What You Missed
On Saturday, June 17th, my wife and I decided to go on an afternoon hike. The weather was beautiful with temperatures in the low 80's after a brief morning shower. We parked at the trailhead on Mary Smith Hill Road and hiked toward Berry Brook Road over the Mary Smith Hill Trail.
On Thursday, June 15th I decided to take a short hike after school. I wanted to try a trail close to home that I had not been on before. I chose the Middle Mountain Trail from Mary Smith Road to Beech Hill Road.
On Monday, June 12th my daughter, Krista, and I decided to take a short hike after school. We chose the Campbell Mountain Trail off Rt 206.
On Monday, May 29th my wife and I decided to take a short hike. The day was hot and we couldn't start until after the Memorial Day Parade. Several friends had told us that the Red Hill fire tower was a short but interesting hike. The tower offers a good view on a clear day. We arrived at the trail head around 1:00 PM. The first part of the hike is easy with a few small ascents. The last part is steeper but still manageable. The day was hazy but the views from the tower were good. The vegetation is really beginning to fill out from the warm weather and recent rain. I tried a new pair of Asolo low hikers which are much lighter than the boots I normally where. We were back at the car by 2:30 PM.
On Sunday, May 28th my son Karl and I decided it was time to hike again. He lives in Virginia and I have been busy coaching track. It was almost a month since my last hike and we were itching to go! We decided to climb Plateau and Sugarloaf from the Elka Park trail head near Tannersville. We got there at about 11 AM and there were so many cars already parked in the PA that we had to park the car at the side of the road. The weather was beautiful with temperatures in the mid to high seventies. We immediately got on the trail to avoid a rather large group of hikers massing for an assault on Sugarloaf. I had been on the first part of this trail which starts out as the Roaring Kill trail and then turns into the Mink Hollow trail. After a little less than 3 miles we reached the Devil's Path and turned to the right and UP Plateau. This trail quickly gets rather "challenging" ascending about 1200 feet in less than one mile! Our legs were screaming as we reached the end of the ascent! On the way up we met several people coming down. They looked considerably happier than we felt. Near the top of the ascent is the only really lookout. The day was clear and offered a GREAT view of Sugarloaf, Twin, Indian Head and Kaaterskill (I think.) We continued on the trail climbing several short rises to actually get to the highest point on Plateau. Turning around we paused briefly at the lookout again. Going down the trail was easier than going up but was still difficult in places. We met several groups going up. I am sure we must have been happier than they looked! Upon reaching the crossroads where the trail up Sugarloaf meets the trail back to Elka Park and the car, we made a mutual decision to return to the car. We reminded each other that hiking is supposed to be fun and that the mountains would still be there the next time we decided to hike! BEWARE! The weather is getting warmer and your hydration requirements increase. We only had 2 liters between us which really wasn't adequate for this hike. If we had decided to do Sugarloaf we would have been in real trouble. The hike was about 6.25 miles but took the better part of 5 hours!
On Sunday, April 30th my wife and I hiked to the Ashokan High point from the Kanape Brook Parking Area on the Peekamoose Road. We crossed the road to get to the trail. The day was clear and the temperatures hovered around 60. The leaves on the trees were just beginning to come out. The first part of the hike is a rather gentle walk along one of those Catskill logging roads. Kanape Brook runs along side the trail and adds a soundtrack to the hike. For the first two miles the gain in elevation is only 700 feet but then things get a bit steeper. At 2.5 miles we made a left turn to ascend to the High Point. This is a loop route and we chose to ascend the steeper part and continued ahead. In the next mile the trail ascends 1000 feet! Fortunately some thoughtful person built rock steps up the steepest of these inclines. We passed a pair of hikers and the way up and they decided to follow us. We met another group coming down. At the summit there is a nice view of the valleys below but NO ASHOKAN! The day was hazy but the view was still great. We decided to continue around the loop. As we walked into a field a short distance from the summit a shiny glint caught our eye off to the right. When we walked to the edge of the field, a view of the Ashokan Reservoir could be seen through the trees. To the left of the reservoir was the imposing view of Wittenberg, Cornell and Slide. We relaxed in the field for a little while on some stone "chairs" near a fire circle. We continue on the loop trail with several descents. There were also several small ascents over hills that were between us and our goal: our car! After completing the loop trail we turned right back onto the main trail and back to the car. The last part was an easy downhill hike which was appreciated since we were tired. We hiked about 8 miles in 3.5 hours.
On Wednesday, April 19th my son Kurt and I got a late start and decided to take a "shorter" hike than we had planned. We drove to the main PA for Peekamoose and Table Mountains starting the hike at just after 2:00 PM. The first part of this trail is on an old logging road for about a mile. After that the trail turns onto a footpath which is in pretty good shape most of the way. There are several areas of rocks to walk over and many blowdowns to walk around. The trail was dry in most places except near the spring just below the Peekamoose summit. The view from Reconnoiter Rock was good as was the view from the stone ledge just above. However, the BEST views were undoubtedly from the rocky ledge near the "camping area" on the plateau just below the Peekamoose summit. The summit did have a small area of snow. The mile hike to Table was uneventful as was our return. The round trip hike of just less than nine miles took us just under 5 hours and there was plenty of daylight left!
