What You Missed
On Sunday, December 20th Cindy and I decided we had had enough of staying inside while the temperatures hovered in the teens and the wind in the twenties. After church, we decided to head to Frick Pond for our first snowshoe of the year. We were disappointed that the major part of the recent storm had missed us but were confident Frick and Hodge Ponds would have enough snow to make the trip worth it. When e got out of the car at the parking area, the temperature was 17 degrees and the wind was HOWLING! We were dressed warmly and got our snowshoes on right away to avoid cooling down. Cindy was trying out here new Atlas Elektra 1023 to replace and old pair of Tubbs and, like anything new, they took a while to get used to. We headed out the Quick Lake Trail toward Frick and went down to the pond. Although I had brought the camera. I decided it was too cold to stop for photography. We headed around the back side of the pond and decided to continue on the Quick Lake trail to Iron Wheel junction. The snowshoes were working well even though they were not really needed. At Iron Wheel we decided to head down the Logger's Loop to Times Square. Once there we agreed to skip the climb up Big Rock to the Flynn Trail and just head back to the car. It was a short trip but a good one for our first of many this winter!
On Saturday, December 5th I decided that I would hike with Snickers and Brain up to Balsam Mountain from the Rider Hollow trailhead. Snickers was nursing a bad heel spur and did not want to push too hard. I though I might try for Eagle or Belleayre if I felt like it. By Friday the forecast was for snow by afternoon so I was glad that we had agreed to start at 8:30 AM. When I awoke I decided to see if Cindy wanted to join us even though Balsam is one of her LEAST favorite hikes. I was surprised when she agreed and we gathered our equipment and were out of the house just after 7:00 AM. We decided to head up to the Pepacton Reservoir and then take Route 30 to Arkville. From here the Dry Brook Road heads toward Rider Hollow. When we turned on Rider Hollow Road, I forgot that the first turn is onto Todd Mountain Road and THEN onto Rider Hollow Road. After driving a little passed Todd Mountain, my mistake came to me and I corrected it. When we arrived at the trailhead at about 8:20 AM, we found Dick and Joanne ready to hike. Brian and Cindy showed up in a few minutes and we were ready to start. Sheba was acting strangely but I attribute it to hiking in a group. We started out and quickly made our way up the red Oliverea Mapledale Trail. The brook was high and its sounds accompanied us as we hiked.
At the junction with the Mine Hollow Trail, I stayed to the right on the red trail. I decided it was better to climb the steeper side and descend the shallower Mine Hollow Trail. We crossed the brook on the odd steel bridge at this location. None of us have ever encountered a bridge quite like this one anywhere else! It was a short walk along the trail to the Rider Hollow lean-to. Sheba got there first and surprised a lone hunter sitting at the lean-to. We said hello and then started up the trail to cross the brook on some stone. We crossed and recrossed the brook several times on the hike and although the water was high it was narrow enough to cross without problems. The first part of the trail is pretty tame as you walk along some old roads and wide trails. After a while the trail becomes steeper and narrower as it starts to ascend to the col between Balsam and Eagle. Joanne and Dick had not hiked for several weeks and Snickers was hampered by a painful heel spur so we took our time on the steep ascent. Somewhere along the way I took off my jacket and packed it away. Toward the top Sheba and I went ahead followed by Cindy. As we approached the col, I heard a noise ahead and saw a large form heading down the trail and into the woods. I could not get a picture of this rather large bear but maybe that was a GOOD thing! Soon we were all at the col and I turned left on the blue Pine Hill West Branch Trail. After checking their maps, the rest of the group followed me.
This trail starts out rather tamely as it starts up toward Balsam but there is about a 600 foot vertical gain over .6 miles to get to the top. In some places there are a few steeper spots and rock scrambles to conquer. We passed the 3500 foot sign and then began the final ascent through some balsam and over a few rocks. The summit itself has little to mark it and less to interest the hiker. A little passed the summit is an obvious lookout which is actually on the descent down the other side. I reached this viewpoint first and stopped to take some pictures as the rest of the group caught up. There was a lot of haze and clouds hanging in the valleys and the sky was completely cloudy with no sun. When we had assembled, we ate a snack and got a drink and others took some pictures. The temperature here was noticeably cooler and the first flakes of snow were beginning to fall. I was still holding out for a quick trip to Belleayre. Sheba and I grew cold as the group rested so we started to push on slowly. My wife joined us and we picked up the pace as the snow began to fall. We worked our way down the other side of Balsam through some steep areas and then across a flatter area to a slight incline. We stopped to take a few pictures and heard the group just behind us. We waited until they joined us and then pressed ahead.
Along this part of the trail there were several muddy areas and as we negotiated them the snow got more serious. When we reached the trail junction with the yellow Mine Hollow Trail, I asked Cindy if she wanted to try Belleayre. I was disappointed and relieved when she said "No." The Mine Hollow Trail has a few steep spots at the top but then is much more gradual than the other trails up Balsam. This was good since the snow was making EVERYTHING slippery! We kept working our way down the trail back toward the trail junction from earlier in the day. Soon we were down and stopped to wait for the group. I walked up along the brook to take a few pictures. After rejoining the others, Cindy, Sheba and I started back to the parking area. We passed the odd steel bridge and then crossed the swollen creek on the more conventional wooden bridge. We were back at the parking area by 12:30 PM. It took us a little under 4 hours to cover a little under 5 miles but that was good under the circumstances. The snow was beginning to stick to the roads on our trip home and several of the hills were slick. I was glad we had skipped Belleayre!
On Sunday, November 29th I decided that I wanted to try the Steps Trail up Slide but this time with my wife, Cindy, and on a day with MUCH better weather. After church, We headed for Slide Mountain with Sheba and arrived at about noon at the main parking area on Route 47. The weather forecast called for a sunny day with no chance of precipitation. Temperatures were predicted to be in the high 40's or low 50's with just a light breeze. Of course, this was in the valleys and NOT on the peaks! There were a few cars in the parking lot and only a few hikers signed into the trail register. The temperature seemed colder than the thermometer read and a stiff breeze was blowing. We got started quickly and crossed the West Branch and the other, smaller stream easily. I was wearing a new pair of Asolo Synchro hiking boots for the first time. For a size 9 they seemed large but I was wearing light socks and had the boots laced loosely. They did seem comfortable. I knew I was probably overdressed with a light Backcountry Shift jacket on top of two Icebreaker wool layers but it did seem cool. I did not initially put on my hat and gloves. We made quick work of the first part of the trail and turned left on the old road. At the cable separating state land from the Winnisook Club we turned right into the woods. After a moment, we picked up the start of the Steps Trail and our adventure had begun!
The first part of the trail was a little steeper than I remembered but soon we were at the first lookout. The views down the valley were all I had hoped for when I was looking into the cloud on Friday. There was the beginning of a coating of snow on the ground and some parts of the trail were slick. We stopped to take a few pictures and then headed up the trail. Soon we were approaching the first set of steps and we began to notice that the coating of snow was giving way to at least an inch of coverage where there was no sun. As we continued on up the trail the snow became deeper and the slippery spots on the trail made us wish we had our Stabilicers in our packs. We walked through a nice stand of evergreens but then broke back into hardwoods. We got to the most difficult part of the trail that requires you to pull yourself up over a large rock. Once over this obstacle another nice viewpoint opened up. We stopped to take more pictures. The snow on the trees was beautiful and the sky and surrounding mountains were great.
We started back up the trail and continued to climb sets of steps. All the POSTED signs we found were to our left and the state boundary markers were to the right. Soon the trail began to become less distinct and I knew from previous experience that meant we were near the main trail. As on Friday I suddenly took a step onto the main trail. In this area the trees were covered by windblown snow making the season look more like the dead of winter than fall. We turned left onto the main Burroughs Range Trail and started toward the summit. The Curtis-Ormsbee Trail quickly appeared on the right and I couldn't wait for the Giant Ledge-Panther lookout farther up the trail on the left! The trail was VERY slippery in places due to the number of people that had compressed the snow. The boots were working well and the poles made walking easier. Soon we were at the lookout with great views of Giant Ledge and Panther to the left and Cornell and Wittenberg to the right. The trees were covered in snow and the sky was a deep but bright blue.
