What You Missed
Peters Kill Stony Kill On Wednesday, June 15th I decided to get in a hike a little further away from home. I thought that Minnewaska would be less crowded in midweek and headed over that way. My plan was to visit some of the falls in the park especially Stony Kill Falls and the falls along the Peters Kill. Sheba and I arrived at Shaft Road just after 9:00 Am and I was surprised to find another vehicle parked by the side of the road. We got going almost immediately by walking through the gate and toward the Stony Kill. This area has an access to the underground aqua duct that conducts water from the Catskill reservoirs to New York City. The access point is fenced and secured. There is also a helipad next to the fenced in area. When we got to the Stony Kill, I was surprised to see that there was relatively little water in the stream bed. It was easy to walk across the small dam and over to the other side. Ulster County must have gotten less rain than in Livingston Manor! There is no formal trail but the path on the other side is pretty clear and we followed the creek up to the falls. The rocks at the base of the falls are LARGE and titled in interesting formations. These rocks were also slippery despite the fact that they looked dry. I carefully climbed to a perch where I could take some pictures of the falls. I had hoped for more water but at leas there was enough to make the falls interesting. We followed the same general path back to the car without incident. I had thought about bushwhacking to the top of the falls but didn't think it would be that interesting with the low volume of water. We were back at the car by (;45 Am having covered the 1.3 mile hike in only 40 minutes. Most of this time was spent on photography. I hoped the rest of the falls would be more impressive.
After hiking to Stony Kill Falls and returning to the car, I drove toward Minnewaska State Park. I deiced to avoid the parking fee and use the Jenny Lane lot. I had never hiked in from this area and though it might be nice. I parked at around 10:00 Am and Sheba and I got right on the trail. The "trail" is actually a road and then woods road for most of the way to the High Peters Kill Trail. This path parallels Routes 44/55 and is rocky but pretty open. In one or two places I had to carefully look for the trail and there was some blow down to walk around. We headed east and then south and finally southeast for about a mile and in less than 20 minutes we were at the start of the High Peters Kill Trail. I had always hiked this trail by visiting Awosting Falls first and then hiking down the Peters Kill. This hike would reverse that and we would hike down the High peters Kill trail and then up the Peters Kill. As we started the hike the rhododendron was in full bloom and I stopped to take some pictures. The temperature was rising and the humidity was high. As soon as I stopped I noticed the small cloud of insects around me! I did not need any additional bites so I spread some "natural" insect repellent on me and continued. There are some nice views from rock ledges along this trail and I stopped several times to take pictures. Haze hung over the hills but I got some good shots including a few of the Smiley Tower. The local insects apparently like the smell of citronella so I broke out the 100% DEET which seemed to discourage most of them. By 11:30 AM we were at the lowest point of the hike where a footbridge crosses the Peters Kill. This was about 2.8 miles from the car and about 1.9 Miles since we had started on the High Peters Kill Trail. Along the way we had met several people. One woman had a particularly "energetic" young dog which Sheba ignored. After crossing the footbridge, we started our trek up the Peters Kill. At times we used the trails and paths but most of the time we just bushwhacked or walked along the stream bed.
The Peters Kill had considerably more water than the Stony Kill and the small waterfalls and rapids along the way were interesting. I took a lot of pictures of even the smaller ones since each seemed different in its own way. At the beginning of the hike up the stream there was a couple enjoying a break by the stream. Further on a group of young people were coming down the trail to find a place to swim. They were making a lot of noise and were obviously enjoying themselves. We passed the turn for the trail up to the parking area. A little further along, next to a nice waterfall, a large group of hikers had stopped for a break. I was not sure where they had started but were headed up to the Peters Kill parking area. They really liked Sheba! We continued to work our way up the stream bed. Near the upper end of the stream, nearer to the road, the bed becomes steeper and the falls more impressive. One falls was the site of a power generation plant that supplied a hotel near Lake Minnewaska. The powerhouse with the generation equipment and switch panel is till there. The powerhouse is an impressive stonework building with more stonework to stabilize the banks. It looks as if a wooden "pipe" directed the water from the stream onto the turbine. I took many pictures before we continued on up the Peters Kill. We stopped at a few more falls along the way and I took more photographs. I was happy there were no other people along the way as this is a popular area for sunbathing and swimming. BY 1:00 PM we had finished the 1.5 mile trip up the stream and were ready to cross the road and go on to Awosting Falls. We were about 4.3 miles and 3 hours into the hike.
