Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Post Sunset Moonrise Over the Adirondacks Crane Mountain

Crane Mountain Moonrise, Adirondack Mountains

I'd moan about how hard landscape photography is, that if you're standing on a wind blown summit at sunset it means you have to hike back in the dark...but I confess, I'd have it no other way. I love hiking at night! In fact so much so that following this wonderful scene, which didn't end with this photograph, I didn't turn on my headlamp until I reached the slab below the pond outlet, just shy of half way back. Much of that time the 3/4 moon cast a shadow in my path as I walked through the forest. Hiking by the glow of the moon is really very peaceful, even more so than via headlamp, and it's nice to get lost in the solitude of the softly lit darkness.

Darkness though is what makes November a depressing month in this part of the world, the sun only shines about 30% of possible daylight hours, and daylight is only about 9-10 hours at the start of the month. The positive is that provided you can see the sun, you don't have to wait 18 hours between nautical twilight's like in the summer. Photography is best done at the ends of the day, and November is temperate enough that spending an entire 10 hour visible light day outdoors isn't all that hard most days if you get a sunny day. Or you can time a sunset blitz hike like this ascent of Crane Mountain, and still be home in time to eat dinner at a reasonable hour, rather than midnights like you do in the summer!

I have a few "local" places where I can gain some reasonable elevation since moving to Saratoga County a few years ago, although I do miss my 30 minute drives to challenging 3,000ft+ single summit days in the Catskills, 90% of the time I'm glad to be at the foothills of the Adirondacks even if it means the same drive gets me only 1500 foot single summit days. Crane Mountain is not only a favorite semi local hike (about ~55 miles and 50 minutes) but it's a favorite hike overall in the Adirondacks. Barbara McMartin once said it was among the most beautiful summit views in ALL the Adirondacks, and although I never found the distant views to be amazing, I've always loved the general challenge of the rugged trails and steep cliffs that make Crane Mountain.

Crane is not only a great hiking mountain, but it's home to a hot bed of new Adirondack rock and ice climbing route activity. In the last 10 years Crane has seen dozens of new rock routes and tens of ice routes, some of the ice is 3-4 pitches in length.

In the trail register many people complain of the sparsely marked trails, and the first time hiker might have to be careful, more so after dark. The mountain sees at least a few dozen hikers and climbers a weekend, creating a well worn though still rugged foot trail. Though with a little care, a map, and just basic route finding skills you should be able to figure it out. Although I know the mountain well now, it was just as poorly marked the first time I hiked it!

Unfortunately, hiking isn't all glorious sunsets, moonrises, and pleasant walking via the glow of the moon. About 1/3 of the way down the very steep outlet trail, I took a pretty decent fall on one of the many sections with deep dry leaf cover over roots and slabby ragged boulder piles. This time of the year dry leaves have become waxy, and the combination of dry waxy leaves and steep descents make it like walking downhill on ball bearings. I took a jump down from one boulder into a crevasse between two boulders and the next thing I knew I was on the ground several feet below my target with my elbow and arm bleeding. The arm will heal, but I lost Black Diamond Flicklock pole when my feet came out from under me and the pole snapped in defense of my fall. One of the reasons the Flicklocks are great poles, and hadn't yet made it to the graveyard of poles in my garage, is unlike most poles with expander nuts, the expanderless Flicklocks hardly ever (perhaps never) collapse. The downside is they are made from thin gauge aluminum and are the only poles I have ever owned that I have bent...over and over and over again! They are easy enough to rebend, but at $90 a pair, I wish they were just a bit more sturdy!

Alas, it was a small price to pay for an almost summer like mid autumn day in the Adirondacks.

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