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Old 09-05-2017, 09:47 AM   #1
Saluki
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Mossy Cascade Falls ?

I went up the Hopkins/Giant trail last week looking for the waterfall on Mossy Cascade Brook. It was described as being an "easy 20 minute" walk to a sign directing one about 200 yrds to the falls. Well I never did see a sign, hiked for about 40 minutes until the trail crossed the brook. So, where did I go wrong?
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Old 09-05-2017, 10:58 AM   #2
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The High Peaks guidebook says the sign is 0.7 miles from the trailhead. I recently surveyed the Mossy Cascade Trail (all the way to Hopkins, Spread Eagle, and beyond) and, according to my tracklog, I have a waypoint at 0.7 miles for a trail-sign indicating the direction to "Hopkins and Giant". If you look at the map, that's where the trail comes very close to a bend in the brook (i.e. 0.3 miles west of where it crosses the brook).

I saw no obvious intersection so the sign's location seemed odd to me. The trail ascends a steep incline beyond the sign. The trail crosses the brook at ~1.0 miles.

Looking to the left of the sign, you can see the brook runs through a steep gully. I don't recall seeing a sign indicating anything about a waterfall (so I may have missed it as well or it's simply no longer there). Perhaps this is the location of the falls because, like I said, the trail begins to climb steeply here and so the brook must also drop precipitously.

I guess I have a reason to return to resolve this issue.
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Old 09-05-2017, 11:03 AM   #3
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I had the same thought that the falls had to be to the left at the "Hopkins and Giant" sign, as the trail then climbs steeply. I'll have to try exploring again soon. All the rain we've had lately should make the falls a bit easier to find :-)
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Old 09-05-2017, 11:19 AM   #4
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Let us know what you find. I do believe we were very close but somehow managed to miss the spur-trail.

This map is centered at where I believe the falls is located. You can see the yellow slope-angle shading representing the steep terrain and the most likely place for the falls (for the purpose of orientation, you can also see the private house, located in the upper right of the image).

http://caltopo.com/map.html#ll=44.16...b=n&a=c,mba,sf
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Old 09-05-2017, 12:24 PM   #5
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The falls itself is, in fact, to hiker's left as you ascend. It's a falls on MC Brook, which the hiker will cross a little further up the trail.

To my knowledge, there is no longer a sign. I ascended that trail many times last year, and never saw the old sign which I had seen in earlier years, so I think the sign has been removed. (I am not sure, but I believe that DEC may be trying to discourage traffic to the actual falls.)

To get to the bottom of the falls, leave the hiking trail and continue along the brook, at the place where the trail suddenly swings up a steep climb and stops paralleling the brook bed. To see the falls from above, locate the place a minute or two further up where the trail makes a switchback to the right, and climbs a very shallow pitched 5 step stairs. (This is a re-route, completely many years ago, due to erosion and fall risk on the old trail, which remained on the steep bank.) At the bottom of that stairs/switchback, continue straight (making a "left" off of the trail) and follow a pretty good path for just a minute or so, which will bring you to a viewpoint for the falls. Be careful, as it is slippery in spots, and you could possibly take a dangerous fall.
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Old 09-05-2017, 12:51 PM   #6
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Thanks TCD! I do recall the switchback and thought it was a bit of an oddity an otherwise old-time Adirondack trail. The woods are fairly open in that spot and I noticed some trail-braiding but it didn't occur to me that one of those paths led to the brook (and the falls). I'll have to return and check it out. I was really impressed by the view from Hopkins.
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Old 09-07-2017, 07:29 PM   #7
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It is not the DEC that is trying to discourage people visiting the falls- it is Mother Nature. Over the years, successive floods made the trek up along the brook from the original junction progressively harder and harder. Yes, some major rock moving could make it better, but I decided that this was not a priority for ATIS at this time. It is still possible to scramble up the brook to see the falls, but I could not see that stretch as a marked trail with a sign directing hikers to it.

The reroute above was done nearly 20 years ago in response to erosion of the edges of the gorge that definitely made the marked trail potentially quite dangerous.
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Old 09-09-2017, 03:50 PM   #8
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I read this thread with interest. TB, I looked at your map and can clearly see the house. That house is a hunter's camp which was for sale a few years ago. I was interested in buying it (because of its location) but before I could make up my mind, someone else bought it. If you look on the Essex County GIS site, you can zoom in to that area and see both the house and the 1 acre plot of land associated with it. The house is not within that acre, so something is wrong.
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Old 09-09-2017, 05:00 PM   #9
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@MTVhike

Thanks! I didn't realize just how much of the initial stretch of the Mossy Cascade Trail traverses private land. I recall seeing some old, half-buried wire-fencing, ostensibly to keep people from wandering off the trail and towards the Ausable River.