Back on the trail we knew it was only a few minutes to the summit and we hurried to get there. We passed over the summit and went to the flat rock outcrop. There was not much snow tat hen summit as the bright sun had melted most of it. We stopped to take a few pictures of the open area and each other. A glimpse of Wittenberg was available and a sliver of the Ashokan could be seen through the trees. After taking a few shots, we were ready for the long walk down the mountain. The entire trip back to where we had joined the trail was slippery. Below that the trail flattens and there was less snow making the going easier. I did notice that when I stepped on the rocks the boots supported my feet and ankles well and seemed to protect and cushion my feet. The walk down always seems long but soon we were at the Phoenicia East Branch Trail and made the right turn. After a short walk, we followed the trail as it turned left off the road and started back down to the parking area. We arrived at 3:15 PM having covered about 5.5 miles with plenty of time for pictures
On Friday, November 27th Karl and I decided that we preferred hiking over shopping. We headed for Slide Mountain with our two dogs, Sheba and Maggie, to discover the Dutcher Steps Trail up Slide. The weather forecast called for rain or snow showers followed by high winds especially on the peaks. Just the kind of weather we like for hiking! We arrived at the Slide Mountain parking area on Route 47 to find wisps of clouds and fog blowing through the empty lot. It looked like we would be alone on the mountain! When we got out of the car, we were both surprised by how cold and raw the air felt. This was compounded by a stiff wind and I was glad I had my Mountain Hardwear Windstopper Tech jacket on. I was also trying out my new Icebreaker 200 leggings. We got on the trail at 9:00 AM and quickly crossed the West Branch and its small tributary without much trouble. We were soon working our way up the initial part of the trail to the old carriageway from the Winnisook Club. The "usual" route up Slide turns right on the old road and follows the Phoenicia East Branch Trail toward Denning until the Burroughs Range Trail starts on the left. We turned left on the road and walked a short distance to the cable that marks the boundary with the Winnisook Club. Here we turned right into the woods and began looking for a path that would signal the start of the Steps Trail. We soon found a path that widened into a trail and, although unmarked, was quite distinct. The dogs ran up this trail and we followed.
At first I was not sure we were on the right trail but there was no other to follow. After a while some steps appeared and I was sure we were headed in the right direction. I began to warm up as usual and removed my jacket leaving on just two layers of wool. In the protected, wooded areas this was all that was needed. It was interesting to be on a trail I had never been on before. The trail alternated between flatter areas with a few climbs. In most areas stone steps made these climbs easier. In several places there were areas for lookouts but on this day no view was available. We continued on this pleasant trail for about 1.25 miles. To our left there were occasional POSTED signs from the Winnisook Club but none appeared to our right. This trail is right on the edge of the club property and forest preserve. As we neared what I felt must be the end of the trail, it became more diffuse with several branches running in different directions. I followed one and was not sure it was going the right way when I noticed I was on the main trail. Once on the main trail I walked back down the trail in the direction of the parking area. I turned around and started back toward the summit but was unable to detect where the Steps Trail had joined the main trail. We continued on the Burroughs Range Trail toward the summit.
As we continued on, the Curtis-Ormsbee Trail entered from the right and then a little further on we stopped at the viewpoint for Giant ledge and Panther Mountain. There was no view save for the frozen coating on the trees so we went back to the main trail. As we approached the summit, we could hear the wind pick up. There was no one on the open rocks at the summit and clouds blew across the open area. We stopped so that I could take some pictures of Karl and the dogs and then decided to head down toward the spring. On a nicer day we might have gone to Cornell but our "mission" was accomplished. We worked our way down through the rock scrambles on the other side of Slide and to the top of the first ladder. At this point we decided to turn around and head for the car. The scramble back up the rocks was fun and was the reason we had come down. At the top of the trail we were surprised to find another hiker. We chatted for a few minutes about the trail and the weather before parting company. Karl and I head down the main trail setting a leisurely pace on the rocks made slippery by the falling snow. The lone hiker passed us at some point and we continued on down to the car. We covered about 5.5 miles in 4 hours with plenty of time for stopping. The Steps Trail is a fantastic alternative to the main trail and I look forward to returning on a better day to catch some of the views!
On Wednesday, November 25th I wanted to do an "epic" hike before Thanksgiving Day. The weather report was cloudy with a chance of rain in most areas but to the south looked a little better. The forecast for Harriman even had some sun so I headed for Bear Mountain with the intention of doing the Torne-to-Timp hike. I had done most of the sections of this hike but wanted to do it all in one day! As I drove down the Quickway, there was a heavy fog which limited visibility and the sun was not visible anywhere. For once I got an early start so Sheba and I arrived just before 8:00 AM at the main Bear Mountain parking area. There was no attendant in the booth and only three other cars in the parking lot. The heavy mist made it seem like the cloud ceiling was at ground level. Everything was damp and I was chilly even with two wool layers and a light jacket.I decided to reverse my planned route and do the Timp first. I hoped the sun might break through and dry the route to The Torne which can be hair-raising when wet or icy! After setting my GPS, Sheba and I got right on the trail.
We headed out the south end of the parking lot using the tunnels to go under the roads and picked up the red 1777 East trail. Two runners were just returning and we greeted them as we went in the opposite direction. In a short distance the blue Cornell mine trail split off to the left and we followed that down to the parking area on Route 9W. From here we reentered the woods to follow the trail up Bald Mountain. The walk was pleasant despite the heavy mist and parallels a small brook which was swollen from recent rains. I began to get warm so we stopped while I took a few pictures and changed into a lighter top and stowed the wool top and jacket. The trail passes the Edison mine on the right but I had decided this day was and exercise in, well, exercise. I was more interested in getting a work out and completing the route I had planned. The trail is pretty flat for a while and then gets STEEP quickly as it climbs Bald Mountain. Near the summit the trail ends in the area of the Cornell Mine. The mine is worth the bushwhack side trip but I was not to be distracted on this day. We turned right on the red Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail to continue to the summit. The view from the top is really nice when there is a view! Since none was available this day, we stopped briefly and then continued on the trail down the other side of the mountain and toward The Timp.
The descent from Bald Mountain is steep in places and there are towering blocks of rock in many areas. We passed the intersection with the red 1777 trail and continued on until we met up with the blue Timp-Torne Trail. Here we went right and started to climb to the top of The Timp. The view from the summit can be spectacular but all we could see this day was the inside of the cloud we were in. I took some pictures of the rather spooky looking summit before continuing on the blue Timp-Torne Trail toward West Mountain. This involved another substantial descent and then another ascent to the top of West Mountain. This was one of the few pieces of trail I had not been on an traveling a new route brought some relief. Soon we were climbing West Mountain toward the stone shelter at the top. The paucity of views continued and I began to come to the conclusion that the rest of the day would be the same...or worse! We continued on the Timp-Torne Trail along the West Mountain Ridge passed several trail junctions. In a short distance the Appalachian Trail came in from the left and joined the trail we were on. The unmistakable white blazes seemed especially large.
As we continued our hike the Appalachian Trail broke to the right as we continued across the ridge. We could hear traffic on the Palisades Parkway below and I knew that parking areas for Anthony Wayne were just below us but nothing was visible. After several more trail junctions, we descended over some open rock faces which were very slippery. I began to think about The Torne. We arrived at Seven Lakes Drive and I put Sheba on a leash so we could get safely across and continue our hike on the other side. Traffic was light and we were soon across and hiking passed Queensboro Lake and into a part of Doodletown. As we hiked along a wide road, a sign informed us we could go no further as the area ahead was a police pistol range. Fortunately, the trail turned right here and we followed it along the outlet from the lake. We were able to cross on a narrow bridge and continued along the creek as the trail paralleled the stream high on the right bank. It began to drizzle a little and then a light rain fell but not for too long. Soon the blue trail started down to the left to cross the creek on a bridge.
We crossed ascended some stone steps and then started up to cross Mine Road and begin the ascent of The Torne. I knew that it would be tricky and that I probably should try again another day but I was so close. The first part of the ascent switches back and forth through the woods and a hiker may be fooled into thinking this will continue to the summit. Soon Sheba and I were scrambling over rocks with Sheba having a lot less trouble and me! There were several places where I was able to bypass the slanted, wet rock but there were others where going up the slanted rock face was the ONLY way. I wondered about getting back down. In one spot Sheba could not get traction on the rock and I gave her a boost. We slowly made our way up and over every obstacle until we were next to the large boulder just below the highest point. This open ledge usually has a great view of the bridge and Bear Mountain. Not Today! We walked up the trail to the cairn at the top. I took a few pictures and we started back. I kept Sheba behind me as we made our way down. In several spots I simply sat down and slid. One ride was a little longer and faster than I had planned but I survived! We walked back down to the road, crossed and followed our path back to the bridge. We crossed and walked up the hill and then turned left onto the Popolopen Gorge Trail. This trail follows the creek as it heads toward the Hudson. Initially it stays high on the bank overlooking the creek but eventually drops down almost to water level. The creek was roaring and I stopped to take a few pictures at the dam. Then it was up to 9W, across the road and the traffic circle to Hessian Lake. We headed back toward the car.