The walk along the Peters Kill to Awosting Falls is flat and it went quickly. There was no one at the falls and I got some good pictures. The flow was average. We walked the switchback trail to the top of the falls. At this point I had to decided whether to continue on up to the lake and over to Rainbow Falls or to return to the car. I decided that it was late enough and that Rainbow Falls would probably not be very impressive. Rather than walk the trails back to the car, I decided to walk down the road. We cut through the lower parking area and then walked out to the road. The walk back to the car was under a mile and we arrived at about 1:45 PM. Several other cars were now parked in the lot and two more arrived as we left. We had covered 6.3 miles a little over 3.5 hours. Considering the time spent taking pictures this was a good pace.
On Monday, June 13th track season was finally over with the state championship meet finishing on Saturday. Cindy and I decided to take a short hike despite the ongoing forecast of afternoon thunderstorms. We headed for Hodge and Frick Ponds which are close to our home and are one of our favorite hikes. We were looking to get out of the house and get some exercise at the same time. (Sounds familiar, doesn't it!) It had rained the day and night before and I was anticipating the trails would be wet in places. We decided to head up the Flynn Trail to Hodge Pond first as this is usually the drier part of the hike and we could save the wetter sections for the end! We arrived at the parking area at 9:00 AM and immediately crossed the road to start up on the Flynn Trail. The grass was wet but the trail surface was pretty dry. What was evident was the clouds of insects that surrounded us. I knew the bugs were there but they didn't seem to be biting or so I thought! By 9:50 AM we had hiked the 1.7 miles to the junction with the Big Rock Trail and continued straight ahead toward Hodge Pond. Where the trail next splits we usually go to the left and down to the pond. This time we decided to bear right on the other fork. After a very short walk, we turned left and headed down to the pond. As we approached the trail around the back of the pond, we turned right and headed around the back. All this was for some variety since we hike here so often. At the head end of the pond I walked down to the water to take some pictures. The skies were overcast but I took a few interesting shots. A loud buzzing called my attention to the fact that I was standing in a patch of flowers that some bees felt belonged to them. I quickly yielded by spot and got back on the trail. In a few minutes we were at the trail junction with the Flynn Trail and turned right. It was 10:15 Am and we were 2.75 miles into the hike.
We continued on the Flynn Trail until Junkyard Junction where the Flynn Trail terminates at the Quick Lake Trail. The Flynn Trail was wet in several spots but most could be avoided. At the Junction we turned left to head toward Frick Pond on the Quick Lake Trail. The first 1.6 miles of this part of the hike are along a snowmobile trail and are downhill. This allows for good drainage and the trail was damp but not to soggy. At Iron Wheel Junction the Quick Lake Trail meets the Logger's Loop. We turned right to stay on the Quick Lake Trail. This trail flattens out some and has a lot of blowdown which has not been cleared in several years! The trail became MUCH wetter and was a swamp in some places. We arrived at the bridge at the outlet of Frick Pond and stopped to take a few shots. It was 11:55 AM And we were 5.9 miles into the hike. After a brief stop, we continued on the Quick Lake Trail back to the car. The part of the trail from the pond to the parking area is always wet and this day was no exception. We completed the 6.4 mile hike just before noon taking only 2 hours and 45 minutes.
On Tuesday, June 7th Cindy and I decided to take a short hike despite the ongoing forecast of afternoon thunderstorms. We headed for Trout Pond which is close to our home and offers a nice waterfall. We were looking to get out of the house and get some exercise at the same time. The skies were overcast and it was warm and humid when we arrived at the parking area on Morton Hill Road. We usually park at this upper lot even though the lower parking are on Russell Brook Road is accessible. The hike down the road and passed the falls in gorge below is pleasant and adds a few miles to, what for us. is a short hike. We pretty much did our standard loop by walking down to the lower parking area and then turning onto the wide woods road that heads up to Trout Pond or Cable's Lake, The insects were out in swarms but this part of the trail was relatively dry. We made good time to the lake covering about 1,4 miles in around half an hour. Even though the skies were overcast we stopped to take some pictures before continuing on to the head of the lake. Along the way we found numerous trees that had been broken or toppled in the last wind storm that had turned us back. At the upper end of the lake we turned right to continue on around the pond passing the two lean-tos. Crossing the small inlet stream was easier than I had suspected it might be. After a few shots, we continued on the trail up toward Cherry Ridge.