Like you said, something is amiss because Essex County GIS shows the house on state land whereas the small, private inholding is north of it (where the trail crosses Mossy Cascade Brook).

FWIW, I found a privy along the trail and added it to OpenStreetMap ... but now I wonder if I made a mistake! The privy is made of old corrugated steel sheets and, now that I see the inholding's location, it might lie smack-dab on private land. Hmm. Perhaps not intended for public use? I'll have to figure out a way to overlay the privy onto the Essex County GIS map and see if falls within private land.


EDIT

Lo and behold! Essex County GIS lets you choose OpenStreetMap as a base map. That saved me a lot of work! It would appear the "armored outhouse" does reside on private land.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Mossy Cascade Trail - Private inholding.jpg (129.0 KB, 43 views)
File Type: jpg Mossy Cascade Trail - outhouse.JPG (27.6 KB, 43 views)
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Last edited by Trail Boss; 09-09-2017 at 07:10 PM..
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Old 09-09-2017, 07:11 PM   #10
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I see that you have the Essex Co GIS screen. Select Open Street Map as your basemap, and you will see the privy, just inside the private inholding. I have long wondered how accurate those property lines on the GIS map are. If you look at the area just north of Hopkins, where the private roads between Beede Road and Spread Eagle, you see that many of the property lines approximate the road locations, but are not right on them. See, for example, Levi Lamb Way, Jim Estes Way, Stagecoach Road, Barrett Road, and the others. Is the error in the location of the roads on the basemap, or in the property lines.
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Old 09-10-2017, 12:24 PM   #11
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Google Maps, Bing Maps, and OpenStreetMap definitely don't agree 100% on the details of the road network in that area (between Baxter and Hopkins).

Here's what I mean. I combined snapshots from the three maps and arranged them in descending order of detail (click image to magnify).



You'll notice some roads are either missing, don't have the same shape/location, or don't share the same name. OpenStreetMap is the most detailed but that's probably because Joe Citizen can freely login and make additions/corrections.

All three maps misrepresent the road surface. It looks like all roads are equal but they're not. Some portions are paved, others are gravel, and I know one section (the southeastern end of Phelps Brook Road with the two trailheads) is an overgrown tote road suitable only for 4WD vehicles.

All this to say, I suspect the error lies in the location of the roads on the basemaps and the property lines are probably OK. Whatever map the surveyors use, when determining property boundaries, is unlikely to be from Google, Bing, or OSM.
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Old 09-10-2017, 01:04 PM   #12
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None of of those maps is entirely accurate. Google and OSM have most of the roads correct, but the names don't match up with the signs posted on the roads. Bing had the names more or less right, but fails to show roads that are actually there. Basically the route to Hopkins and Spread Eagle from that side goes Beede Lane to Stagecoach Way, to Normand Smith Way (as per Bing). That part of the road off Stagecoach Way is completely washed out and impassable by any vehicle. After crossing Phelps Brook on a new foot bridge, the road is again drivable (approached from the other side, but definitely private and controlled by a gate at the base) and goes down a bit before an obvious junction. One should now start seeing a few old signs for Hopkins and Spread Eagle as the route goes left and up a very steep but newly-graveled road to a junction at the top of the steep climb. Here the trail to Spread Eagle goes straight while the "Direct" trail to Hopkins is found along the road that goes left. Go past an obvious new road up to a sugarbush and look for a route angling off on an old woods road - about 200 yards from the junction.

Prior to 1991, the marked trail started at the end of Phelps Brook Rd. (Barrett Rd. on some of the maps) and then crossed the private roads on the way to the junction at the top of the drivable road. Unfortunately, the landowner at the end of Phelps Brook Rd. wanted the trail closed and would not accept a reroute that kept the trail out of sight of his house. He represented that he had gained permission from the developer who had built the roads to mark a route in from Beede Lane. That turned out not to be the case, and he wouldn't take the trail back despite pressure from several local acquaintances who liked to hike that route.

So, that's where we stand, but sometimes patience is rewarded, and I haven't given up re-establishing a marked route from a public road to Hopkins and Spread Eagle.
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Old 09-10-2017, 02:01 PM   #13
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Thanks Tony!

My familiarity with the area is limited to what I read in the 13th edition of the High Peaks guidebook and a recent hike to Baxter, Hopkins, and Spread Eagle. Basically, the book makes it clear that you can't drive along the private roads to the trails leading to Spread Eagle and Hopkins (but you can walk from Beede Lane).

