Its official, well it's been official for some time now, but both Pisgah mountains are on state land and have become a welcome part of the Hudson Gorge Primitive Area. Big Pisgah Mountain has been a popular hike for quite some time but what I was unclear on was what Little Pisgah would give us. A few weeks ago, before the first real snowfall of the winter season, Joe, Jim, Allison and I met in Indian Lake to go check it out.
The property at the end of Chain Lake Road was formally on private land and managed by the Gooley Hunting Club, but since the state bought the land it is open to public use. The outer gate was closed on this day due to unseasonably muddy conditions, so we had a bit more road hiking to do, which added all of about a mile to the round-trip hike. I figured we'd be OK. The road passed below us very quickly, and soon we were at the inner gate near the old Outer Gooley lodge. The lodge is in need of some serious love and may not be long for this earth, but it sure does sit in an amazing location overlooking the river.
Now at the second gate and the official trailhead for most of the year, we signed into the trail register and continued our attack on the woods road. Come to find out, this road is to be converted into a snowmobile trail with a new bridge over the Cedar River that would connect Indian Lake to Newcomb. We would not have to travel that much further on the road.
Once we arrived at the height of land along the road, we found a nice area to step off into the wilds. The day was still overcast with the slight hopes of the sun being able to burn through the moist air, but it didn't look promising. With the melody of the fallen leaves brushing against our boots we soon found ourselves on steeper slopes.
With Big Pisgah first on our list, we wouldn't be pressed too hard by difficulties as it sits a mere 2,100 feet in elevation. That means we only needed to surpass a few hundred feet of actual climbing. This was new territory for us all and our mouths whet from the anticipation of the open summit area. In fact we didn't even need to wait that long before the rewards started to arrive. The open grassy face of the mountain gave us views well before the summit. Sporadic trees dotted the open landscape and the cool, crisp breeze moaned through the branches and drifted the light snow in the air around us. We could see many small mountains just below the clouds, but they were quickly being swallowed by the incoming weather. We would be next.
The views kept getting better and better as we moved ever so close to the true summit. The open landscape wrapped its way around the mountain gaining us different views to where we eventually could see the shoulder of Little Pisgah and the much larger Cedar Mountain just beyond. Blue Mountain was cut in half by the clouds and the High Peaks were nowhere in sight. The summit is partially wooded but there is no need to fuss over such trivial facts. It is still a gem.
Next we took a heading toward Little Pisgah Mountain, the destination in question. The descent was an easy one, and one of very little change in elevation. We reached the saddle between the two in no time flat and happened upon an old trail that seemed to pass right through to an unknown destination, the Hudson, perhaps.
This side of Little Pisgah was obviously timber harvested, but done in a very clean matter so little slash remained. This opened up the already clear hardwood forest, and we could see the summit of Little Pisgah standing somewhat tall above us. The summit of this smaller version of the last was also grassy and moss covered but much flatter topped. Residing on the highest point was a survey marker and a deer shed, and with a bit of looking around we found the other two triangulation markers. While the summit itself offered limited views, the open patches below offered us more. Now looking west to southwest, we put Mud Pond in our crosshairs as the next destination.
The descent was filled with small boulders and loose rock that were covered in decades of moss and leaf litter. It was one hole after another, and they went unnoticed until one leg rested at the bottom of them. It was slow going but it was a short distance overall. Once back on the forest road, we took a right for a bit to get to the south end of Mud Pond. We could not see it very well from the road, so we ventured out onto the grassy shore. Boggy, wet and unstable beneath us, we walked with care and precision. We reached open water but not before we snapped dozens of photos of the grandeur before us. What a beautiful location we were in amongst the rue and pitcher plants. A beaver had made his home just off shore. He surely knew that he had it made.
Back on the road once again, we had time for one more jaunt — the new trail back to Clear Pond. The trail was on the way out and near where we started our adventure up Big Pisgah. The current status of the trail is marked and signed, but the distance seemed to be incorrect. It read 0.3 miles but I would guesstimate 0.6 miles. The trail was quite easy and in no time at all we were at the shore near the outlet of the pond. Sharp cliffs dropped into the clear waters and other rocks seemed to float along shore. Some maps show a trail that continues past Clear Pond to Corner Pond, but we did not take the time to locate it. It is quite possible that it has come into disrepair and would need to be reestablished if one were to follow it with ease.
Clear Pond was the end of our day, and we started our march back to the car. It was an easy stroll, one filled with chatter and talk of another adventure. Maybe it would be Cedar Mountain or the nearby Bad Luck Mountain, but one thing for sure is it would be just that — an adventure.