Skiing the Penfield Homestead Trail

A lucky late winter stash of snow.

As the weather gets warmer the search for snow gets more creative. Last week I hit it perfectly at the Penfield Homestead Museum trail, a nice trip of about 2 miles each way that starts in Crown Point and ends in Ticonderoga.

Coming from Crown Point the Penfield Homestead Museum is at the top of Creek Road in the hamlet of Ironville. Just before the white buildings there is a quick left turn onto Peasly Road and a bridge over Putnam Creek.

Though some people tire of the snow, I love the excitement of snowmelt and the beauty of tree silhouettes against late winter's pastel gray-blue skies. I love the icy ledges that slosh ice cold, bright-white water into black, only-recently-thawed pools.

Snowmelt

I am curious about old roads turned into trails and this is one. It begins around the corner from the bridge. Last week it began at the snow bank at the end of the road but in other seasons it begins at the opening of what is an abandoned town road. There are stone walls along the trail that must have surrounded farms or other buildings years ago.

Although snow was soft and dirty at lower elevation, we set out in perfect snow—full of volume and crystals that gleamed on the surface. The higher elevation has colder temperatures and this trail hadn't been dashed away by sunshine, which can be the enemy of snow.

We set out and found all kinds of treasures. The nice wide trail begins with a slight uphill which last week had a nice base beneath the new snow. We found the usual array of trees and plants but then had some fun identifying less common ones. There was tamarack and wool grass among the cattails in a small wetland.

Cattail

The cattails are truly in their late-winter sculptural stage—seeds had expanded from the tight spike they were in last fall but weren't loose enough to come free. I was with two youngsters who are good at their plant and tree ID and we compared the beefy twigs of an oak with the dainty ones of hornbeam. We heard pileated woodpeckers and couldn't avoid seeing massive holes they've carved in every dead snag along the trail.

Woodpecker hole

A few of the neighborhood mammals had left their tracks: white-tailed deer, coyote, fox and snowshoe hare. And we saw plenty of insect sign: the former galleries of ants, the exit holes of borers, the powdery eggs of scale and the yellow felt of moths.

Close up of bore holes

We didn't have much time and used a lot of it examining the sights. We turned before the end and happily slid back down the gentle 250 feet or so we'd climbed. I'll go back and do the whole trip next winter in deeper, midwinter snow.

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