Alander Mountain Hike in NY/MA

Hikers:  Randell, Steve, Mary, Jill

Pics:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/61298689@N00/sets/72157625954475067/show/

The trailhead for this hike was a haul from my house (2.5hrs) so I downloaded an audio book and zoned out on the way to NY.  As I got closer I saw a temperature of 13 degrees on the local bank.  Ouch, where was the sun that the forecast promised???  My gps crapped out so I had to use my phone for navigation which drained the battery then I realized that I forgot my trekking poles.  Oops, I guess I would survive.  Mary, Randell, and Steve showed up a few minutes later and we gathered our stuff and headed up the Robert Brook Trail which we would follow to the Alander Loop Trail and then return on the Alander Brook Trail.  Last year we hiked to Alander from the opposite direction and it was quite a haul at almost 8 miles and 5 hours of hiking with a large group.  Steve estimated this hike at 5 miles.  We immediately started ascending and had to stop to shed layers.  The ascent was pretty steep and Mary and Steve were setting a fast pace.  I was about 50 feet behind them and Randell was about 50 feet behind me.  There was quite a bit of mountain laurel overhanging the trail so you had to leave plenty of space between each person or you would get whipped by a branch.  I think Randell got hit a couple times by my branch backlash so left a good sized space between us.  On the final stretch of elevation when we knew we were close to the top the mountain laurel was like a jungle grabbing at our sleeves, hats, and packs.  We had to carefully pick, scoot, and sometimes crawl around the branches.  I was relieved to get to open space again to get out of the mountain laurel but of course without the shelter of the laurel the wind started whipping and we all hurried to add some extra layers.  After a quick sandwich break we approached the shelter then climbed up to some seriously magnificent views.  You could actually see the Catskills, my camera did not do the view justice at all.  This is where Dave W.’s camera could have worked its magic!  Next time…  We didn’t hang out too much as the wind was brutal and we were frozen in minutes.  The trail looked like it ended at the edge of the cliff but as we got closer we saw how it wrapped around then we were quickly below treeline and out of the wind again.  The hike down was much easier; it wasn’t as steep as the hike up although we did do a bit of butt sliding which is a little awkward with snowshoes on.  I was following Mary when she said she thought she saw a hawk and pointed.  I looked and just caught a glimpse of something large and thought to myself – that hawk has a huge belly.  We found where the bird landed and realized it was an owl.  I was absolutely in awe!  It was gorgeous, I couldn’t leave the spot where we stood.  The owl was gazing down at us stoically.  I got my camera out and started taking pictures and really, really wished Dave W. was here with his camera.  The owl stayed there watching us the whole time and we reluctantly started hiking again.  The car was only a few minutes away at this point.  We finished up in 3 hours, much less than what I had anticipated for this hike but we moved along pretty quickly as it was fairly cold out and moving kept us warm.  Nice hike, thanks you guys (and gal)! – Jill

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