When we got to the head of the lake it was only about 2:00 PM and I decided against my plans and all reason that I would like to do Bear Mountain! We walked around the lake and picked up the red Major Welch Trail on the other side. I knew that this would have to be quick since darkness and rain would soon be coming! We did pretty well until we got to the part of the trail where it is so steep over the rocks that a chain is supplied for assistance! Soon we were across Perkins Drive and headed across the summit to Perkins Tower. By this time I expected the total lack of any view. I was not disappointed. We caught the AT off the mountain and began our descent. After crossing the dead end road, we followed the At as it makes a sharp left and continues on down to eventually meet the Suffern-Bear Mountain Trail. We continued to follow the AT back to the lake descending the ski jump access hill that is used on our cross country course. At the base of the hill we turned right, passed the skating rink and returned to the car. We were back just after 4:00 PM having hiked for about 7 hours and 14.4 miles!
On Sunday, November 22nd Cindy and I headed for Slide Mountain after church. The weather report had said that the fog would clear but by 11:00 AM it was still completely overcast. We decided not to go too far and I wanted to look for the Dutcher Steps Trail up Slide. We had met a lawyer who lives at Winnisook and he said that we could hike there anytime we wanted. We parked in the Slide Mountain Parking area at about 12:15 PM and got right on the trail. The Neversink had some water but it and the small tributary above didn't even slow us down. We quickly ascended to the carriageway and turned left this time instead of right. We walked along the wide road until the cable which marks the boundary with the Winnisook Club. It was then that I realized that "hike anytime" might not include during hunting season! We continued on not knowing exactly what we were looking for. After a while a road branched to the right and was marked with white trail markers. I followed this for a while as it paralleled the West Branch and skirted Slide Mountain. Along the way we saw a small gazebo down by the river and a lean-to on the opposing bank. Soon we ran out of trail or road and were bushwhacking although the going was easy. I though about continuing and just bushwhacking up Slide if we could not find the trail. In the end we decided to return to the car and investigate this trail at a later date. We were back at the car by 2:00 PM. It was a short but fun hike.
On Saturday, November 21st I had planned to hike with a group to KHP from Platte Clove. The plan was to spot a car on the Palenville side and to hike through. I was happy to do this as I had never attempted that route and needed KHP for my November grid. This route would also allow us to take in more "sights" like Buttermilk and Wildcat Falls and Poet's Ledge. I was concerned about the hunting camps near KHP since this was the first day of rifle season in New York State! Late Friday night I got a message that the hike had been changed to a through hike of the Blacks starting at Barnum Road and ending at Batavia Kill. I was a little disappointed since I already had the Blacks but thought they were the safer choice. Sheba and I left Livingston Manor just after 7:00 AM for the 9:00 AM start. The skies were overcast and fog and haze hung in the air. The weather forecast didn't offer much and every peak on the way was shrouded. We arrived at the Batavia Kill lot at just past 8:30 AM to find Cindy and Brian already there! Soon Judy arrived having dropped Bill and Shiloh at the Barnum Road trailhead. We all jumped into Brian's car and were soon reunited with a man and his dog (Bill and Shiloh) on Barnum Road.
We started up the old road at about 9:30 AM and it was just as rocky as I remembered. It was also wet and slippery in places. When we had climbed to the highest spot on the road, We turned left, signed in at the register and were off. It had been a long time since I had hike this way and the steep places on the Caudal and the Camel's Hump surprised me. None are very long but I was soon shedding my light jacket in favor of the wool layers only. Bill and I were the leading humans with one or both digs out front most of the time. We stopped briefly at a lookout on the climb up the Caudal but little was visible and anything that could be seen was covered by a blanket of cloud. This was true of the lookouts from the Camel's Hump as well. I was sorry that Brian did not get the view since it was his first time on these peaks! It seemed we were on the flat area after the Camel's Hump in no time. There is usually a nice view of Thomas Cole from here but not this day! The mountain always looks so impressive but the climb is rather easy. Just before noon we were at the lookout on Thomas Cole looking into...a cloud. There was NOTHING visible and the wind had picked up making me chilly enough to put my jacket on. We took a short break during which Sheba and I retreated to the cover of the trees. Another group arrived from Lockwood Gap. They seemed surprised that we would attempt all three mountains in one day. Meanwhile, I was thinking about Acra Point, Burnt Knob and Windham!
Descending into Lockwood Gap didn't take long but there were some interesting rock scrambles on the way down. The moisture on the rocks made even the ones that looked dry slippery. Bill and I kept up a good conversation and the dogs didn't seem to care as they would descend and then come back to us over and over! I was genuinely surprised when we got to the col as the trip had seemed so short. As we started up Blackhead, it seemed that the sun was toying with us. The sky would start to clear and the sun would peek through and then...it would disappear and the clouds would roll back in. I always stop on the flank of Blackhead to take pictures so I took some shots this time also. I got some more great pictures of...the inside of the cloud we were in. Then it was on up to the summit plateau of Blackhead and the march to the trail junction that marks the highest spot. I talked to Bill about the Escarpment Trail from Dutchers' Notch over Arizona to Blackhead. I have never done this route and he said it was well worth the hike! I would like to do this as a through hike from North South Lake. As we paused on the flat rock near the trail junction the sun did come out and there was some clearing below us. I hoped we could get some pictures on the descent.
The east side of Blackhead is the steepest part of this hike and I usually choose to come UP it and not DOWN. The descent was tricky in places making the hiker decide whether to slip over wet rocks or slide through soft mud. Soon we were down the steepest part and got a glimpse of the valley below. The clod had blown away some and there was a view. We took pictures as fragments of the clouds passed by and then descended again to a large flat area that afforded even better views. At this viewpoint there were nice views of the valley AND to our right we got a good look at Arizona, the mountain that stand between Dutcher;s Notch and Blackhead. After taking some pictures we continued our descent to the trail junction. I knew I had enough energy to continue over Acra Point but decided to stay with the group as we descended to the cars at Batavia Kill. This is not an insignificant distance and the trail is crosses and recrosses several small streams. The Batavia Kill lean-to was in poor shape. Porcupines gnaw on the wood and uneducated campers leave garbage and damage the lean-to. One animal I can understand the other I can't! We crossed the final bridge over the Batavia Kill and then walked down the rather wide road to the parking area. We arrived at around 3:15 PM having covered about 6.7 miles with plenty of time for enjoying ourselves along the way.
On Wednesday, November 18th I took a day off from work because of some appointments that had to be kept. When my morning at the lawyer's was cancelled, I decided to get a hike in before my afternoon round. I decided to go to Frick Pond since it is close and I was in the mood to walk quickly without any "interference". Sheba and I got to the parking area round 9:00 AM with the temperatures still in the mid-30's. I tried to remember to dress so that I would start cool and be comfortable when I warmed up. I wore a light jacket over two layers of wool which seemed about right. We started out on the Quick Lake trail to Frick Pond. The mud on the trail was partly frozen but there was a lot of it! We were at Frick in no time and I almost decided not to take pictures. However, there were some interesting colors and lighting in play and the brush was still covered in a heavy frost. After taking a few photographs, we continued on the Quick Lake Trail toward Iron Wheel Junction.
At Iron Wheel we turned left to stay on the red Quick Lake Trail and were soon passing by the snowmobile trail that leads to Quick Lake. I had no real plan but now one formed. I had tried this trail several times in the spring and summer but the grass was always high and wet. This day the trail was broad and open and I decided to take it since I had never been on it. I though we might make it to Quick Lake and then retrace our steps to the car. The trail was beautiful but ascended quite quickly and for a long time. Soon I was warm enough to take off the jacket. The trail turned several times as it rose to the ridge. Some views came and went. They were nice but did not make good pictures. I did stop to photograph some rock ledges before continuing on. The trail leveled and then dropped and rose several times. I began looking for the junction with the Quick Lake Trail. Several times unmarked trails led off to the left or right but we continued on the main snowmobile trail soon we were at the trail junction. I looked at the map, read the trail description and distances, consulted the GPS and decided Quick Lake would have to wait for another day. We would turn right and follow the Quick Lake trail to Junkyard Junction and the pick up the Flynn Trail and follow it back to the parking area.
From Coyote Junction the Quick Lake Trail started to ascend and then lost some elevation only to go back up again. Along the way some nice views of the surrounding mountains were visible. It did not seem long before we arrived at the junction with the Flynn Trail. Although the sign said .9 miles to Hodge Pond, we were there within 10 minutes. I decided to go around the pond clockwise to add a little distance to the hike and to avoid the beaver dam at the outlet end of the pond. We turned left and started around the pond on the old road. In a short distance I noticed an open area down by the pond which was easy to see without the leaves on the trees. We walked down and I stood on the edge of the pond and took pictures. We got a drink and then headed back to the road and continued on around the pond. I considered taking the high road but chose instead to go down to the outlet of the pond to pick up the Flynn Trail there. The beavers have dammed the outlet and enlarged the pond by a considerable amount. We stopped and I took quite a few pictures before shouldering the pack for the hike up to the junction with the Big Rock trail and then down to the parking area. We were back at the car at 12:15 PM which was GREAT considering the 8.5 mile distance we covered!
