Where: Nun-Da-Ga-O – Keene , NY
When: November 11, 2011 10:00am – 2:30pm
Directions: To get to the trailhead from Rte. 73 in Keene, NY, turn onto Hurricane Road (next to the town hall) and head a couple miles uphill and turn left on O’Toole Road. Continue on for a mile to a clearing and parking area with DEC sign-in registers. There is no fee to park here.
What You Will See: High Peaks, Keene Valley, Lost Pond, Lean To’s
There is plenty of parking in the lot at the end of O’Toole road. You have a choice of trailheads for today’s 6.2 (4.5 hour) mile loop. The first option is to take the trail to Big Crow and bear right at the junction at .8 miles. The second choice is to follow the route to Lost Pond and Weston Mountain. The Crow path is steeper at the outset while the trail to Lost Pond is initially the more gradual approach to this quiet, scenic and peaceful hike.
I opted for the Lost Pond route as to warm up a little before tackling the steeper ridge trail between Big Crow and Weston Mountains. Minutes into the hike I crossed paths with a Ranger and we discussed the nuances of the trail. There are no trail markers between Weston and Big Crow. The ranger smiled as he said even a blind man could follow the herd paths and cairns that mark the trail. OK, if you can’t trust your local ranger who can you trust?
Following a flat path along Gulf Brook you’ll soon find the Gulf Brook Lean-To. It’s a great camping spot for late arriving hikers and is at the junction for the trail to Hurricane Mountain.
Soon after the Lean To the trail ascends and the temperature drops as snow flurries gently fall on the green canopy. In a mile look for a small spur trail (on right) revealing great northernly views. The trail continues along the western edge of the pond but views are negligible as the trail is a distance from the pond.
From Lost Pond the trail continues steadily upwards to the Biesemeyer Lean To. Walter Biesemeyer cleared an abandoned trail to Lost Pond and laid the route of today’s herd path over the so-called Soda Range and its then-unnamed highest point. Some say it was Mr Biesemeyer and Bordan Mills, a former ADK president, believed the Soda Range deserved a grander name. They agreed on an ancient Indian name implying a “hill of the wind spirits”, hence Nun-Da-Ga-O.
After some food drink its onward and upward (+- .8 miles) to Weston Mountain, at 3182 feet, the highest peak in the range. The views are spectacular though the blue bird skies have turned slate gray. It’s perfect hiking country for the next few miles on the ledges between Weston and Crow Mountains. Exquisite panorama’s from east to west will soothe the eyes and soul. In between Hurricane and Whiteface you’ll see nearly half the regions high peaks, including Dix, Nippletop, Colvin, Blake, Big Slide, The Great Range and more.
From Weston, you drop down into a delightful forest of birch trees prior to climbing to the main ridge of the Soda Range. Low cairns and fir trees line the ridge and guide you for the next 2.3 miles. The eye popping views are relentless and cause many a pause for pictures. The sun’s rays are shining through small gaps in the heavy dark clouds. They illuminate distant patches of mountains and forest…thank you Mother Nature!
I met three smiling Canadian hikers and we shared our thoughts of the trail. One comments, “there is still color in the Adirondacks … it’s now white!” They love the Adirondacks and travel here several times a year to enjoy this wonderland and slow their world down a couple of notches.
I’m looking upwards to one of the higher spots on the ridge. The next few hundred feet are steep and filled with spruce and birch trees, large boulders, small cairns and a back drop of light grey and white skies. Once atop this section of ridge I can see the outline of trail that leads to Big Crow. It feels good to have this bearing as the skies darken and snowflakes again begin to fall. Taking a last look at the high peaks, Keene Valley and Lost Pond I leave (follow white trail marker pointing down) the ridge and re-enter the forest.
The next mile of narrow trail is an ebb and flow through woods, around boulders and several very steep cliffs before reaching the shoulders of Big Crow Mountain. The closer views of Big Crow and Little Crow are comforting sights marking the end of the trail. This difficult section of trail would be difficult to negotiate in the dark as there are no light reflecting DEC disks on
Late fall and winter are my favorite times of the year to hike. No bugs, the rocky
trails are covered with snow, cool weather and deep blue skies. The trails are at rest from the throngs of hikers and the mountains and valley are at peace. There’s no better time to enjoy the Outside, Inside the Adirondacks.
More pics: http://www.flickr.com/photos/64512435@N05/sets/72157628144313026/