"It ain't over till its over."
Yogi Berra's dugout philosophy isn't just for baseball. It's also an apt description of this year's ski season. Back in February it seemed like an early spring had arrived. White had turned to brown. I leaned my skis in a corner, pumped up the tires on my bike and went for a ride. Even cast a few 'come hither' looks toward the canoe. Just a little harmless flirting that came to nothing. That's because March came lion roaring in, mauling us with three Nor'easters and lots of snow. Then came the cold. Single digit mid-winter cold.
Might as well make the best of it with a (one last?) tour. After a brief "Who moved my skis!?!" moment, I found them over in the corner, right where I had left them. Then it was a simple matter of throwing stuff into the truck and heading for the hills.
There's probably a lot of reasons you wouldn't want to go on an outing with me, but the biggest might be that I never go straight to a destination. Drives people crazy. It's just that I see all the intervening space between home and wherever as 'Terra incognita' waiting to be explored. This leads to organic meandering that usually (but not always) gets me where I want to go.
I made it thru Greenwich with just a few minor distractions but then Cozy Hollow Road beckoned and the H-V canoe access begged a look. A little further there was that unusual tree by the roadside and then "Wow, what a nice view of Colfax Mountain". Finally I came upon a true show-stopper. Just past the farm on Rouse Road was a field full of wild turkeys - maybe a hundred or more - way too many to count. It was quite a sight and silly me got out to snap a photo. This was akin to yelling "FIRE!" in a crowded theater. It led to a mass goobling exodus into the nearby hedgerow. No photo but a great memory. As an aside I should mention that friends have been seeing upwards of sixty Bald Eagles up on South Bay and my neighbor recently encountered a flock of fifty plus Bluebirds. The dead of winter? Not around here.
Further challenges soon arose but I'll spare you the details for the moment. At some point in my ramblings I'd decided that Lake Lauderdale Park would be fun to check out. It's located just off Rt. 22 about four miles north of Cambridge. While the entrance road is gated this time of year there is a small parking area before the gate and you can walk or ski from there. If the hill leading down is snowed in or icy there's room to pull over on the shoulder of the highway.
The approach to the park/beach area curves around the end of the lake and then runs straight and level thru towering white pines. It's obvious the primary winter activity here is walking dogs. The road looked like they had run the Iditarod here, sans sleds. Dog tracks everywhere and a trodden path where some sort of two legged creatures had tried to keep up. They left a bare booted trough with no signs of snowshoe or ski.
The first water you encounter is the lake's outlet stream. This is the Owl Kill in its infancy. From here it winds south thru the broad valley, picking up tributaries, slipping thru Cambridge and eventually joining the Hoosic River at Eagle Bridge. It's a pretty little thing, reported to have good fishing but a bit small for paddling.
Heading for the Hoosic - The Owl Kill on its merry way
As the road curves left you'll see one of several trails leading into the forest. These form an interconnected network that make the most of the parks 117 acres. On the day I was there the road was encased in crusty snow. It was fast skiing and soon I was treated to views of the lake. The site features tree shaded picnic areas, a large covered pavilion and a charming lake side log cabin. The beach must be a Godsend to harried mothers on sweltering summer days. Close your eyes and you can almost hear the splash and laughter of kids in the warm sunshine to come. But today the only sound is a cold wind in the pines. It stings my face, makes my eyes water and chases me into the woods for shelter.
Reluctantly I obeyed the sign
I skied up a trail on the far side of a small stream. It lead thru trees and past ledges. The way was level which was a good thing given the granular snow that made turns a challenge. There were several intersections and from previous visits I remember connections to a RV campground up the hill. With deeper, softer snow you could do a series of loops. Conversely, with no snow these would be good for trail running and short hikes. I crossed the stream on a low plank bridge and soon came back to the picnic grounds. From there it was a short, quick glide out the road to end a pleasant late winter tour.
Lauderdale is one of a string of ponds on either side of Rt. 22. It's thought that these are kettles, created when large blocks of ice detached from the wasting front of the last glacier. Sediments were deposited around them and when the blocks finally melted they left depressions filled with water. These have been popular with people ever since.
Google Earth screen shot
The schoolhouse on Schoolhouse Lake...
...and the view from the school yard
One curiosity about the lake is that it may have been the birthplace of the Washington County Fair. Something called the Lauderdale Fair was popular here in the 1880's. In the 1890's it moved south a short distance to Cambridge where it drew crowds for over fifty years. Today the fair is still a big deal but is now located between Greenwich and Schuylerville in the Town of Easton.
There was a time when a side-wheel steamboat cruised the lake! Now you can launch your canoe/kayak at the park and provide your own steam. Be sure to bring a clean boat to avoid introducing invasives.
While Washington County administers the park, the land here is owned by New York State. The County, strapped with high social service costs and a small tax base, has occasionally proposed closing its parks (the other one is at Huletts Landing on Lake George). Seen as a cost cutting measure. Who knows what the future holds? Better visit while you can.
From the Lauderdale Beach looking across the lake you see a long, high ridge. This is Mt. Colfax. While it might seem that it would be a nice hiking destination, that is not the case. It's all in privately owned lots with several roads and quite a few houses clinging to its flanks. There is even a fire tower perched on one high knob.Years ago I used its steep roads for hill workouts and training runs. I vaguely recall climbing the tower. On my drive over to Lauderdale I made a nostalgic detour up and over the mountain. I found lots more houses than I remembered and a fenced off firetower. You can hardly see the trees for all the POSTED signs around it.
Firetowers are currently having a 'moment'. There are guidebooks and a checklist challenge (with a finishing patch!) for those who climb them. Some of the structures that were slated for removal have been adopted by 'Friends of...' organizations and saved. But neither of the towers in Washington County (Black Mountain and Colfax) are open and climbable. With the County spending tax dollars to attract tourism there's a missed opportunity here. A trail and open tower on Colfax would compliment other attractions in the area, drawing visitors who could marvel at the view and then enjoy a nice meal at a local restaurant.
The view beneath the tower - it would be better above the trees