On Sunday, November 15th I decided to return to Bearfort Ridge to do the hike that I "skipped" on Wednesday by hiking from the Warwick Turnpike to Terrace Pond. Cindy decided to come along and we got started as soon as we could after church. By the time we left Livingston Manor the sun was out and the temperatures were rising. As we drove south and east on the Quickway, the skies began to cloud over and near Warwick it looked like it might rain. This did not make me happy since I was looking to hike AND take pictures. By 12:15 we were in the area and looking for the correct parking area. We found a place to park on the north side of the turnpike right across from the trailhead and were on the trail by 12:30 PM. We crossed the road and began a steady climb through some laurel along a wide, well-maintained path. There were several signs that showed the trails in the area and our destination. The signs announced we were on the Blue Trail in some estate. A look at the map showed that we were on private property for a short distance before entering the sate forest. As we hiked the dark blue paint blazes all but disappeared in places leaving us to wonder at the exact trail. In some places the path was obvious but in others it was not. In many of these places the trail climbed up and down large boulders and rocky spines. Normally this would have been fun but on this day everything was wet and slippery. The trail does not seem to be used very much so there are many lichens and mosses adding to the poor footing. We walked carefully making sure to get a good pole plant.
Soon we broke onto the top of a ridge and the views began to open up. It was still hazy both near and far but there were a few good opportunities for pictures and I hoped the haze would clear and the sun would show itself. I stopped to take some pictures and noticed a helicopter hovering over Greenwood Lake. I have seen many choppers in the sky but not one hovering in one place for so long. We later found out that this one, as we assumed, was on a search mission for a missing boater in the lake. We continued to walk along the trail in a generally northward direction and as we did the skies began to clear and the sun started to peek through the clouds. We stopped to take some pictures and then continued on. O knew from the map that we would have to make a sharp turn west at some point and gain the next ridge. I was concerned that we would miss the turn due to the poorly marked trail. There was no need for concern! As we approached a clearing ahead a LARGE arrow marked the turn onto what looked like a right-of-way without any power lines. The track was wide and clear and ascended to a higher spot where I knew I could get great pictures. We walked up the track watching for blue blazes and looking back to admire the view. At the top of this rise two things became clear. The pictures would be good and there was a VERY steep hill to ascend!
After taking some pictures we started to walk again. There was a slight descent and then the steep climb to what I though was the top of the ridge. Faint paint blazes on the rocks showed we were still going in the right direction. At the top of this rise two things became clear. The pictures would be even better and there was a ANOTHER very steep hill to ascend! Again we walked down first and through a few wet and muddy areas before starting and even bigger ascent. Paint blazes were few but told me we were on the right track. When I got to the top, there was a flat area and another part of the ridge ahead of us through what looked like an old stone quarry. We stopped at this point as the sun was out, much of the haze was gone and the view was the BEST I had seen anywhere along the Bellvale and Bearfort Ridges! It seemed as if you could see forever with some haze obscuring the farthest vies. There was some contrasting color in the valleys and the sky had some clouds. As I walked over to one viewpoint I noticed an outline in the southeast and realized it was New York City. It was far away and hazy but still very distinctive. I also took some interesting pictures of the trail and sky to the west before we continued our walk.
As I approached the rock quarry I heard a noise to my left. It was the only hiker we would meet on the whole hike coming back on the trail to Terrace Pond. We chatted for a minute and then we made the turn toward the pond. It was starting to get late in the day but we continued on. The trail was poorly marked but much of it continued to proceed over slippery rock crests on its way to this glaciated pond. In a little while we were at the white loop trail around the pond. I decided to go right since the map appeared to show viewpoint near the lake in that direction. In fact, there were several viewpoints on high rock ledges that overlook the pond. I took pictures and noticed several ducks swimming toward each other to meet. I wanted to get back on the white trail and circle the pond but it was 2:30 PM and it had taken us two hours to get to the pond. Cindy thought we should turn back to make sure we got back to the car in the light. I pointed out that it would take us less time to get back but she prevailed and we started back. Since we knew the trail and did not stop for pictures we were back by 3:45 PM having covered the 4.5 miles in 3 hours and 15 minutes.
On Wednesday, November 11th I had the day off from work for Veteran's Day. I was going to hike the Blacks from Barnum Road but already had done them in November. I was going to Wittenberg and Cornell since I DID need them for November but had done Wittenberg only a few weeks before! After reading some books, I decided to hike Bearfort Ridge from the Warwick Turnpike to Surprise Lake and back. The book said 6 miles and 5 hours. I don't know hat made me think that the time was even close to being correct but I did. Sheba and I left Livingston Manor around 8:00 AM with temperatures in the high 30's. I had on long-sleeved wool with my new Arc'teryx Accomplice Jacket on top. I packed a lighter long-sleeved shirt since I knew I was overdressed and New Jersey would be warmer. The drive was uneventful except for some minor road construction and we arrived at the parking area on the Warwick Turnpike just before 9:30 AM. We immediately got started on the white blazed Jeremy Glick Trail. The trail was slippery due to the fallen oak leaves and steep in places. It followed the turnpike and Green Brook for about .4 miles. At this point a blue trail came in from the left and the trails began to make a serious climb to the ridge. The climb was not long, perhaps another .3 miles, but was steep in some parts. Several times I stepped off the trail to some viewpoints but none were outstanding and I expected better from the ridge. Near the top of the climb there was a viewpoint toward Upper Greenwood Lake but I was waiting for a better lookout. I was going to be disappointed since none ever came! If you want to take a picture, take it hear!
Once on the ridge the hike was much like any other in the area. The walk was along outcroppings of purple puddingstone and was up and down in many places. At one point we cam across an interesting bog. In this area a large piece of the conglomerate had pulled away from the bedrock. It was the most interesting site so far so we stopped so I could take some pictures. As we continued to walk the trail dipped down off the western ridge and then ascended a steep rock scramble to a "middle" ridge. There were few viewpoints along the way as we walked a total of about 1.75 miles. Near the end of this part of the hike some viewpoints opened up to the south and east and to the north Surprise Lake was visible. The weather was completely overcast despite the partly sunny forecast. I had long ago packed the jacket I was wearing and at one point almost switched to a lighter shirt. I was glad I didn't as the breeze picked up on the exposed ridge. At this point the white Bearfort Ridge Trail ended and we turned right on the yellow Ernest Walter Tail down to Surprise Lake. Cindy and I had walked UP this trail when we visited the area
At the bottom of the descent there were some wet areas and a small stream but they were easily navigated. Soon we were on the shores of Surprise Lake where we stopped so that I could take a few pictures. From here we headed back on the orange Quail Trail. The trail markers are few and far between but the trail runs along an old road in most places and so is fairly easy to follow. Since it runs between the ridges and is lower, the trail was wet and muddy in many spots. There were no viewpoints and nothing especially interesting on this trail. It was also obvious that we would beat the 5 hour time by quite a bit. We walked along this trail for about 2.3 miles until it intersected the Jeremy Glick Trail where we had started. We were back before 3:30 PM having completed just under 6 miles in under 3 hours. I thought about trying the Treasure Lake hike since the trailhead is just up the road but another 5 miles was more than I wanted. I did notice that there are several mines in Waywayanda Park but those will have to wait for another day until I research them
On Sunday, November 8th Cindy and I were looking for a hike to do after church. We get tired of Trout and Frick every Sunday so we decided to go to the Minnewaska area to hike something. I wanted to park at the Trapps and do Gertrude's Nose along Millbrook Mountain but realized it might be a little crowded. I decided we would see how many cars were parked at Minnewaska and then decide. The weather was a complete contrast to the day before. I walked out to the car in a long sleeved wool base layer with a Patagonia R1 Flash on top. I walked back into the house removed the long sleeves and donned a short sleeved set of UnderArmor Warm Gear and an OR Sequence Zip-T. I put a light jacket in the pack just in case. As we approached Minnewaska at around 12;30 PM, we found the lower lot almost full and decided to try to park in the upper lot. We paid at the booth and drove up the hill. On top I found ONE spot in the lower lot. We parked, put Sheba on a leash and got started. Since it was getting late, we planned to hike around the lake to the opposite end. pick up the Millbrook Mountain Trail to Millbrook Mountain and then take the Millbrook Mountain Carriageway back. We thought we might be able to include Gertrude's Nose but would make that decision later.
There were a lot of people on the carriageways near the lake but as we got further toward the end of the lake the traffic thinned out. At the extreme outlet end of the lake we stopped to take pictures. The water was a deep blue and perfectly still. I was quite comfortable in my short sleeves and, in fact, was sweating since we had kept up a quick pace on the carriageway. We turned right onto the red Millbrook Mountain Trail. The last time we were on this trail was several years before when we were climbing up in the opposite direction. Only a short way down the path we paused to take some pictures of the Smiley Tower at Mohonk. The trail was narrow in some places and covered with wet leaves. This made for some interesting descents! Ahead of us a young couple was also descending the same trail. I was glad we had our poles since they offered some support and stability in those "rough" places! We arrived at the Coxing Kill and crossed easily to begin our ascent back up to Millbrook Mountain. The trail in many places resembled a small stream with running water which made the ascent more "interesting". On the way up we met a few groups descending and a few had dogs. For the most part the owners restrained their pets and the dogs were well-behaved. We passed the Coxing Kill Trail on the left and were soon climbing up the tilted and smooth rock faces to the top of Millbrook Mountain.
