Meandering on the Slopes of Madison

January 1, 2016.

After getting a steal from last week, where there was no snow doing the Weeks, this week would be different. Not that there is a lot but we did get a few inches so choosing where to hike becomes problematic. All of the forest roads are closed and gated to vehicle traffic which creates more issues on what to hike. Kind of a gray day also so the obvious choice is to stay low so why not a return trip to the northern slopes of the Presi's?

I head to Appalachia and a few minutes after eight I have boots, with snowshoes, on the ground heading up the Fallsway path first. Across the Presidential Rail Trail and then under the powerlines as I head into the woods. Not far in and I reach Snyder Brook and a frozen Gordon Fall looking like multiple heads of cauliflower stacked upon one another.

 

Just a short distance and I reach the junction for Sylvan Way which heads both east and west. I'm taking the eastern branch first as it crosses the brook. Only problem is the crossing right here is not very promising so I head upstream for a level mostly frozen over spot. The ice holds up with some cracking as I quickly and lightly step across to the other side. Sylvan Way makes it way to Howker Ridge Trail but I am not doing all of that yet. Through the woods I go making it to the next junction with Randolph Path. This side of the Presi's are littered with trails and trying to redline this area is a logistical nightmare. At the junction I turn left to head down Randolph Path for an out and back that takes me down to the trailhead where Howker Ridge Trail also begins.

 

Randolph Path is a gentle stroll through the woods as it makes its way through a clearing and then just before the end/beginning a curious sight I have never seen next to a trail. Who puts a tree stand so close to the trail? Glad it is not hunting season. Reaching the beginning of Randolph Path and then a return along the same route back up to the junction with Sylvan Way. At the junction I continue straight on Randolph Path which is still a pretty mild climb at least up to my next junction.

 

Reaching Snyder Brook further up and Randolph Path crosses it to continue on. But for me I am taking a left onto the Inlook Trail. Looking up ahead and I guess I didn't pay too much attention to the trail map as it is a steep climb up out of the brook valley. Its a slog heading up but thankfully doesn't last long and begins to level out for a stretch. The reward is the trail breaks out onto a ledge and the first views of the day. Although they are somewhat limited with the low cloud deck I'll take them. A look up to Madison with Durand Ridge on the other side of Snyder Brook.

 

Up ahead is Dome Rock and I can see the hump that I am heading for while walking across the open ledges. It takes fifteen minutes to reach the spot called Dome Rock and it is complete with a sign and cairn. Must be a fantastic spot on a clear day and not that difficult to get to so I'll have to return someday. The views are limited today as the Mahoosucs are in the clouds and Pine Mt is just barely visible down below. It was just two months ago that I was on that small (compared to it's behemoth neighbors) mountain.

 

A few minutes up the trail is another spot called the Upper Inlook where the Inlook Trail ends and junctions with the Kelton Trail. Kelton Trail heads both up and down from here. Heading up first and quickly I am greeted with some snapped tress across the trail. I hope this is not going to be the norm for this section of trail. There is one more blowdown just beyond that one and ahead the trail goes through a neat level section where the old trees are interspersed with the next generation.

 

Beyond, the trail skirts high above the Snyder Brook ravine becoming rougher in some sections. Through some bouldery sections and then the trail drops down into the ravine reaching Snyder Brook. The trail ends on the other side where it intersects with The Brookside. I remember that crappy day when I did Madison back in July and this is one of the trails I came down, one of the few highlights that day.

 

Across the brook with no issues and a short break before heading back down. A quick trip back to the Upper Inlook and then continuing down Kelton Trail to intersect with Howker Ridge Trail. A few minutes down the trail and a ledge outcropping with views called The Overlook. Still cloudy but the deck is up higher and there are a few patches of blue trying to break up the clouds. Across the way is Mt Hayes where I still have a piece of the Mahoosuc Trail to do. Pine Mt is clearer from this vantage point with its' cliffy west side visible.

 

Over the shoulder of Howker Ridge I can just make out Moriah blending in with the gray sky. Satisfied I've seen all I can I head down the trail with one steep section that I slowly pick my way down through.

 

Thirty minutes from The Overlook and I reach Kelton Crag, a curiously wooded spot. One would think being called a crag there would be views from here but there is absolutely nothing to be seen from this spot. Maybe at one time but a quick search turned up nothing stating so. Continuing down the trail and I reach the junction with Howker Ridge Trail turning left on it to the junction with Sylvan Way. This section of trail angles down gently with one section of it going through a great birch glade section.

 

I make my way back to the junction I was at earlier this morning. First passing the intersection with Raymond Path and then re-reaching Snyder Brook. This time instead of crossing the brook I turn left heading up Brookbank. It's a short trail that parallels Snyder Brook as I head up it. Upper Salroc Fall is not frozen over but Tama Fall is almost frozen with the exception of one spot where the water is flowing at a good rate.

 

Just above Tama Fall is another crossing of Snyder Brook and this one is not as bad as the lower one. On the other side the trail ends at the junction with Fallsway. Fallsway quickly merges onto Valley Way and I continue up to the junction with Beechwood Way where I make a right heading down diagonally on the slope.

 

Beechwood Way is a mellow trail that makes it way down to The Link just before Cold Brook. Passing by the junction with Airline Trail and soon I am back in the maple section with all the sap lines connecting the trees. It was just six weeks ago when I was in this same area redlining some trails. It takes about twenty minutes to do this particular trail as I make it to the junction with The Link. A left turn and a few yards away another left onto the opposite end of Sylvan Way where it begins just before the memorial bridge over Cold Brook. The trail leads to the top of Cold Brook Fall and a look down at the mostly frozen drop.

 

Beyond the trail continues but there is no blazing and it never turns away from the brook. I know I am not on Sylvan Way anymore but would like to follow this to see where it ends up. However this is not the task at hand and I'll just add this to my ever growing list of things to explore once I am done redlining. Making my way back down and I finally find the blaze and small sign that leads off to the east.

 

Where the sap lines cross the trail I come across the ferocious and territorial protector of the sap lines. Further down and I spy something in the woods off to my right. I looks like a shack and maybe it is connected to the maple sugaring lines that interlace these woods. Curiosity draws me to wander over and see what it is and getting closer I discover it is just two large erratics in the woods.

 

Sylvan Way takes me pass another crossing with Airline Trail and then I am back at Snyder Brook. It is the same crossing I was at first thing this morning. All I have left on the agenda for today is the lower end of Brookbank which is on the other side of Snyder Brook. Re-crossing where I did this morning and it is less stable than it was earlier but I make it without incident. Reaching Gordon Fall and another perspective from the opposite side of the brook.

 

Crossing back under the power lines and the trail ends at the Presidential Rail Trail just after the newly repaired bridge that was not in place back in July when I came through this area.

 

A quick return back to Appalachia where I parked and this day is in the books. Another great day along some trails I would have never thought of taking if not for this project. Plus considering the weather for today it turned out to be a good choice for the conditions. There is "only" 36 more trails to do in this region to complete it. That adds up to a lot more trips for the Northern Presi's!


Final numbers: 9.5 miles, 7 hours and 25 minutes.

Redline Miles: 6.9, Total to Date: 1048.2