Friday, February 25, 2022

Taking time for impromptu outing

bobcat trail CATS

For more than a few Adirondackers, buying groceries is more complex than it ought to be, because the simple act of loading bags in the hatchback is complicated by the presence of skis, snowshoes, spikes and myriad other vaguely medieval looking winter gear left there for the express purpose of impromptu adventures

Don’t try to tell me I’m wrong about this. I’ve been in the grocery store parking lot. I’ve seen your cars. But it’s OK, because I maintain that you haven’t lived until a previously unnoticed trailhead causes you to slam on the brakes on an icy road, affording the people behind you one of those all-too-rare chances to test out their wintertime evasive driving skills. 

Circumstances had me in the Champlain Valley last week, where once again the lake is under threat of a new invasive, the round goby,   an undesirable little fish that feeds on the eggs of bass, salmon, lake trout and other game fish. It’s currently making its way up from the Hudson River, and conservation groups are lobbying the state to keep a lock on the Champlain Canal closed, which would be an effective barrier to what could be an ecological calamity. 

Bass tournaments have been an economic godsend to Plattsburgh and Ticonderoga, and the state and its partners have worked tirelessly to re-establish the salmon population,  so conservation groups are naturally hoping all this good work won’t be undone.

But on a happier note, with all that gear in the back seat it seemed a shame not to use it, so while in Whallonsburg I headed over to Walker Road and the northern terminus of the Bobcat Trail, an unassuming but popular Champlain Area Trails route through farmland that’s gradually being reclaimed by forest.

Along with good hiking, the community is also noteworthy for the Whallonsburg Grange,  home of fine films and an always interesting lycinium series. Most recently it has won acclaim for turning the decaying Whitcomb’s Garage into a community arts space. It’s worthwhile to pair a Grange activity with a nice hike.

On our arrival, we saw that the Bobcat Trail had been well trod, as evidenced by ski and snowshoe tracks, but three other trails that connect to it remained unbroken. Some trails gain favor, for whatever reason, while others don’t. But for those wishing to extend their day, the Bobcat offers multiple optional hiking add-ons, with obvious opportunities for solitude

Having gone through a couple of thaw/freeze cycles, the snow was about played out from a skiing standpoint, so we went with snowshoes and started across a field with a dramatic backdrop of evergreens and low hills. In a mostly level mile and a half, the trail pierces a slew of diverse habitats — field, marsh, young hardwoods, older hemlocks and one of those classic Adirondack savannahs one finds in these parts, where fallow pasture land is studded with the occasional spruce and white pine.

bobcat trail CATS

This diversity, naturally, is an avian paradise, so we were treated to finches, chickadees, nuthatches and a number of other winged chatterboxes upon which I am incapable of assigning a positive ID.

The Bobcat may not dazzle with grand vistas, wild rivers or sparkling ponds, but is familiar and comfortable, the face of tranquility itself on a day when you’re just passing through, or are otherwise pressed for time. When you’re in the neighborhood, it’s certainly worth slamming on the brakes for.

Photos by Tim Rowland

Editor’s note: This first appeared in Adirondack Explorer’s weekly “Explore More” newsletter. Click here to sign up.

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Tim Rowland is a humor columnist for Herald-Mail Media in Hagerstown, Md., and a New York Times bestselling author. His books include High Peaks; A History of Hiking the Adirondacks from Noah to Neoprene and Strange and Unusual Stories of New York City. He has climbed the 46 high peaks, is an avid bicyclist, and trout tremble with fear when they see his approaching shadow. He and his wife Beth are residents of Jay, N.Y.

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