The views from Millbrook Mountain are expansive and look out over the entire valley and south to some mountains. Today there was a lot of haze in the valley and the distant views were all but obscured. The tower was gain visible and a few shots of the landscape were interesting. The warmth and brightness of the sun and the lack of any breeze were a contrast to the day before when the temperatures on Bearpen and Vly hardly got above freezing and then wind chill made that temperature seem a good 10 degrees lower! After taking some picture we decided to walk along the ridge on the red Gertrude's Nose Trail. We stayed close to the edge as the trail wanders up and down over the rocks and through the scrub pines that seemingly grow on the rocks. The red markers were hard to spot at times but we were able to pick them out. We arrived at the descent to the power lines and started the steep climb down. Near the bottom a tunnel pierces the rock and heads underground. Usually there is a cold blast of air coming from the opening but on this day I did not notice it as much.
We passed under the power lines and ascended almost to the top on the other side. We stopped to look at the map and decided that the time was too late to continue heading away from the parking area. I was disappointed that the late start had prevented us from getting to Gertrude's Nose but I wasn't sure how long the walk back would take. We retraced our steps back down to the power lines and back up the other side. The climb in this direction is even steeper. After reaching the top, it seemed like we were back at the junction with the yellow Millbrook Mountain Carriageway. We turned left onto this broad path and headed back to the car. For some time the carriageway actually heads out AWAY from the parking area. We made VERY good time along this path an soon were at the junction with Gertrude's Nose Trail. There was a large group or people at the junction and we passed by them quickly. A little further on we stopped to take pictures and this group caught up to us and passed us. As we got back on the carriageway, we passed them one last time and continued our rapid pace back toward the parking area. As we walked we caught up with several other groups of walkers and some solo hikers. A few people passed us going out in the opposite direction! We continued passed the beach and up to the high overlook at the end of the lake. The light had shifted at this time and the rock cliffs near the lake were illuminated with an orange glow. After taking some pictures, we decided to go back to the car. We were back at the car by 3:45 PM having covered 6.2 miles in 3 hours and 15 minutes.
On Saturday, November 7th I decided to meet Snickers and hike Bearpen and Vly. She was going to meet some others hikers in Phoenicia at 8:30 AM and be at the trailhead at 9:00 AM so I decided to meet them at the trailhead on County Route 3. I needed these two peaks for November and thought the view from Bearpen might be nice. When I got up at 6:00 AM it was 21 degrees in Livingston Manor. I decided to dress warmly and carry some lighter clothes so that I could adjust my layers as needed. I left the house at about 7:15 AM and arrived at the trailhead at about 8:30 AM. I don't like to be late but this was ridiculous. I drove up to the snowplow turnaround to turn around at met some hikers ready to get on the trail. I asked them if they were meeting Cindy (Snickers) but they said they didn't know her although they did have a friend named Cindy. I drove back down the road and parked and waited for the others to arrive. At about 9:10 AM I promised myself that I would wait 5 more minutes and then start my hike. At 9:15 Cindy and two other hikers, Jim and Paul, arrived. We said hello and then got started. It was to be Jim's 34th and 35th peak leaving just the four winter hikes to complete the club requirement.
As we walked up the road to the Col between the two mountains, Jim announced he had forgotten his camera. He went back to the car and we slowed our paced so that he could catch us more easily. As we neared the col, Jim returned and we were at the shack that stands at the boundary between the two mountains. The shack was occupied so I put Sheba on a leash as we turned left and passed the car outside the hunting camp. As we started down the road that ascends Bearpen, a hunter with a bow approached us. He was dressed in camo and said he had been out looking for deer or bear. We spoke for a minute and he said he was glad to have us around. We continued along the roads choosing those that ascended and turned left UP the hill. At some point we stopped and removed a layer of clothing which left me with no jacket but two layers of Icebreaker wool. Soon the road flattened as I started to look for the herd path that cuts off to the right and ascends toward the summit. Once on the path Sheba and I were in the lead and we were able to follow the footprints of the other hikers that headed in the same direction. The path hit a flatter area and then again led to a road that continued in the right direction. Eventually we turned right on another road which I knew went to the summit.
As we walked on this road we had to skirt some rather large areas of standing water with thick ice on top. Up ahead we could see three hikers walking toward us. I recognized the three men I had spoken to at the snowplow turnaround. When they spotted Cindy, they offered a big "Hello!" and a hug! This was their friend Cindy they had talked about tat he beginning of the hike! They had forgotten that her trail name was Snickers. Jim, Sheba and I continued on along the road an passed the first viewpoint. We stopped at the ski run lookout and Jim and I both took pictures. As I stood there, I heard a noise to my left in the woods and looked up to see a large doe staring at me. As soon as I pointed here out to Jim, she bounded away. Paul and Cindy arrived and Jim joined them as they walked over to the highest point. The wind was really blowing hard and I was getting cold. I also noticed that Sheba was shivering and whining. I didn't know whether she was cold or just wanted to get started again. I put on a light jacket that I had and suggested we continue on and get out of the wind,
We walked back to the first viewpoint where we took a few pictures and then Sheba and I started back just to keep us both warm. Once we were underway, we both warmed up. The other three joined us as we made the left turn off the road onto the herd path. The trip down went quickly as we slipped and slid on the no slippery leaves and melting snow. We arrived back at the cabin and walked out to the road to begin our hike up Vly. Waiting for us at the beginning of the Vly herd path were the other three hikers! We decided to continue as a group and I took the lead. Sheba and I needed to move to stay warm. We set a rather fast pace through the flat part of the trail and up the first ascent. Sheba led by following the path and the footprints of a previous hiker. We gained and lost these footprints several times along the way. Cindy stopped to don her MicroSpikes while Sheba and I continued on with Jim and two of the others. Since we were now in two groups, I decided to set the pace I would normally take. We crossed the flat area where the trail wanders through the trees and I kept looking for the old yellow and blue blazes that Informally mark the trail.
In a short time we were on our final ascent up Vly. The ascent is not the steepest but today the snow and layer of soft leaves underneath made it feel like you were hiking in snow. I had thought about putting my Stabilicers in the car but got distracted and forgot to do so. We continued to follow Sheba up the short ascent and soon the trail began to level. Sheba followed the path directly to the canister where we signed in. Sheba and I walked over to a small viewpoint. Although the view was largely blocked by some trees, I stood on a rock to take a few pictures and then snapped a couple of Sheba on the rock. As we walked back to the canister, I could hear Cindy and the other group arriving. They broke out some beer for Jim and Sheba and I shared a peanut butter sandwich. After a few minutes, I decided to get going and said goodbye to the others. I followed Sheba down the path at a very quick pace. It was less than an hour down to the col and another 20 minutes back to the car on the old road. As we walked down the road, a pickup truck came toward us. The forest ranger stopped the truck for a minute to talk and then we went in opposite directions. We were back at the car by 1:30 PM having hiked a little over 4 hours for the 6 plus mile trip.
On Tuesday, November 3rd Cindy and I decided to go to Norvin Green State Forest in northern New Jersey. The last time I was there was so much haze and the weather was so gloomy that my pictures were poor. The hiking there has a number of "attractions" including two mines, several high views points and a couple of water falls. It was a long drive and we arrived at about 11:00 AM and got right out on the trail. As we left the parking area, I noticed that one sign said "NO pets allowed". This annoyed me since I ALWAYS take Sheba wherever I hike. Last time I was in the area no one said anything about having her along so I decided that Sheba is a trail guide dog and we started our hike. My plan was to follow the same route as last time passed the falls, the Roomy and Blue Mines, over the Wyanokie High Point and then to Carris Hill. By that time I thought it might be late so we could return the way we came or descend to the Lower Trail. I hoped to get to Chickahokie Falls but knew that was a long shot. The first part of the hike winds its way through the recreational area of the park and around a rather unique pool. The pool is formed from a natural pool in the stream and has been fenced and "improved" for swimming. The pool had been drained. We followed the green Otter Hole trail along the stream and across a bridge until we reached the trail junction Here we took the yellow trail and started toward the Roomy Mine.
