18 January 2014

Lincoln Mountain State Forest - 18 Jan 2014

(I think I spent more time writing this than actually running.)

I took a run today over at Lincoln Mountain State Forest.  I had visited there once before, in December of 2012, but that visit had been cut short.  My goal today was to explore the roads a bit, and to explore the area that appeared to be the summit of Lincoln Mountain.

I found it quickly enough.

I parked at the small parking area a quarter mile or so past the gate on Cohen Raod, and got out to check out the ground cover.  The drive in had been a bit sketchy, even with AWD, and when I set my foot down it was immediately apparent why: the road was covered in at an inch or two of ice, topped with another inch or so of snow.  The weather patterns over the past week or so matched what I saw: warm weather, enough to clear up whatever was there, or at least turn it to slush, followed by a torrential downpour on still frozen dirt, followed by a freeze, followed by snow.  I had brought YakTrax and snowshoes, and opted for the YakTrax.

I set out down Cohen Road at a trot, took the obvious left, where an arrow marks the turn of the Jeep trail and snowmobile trail, and started to head up.  I was at the top 8 minutes after setting out from my car.  I tromped around a bit, looking for the highest ground, and it looked like the small patch of dirt, surrounded by the road and a small turn-off, was it.

This was the summit, in all its glory.

Lincoln Mountain Summit

Sort of.

There's no indication of where Lincoln Mountain actually is on the USGS maps.  None.  It is part of the Palmertown Range, which includes 6 features labeled as "mountains" on various maps with only one obvious col between them, where Spier Falls Road runs through.  The labeled features are:
  • Lincoln Mountain, which is identified by the fact that there is a state forest named after it, and a road, which is labeled as Hollister Road on the old USGS maps, but Lincoln Mountain Road on newer maps.
  • Mount McGregor, which sits on the eastern edge of the range.
  • Corinth Mountain and Wilton Mountain.  The road that runs past Mount McGregor between Route 9 and Spier Falls Road is labeled as both Corinth Mountain Road (on the Wilton side) and Wilton Mountain Road (on the Corinth side).
  • Grant Mountain: this is an actual mountain label.
  • Palmertown Mountain: this is also an actual mountain label.

The range, massif, whatever it is, fades out slowly to the south and southwest, but drops off precipitously to the east and north, as well as to the west where the range encounters the Hudson.

So where does that leave us?  Palmertown Mountain is clearly defined, and Grant Mountain is clearly defined, and there is a several hundred foot col between them.  Grant Mountain tops out at 1260'+.  Following the features over to Mount McGregor, which tops out at 1070'+, the col appears to be at about 1010', near Lake Ann, giving it a prominence of 60'.  It's a subpeak at best.

With regards to Wilton or Corinth Mountain, I have to assume that these are place names and not peak names, i.e. "Wilton Mountain Road" means that this is the road to Wilton over the mountain, and vice versa.

Looking further along the ridge, at Lincoln Mountain, I see that Lincoln Mountain road drives up to a point higher than what we've currently labeled as the summit of Lincoln Mountain.  The road crosses the 1000' mark near the point where it transitions to Hollister Road.  Clothier Road runs right through a section of 1040'+ land.

Furthermore, between that section of land over 1000' and the 960'+ "summit", there's another bump of land that's taller than our "summit" (as defined on peakbagger.com).  It tops out at 980'+.

I hope to find some historical basis for the name "Lincoln Mountain", and through that figure out where the peak lies.  Until then, I have a hard time calling this point Lincoln Mountain.  If anything, this should be labeled as the Lincoln Mountain State Forest High Point (or something along those lines), though the actual highest point within the State Forest might lay in the higher ground to the northeast.

Topographical quibbling aside, I topped out and explored the area around the summit.  While I was checking out an old cellar hole, my YakTrax got caught on a small stump or root on the ground and I ended up snapping the rubber so that one of the coils was dangling free.  I fixed them as best I could and then decided to continue along the Jeep trail.  It appeared to run on for quite a while.  I eventually crossed off of state land; looking back I could see a sign announcing emergency DEC contact information.  I kept my eyes open for No Trespassing or Posted signs, but the only signs I saw were on a road leading off to the right, by a large turn-around or parking area.