The trail was damp along the entire length making the footing on some of the rocks tricky. In some places there was standing water but nothing so bad that it could not be avoided. At 11:10 Am we were at Mud Pond and turned left on the woods road that leads back to the falls and completes the loop. We had covered 3.9 miles in about 1.5 fours and were moving right along. From Mud Pond there is a slight uphill and then a long, downhill portion back to the area of the falls. Back at the falls we walked over to the stream bed and down into it. This allows some good angles to photograph the waterfalls. The volume was good and the water clear which made for some nice pictures. We returned to the road and started the trek back up to the car. We were back at noon having covered the 5.6 mile distance in around 2.5 hours.
On Saturday, June 4th I decided to bushwhack Vly and Bearpen. Another hiker, Jane, had contacted me through the website and asked said that she was ready to start some off trail hikes and asked if I would start her off. I said I would be glad to and decided that Bearpen and Vly would make a good introduction. Vly has a pretty well-defined herd path from the col between the two mountains and Bearpen now has roads and snowmobile trails that lead to the summit. This gibes a taste of bushwhacking before hitting Lone and rocky or Friday and Balsam Cap and allows a "two-for-one". After emailing back and forth, we agreed to meet in Margaretville since the trailhead can be hard to find the first time and parking is limited. We both arrived at the parking lot just before 8:00 AM. After transferring Jane's gear to my car and introducing Sheba, we were off for County Route 3 north of Fleischmanns. We arrived at the snowplow turnaround at about 8:10 AM to find no other cars but a field parked full of pickup trucks across from the white house at the end of the road. We didn't see many people and we quickly got our gear and were off up the road by 8:20 AM. Without relating our running conversation, I will say that hiking with Jane was a really pleasure and I look forward to our next walk together! BY 8:45 AM we had hiked the mile to the col and turned right onto the herd path that follows the blue and yellow blazes that head toward the summit of Vly.
We followed the herd path with Sheba in the lead most of the time. In a few places there is some steep climbing but there are some level areas where we caught our breath. Once up the first climb we followed the rather diffuse and indistinct path across the flat area before the last steep ascent to the summit. This last part always fools me as there are several spots where I think that the summit is closer than it really is. By 9:30 AM we had covered the 1.7 miles from the trailhead and arrived at the canister. We dropped our packs and head out to the large rock that acts as a lookout. When I climbed up on the rock, I was surprised to find that there actually was a view, limited but clear. I took a few pictures as did Jane before we returned to the canister. We spent about 15 minutes on the top before turning around and heading back down to the col between the mountains. On the way down we took a slightly different route across the flatter area but then headed on over to the path and own the way we had come up. At 10:20 AM we had competed 2.4 miles and arrived at the tar paper hunting shack and walked across the road to hike up Bearpen. We followed the woods road up the mountain until we came to the new snowmobile trail. The roads do make things easier but they are steep in places. A sign said "Closed" but we weren't riding snowmobiles so we decided to chance it.
We turned right onto the snowmobile trail and then made a sharp left after a few hundred feet and began the steep but short climb up to the next flat area. We hit the flatter area and walked along a woods road and snowmobile trail for a while. The trail and road abruptly end but we continued on up the mountain on a faint path. I suspect the snowmobile trail will be cut through at some time as there seem to be ribbons marking the way. After a short walk through the woods, we again hit the woods road and turned right. We followed the road up to the first lookout. I was surprised to see that there were some nice views with only some haze on the next mountain range. We stopped to take some pictures which included a backdrop of the Schoharie Reservoir, Huntersfield, Ashland Pinnacle and Richmond. We decided to walk to the field that makes up the next viewpoint before grabbing some lunch. As we walked over to the field I pointed out the machinery just off the trail which may have been involved in the ski area operations that were on this mountain at one time. We stopped to take some more pictures and heard some voices which seemed to be coming from just a little further on. We walked over to the next clearing and found a group from the 3500 Club enjoying lunch. We had hiked about 4 miles and it was just after 11:30 AM. This group had started after we did and had chosen to climb Bearpen first. Someone in the group recognized Sheba and asked if I was catskillhiker.com. I was pleased that several people in the group had used this website to get information for their hikes! We spent some time talking to the group and eating lunch. I usually don't like to stop but the weather was pleasant as was the company. We started back at about 11:40 AM and the hike backed seemed to go very fast as we talked and walked. We were back at the car just before 1:00 PM having covered 6.6 miles and 2100 feet of elevation gain in 4.5 hours.
