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Azure Mountain

Located in the northern Adirondacks in Franklin County, New York, the 2518 foot tall Azure Mountain contains a popular fire tower with some wonderful views. In the town of Waverly, south of the small hamlet of Santa Clara, the fire tower at Azure Mountain fire tower has stood tall since July 29, 1918.  A steep, but short one mile trail takes you to the summit and the fire tower, with rewarding views of the surrounding countryside of the Adirondacks. From the trailhead off of Blue Mountain Road to the mountain's summit, there is a 944 foot elevation gain. From the summit you can view the northern Adirondack forests, and on a clear day, you can even spot some of the distant high peaks.


Part of the Debar Mountain Wild Forest, Azure Mountain is also known locally as Blue Mountain. In 1918, the present 35 foot Aerometer galvanized steel fire tower was erected, at a cost of $530. However, by 1978, the fire tower was closed by the NYSDEC, and as a result, the lower two sets of stair rise…
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Balanced Rock in North Salem, New York

The northeastern parts of Westchester County are a nice mix of rolling countryside, stately homes, equestrian centers and historic communities. It is an enjoyable area to drive around and explore, especially with it being so close to New York City. In one of these communities, North Salem, is a bit of a geologic oddity, the Balanced Rock.


The Balanced Rock is located right in the heart of North Salem, next to the Cable Barn and Union Hall. There is not much parking in the area, but I was able to park on a side street and walk a few minutes to Balanced Rock. Widely thought to be a glacial erratic, Balanced Rock is a large stone that happens to be resting on three smaller boulders. Estimated to weigh about 60 tons, the balanced rock is composed of a type of granite that is not normally found around North Salem, but may have been pushed from the Hudson Highlands by glaciers during the Ice Age. There are plenty of examples of glacial erratics, between pebbles and larger boulders like this…

Luykas Van Alen House & Ichabod Crane Schoolhouse

Just a stone's throw away from old Kinderhook lies the historic Luykas Van Alen House and the Ichabod Crane Schoolhouse. The house was built in 1737 and has numerous stories to tell. The house was the inspiration for the Van Tassel family home in Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and was used in the 1993 film "The Age of Innocence". Van Alen himself was once charged with seditious libel by the royal New York governor William Cosby, and his wife had left him, all around the same time that this home was built, so that could have been a catalyst for the construction of this lovely house. Born in 1682, Luykas Van Alen was an early settler of Columbia County, New York and had considerable wealth in his community. The house was built in a typical Dutch style of the time, with its parapet gables, classic Dutch design doors, and entrance stoops. The house three rooms with attic space and a fireplace dominating the main room, which was typical of Dut…

Echo Cliff

The Adirondacks have hikes for everyone. Between miles-long (and days-long) back country adventures through the rugged terrain of the High Peaks and shorter treks to scenic views that go on for miles, there is something for everyone. So on an unseasonably mild December day that I otherwise spent checking off a few waterfalls off of the Hamilton County Waterfall Challenge list, I decided to check out the relatively short trail to Echo Cliff on Panther Mountain near Piseco Lake.


From the trailhead on Old Piseco Road, it is about 0.6 mile one way up the trail to Echo Cliff. The trail is certainly well worn and popular, as the Little Sand Point Campground is nearby. But don't let the short distance fool you. There is certainly an ascent that you have to make, as it is a good 670 foot climb in elevation from the trailhead to the cliff. As is often the case with hiking trails in the Adirondacks, you will encounter your fair share of steep elevation changes, tree roots, rocks and boulder…

Eagle Cliff Falls at Havana Glen

Perhaps overshadowed by a number of more popular but equally awesome waterfalls in the Finger Lakes, Eagle Cliff Falls features a 41 foot drop into a plunge pool within an intimate amphitheater like setting. Eagle Cliff Falls is located at the Havana Glen Park just outside of scenic downtown Montour Falls.


Once you pay your money to park at Havana Glen Park ($2 per carload, the last time I checked), you can park along the side of the park and then follow the gorge trail to Eagle Cliff Falls. Havana Glen Park is named for the old town name of Montour Falls, which was Havana. The park has picnicking and camping available and is open from mid-May to mid-October, but the star of the park is the gem of the waterfall. The gorge trail is not long, about a 5-10 minute walk, and features a walk alongside a cliff as you pass by a few smaller waterfalls on McClure Creek on your way to Eagle Cliff Falls. The waterfall is at a nice natural pool, and while swimming is prohibited, you can see plenty…