The yellow Mine Trail climbs a small hill and then winds through some nice open woods. In a short distance we took a new orange cutover trail to get to the Roomy Mine. The previous access from Snake Den Road has been closed by the owner of this private property. The orange trail follows an old mine road as it ascends slightly to the entrance of the Roomy Mine. The signs outside the mine caution that the mine is closed and should not be entered due to a resident bat population. Disturbing the bats while they are hibernating can seriously affected their fat stores which may make it impossible for them to complete their hibernation. Also, there is a concern about the white nose fungus which can be transmitted from mine to mine and cave to cave. We stood outside and took pictures. I ventured up the slippery rocks to look down into the air shaft near the entrance. Back on the trail the orange trail soon rejoins the yellow and red dot trails. It is a short walk to the Blue Mine. This mine is almost completely flooded and it is hard to get an idea from the adit how big it was. One look at the extensive tailings piles near the mine gives and indication that TONS of material were removed. We took some photos and then crossed the bridge taking the red dot WCI, blue Hewitt Butler and Highlands trails as they started a short but steep climb to the Wyanokie High Point. Just over the bridge is the stone foundation remains of some building from long ago.
The trails to the high point switchback several times and the elevation gain is not that great. The high point seems so high since it has a much greater elevation that the surrounding terrain. The trail levels near the top and a preview of the views that can be seen from the summit reveals itself. The Wanaque Reservoir dominates the view to the east while small villages dot the valleys and hillsides in the other directions. We continued the final climb to the very top over bare rock with only a few scrub pines. Another hiker was at the top relaxing in the sunlight although the temperature was only in the low 50's. The view from here is 360 degrees and a short walk around the top allows photographing the landscape without any intervening vegetation. I took a LOT of pictures before we decided to push on following the Hewitt Butler and Highlands trails as they head toward Yoo Hoo Point. The trails descend rather steeply off Wyanokie High Point, wander through some woods and then ascend again to Yoo Hoo Point. Along the way the red WCI trail leaves to the right. Yoo Hoo Point is named for its close proximity to the Wyanokie High Point. The two are close enough that you could have and yell to another person on the other viewpoint and be heard and seen! We stopped briefly to take pictures and to grab a bite to eat. After this brief rest, we continued on to the trail junction with the yellow Carris Hill trail.
The Carris Hill trail actually starts almost at the top of Carris Hill so we had to descend from Yoo Hoo Point, walk in the woods and then ascend to Carris Hill. The last part of this is another steep but short climb over bare rock. The problem with some of these climbs is the leaves which cover the rocks in the fall. When a little moisture is added to fallen leaves on smooth rock, the result is an incredibly slippery pathway. At the top of Carris hill we started to follow the yellow Carris Hill trail which works its way along a ridge to some nice lookouts directly to the south and to the east. As we walked another hiker came toward us and told a story of two black bears in a tree not far along the trail. I though this was COOL! Cindy not so much. We put Sheba on her leash and started to cautiously proceed along the trail watching for the ursine presence in the trees. We never did find the bears but the views from the southern tip of the Carris Hill Ridge were very nice! We descended Carris Hill toward Posts Brook and were soon a the trail junction.
At this point it was getting late in the day and Cindy was tired. We decided to forgo any more hiking and take the white Lower Trail back to the north. I had never been on this trail and it did undulate slightly. It was a MUCH easier trail than any other choice and we were soon back on the red WCI Trail. Here we made a right and retraced our path passed the Blue and Roomy Mines. From here there was still the stream crossing above the falls and a little climb to get back over the hill above the Highlands Pool. Soon we were passing the pool and headed back to the parking area. It was 3:30 PM and our hike 4.5 hours for a little over 7 miles.
On Sunday, November 1st Cindy and I decided to go to Sam's Point and hike some route. Daylight savings time was over so we only had until about 5:00 PM to hike. We arrived in the parking area at about 1:00 PM and decided to park outside the gate in case we did not make it back by 5:00 PM. I went to pay my annual membership fee at the Center. It was closed AGAIN! This is the third time I have tried to pay and found no one manning the office. With at least 40 cars in the lot, I would think they would be losing money! We immediately started up to Sam's Point with Sheba on a leash due to the number of people around. Just below Sam's Point we met a group with an Irish setter and a mastiff both on leashes. We stopped at the lookout below Sam's Point and took some pictures. There was still some haze hanging over the valleys and on the hilltops. Most of the fall colors had faded but a few bright spots remained. We skipped Sam's Point itself to avoid the crowds and continued toward the road down to the Ice caves. After making the right onto the road we turned left onto the trail that leads to Verkeerder Kill Falls.
Our plan was to hike down to the falls and see if the recent rains had made them a rushing torrent. During the last few visits the falls were all but dry. After visiting the falls we would decide whether to continue around or headed back the way we came. As we continued on the trail some interesting views presented themselves. At one point Lake Awosting was clearly visible with Castle Point, Hamilton Point and Gertrude's Nose to the right. We stopped to take some pictures and then continued on the trail. The recent rains had turned parts of the trail into small pools. Other places looked more like small stream than paths. We worked our way around the worst areas while Sheba waded through them. We didn't met a few groups returning from the falls. It always amazes us what some people where to hike in November. We saw string tops and sneakers in more than one case! The rocky trail was difficult to negotiate and it seemed like a long time before we heard the roaring water of the falls. Cindy continued on ahead while I ducked down to the ledges that overlook the falls. I stopped and took many pictures as the falls had a much higher volume than usual.
After taking pictures, I rejoined Cindy near the stream. Sheba was no where to be found! I thought she was with Cindy and Cindy thought she was with me! We called her twice and she came running down the stream but refused to tell us what she had been doing. We walked over to the Verkeerder Kill just above the falls and the water was high. I made my way across and Sheba followed. Cindy decided she would stay put. I walked over to the viewpoints above the falls and took more pictures. The angles from this side are better than from the other. After completing my photography, Sheba and I headed back across the stream to rejoin Cindy. It was getting late and the walk around the escarpment would be a little too long for us to finish even if everything went well and we kept a quick pace. We decided to walk back up the trail and then use the loop road to circle Lake Maratanza and then go back to the car
We stopped at the shore of the lake to take some pictures and then continued on around on the road meeting several groups as we went. We made the turn near the towers and continued on the road. At one point we looked up to see something in the road ahead. Sheba saw it too but stayed by our side. We put her on a leash as I went to investigate. It turned out to be a small porcupine foraging for acorns. It seemed totally unafraid and unconcerned that I was approaching as it continued to waddle along. I took pictures and at one point we were perhaps 8 feet apart. I went back to Cindy and Sheba and we waited until the porky was on one side of the road and then went by giving it a wide berth. Soon we were back at the parking area where the cars had thinned out considerably. It was about 4:30 PM so our hike of a little over 6 miles had lasted 3.5 hours.
On Saturday, October 31st Cindy and I decided to go somewhere before the predicted rain hit. We took Sheba and headed for Frick and Hodge Ponds. We parked at the Frick Pond lot and hiked up the Flynn Trail to the junction with the Big Rock Trail. We debated our options here and decided to head down the Big Rock Trail to Times Square. Down went quickly and we were soon at the trail junction. We decided at this point to go straight ahead and around Frick Pond. Out total time out was about 2 hours but it was much better than staying at home!
On Sunday, October 25th I decided to head south after church to see if I could find some final fall colors. Cindy suggested Harriman but I though I might head for Norvin Green State Forest in northern New Jersey. As I drove down the Quickway passed Middletown, I decided that Jersey was too far and Bear Mountain might be nice. As I drove toward the traffic circle between Route 6 and the Palisades Parkway I noticed a lot of cars parked along the road. Once in Bear Mountain there were even more cars. Just after Perkins Drive traffic came to a halt. As we inched forward, I could see that the parking lots at Bear Mountain were all full. I decided to head elsewhere and did a k-turn. Back at the traffic circle I headed down Seven Lakes Drive. The parking area at Silver Mine Lake was full! The parking lot at Lake Askoti was packed and cars lined the road! Lake Tiorati was packed as was Lake Welch! I headed toward the Reeves Education Center only to find more cars there than anywhere else. At this point it was almost 1:00 PM and I decided to head back home and find a quiet place to take a quick hike. On my way through Tuxedo a sign for Mt. Peter caught my eye and I decided to head for the Bellvale Ridge off Route 17A. When I arrived at the At trailhead, there were only two other cars and I decided to repeat the hike out to Bellvale Mountain to see how the views appeared with some fall colors. It was about 1:40 PM when Sheba and I hit the trail.
