Columbia County High Point Trip Report

on Massachusetts state line 0.3 mile west of Alander Mtn (2,110+ ft)

Date: July 26, 2001
Author: Dan Case

Over a year after I first entertained the idea of doing this, I finally finished the third of the Taconic Triad. It wound up being separate trips to all three in the area (this one, Dutchess NY, and Litchfield CT) which actually enhanced my appreciation for this wild area divided among three states. It was more like the Pacific Northwest this day as a big Canadian cold front had arrived overnight to break the heat wave of the previous three days. Fortunately, the western approach here, while heavy on the vertical, is not so much so as the climb up Brace from the Rudd Pond Farms trailhead. It blocked the views but made for a more mystical experience. Very helpful, and interesting to read, in preparation for doing this was Article 2, Section 3 of the New York State Law, a/k/a the legal description of the Massachusetts state line. (Are we the only state to incorporate these into our statutes? I somehow don't think so.) It reads, in relevant part (I've changed spelled out numbers to numerals for clarity and concision's sake): "[from the southwest corner of Massachusetts] thence on an azimuth of 167 8' 15", 13,649 feet to bound nine, a granite monument set in ledge on the westerly wooded slope of Alandar Mountain about a quarter of a mile west of its summit, in latitude 42 5' 10.205" and longitude 73 30' 31.031", at the corner of Mount Washington in Massachusetts and Copake in New York." (Spelling of Alander as in original. Lat/lon coordinates probably use some sort of 19th-century datum you can't find in a present-day GPS.) This is better known as the western corner of Massachusetts monument shown on the Copake quad (or, rather, the post-1855 western corner). The bearing given here turned out to actually be useful in the field for reasons I'll mention below. This is key to reaching the high point, from a later enumeration in the same section of all the monuments along the state line: "thence northwesterly about 5,280 feet to a monument marking the third mile point; thence northwesterly about 433 feet to bound nine, on Alandar Mountain previously described." As it turns out, this is the marker the trail goes right by. So now we can call it the third-mile marker, and the western corner marker Bound 9. We could also describe the high point as "on MA state line 433 feet SSE of western corner of MA" instead of the current "east county boundary."

For this hike, I took the Alander Brook Trail that Mike Schwartz mentions. This allows the shortest hike but the greatest elevation gain (about 1,100 feet in under two miles to the HP and 1,500 in a little more than that to the summit), so I guess you could say I Earlized it.

Coming north from Millerton on NY 22, turn right on Under Mountain Road a couple of miles past the Dutchess-Columbia county line. Go past the gated woods road leading into Taconic State Park land and the southern end (for now) of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail up to the trailhead, in the woods just after a large cornfield. The sign here says "Alander Mountain Trail 2.5 miles" -- very confusing, as the NY/NJ Trail Conference map and the New York Walk Book both refer to it as the Alander Brook Trail, as do all other trail signs. There is parking here for one car just at the beginning of the trail; if it's full you can go 700 feet up the road to the other lot mentioned on a nearby sign.

The blue blazes are here. (Although, as with too many TC-maintained trails outside of Harriman State Park, "blue" means everything from periwinkle to deep cobalt. But at least it's there consistently.) They follow a gentle old woods road alongside the field, to a junction with the red-blazed Robert Brook Trail, which takes a steeper route to the South Taconic Trail along the ridge. It could be used for variety's sake on the way down. Keep going along the ABT until you cross an unnamed stream (probably Alander Brook) which goes under the road through a culvert. Immediately afterwards, the trail leaves the roads to the right, taking a newer footpath while the road circles around the 846' bump. After 0.2 mile, and a bit more moderate grade, it meets up with the road again and turns right. It keeps a steady yet moderate climb going through a hemlock grove and past it for another 0.4 miles, where a cairn in the road marks the junction with the white- blazed South Taconic Trail. A sign correctly identifies the Alander Brook Trail and says you've come 1.4 miles from the trailhead. The ascent follows this route to the left, off the road and up a steadily climbing (via switchbacks and traverses) ridge.

After 0.4 miles of this, the trail finally climbs onto a rocky strip with many open areas. I'm positive this would yield eye-popping views of the Catskills and Hudson Valley, but all I could see today was a wide- open expanse of cloud interior. From here, it's not too much of this to the third-mile marker, a small piece of reddish granite right next to the trail to the north, under a small growth of bush. It has an M on one side, NY on the side facing the bush, and a "3 M" on the side you see in this direction. Past here you are in Massachusetts. I could easily see the rock outcropping mentioned in previous reports -- it's quite obvious, even in fog, and SO close to the trail. It seemed so obvious, in fact, that I was sure I was being misled. I climbed it and sat on the point just a few feet west of the summit where the state line crosses, just outside the 2,120' contour (very accurate surveying here). This had to do. But the trail had twisted and turned so much, and the monument was sort of confusing, so I double-checked with the map and took a compass bearing. It turned out to be about 347 degrees using true north (the South Taconic trail map, unlike others published by the Trail Conference, does not show magnetic and true north lines, so I had to displace north about 13 degrees to the east) which sort of squares with the bearing given in the State Law. That put me on the same spot.

With the mission accomplished I continued across the bare rock to the summit, marked by the footings of a former fire tower and a 1938 benchmark, where I had lunch and wondered what the view would be like. A confusing sign ahead at a cairn marked either the beginning of the Alander Loop or Alander Mountain trails. (The latter being the one that so confused Dave Galvin, and the section on it in the Walk Book isn't encouraging). I had thought of using the Loop trail to go down to the Robert Brook Trail and back, but based on this sign and the somewhat overgrown quality of the trail at this point I decided not to, and instead simply retraced my steps down the mountain back to the parking lot, by which time the clouds had finally lifted and the sun came out.