For Baxter, I parked at the designated spot on Beede Lane (room for 2 cars max!). Even though the guidebook made it clear you approach the trail via a driveway on private property, I'm glad there are signs because it still feels odd to walk up someone's driveway and pass within a few yards of their front porch! I also picked up a furry hitchhiker. A miniature schnauzer sniffed me and decided I needed a companion. He led me up the trail to the junction. I traversed Baxter and descended the Upton Trail to Beede Lane. Up high, it runs through some lovely open woods of red pine (my favorite kind of terrain). It ends on another private driveway but a respectable distance from the landowner's home.

BTW, the trail changes color from DEC blue to DEC yellow (where yellow is ostensibly the Upton Trail) but this transition occurs east of Baxter's official (USGS) summit. A bit misleading for the folks following the blue trail to its end and believing they've reached Baxter's summit.

Afterwards, I went up Hopkins via Mossy Cascade Trail, then dropped down (~1000 feet) the north side via Hopkins Direct to (what the map says is) Phelps Brook Road. The initial descent is very steep! The road is entirely "unimproved" at the junction (a soggy tote road) and unmarked by signs. Someone placed a few pieces of white PVC pipe to mark it (there's more of the stuff lying across the road) but it's not much to go on. I walked west along the tote road which eventually changes to gravel. That's where I found the (old) signs for the Spread Eagle Trail and re-ascended to Hopkins via Spread Eagle. Truly great views from Hopkins!

Perhaps needless to say but the two northern trails leading to Hopkins (especially the Direct) see little traffic and are in great shape.

FWIW, I recorded my travels (with two GPS receivers) and used the data to refine the trails in OpenStreetMap. That explains my curious choice of descending/re-ascending Hopkins' north side!
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Old 09-10-2017, 07:08 PM   #14
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Last Saturday (9/2/17), Keelin and I walked in from the 2-car PA at the intersection of Stagecoach Way and Beede Road, first along Stagecoach Way, then along a road labeled as Phelps Brook Road on OpenStreetMap (the impassible part Tony mentions). Shortly after crossing the newish footbridge, it appears that the name changes to Normand Smith road, then cuts over to Jim Estes Way, and continues east again as Phelps Brook road. We followed that to the signs marking both trails to Hopkins. We decided to go up the Direct trail but after awhile completely lost it. I was following the trail on the Gaia Topo layer, where the trail is indicated but looking back, the OpenStreetMap layer indicated a somewhat different route. We bushwhacked up trying to follow my GPS and soon got to a slide which is directly below the Hopkins summit. Decided not to try to climb the slide, but 'whacked through the heavy undergrowth until we intersected the Hopkins-Spread Eagle trail about 100 feet west of the summit. We then turned around and followed the H-SE trail past the proper intersection with the Direct trail back to the TH on Phelps Brook Road.
We're going to go back and do the reverse loop and try to find where we went wrong. I did notice some new construction right near where Phelps Brook Road ends and maybe that's where the trail went.
Are these DEC trails? We saw no DEC (or ADK for that matter) trail markers, just the few fairly old signs.
There are two structures along our route I am curious about: one looks like either an old foundation or perhaps a very large cistern. It's on Phelps Brook Road, shortly before the signs marking the beginning of the trails. The other is along our route of the Direct trail: its a vertical cylinder made of corrugated steel, a foot or two high and a few feet in diameter. Does anyone know what these are?
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Old 09-10-2017, 08:06 PM   #15
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If Gaia Topo periodically inherits its trails from OpenStreetMap, then it probably has the old version of the Direct trail. I modified Hopkins Direct just 17 days ago and can confirm the original version was considerably off-route.

You can see the dramatic difference here. The solid red lines are Caltopo's old copy of OpenStreetMap's trails. The dashed red lines are OpenStreetMap's latest trails.

http://caltopo.com/map.html#ll=44.18...=16&b=om&a=mba

I saw a few markers along Hopkins Direct, mostly at its upper end, but they were not DEC or ATIS or anything remotely official, just the ends of metal cans painted red-orange.

I don't recall seeing any markers along the trail to Spread Eagle from Phelps Brook Road. The trail's depiction in OSM was accurate except for the very start at the road. It shows a little dogleg that simply does not exist. The trail heads uphill right next to the guidepost with three signs.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Hopkins Direct - homemade markers.JPG (74.4 KB, 32 views)
File Type: jpg Spread Eagle Trail - Phelps Brook Road.JPG (85.8 KB, 32 views)
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Old 09-11-2017, 10:45 AM   #16
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The concrete structure and the metal tank were both part of what was to be a seasonal water supply for the houses that the developer hoped to build up there. Development has happened slowly with most houses opting for a drilled well with year-round water - even if the house is mostly used seasonally. I think there was also a problem with either the source of the water being on state land or the pipes having to cross state land, so the water system was apparently never fully developed.

Once you find the correct start for the Direct trail, it is not hard to follow. If, however, you start on the wrong lumber road it will end just where the mountain steepens.
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