I was happy just be out hiking and in the first part of the hike there wasn't much to see. We hiked through the power line right of way and then up to the open space at the top of the first part of the ridge. There isn't much see from this open space so we continued to where the trail comes up from Greenwood Lake. Here there is a sign for some of the businesses in the town. The sign also lists the distance on the AT to Georgia and to Maine. Just passed this point the trail rises some and then hits the open part of the ridge. We were soon out on the exposed, rocky ridge and the views were good if not spectacular. The fall colors had been brighter near Bear Mountain but they were acceptable from the ridge. As we walked along the ridge new and better views became apparent and the colors became better. Walking along the ridge is not easy as there are many places where it undulates with short, steep ups and downs. We crossed the small creek which was swollen by the recent rains but retained its color. The creek is the color of tea from the tannins in the bark of the hemlock trees along its banks. After a steep descent we climbed again and reached the next part of the ridge that leads to the highest point designated as Bellvale Mountain
This part of the ridge is no different than the others accept that it has more exposed rock and the views are more open. Along the way hikers have erected large stone cairns which are not really necessary but are interesting! After some strenuous ups and downs we arrived at the highest point and stopped to take some pictures. The sky had darkened some which did not improve the views of the lake below or the leaves. I took some shots which weren't bad and Sheba and I both got a drink and a snack. Slowly the sun began to reappear and light up parts of the scenery and I decided to take some more pictures in this interesting lighting. It was about 3:30 and I wanted to get back so we turned around and started the hike to the car. I expected the return trip to go quicker than the hike out since I didn't intend to stop very much. The problem is that the ups and downs and difficult climbs over the rocks are about the same. I did stop on the way back several times but only for a few minutes. Near the end I took some pictures of some bushes with bright pink to red leaves. We were back at the car at about 5:15 PM which was faster than the last time we had taken this 7+ mile journey!
On Sunday, October 18th Cindy and I decided to go to Utsayantha after returning to the car from our hike on Huntersfield. We drove back to Prattsville and Grand Gorge and then the 8 miles to Stamford. the drive went quickly. We turned up Mountain Road and then made the left onto Tower Road and parked just up from the entrance. I would rather walk some and take in the view than drive to the top. As I walked with Cindy I realized that this hike, although short, is a constant ascent on the way up with little chance to rest. We continued up the road as it switched back once or twice passing one other hiker along the way. About two-thirds of the way up we turned to the right and walked to the open field that looks to the west toward Churchill Mountain. The sun was starting to dip low in the sky and the lighting was just right to produce some nice scenes which we both photographed. Then it was back on the road to the top.
As we continued the hike, another viewpoint opened up on the right and the remnants of a hang gliding platform could be seen. We took some shots from here but both of us noticed that the temperature was dropping with the sun. We quickly walked to the top and over to the front of the Churchill building. The view here is to the north and west and immediately below is the village of Stamford. After taking a few pictures, we headed over to the fire tower and I went up first. It was cold on the tower and the wind had picked up. Some ice remained on a few of the steps. I climbed to the landing just below the cab and photographed the countryside. The problem on this tower is the numerous transmission towers and antennas next to the fire tower. There are also quiet a few power lines. There is a proposal to place several large wind turbines on the Moresville ridge to generate electrical power. I have mixed feelings about such a project! I came down the tower and Cindy climbed up to take some shots. When she came down, we started our walk back to the car. This went much more quickly as the path is open road. Soon we were in the car and on our way back home.
On Sunday, October 18th Cindy and I decided to go north after church. I had wanted to go to Huntersfield the week before so we headed in that direction arriving at the parking area at about 12:45 PM. The hike follows the Long Path as it passes over Huntersfield and on to Ashland Pinnacle and Richmond Mountain. I planned to hike Huntersfield and something else. As we started on Huntersfield I was not sure what the "something else" might be. The first part of the trail is relatively flat and runs next to a small brook. This part of the hike was only damp with little significant water. The trail leads to a wide woods road that passes through a red pine plantation. In this area there were several wet areas but we passed around them easily. Eventually the road rises and then continues over a rise as the Long Path turns into the woods and starts up. The initial climb isn't too bad and soon we were at a nice lookout on the right of the trail that looks out over the valley. We took a few pictures and then head back to the main path. Several areas on the trail were grown in and it did not look like it had seen much use in recent weeks.
The hike is to the top is actually a little longer than I recalled with several areas where I though we were closer to the top than we actually were. We were soon on the last climb and the trail flattened on the broad and flat top of the mountain. We passed the yellow trail on the right and stayed on the Long path. I pointed out the USGS marker to Cindy and then walked on. In a short distance we turned right on the yellow trail and headed toward the lean-to. A nice viewpoint opens up on the right and overlooks Ashland Pinnacle. The bench here has been destroyed by lack of maintenance and thoughtless hikers! The view was nice but a little hazy and the autumn colors were muted. We continued on to the lean-to and got another view with about the same results. On the way back we turned right onto the Long Path intending to hike to Ashland Pinnacle. Within a short distance it became clear that this would be a bushwhack despite the fact that it follows the Long Path. The trail was grown over and not easily passable. We hiked back up to the top of Huntersfield and headed back to the car. The hike down was quicker than the hike up and we didn't stop until we were at the car. At this point I suggested going to Utsayantha since Cindy had not been there. It is an easy hike up the dirt access road and has several nice viewpoints with the payoff being the fire tower at the top!
On Monday, October 12th Karl had returned to Virginia and Cindy was working. I wanted to do a long but colorful hike so I chose The eastern end of the Devil's Path. The plan was to park at Prediger Road and hike Indian Head from the east and then go over Twin. I thought this would be sufficient but left the possibility of doing Sugarloaf open. When I arrived on Prediger Road at about 10:00 AM, I drove to the new parking area along the narrow but well-constructed access road. The new parking area isn't as large as I thought it would be and quiet a few vehicles were already parked including a small bus with a group of enthusiastic European hikers. By the time Sheba and I were ready to go the hikers from the bus had a good lead. Sheba and I headed up the trail and turned left where the trail heads up to Jimmy Dolan Notch. The left fork is actually the beginning of the Devil's Path and rises and dips slightly as it heads toward the trail from Platte Clove to Overlook. This trail was VERY wet in spots with lots of mud and standing water. After a little more than a mile we were at the quarries and we turned left. I intended to carefully explore the quarries and take some pictures but another group arrived right before us. We said hello and then Sheba and I turned around and head toward Overlook. In a short distance we were at the trail junction where the Devil's Path turns up Indian Head. We turned right here and began the ascent of the first mountain.
This route up Indian Head starts with a series of short Ascents followed by some flatter areas. The further along the trail, the steeper it becomes with fewer flat areas. Soon we were into the steepest parts where the going is slower. At one point there is a tangle of roots and rocks that gives hands and arms a real advantage over four paws. I gave Sheba a little help and we were up and through in no time. We stopped at the lookout over Platte Clove. It was still a little hazy especially over the Hudson but I took pictures anyway. The Catskill Community was visible to the north and I took several shots before we moved on up the trail. We got through the steep areas above and soon were walking the flatter part of the trail on top. We met a couple of hikers coming from the other direction. They had split away from a group that did not want to summit Indian Head after climbing Twin. They wanted to tag the summit and get back to their group so they were moving VERY fast, too fast to be safe on the way down! Sheba and I walked over the summit and began a more controlled decent into Jimmy Dolan Notch. Here we said "Hello" to a group of hikers resting after climbing Twin and then headed up to that peak ourselves.
I have always like the climb up Twin. It is only about .3 miles to the eastern (lower) summit with around 500 feet of elevation gain but it has some interesting little scrambles to negotiate. There is a small lookout on the way up that looks back at Indian Head and we stopped so that I could take a few pictures. The best part of the climb is the reward of the unbelievable views from the top. We stopped on the open rock slabs and I took many pictures despite the haze that would not go away! The fall leaf colors were excellent on this day. The most dramatic view was how the colors ascended Sugarloaf and then abruptly STOPPED forming a definite demarcation line between the hardwoods and the beginning of the evergreen forest at around 3500 feet. I debated whether or not to hit the western (higher) peak but in the end decided that the extra half mile or so was worth it. Sheba and I hurried down into the little col between the two summits and did not slow our pace much on the ascent to the western peak. The views from here were good and the haze seemed to have cleared somewhat. We turned around and were soon back tat he eastern peak. Here we met another hiker and I talked to him about doing a loop over the western peak and maybe including Sugarloaf. Soon we were down Twin and in the notch to begin our descent down one of my least favorite trails. We met several hikers on the way up and I suggested the climb up Twin for the view when asked. We were back at the parking are just before 3:00 PM having taken just under 5 hours for the 7.5 mile journey.
On Sunday, October 11th Karl, Cindy and I decided to look for some more fall colors in the Catskills. We decided to take in the view from the Wittenberg. We headed for the Woodland Valley Campgrounds to access the trailhead from that end. We arrived at about 10:30 AM to find the parking area almost full! This was not surprising given the long Columbus Day weekend, the beautiful weather and the desire of many to take in the fall foliage. I paid the parking fee and we were soon on our way across the creek and up the mountain. Karl was supposed to be back in the early afternoon but things didn't work out quite that way! The hike from the parking area to the register is longer than on many trails and steeper also! The old footbridge had been replaced by a new and improved, heavy-duty version. It is nice to see that the DEC is spending some money to "flood proof" these bridges. We hiked up to the register and signed in. Immediately after this we passed one older woman who was resting after hiking to the register. As we hiked up through the rocky portion of the lower trail we passed a younger couple. The dogs were having a good time and we were moving along at a nice pace. in most places the trail was dry and in others it was damp.