On Monday, May 30th I decided that I needed to bag one or two more 35's in May. After consulting my grid, I headed for Hunter and SW Hunter to hike them from Notch Lake. The previous few days had seen some rain and the morning was overcast so I was in no hurry to get to my destination. I was hoping that things would dry out some before I arrived. As I drove up Route 214 from Phoenicia the sun came out and the skies cleared some. I paid my $6 parking fee at the office and drove up the road to park at Notch Lake. There were a few cars in the lot and I noticed that the lake was very high. Sheba and I got out and were ready to hike just before 10:00 AM. As we started up the trail it became obvious that the rain and high humidity had not allowed anything to dry out. Before even starting any serious elevation gain, I had lost my footing on slippery rocks more than once. As we started up the first incline, we met a couple coming down. They did not have king poles and were trying to steady themselves with branches. I was glad I had my hiking poles! As we approached the rock wall and cliffs, I was surprised to see a large pile of rock in the path. This had broken off one of the walls and fallen into the trail. I am used to trees blowing down and blocking a path but this was a new experience for me! I stopped to take some pictures and then climb over the rocks on the new path that had begun to develop. The trail continues up through and around rocks with a couple of switchbacks for about 1.7 miles before leveling off. This is one of those sections that is always longer than I remember. For the next half mile to the Devil's Acre lean-to the trail is almost flat and we made good time.
Less than a quarter mile passed the Len-to is the turn off onto the herd path to SW Hunter. This path is to the north of the mountain and is the easiest way to access the peak. It is not much of a bushwhack anymore as it is well-traveled and very clear. We walked along the herd path for about .6 miles before turning up the mountain. To this point the path is almost flat. The section of the path to the top makes up for the initial flat section! The last part of the path to the top is only .15 miles with an elevation gain of 150 feet but it seems steeper. We were at the canister just before noon. We had met no other hikers since the initial stretch of the hike. Our break was short as a cloud of insect was zeroing in on us. We turned around and started back to the Devil's Path. This only took about 20 minutes and we turned right to go back passed the lean-to and up to Hunter. We began to see more and more hikers along the way. We passed two or three men headed toward the lean-to from Spruceton and met a larger group of young people at the lean-to itself. Just after the lean-to we turned up the trail to Hunter. This trail is often wet with running water in some spots and swampy areas in others. I was surprised that there was a lot less water than I had expected and it was easily avoided. The distance to the fire tower is about 1.6 miles from the Devil's Path. It initially heads east but then makes a sweeping turn to head north. The elevation gain is less than 500 feet. We were at the tower just before 1:15 PM. I took off the pack and snapped some shots of the tower and cabin before climbing to the landing just below the cab. It was a little windy and there was some haze. The lifts at the Hunter ski area were clearly visible but this is the first time I remember seeing them. Only one other hiker arrived while we were at the top.
We stayed at the summit for about 10 minutes before turning around and heading back down. On the way back to the Devil's Path we met several groups headed to the top. The skies were becoming more overcast and threatened rain. The air was very humid. We hit the Devil's Path just after 2:00 PM and turned left to continue down to the car. On the way back we met a few people coming up and passed a few going down. The lower part of the trail was still damp and the rocks were still slippery. As always in these conditions, going down was more challenging than going up. I signed out at the register and we walked over to Notch Lake. Closer examination showed that the lake was even higher than I had thought! Several of the picnic grills were underwater and the rock that I have walked out onto to take pictures was totally inaccessible. I took a few pictures and then headed back to the car. The 9.5 mile hike took us 5.5 hours. The rains came hard just as we got into the car.
