Monday, June 27, 2011

Seneca, Spruce Knob, Dolly Sods June 25&26, 2011

June 25&26, 2011
Seneca Rocks, Spruce Knob, Dolly Sods

The following picture is the classic shot of the west face of Seneca Rocks. 

We took a climbers trail that runs to the Northern Summit on the east side of Seneca Rocks because the hiking trail on the west side is closed while it is being improved this summer.    The last time I was here 25 years ago there was no hiking trail only climbers trails.      This viewing platform did not exist either.

According to this sign one of the reasons for the viewing platform is to provide a safe view that is as good as the view from the North Summit.   You can get to places on the North Summit that have great views while staying on what in my opinion is class III walking but the problem with it is that it very quickly blends into class IV and class V terrain with hundreds of feet of vertical exposure.    Not the safest place for kids or even adults without a clear understanding of the risks versus their level of skill.
Since I was not hiking solo like I normally do Anita took the opportunity to take a lot of pictures of me.
If you blow up this picture of the Gunsight Notch looking south you can see several climbing parties on the rocks.  The last time I was here the Gendarme stood like a big thumb about twenty five feet into the air right in the middle of Gunsight Notch.   The other big change was the old suspension bridge which actually used to be considered the new bridge (replacement for a truly broken down suspension bridge) has been washed away.   Changes, changes, changes.

We strolled over to the top of the under construction hikers trail and the work that appears to being done is awesome.    It appears that there is going to be three to four inches of relatively fine gravel placed on the trail.  They must be using ATV's or Bobcats to do this work.    The gravel you see in this picture was moved up hundreds of vertical feet and miles of trail.  Since it is three to four inches deep and around eight feet wide it represents tons and tons of weight.   The utility road that was here in the 70's and passes within a couple hundred feet of the North Summit still exists.   While we were getting ready to hike back to the valley a group of about 20 folks on horseback went by on the road.    I believe that while it  passes very close to the Northern Summit that it is privately owned and not on forest service land.

While the food was not as inexpensive as twenty five years ago when $5 could by you a meal the lunches pictured below including side salads and a big plate of home made bread only cost $7.
The hike did not take a huge amount of time so we took in both the new Discovery Center and spent about a half hour getting a very informative tour of an old homestead with its wonderful gardens.  The Forest Service employee offering interpretation at this house is an amazing source of information about the building, lifestyles, history and garden plants of earlier times in the area.  When last I was  here the currently restored house was nothing but a broken down ramshackle all vine covered and buried deep in the woods.   It is located over near where the old Visitor Center used to be.   

Evidently the old visitor center that I remember burnt down and the Forest Service built the Discovery Center to replace it.    The Discovery Center is several time larger than the old visitors center.    While we were there we took in an interesting interpretive displays a  movie about the history of area and enjoyed watching some locals making baskets and listening to pair of young ladies singing authentic old appalachian folk songs.  
On Sunday we did several shorter circuit hikes that were all under a mile in length.   The first short hike was encompassed the summit of Spruce Knob.    We not only visited the summit platform but took a short circuit around the summit to several other view points.

This picture is actually a little out of order in that it was a roadside view point just before Spruce Knob summit.

The following picture is from within one of the Red Spruce thickets for which Spruce Knob is named.
The next two pictures were taken on a talus slope and from a bolder sitting in the middle of a high meadow.

Next stop was Spruce Knob Lake which reminded me of a twenty five acre man-made pond nestled in NY State Forest Lands a couple miles as the crow flies and eight miles by gravel roads from my parents home.    As a young kid I and friends would bushwhack on as straight a line as possible through the wilds of  the state forest for about a  couple miles in order to go fishing or hang out and skip rocks at Stony Pond.   Spruce Knob was so similar to Stony Pond I just had to take the time to skip a few rocks.  

The next stops involved a couple of one mile or less out and back hikes off of Dolly Sods fire roads.   Dolly Sods has the additional danger of having unexploded ordinance.

We walked through this huge meadow that had tons and tons of blueberry bushes.   Not ripe yet but it must be awesome eating when they are.

Hey look at all those windmills off in  the distance.   This picture was actually taken from Nature Conservancy land that adjoins Dolly Sods.

Looking back at a large part of the northern end of Dolly Sods.

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