A little ways after that, I came to a junction.  I could tell from my phone's topo maps that state land was over to the left, and I could see a clearing or pond not too far away, so I went over to check it out.  Eventually I crossed back on to state land, marked by a prominent "No Motor Vehicles Allowed Beyond This Point" and yellow paint splotches on the tree.  A little ways after that I came to what appeared to be a frozen beaver pond.  There were tracks leading across it, but I didn't trust the ice, so I returned to the road, which led around the flooded area.  Eventually I passed by a large parking area on my right, and then found myself heading toward Lincoln Mountain Road.  Standing at the edge of the road, I caught a glimpse of the Kayaderosseras Range: my only view of the run.  I had seen this range as I drove in to Lincoln Mountain State Forest along Locust Grove Road, and they beckoned me to come explore them, instead.  (I've already explored one of the peaks in that range, Spruce Mountain.)

I contemplated taking off the YakTrax and running the roads back to my car, but decided against it.  I had come out here to be in the woods, and I'd rather be running and walking over snow-and-ice-covered woods roads than blacktop any day.  I started to head back the way I had come.  When I passed by the beaver pond earlier, I had noticed a clearing through the trees, like an old lane, that followed an old stone wall (there are stone walls everywhere in these woods).  It looked as if the old lane was heading along the narrow strip of land owned by the State.  I followed it now, for a little ways, until it disappeared into some wetlands.  If it was a road at some point, it's lost now.

Disappointed, I headed back the way I had come.  As I was on my way back up to the "summit", I passed by the only other people I saw in the forest that day.  (By the prints, another person was here today or yesterday; they parked off of Lincoln Mountain Road and walked up to the summit area of Lincoln Mountain, then turned around and went home.  He or she was the brave soul whose prints led across the beaver pond, along with a few other, older tracks.)  Anyway, I stopped running as I approached the other party because they had a dog and I wasn't sure if I would spook it if I ran past.  We exchanged pleasantries, though they looked at me like I had an extra head or something.

I got back to my car, then explored a little of the woods just past the parking area, looking for trails or other clearings.  I found what appeared to be an old, disused woods road and signs of old logging, but nothing very exciting, so I headed back home.

The 2002 Draft Unit Management Plan [http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/lands_forests_pdf/saratogawardraftump.pdf] for this forest is available online, and contains a wealth of information about these woods.  (If the link ceases to work, search for "Unit Management Plan for State Forests in Saratoga and Warren Counties".)  According to the Draft UMP, which refers to Lincoln Mountain State Forest as "Saratoga I":

Saratoga I contains a major “truck trail” which connects with Cohen Road and traverses state land for about one mile to the southern boundary. This is classified for motor vehicle use. Two other access roads, one east and one west, provide access to parts of state land and for some private adjacent landowners. An easement exists for the road which runs easterly off Cohen Road. The westerly road has been barricaded by the current owner where it crosses his property. The west end of this road is accessible from Green Road. These two roads total about 2600 feet.

I've visited two of the other forests managed under this plan: Ushers Road State Forest, which links up to the Zim Smith Trail south of Round Lake, and Daketown State Forest.  If you look at satellite pictures of Daketown it looks like a tree farm from above, which was part of the reason why I went to check it out.  It looks like a tree farm from the ground, too, because it is, or was.  These are working forests, and the trees are used for lumber.  Middle Grove State Forest also has a seed orchard, supplying the Saratoga Tree Nursery with seeds.

Lincoln Mountain has some other interesting features, including some very old trees.  According to the same Draft UMP:

As a result of Neil Pederson’s research, it has been determined that an “old age” stand of Black gum (Nyssa sylvatica) exists in the northern wetlands in Saratoga I off Cohen Road. Neil is a doctorate candidate at the Tree-Ring Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Columbia University. Trees up to three feet in diameter have been found and after aging a number of these trees (using an increment borer and cross dating), Neil has found ages dating back to the mid 1400's (or well over 500 years old). Over 30 trees have been aged and recorded to date (see Appendix 10).


That about wraps it up.  Given that the amount of state land available for running is fairly small, and that I can't find much in the way of details about the easement along the Jeep trail, I have a hard time recommending this land for runners.  You could, in theory, follow the Jeep trail off of Cohen Road down to Woodard Road in Wilton, and then run back up the mountain (an ascent of roughly 500').  It's hard to say for certain whether or not the road is open the entire way, and whether or not the landowners would be OK with this use, though.  So I'm going to keep looking elsewhere.

One final note: this forest is very active with hunters during deer hunting season.  Out of respect for their sport, and concern for everyone's safety, I suggest not entering these woods during the main deer season, unless you are hunting.  This forest sits in the Northern Zone, which is bounded by Route 29 in this area.  Full details are available on the DEC site.

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