Soon we reached the area where the trail descends a little and meets the trail out to Terrace Mountain. I have heard that this is and interesting hike and I promised myself that I will try it sometime. We turned at the trail junction to started the climb up the woods road to the Wittenberg summit. This is one of those hikes that always seems to be longer than I remember. We worked our way up through the rock scrambles and then began the long walk up the rocky "stream" that passes for a trail at most times of the year. The trail had some flowing water and some standing in many places. He met some Asian hikers coming down from the summit moving at a rapid pace! We continued on toward the summit as I continued to think that each rise and each turn in the trail was the top of the mountain.
Finally we arrived at the broad open area that is the summit of Wittenberg. The views were good on this day with some haze hanging in the valleys on the far hills. We stopped and I started to take pictures while the dogs got a drink and a snack. I took shots of the rest of the Burroughs Range and some across the reservoir. Most of the a pictures I took with the zoom were to hazy to make out much but the others were nice. I walked along the trail toward Cornell to see if I could get some better views and I found a few but not many. I would have hiked to Cornell but Cindy was tired and Karl REALLY needed to get back to Livingston Manor. We started back with the hike taking much longer than I had estimated. We got to the trail junction, turned left and tried to pick up the pace back to the parking area. After crossing the footbridge, we hurried to the car and left Woodland Valley by 2:30 PM.
On Saturday, October 10th I returned a little early from our cross country meet to find that my family had visited the new cider press and store at Sonoma Falls. I wanted to see the falls so Karl and I took the 5 minutes drive. I was VERY surprised at the beauty of the falls. The area near the falls had been very overgrown the last time I was there. The new owners had clear this area and are in the process of laying out some walking trails. Karl and I followed some well-defined paths up the left side of the trail. I took some pictures from the bank and dropped down into the stream bed several times to get pictures. The sun was directly in my line of sight so it was difficult to get some of the shots I wanted. It didn't take long to get to the "top" of the falls near and dam on a small lake or pond. This was posted as private property so we crossed to the other side and started to walk back.
The area on the other side of the stream had less defined paths and was very wet in spots. Near the top of the falls there weren't many areas to walk down to the stream bed or even to take pictures. Further down the stream I was able to get some pictures from the bank. Eventually it was clear that to return to the car we needed to cross the stream. We picked a spot that was narrow and rather shallow and had no problem crossing. After a few more pictures, we returned to the car. I would like to return when the water is higher as the series of cascades would be that much more dramatic!
On Sunday, October 4th Cindy and I were looking for some bright fall colors. The leaves around town had some color but it was not bright and they were starting to fall. We decided to head toward Delaware County and perhaps hike Huntersfield Mountain or Utsayantha. Our neighbor said that the leaves around the Pepacton Reservoir had some nice color so we thought we would check them out on the way north. We didn't get started until about 11:30 so we were at the reservoir just after noon. The colors were nice and I decided to change plans. Cindy had never been from Hill Road up to the Dry Brook Ridge lookouts and I had promised myself I would return there when the leaves had some color. This was the perfect opportunity. There was only one other car in the small parking area when we arrived at 12:30 PM.
As we hiked up through the pine plantation, the weather seemed warmer than I had expected. Cindy liked the pines and the wide, soft trail. The hike is uphill all the way to the ridge but is never very steep and the trail is well-maintained. We walked and talked until my GPS showed we were within .25 miles of the ridge. At this point we met four people sitting by the side of the trail. We talked to them for some time and suggested they hike to the lookout. They were unaware that the viewpoint existed. We hiked on and made the ridge quickly. After turning right toward the "penguin Rock" lookouts, the trail alternates between almost flat areas and a few short, steep climbs. I guess the last few times I have been on this trail I must have been talking since the hike to the lookouts seemed long. Finally the short side trail appeared and I waited for Cindy to go out to the rocks that make up the viewpoint. I was hoping the view would be a good one. I was NOT disappointed! Although there was a little haze in the valleys and on the far peaks, the view was the best I have seen and the colors were amazing!
We walked out onto the rocks as the sky was starting to get dark and it almost looked like a rain shower was coming our way. The play of the light on the trees was fantastic and kept changing. At first the clouds were dark and cast shadows over the landscape. Next, the sun would come out and change the view completely. Cindy was impressed. I was impressed. We just started taking a lot of pictures and then took them again as the light changed. I took a few panorama shot and some of the berries on the bushes near the lookout. Finally we were ready to start back. We never did see the other four people. The hike back to the trail junction seemed very fast and the hike down to the car also went quickly.
On the way back along the reservoir Cindy suggested that we stop somewhere to get some more pictures. I was tired and wanted to get home but we stopped at the bridge and parked. We walked out onto the bridge to take some shots and I was glad that we did. The trees were even nicer close up and the light was just right. After some additional shots we got in the car and headed back home. Our 6 miles hike took about 3.5 hours but included a protracted amount of time for picture taking!
On Monday, September 28th I had a day off from school for Yom Kippur. I decided I might catch some glimpses of fall color from Giant Ledge or Panther and headed in that direction. Sheba and I arrived at the parking area at 9:15 AM and found no other cars parked. We got right on the trail and started our normal ,brisk pace. Due to the rains over the weekend there was some water flowing in the brook under the bridge but the trail were relatively dry with only a few soggy areas. We made our way to the turn up to Giant Ledge and began the gentle but steady climb. The lower lookout toward Slide Mountain showed that there was still a lot of fog and haze hanging on the mountains. We continued to the steeper ascent to the Ledges and were soon at the first lookout. I took a few pictures and then we walked along the Ledges to a few more viewpoints. Most showed about the same view dominated by fog hanging in the valley and a few spots of color. I hoped that the weather would clear on the way back.
We pushed on and started to drop into the col between the Ledges and Panther. I wondered why Sheba came back to me and then I heard voices coming toward us. The voices were from a group of four backpackers who had camped overnight in the rain on Giant ledge. They had been exploring for a way to bushwhack down to the Neversink but decided to take the trail back to Woodland valley. Sheba and I started up Panther stopping at a few viewpoints along the way. between the leaves and the fog the views were limited to say the least. It didn't seem long and we were passing the rock that now acts as a lookout into the valley below Panther and then we arrived at the summit. The fog had cleared some and there were some views from the summit. I took the camera and we went to the lookout rock. Compared to the color from Giant Ledge the color from Panther was as muted as in Livingston Manor! I took a few pictures and then we started the trip back to the car.
Going down Panther was tricky in the steeper areas since the rocks were slippery from the rain and covered with slippery leaves. About halfway down the last steep pitch we met a couple coming up. After saying "Hello", we continued on. At the first lookout we came to it was clear that the vies had improved and the fog had mostly lifted in the valleys. Some haze still swirled about the distant peals making for an interesting site. We stopped several times so that I could take pictures back to Panther and over to the Burroughs Range. We didn't stay too long before heading back down. After the turn to Woodland Valley, the rest of the hike was a breeze. We met one more couple that looked as if Giant Ledge would be enough for them. We were back at the car just after 1:00 PM. We covered almost 6 miles in a leisurely 3+ hours.
On Sunday, September 27th Cindy and I had planned to hike with friends from school. The morning was rainy and cool so we decided not to go. The afternoon wasn't much better but a window of clear sky convinced me it was worth a try. I called Robin and she agreed. Robin and Ed arrived at our house and Cindy decided to go along. We arrived at the upper parking area for Trout Pond after 3:00 PM and got right on the road down to the lower parking area and the falls. There were quiet a few cars still in the lot. Robin and Ed had never hiked in this area but I was sure they would enjoy it. They had just come back from walking around the Holy Land and are used to hiking at a good pace. The weather was lousy and was alternating between heavy mist and drizzle as we started up the trail to the pond. A large group was camped to the left of the trail under an array of tarps. As we walked up toward the Trout Pond the weather began to clear a little or at least it stopped raining. We stopped at the dam but there were no opportunities to take pictures. We continued on toward the lean-tos.
At the upper end of the lake we easily crossed over the inlet and began to work our way up the trail to Cherry Ridge. Despite the uphill we kept a good pace. Talking back and forth seemed to shorten the trip and we were soon in the grove of skinny saplings just above Mud Pond. We headed down the trail to the wide road that comes up from the falls and accesses Mud Pond. We turned left and began to descend the hill back toward the register box and Russell Brook Falls. We stopped at the falls and walked along the edge of the rocks to the area near the falls. There wasn't a lot of water going over but the falls were still pretty. Robin and Ed seemed impressed. Back on the trail and then the road we walked back up to the car as the rain started in again. We covered the 5.5 mile hike in under 2 hours and arrived back at the car around 5:00 PM.