Blue Ledges: Hiking the Upper Hudson

Saturday, June 1, 2013.

I hadn’t been into Blue Ledges for several years and was more than a little excited to return with the ole Wolf-Dog, Molsem.  Black fly season was pretty much complete between bizarre cold, a week of rain, followed by temperatures (even in the mountains) of 80+ degrees Fahrenheit. I have great memories of Blue Ledges with my boys, family and friends.  The foot trail is 2.5 miles in along Huntley Pond, followed by the Hudson, both will be on your right when going in, on left when coming out.  The trail itself is relatively easy going with only a couple of inclines as you get closer to the Ledges, beach, and camping areas which have gotten smaller from tree growth and uncleared blow downs. From years of hikers, the earth has receded exposing countless traversing roots for toes to catch on so wear toe covered footwear for a more pleasant experience.  And, might I add, this trail may not be the best time to wear your new non-progressive lens bi-focals. (You can ask me how I know that.)

Because I hadn’t been there is several years, I wanted to double check on accessibility, drive time, water release times for rafters, trail conditions, and weather.  Blue Ledges, although inside the Blue Line (Adirondack Park) is not in the High Peaks region but considered Central Adirondacks as Minerva is just outside of North Creek where North Woods Club Road is picked up off of route 28N (the N is NOT for north.)  I consulted with a couple of books on my shelf: Adirondack Trails: Central Region put out by the Adk. Mt. Club, and Tim Starmer’s Five Star Trails in the Adirondacks.  Tim Starmer gets the prize for best information, clear map, directions and also includes GPS coordinates. Starmer’s text sited specific landmarks on the trail, specific times and days when water releases occur, and safety reminders for campers i.e. set up camp 150 feet up from the river.

Starmer’s photos were pretty accurate, however, they did not show the blow downs from years past or the one, two, and three hundred year old uprooted trees from current storms.  Fortunately, I was prepared for a wee bit o bushwhackin’.

Hiking with dogs isn’t much different than hiking with children: both need to be kept on a lead for relatively the same reasons.  Children can usually vocalize when they are thirsty, tired, or hungry, not so easy for your four legged buddy though.  Molsem doesn’t shed quite the same as most dogs.  This means I have to pay even closer attention to his cues of getting over heated.  I know that I can assist in keeping him cool through his feet, and underbelly.  I have to pay attention to his tempo as usually he trots along at a good clip. If he starts walking slower than his characteristic pace then I accommodate.  I knew that most of the trail is undercover and would provide shade and rain cover for the possible afternoon showers predicted. I was also familiar enough with the hike to know that Molsem would have several streams, a pond, and eventually the Hudson to cool and refresh.  He loves the water and knows enough to go in immersing not just his feet but complete underbelly for cooling.  He will only drink from clean water.  (This doesn’t mean the water is potable for humans.  “Beaver Fever”, Giardia, is still an issue. )  When Molsem needs to cool, I wait for him until he is ready to move on. When possible, I get in the water with him and drench him good all over down to his skin to avoid “hot spots” i.e. heat rash.

What kind of fashion statement did I make on this hike?  Well, I already mentioned bi-focals to which I added some UV coated clip ons.  (Before the day was done, however, I couldn’t stand the glasses. Wearing them all the time is still new and frustrating.)  I initially was going to wear some lighter weight hiking boots but remembered the week of rain, the trail along the pond is wetter, and I would most likely have to do some trailblazing. I switched to the waterproof Danners.  I was glad I did : ) as some of the muck holes went up over the 6 inch ankle.

I wore my standard polypropylene padded hiking socks, lightweight hiking pants, full piece swim suit underneath, long sleeve cotton denim shirt, my yellow Drifit ball cap, and waterproof watch.  Hiking solo I carry other accessories on a leather belt for example a good jack knife.

In a medium sized day pack I carried:

  • Starmer’s book
  • a quality compass
  • wooden matches and a couple of lighters in a plastic zip lock bag
  • cell phone on OFF as there isn’t any signal but just in case, and for ID purposes
  • plenty of water
  • snacks for me and Molsem
  • extra short sleeved shirt
  • Canon camera
  • towel
  • first aid kit
  • hunting knife
  • rope
  • bungee cord
  • pen, journal
  • medication i.e. aspirin, bag balm
  • non aerosol bug repellent
  • SEVERAL small grocery bags for garbage, waste etc.
  • TP  (NEVER leave your nasty TP, tampons, etc in the woods!!!)
  • on top of the pack: all purpose lightweight jacket
  • my car keys I hooked inside my pants pocket

Some folks might think I over pack.  Well, hopefully you won’t find yourself in a situation where you or someone else on the trail needs your help which brings me to my next section of this post.  Summer of 2012 witnessed a horrific tragedy on the Hudson and within the White Water Rafting community.  I define tragedy as an event that didn’t have to happen, an event that could have been prevented.  There was a drowning death on the Hudson involving a raft company that lost sight of its common sense, responsibility to the innocent and inexperienced patrons that put trust in that company’s “professionalism.”  A company gone rouge did not serve the innocent woman who drowned on their watch and quite frankly, their license should have been permanently revoked.  Although I did not see any rafts from this “rogue” and “irresponsible” company Saturday, I did see rafters taking care of one another as the local rafting organization has standardized.  Thinking of going white water rafting on the Hudson?  Make sure the company is a current member of the local organization that has set its own safety standards to keep its patrons safe such as: individual kayakers moving among the rafts from various companies to retrieve and direct “traffic.”  It was clear that people were watchful of the number of rafts working the water, headcounts, and a common goal of keeping things fun AND safe.   At one point an individual kayaker working some white water flipped his craft.  (Remember, the water was high to begin with, higher as the result of the water release to deliberately create white water.)  The kayaker couldn’t touch bottom and couldn’t get back into his craft.  A raft with patrons stopped, held steady to shore and did not proceed until the individual and his kayak were out of the water, cleared, and back into the water safely. The kayaker was not in distress, however, the current is brisk. This isn’t just good business, this is responsibility, and community.  True wilderness survival is NOT like the T.V. show where it’s all about one.  True wilderness survival is community and true leadership is setting that example through their own action.

As Molsem and I were hiking out we had to do more bushwhacking and pay close attention as many of the blue trail markers were down. We followed a short distance on the ridge that brought us within sight of rafters setting off of the first beach point just under the Blue Ledges.  Thanks to my bright yellow hat, one of the guides spotted me and yelled: “Are you o.k.?”  They were in the raft and held position until I answered, “Yes, just bushwhacking through blown downs.”   They responded, “Just checking. Want to make sure.”  I yelled back, “Thanks for asking!”

There is an awareness that is activated in Nature that a class room will never provide.  There was rain as we hiked out slowly feeling the heat. We took our time. Along about Huntley Pond I caught a strong scent of something.  Whenever you’re in the woods and you smell a strong scent it is most likely a bear.  Molsem stopped, looked up the hill away from the water on our left, and looked back at me.  I had heard a grunt just before and wondered if it was a bear. Molsem considered going further but did not.  I agreed.  Momma bears and young? Best do what the bears do, and walk the other way.

wind and water are related

they speak the same language

just listen and you’ll hear their stories curl

around hard wood burls, through hemlock and pine

cohosh and blueberry

up from the pond shadows where the trout scull

through the mist of white water rushing to a calm

Nature’s lullaby 



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