On Monday, April 17th my son Kurt and I ascended Balsam Lake Mt from the Balsam Lake side. We parked a car at Alder Lake on the way up as our intent was to hike the Millbrook Ridge trail back from Balsam Lake. I have done the hike up Balsam Lake Mt MANY times but it was Kurt's first visit. At the turn up the mountain the trail does ascend rather steeply but for less than a mile. Near the top is a spur trail to a lean-to. In the same area is a spring with cold, fresh mountain water. We hiked to the tower and took in the view of all the other Catskill peaks except for Thomas Cole. This peak is blocked by Hunter Mountain. We retraced our steps for about .2 miles and turned right on the Millbrook Ridge Trail to Alder Lake. I had always wanted to try this hike and have been along this trail from the Alder Lake end several times but I had never completed the whole distance.
The Millbrook Ridge Trail descends from Balsam Lake with several switchbacks along the way. I just knew that there would be some ascending along the way since the Beecher Lake lookout (which I have visited), has a rather high elevation. I was right and soon we were climbing again. The climb was short but steep in places. In one spot the trail travels along the edge of a rather significant drop off. At one point Beecher Lake is visible but the best lookout waits another half mile along the trail. At this point the trail leads to an open spot on a rock ledge. The view of the lake and the Zen Monastery is beautiful and makes a nice place to stop and eat lunch. From here the trail descends a few hundred feet and then climbs one more time. The maximum elevation here is measured at 3480 feet which is just a few feet shy of a 36th Catskill 35. From this point the trail descends steeply. We passed several beaver meadows at the lower elevations. These were former beaver ponds which are now undergoing and ecological succession to grassy fields. They are home to many forms of wildlife both fauna and flora. With 1.5 miles from the Beaver Meadow lean-to, we were on the Alder Lake loop trail. We decided to turn right and continue around the lake that way. After passing several campsites we arrived at the eastern end of the lake. We spent a few moments looking at the dam and the Coykendall mansion before heading to the car.
This hike was a little longer and a little more challenging than I thought but was well worth it. We started at about 1:15 PM and finished the nearly 8 mile hike at 5:45 PM.
On Saturday, April 15th my son Karl and I decided to "bag" a peak which he had not done before. We parked on Spruceton Road and began the hike up the Spruceton Trail to Hunter Mountain. The trail is a wide-open road with a fairly gentle slope all the way to the summit. In fact, the trail is marked as a horse trail all the way. We made good time to the turn up the mountain and didn't slow down much even at this point. The trail had some remnants of the ice that I encountered this winter just below the spring but this time it was easy to negotiate. Most of the trail up the mountain was surprisingly dry despite the rain the night before. The spring was flowing freely and the view from the lookout near the John Robb lean-to is beautiful. For a good part of the hike the sky was overcast and it looked like rain might appear contrary to the forecast. When we reached the summit, the sun appeared and the clouds made an exit. As we climbed the fire tower, the wind speed increased to at least 50 mph which made this experience very special! At this point we decided to descend the Hunter Trail to the Devil's Path at Devil's Acre. This trail was very wet with several areas requiring some brief bushwhacking. I had never been on the section of the Devil's Path past the lean-to. This trail ascends briefly with a very nice lookout on the left. The trail then descends, at times steeply, with loose rock and several deadfalls to make the hike more interesting. The trail intersects the Diamond Notch Trail and Diamond Notch Falls. This certainly isn't a particularly high falls or one with great volume but it is pretty. From here we walked out the Diamond Notch Trail to Spruceton Road and back to the car. The total hike of about 7.5 miles took a little over four hours including the stops at the lookouts and the tower.
On Thursday, April 13th I added my fourth Catskill Fire Tower to my list by climbing Tremper Mountain. The first part of the trail ascends steeply but very briefly from Esopus Creek. It then traverses about half a mile to the register box. The rest of the trail is on an old access road to the tower. The road is wide and has many switchbacks which decrease the severity of the slope but increase the length of the trail. Near the top, the trail narrows and flattens until a final ascent to the tower. This tower is surrounded by trees at least half as tall as the tower but this does not effect the view from the top. The surrounding hills were hazy this day and the view was limited. Even on a clear day, I don't think the views would be as spectacular as those from Overlook. The hike took a little over 3 and a half hours to complete.
On Wednesday, April 12th I decided to celebrate the first Day of my vacation by hiking Overlook Mountain. I parked on the roadside pull-off at the Catskill Center Platte Clove Preserve. The first part of the trail has been "labeled" by the Catskill Center. Many of the signs describe the flora and history of the area. At the junction with the beginning of the Devil's Path the trail turns into the Overlook Mountain Trail. This trail has some gorgeous views of the mountains on the left. There are also numerous bluestone quarries in this direction. The trail skirts Plattekill Mountain and the ascents, of which there are few are gentle. Near the summit are the ruins of the Overlook Mountain House with the WTZA-TV tower immediately adjacent. Only the stone parts of the Mountain House remains but they are impressive. On the other side of the ruins the trail from Mead's Rd wanders down the mountain. This trail is less than 4 miles round trip while the route I took tops out at around 11 miles! From the ruins I made my way up to the state fire tower which is a hike of only a half mile. This tower sits on top of a rocky prominence with few tress around it. The view is unobstructed and would have been wonderful except for the haze hanging in the valleys this day. The entire Ashokan Reservoir is visible. The view of the Mountain House and TV tower allow you to get a different perspective on the scale of the scenery. Many peaks are visible from this tower also. On the trip back down the trail I decided to take the spur trail to Echo Lake. This trail is only about a half mile long but it descends steeply at times and is very rocky. Echo Lake is a pristine mountain lake surrounded by peaks on all sides. There is a lean-to on the shore which must be a beautiful place to camp. After going back up the Echo Lake trail, I returned to my car be reversing my original route. The whole trip took about 5 hours including all the stops along the way!
On Sunday, April 2nd my wife and I took Cathy, a friend, to Hike the Trout Pond - Mud Pond loop.