Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Grafton's Fire Tower Trail - Part 1

This has been one of the longest, coldest winters ever. The snow was melted pretty much everywhere in Albany and, according to my tenants, up at the farm also. So I loaded the four hiking dogs into the car and drove to Grafton Lakes State Park for our first hike of the year. Alas, I found snow and ice covering everything. A tree crew was trimming winter damaged limbs along the road. I parked on the side of the road because the snow was too deep in the parking area:

It was mighty cold up there on the Rensselaer Plateau, much colder than in Albany, and the winds were gusting strongly. I pulled my hat down lower and stuck my hands in my pockets as we began our hike:

The dogs were overjoyed to be out again and I happened to snap this photo of them running for pure joy. Big ol' Seamus looks especially happy:

We started up the Fire Tower Trail which a phone call to the Park office staff had assured me really did have a fire tower on it:

The day was bright and sunny in spite of the cold and it felt wonderful to be out hiking again. I realized that I'd forgotten to bring my cell phone and began to worry that I was an overweight old fogy all alone a long way from any other human beings and no one would find me for a very long time if something happened. This would be only my first mistake of the hike. There would be more:

I began to see deer tracks along the trail:

Ruh Roh, there were also a lot of bear tracks. It didn't appear to be a very large bear, but since I'd already begun worrying, I added mama bears with cubs to my list of things to fret about. Here's a rear foot print next to my boot print:

And both rear and front bear foot prints. They didn't appear to be particularly fresh, but I decided that it was important to keep the dogs in sight and obeying my commands at all times:

But we only saw the bear tracks in one location. The hike became a relaxed and thoroughly enjoyable stroll over the crusty snow through a lovely wild forest:

The official Grafton Lakes State Park trail map cut off the eastern portion of the Fire Tower Trail and did not show the location of the fire tower, so I really didn't know the length of the trail or much else about it. This was an adventure of exploration:

And a brief video of the dogs on the trail:

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