Sunday, May 24, 2015

On the Record

     May goes like this: corn, hay and play each pleading "Me! Me! It's my turn now." It's like having a bunch of kids, all demanding their every need be met, preferably yesterday.
     Field corn needs to be planted early in the month so I can be ready to go at the hay when it's time and all this happens when the outdoors is at its best for botanizing, biking and paddling. Sadly, play often gets pushed to the back of the line. Something about having Puritan ancestors...
     But Sunday was different. We had put in a long day on Saturday and got a lot done. Holly left early Sunday morning to run a half-marathon in Massachusetts (1:55!) and then continue on to New Haven where friends were graduating. The old folks (Gwenne and I) were left to take care of the farm and Holly's dog. By noon cows had been milked, calves feed and two loads of green chop delivered. There was time to escape for a few hours!
     We opted for a hike up Record Hill in the Town of Putnam, far northern Washington County. This is a Lake George Land Conservancy property with a new trail and improved access. It took us about an hour to drive up Rts. 4 and 22 where we turned left on Co. 1 towards Glenburnie. After a couple of miles and just before the final descent to Lake George you take a right on Schwerdfeger Road and look for a small sign and blue disk on the left. A parking lot is staked out and will be cleared soon but for now you just pull off the side of the road.

     The trail starts out level thru mixed hardwoods and hemlocks with one small stream crossing. Soon you reach an attractive col with a big ledge, birch trees and a junction. Veer right here to head for the summit and avoid going straight which would take you down to private property in Glenburnie.
     After climbing a little further, we stopped to share the same thought, "If this is our play day, why are we working so darn hard?" The trail was steep and the sun wicked hot. The route goes up the south facing slope and the forest cover is thin, providing meager shade. We were walking thru an open woodland of small hickory, oak and hop hornbeam. There was enough light for grass, ferns and a sprinkling of wildflowers to blanket the ground. Park like is the oft used description for these type of communities.

     As you ascend, gray bands of gneiss covered in lichens and rock tripe punctuate the hillside and contrast with glimpses of sparkling blue Lake George. If a trail is going to be steep it better not be long and this one isn't. The top is open rock mixed with patches of blueberries and views down and across the lake. Black Mountain and the Narrows dominate to the south with Blairs Bay directly in the foreground. A ridge drops off to the west leading to the familiar proboscis known as Anthony's Nose. Following the trail a few steps further we discovered  another outcrop that provides a window on Rogers Rock. The smooth slab is a landmark on the north end of the lake rising hundreds of feet straight out of the water. With binoculars I watched as a couple of climbers worked a route I had done many years ago.

     Here on the east side, Record Hill along with Anthony's Nose and Profile Rocks have steep, west facing cliffs that probably mark fault lines where blocks of crust have dropped forming the graben occupied by the scenic lake. These cliffs are used by peregrine falcons and should be avoided during the nesting season so as not to disturb the birds. It looks like you could hike down to the shore at Flat Rock but I'ld check with the Conservancy first to see if that is ok.

     Near the summit we stopped to inspect a shiny, platey band of rock - I'ld guess biotite mica - accented by a colorful pale corydalis flower. Fortunately, I was able to rein in my
rock/flower/tree identification urges or we'd still be up there.

     We lingered for awhile snacking and swigging on water bottles. Eventually the black flies drove us down but not before we spent time picking ticks off the dog and ourselves. Lower down it was mosquitoes that took over nuisance duty (pick your arthropod poison, there's a lot to choose from).

     Climb Record Hill on a hot day, gaze down on Lake George and tell me you don't want to jump in it. Back at the car, we decided to take our sweaty, burnt and bitten selves down to Glenburnie with visions of a cool dip. But Glenburnie wasn't with us on that
plan. While this is as scenic and charming as Washington County gets, it's also mostly private. The best we could find was a chained off gravel lane that apparently gives Putnam residents "with a sticker" a place to launch boats. There's a sign with so many "No's", "Do Not's", and "Prohibited's" that you'd grow old and die before you read them all. But we were looking the other way as we walked past the sign and waded out into the lake. With Record Hill as our witness, we splashed our faces with water that felt like it had been ice just a few minutes earlier. And it didn't feel wrong at all. In fact, it felt deliciously right.

       Note: The Lake George Land Conservancy has an outing to Record Hill planned for Saturday, June 20 from 9:30 to 12:30. Call 644-9673 to register. Also their annual Hike-a-thon is scheduled for Sunday, July 5. Check their website for more details.  

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