On Tuesday, May 24th I wanted to get in a hike before track practice since the next two days would be consumed by sectional track meets. I headed for Cragsmoor and the Sam's Point Preserve. My plan was to park on Route 52 and hike up the South Gully Trail to the Sam's Point loop road and back. The forecast was for pertly cloudy skies but I knew we would be under the tree canopy most of the time anyway. There had been enough rain to swell the brook some so I was hoping for some good pictures of the falls. Rain also meant wet trails but I hoped I could get around most of these spots. We arrived outside of Ellenville on Route 52 at 9:00 AM and started right out on the hike. The first .25 miles of the hike is mostly flat and actually descends a little before starting to climb at that point. At places the trail hugs the side of the hill and when wet it is a little hard to get a good footing. We walked down to the stream several times so that I could take pictures of the many falls and rapids. The wet spots on the trail weren't too numerous and were easily avoided. In several places the trail crosses the stream or a tributary without benefit of a bridge and in some places the trail could be better marked. By 10:15 AM we had traveled 2.22 miles and were crossing South Gully Road.
Just after the road crossing is a big switchback. From the road the trail climbs another 650 feet in about a mile until the trail meets the Loop Road at the Sam's Point Preserve. This section also has some nice falls so I took more pictures. Near the top the trail flattens and proceeds through some hardwood forest. The path also passes by the remains of some blueberry pickers' shacks which become more dilapidated every year. Sam's Point is still covered in blueberries during the season. At one time this was a commercial venture and pickers would stay in small shacks to pick as many berries as they could. When we hit the loop road, I noticed that the skies were dark and that it was starting to sprinkle. We turned around and headed back down the trail as a light rain started. It was warm enough that a light rain actually felt good. However, I did not want to get drenched. Whether the storm passed or we walked out of it I don't know but soon there was no more rain. Since I had taken pictures on the way up, we hurried back to the car. we were back by 12:20 PM having covered the 6.1 mile hike in 3.5 hours.
On Sunday, May 22nd I decided that I needed to hike after a busy Friday and Saturday filled with track meets. I wanted something fairly close but challenging. The weather forecast was variable but I thought perhaps the skies would clear in the mid-morning. I decided I wanted to add a 35 to my grid and Panther was showing an empty slot. I had not climbed Panther from the north using the Fox Hollow Trail in some time so I thought that might be a nice idea. Sheba and I headed out the DeBruce Road on then hit Route 47 passed Frost Valley. In Big Indian we turned right on Route 28. Just after Route 42 turns north in Shandaken, I began to look for Fox Hollow Road on the right. After turning on Fox Hollow, the trailhead parking is about 1.6 miles up the road on the right. I parked at 945 AM and we got right on the trail. The trail was wet in places from the rain but all these spots could be avoided. Everything was very green as we walked on the trail through hardwood forests. The trail actually starts out heading north and then northwest before heading west and finally south. At around 1.8 miles thee trail turns south and runs on contour until around .2 miles where it attains the ridge. From this point on the trail stays on the ridge.
As we ascended we were walking through fog and clouds continuously. Any possible lookouts showed only a glimpse of scenery through a mass of white. I decided to head for the summit and try taking pictures on the way back. Along the way on the ridge there are two or three false summits which fooled me even though I knew they were their. One of these is quite flat and open with a shelf of rock. We passed over these with me silently cursing thee fact that I had forgotten what a long slog this was especially when there is no view. The final push up Panther is through some interesting rock formations covered in moss. Everything was damp which made foot placement really important. We arrived at the summit at 12:30 PM after hiking about 47 miles. I snapped a few shots of fog and then we started back. On the way back down the fog cleared a little as a breeze blew it out of the valleys and off the peaks. It did seem that as soon as one breeze blew some away another would deliver clouds from some other location. We stopped on the open false summit and I got some pictures of Panther and the valleys below. From here we kept up a quick pace back to the car. We were back by 3:20 PM covering 9.4 miles in 5.5 hours. I think I will try to do this hike again when I can get better views.
On Thursday, May 19th, after leaving Angel Falls, I drove out the Peekamoose Road toward Ashokan High Point to view and photograph some more waterfalls. There are an incredible number of waterfalls on the left side of the road as you head toward West Shokan. I stopped at Bear Hole falls and Buttermilk Falls to take pictures. There are two more significant falls after that and several other smaller ones. A few are on private property so I stayed near the road. There is one nice falls farther back in the woods but I believe it is on private property and the same volume of water that makes it interesting makes it hard to get to.
