a very green pool in the summer, but is wasn’t very picturesque at this time in early spring. Maybe a spot to come back to.

Emerald Pool

Emerald Pool

After this quick walk, I headed to the Brickett Place building further North, but on the right (East) side of route 113. It is a historic, 19th century, brick farmhouse. At the back of the farmhouse the Blueberry Ridge Trail heads into the woods. After some moderate uphill, a fork is reached at .6 miles. The right fork is the Blueberry Ridge Trail. This is the trail heading to Bickford Slides. Bickford brook is reached shortly after the fork and the Blueberry Ridge Trail heads across the stream. The first of the slide is downstream from the crossing. The sides of the gorge are very steep, but you can reach the bottom where I took this shot.

Bickford Slides - Lower Slide

Bickford Slides – Lower Slide

Back to where the Blueberry Ridge Trail crosses the stream, there is a sign for the Bickford Slides Loop Trail heading up stream. If you choose this path, which I recommend, it is hard to follow. It is sometimes on the left bank, sometimes on the right, sometimes in the stream bed, and there are no signs or trail markers that I could see. I just followed where the ground looked walked on. There are many small drops along the stream, with two more large drops up stream from the lower slide. I followed the top drop on the right side of the stream. At the top of the last drop, there is an easy place to ford the stream to the left side and up the gorge wall to a trail which will take you back to the originating fork.

Bickford Slides - Upper Falls

Bickford Slides – Upper Falls

What I find interesting is how fallible memory is and how it changes slightly over short periods of time, so that by the end of a long time frame, the memories are not the same. I had been to this location during my late teens or early twenties (see, can’t even remember when) and I remember scrambling up the left side of the upper falls with the side of the gorge being all loose dirt. What I saw this time was no trail on the left side, and it is all jagged stone. Not quite the way I remembered it. Maybe now I can insert what I experienced this time into that part of my mind. Then again…. maybe not….


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Little Androscoggin River Kayaking – Snow Falls to South Paris

After a busy Saturday morning on May 4th, I was able to talk Tammy into going for a short kayak paddle. “Short” is a relative term here… It could be a description of time or of distance. In this instance, “short” was distance. We (when I say ‘we’ I really mean ‘I’) had been thinking about kayak options all week. I wanted to do something that I would enjoy (think… quick water), but not so intense that Tammy wouldn’t enjoy it (think… quiet water). We (again ‘I’) decided on a 7 mile +/- paddle on the Little Androscoggin River from the base of Snow Falls on route 26 in West Paris to the dam just outside Market Square on routes 117/119 in South Paris.

The trip started off uneventful. We put in at the picnic area at Snow Falls, carried our kayaks down an old tote road/path to the base of the falls, and loaded up. We took our time to begin, with me showing Tammy how to identify an eddy and how and why they form. I also discussed some of the basics of river hydraulics to try getting here thinking more about how to navigate rapids. Away we headed downstream.

Immediately out of sight of the falls, the narrow river begins to quicken and provides some nice class 1 ripples and class 2 obstacles. I noticed quickly that this small river would not be a good paddle in low water months. We just came off winter and already there were places where we hit bottom (although I admit we have not had much rain fall this spring).

A mile or so downstream the river becomes wide, deep, and slow moving. We came upon granite abutments on either side of the river and a couple of men fishing from one on the left hand side. The younger man (late teens/early twenties) identified himself as ‘Little John’, as his father and grandfather were also both named John. He told us of a dam directly ahead (locally identified as Bisco Falls) and showed us a portage access just downstream of the abutment to the left. His family owns the land and the dam. Little John gave us all the info we could ever ask for (very nice, talkative, young man) about the dam and the small hydro-electric power plant that his family runs and feeds back into the Central Maine Power electrical grid. The dam and falls are very picturesque. I asked about the possibility of photographing them in the future, but Little John was skeptical as his father is a ‘baby boomer and pretty set in his ways’.

Upon leaving the falls area, the river becomes narrower, yet still quick flowing with ripples and shallow spots. We enjoyed the wildlife here and it was very picturesque and isolated, even though we were only a few hundred yards from route 26. We saw multiple ducks, a blue heron, a kingfisher, a Canadian goose, and best of all…. a martin! In all my time in the Maine outdoors, I have only seen three of these beautiful, weasel like mammals.

Beyond the half way point, we began to come upon more and more downed trees blocking old river paths and diverting the river onto new courses. We approached a junction where the main river went left and a small tributary headed right. We took the left. The water became quicker flowing and I noticed a big log jam straight ahead, but saw that the water flow took a 90 degree right at the jam. Going around the corner the river became impassible at a massive log jam with the water flowing directly under at a pretty fast rate. Time to back pedal and get back up stream and try the right path. There were 5 guys at the log jam looking around drinking beer (mmmmm beer). One asked where we came from. “Upstream”, I replied. I thought it would be obvious ;-0. The right path brought us back to the main river channel with a couple of obstacles, but nothing too difficult.

From here the river widens, shallows, and slows, but it was still moving enough so we didn’t have to paddle hard to make good headway. As we approached the bridge on route 26 near the bowling alley, the river continued to widen until forward movement was undetectable and was more pond like. The river then flows under the bridge at the base of Paris Hill and continues behind the Market Square portion of town until it reaches the dam at routes 117/119. We pulled out at the small park to the right of the falls and called it a day. 7 +/- miles in a leisurely 4 1/2 hours. Great Day!


Little Androscoggin River Below Snow Falls

Little Androscoggin River Below Snow Falls

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