What was really impressive on this day was the number of falls on the OTHER side of the road. These falls are not normally present but their small flow was augmented by the recent rains. Several were quite large and would lead one to believe they were permanent. I tried getting some pictures through the trees but none were worth keeping.
On Thursday, May 19th I decided to hike to some waterfalls to take pictures. I felt the recent rains would have the falls roaring and would make for some good photography. I head3ed first to Angel Falls in Yagerville above the Rondout Reservoir. I parked at the end of the dead end road to walk down to the stream. The signage here is confusing as some DEP signs say NO TRESPASSING while others say that hiking is permitted. Angel Falls has two distinctly different sections. We walked down the old road and headed to the left to go to the upper falls first. The upper falls have a higher drop but are harder to photograph. We worked our way to the area above the falls and I took some shots. Next we walked on the path that parallels the falls and then slipped and slid our way down to the stream. Places that we normally walk were under water but I was able to get some good angles. The volume was amazing and I took a lot of still shots. I also took a movie clip more for the sound that the picture. We walked back up the bank to the path and headed down stream to the lower falls.
The lower drop at Angel Falls does not have the height of the upper but it has two parts and the volume seems greater. I shot the upper section first and found the rocks to be VERY slippery. We walked down to the stream bed and the level of water made getting the shots I wanted difficult. Some day I want to get to the other side of the stream to see what it is like and to shoot some pictures from that side. I also took a video clip of the lower falls. We headed back up to the car and I decided to head for the Peekamoose Road.
On Friday, May 13th I got up early intending to execute a hike I had been planning all week! I wanted to hike from Colgate Lake to Blackhead Mountain. Since I usually hike solo, I planned to make this and out and back of a little over 14 miles. The forecast throughout the week was for partly sunny skies and no rain until the night before. When I woke up on Friday it was completely overcast and raining in Livingston Manor. My initial reaction was to call off my plans and do something closer to home. After consulting the radar and forecasts I decided I might be lucky enough to miss the rain as far north as Blackhead. In addition, I remembered that I had several different "solutions" for rainy weather. So, I got a little later start than I expected but the rain did stop somewhere around Slide Mountain although the skies remained gloomy. We arrived at Colgate Lake at about 9:45 AM and I was reminded that it was turkey season by the hunters getting out of their cars near the lake. I parked at he larger lot on the left and we got out. I decided that I did not need my light softshell and left it in the car. I had on a light long sleeved shirt and I packed a windbreaker and rain jacket. I took some pictures of the Escarpment Trail, Arizona and the Blackhead Range before we headed out of the parking lot at 9:50 AM. We walked across the field and into the woods as a few sprinkles began to fall. The initial part of the trail is largely an old woods road. It was only a little damp to the first bridge at 1.25 miles and we made good time. The trail follows this road but is somewhat circuitous to avoid the private inholding of Lake Capra. The road connected the fertile Jewett Valley with the markets on the east side of the Escarpment by passing through a gap called Dutcher's Notch. At 2.0 miles we came across the second bridge and the trail was still in good shape with only a few wet spots to avoid.
Just after the 2 mile mark we turned a corner and the trail became a swamp. There was standing water that I suspect was the result of beaver activity somewhere. There was a lot of deep, black mud that was hard to completely avoid. We did make our way through without mishap but a slip in several places would have been very messy. Fortunately, this did not last for very long and was the only really wet spot on the trail. At about 2.3 miles we entered into an evergreen forest and I walked off a path to the left to a large beaver meadow. Even though the skies were overcast there were nice views of the Escarpment, Arizona and the Blackhead Range. I took some pictures and then walked back out to the main trail. The trail in this area had a lot of blowdown; some new and some old. We continued our walk under cloudy skies and occasional sprinkles. The black flies weren't too bad as long as we kept moving! At 2.5 miles we crossed the third bridge over the East kill or its smaller tributaries. The bridge showed that the beavers had been actively constructing a dam in the culvert under the bridge. This had been cleared and the beaver pond on the left of the trail on the other side of the bridge was almost empty. Shortly after this we crossed the two logs that make up the fourth bridge after which the trail took a sharp right onto the old road. We stopped at this turn as the field there offers some more great views of the Blackhead Range. After some pictures, we got back on the main trail. I did not stop at the small falls on the right of the trail although I could hear the water. The trail/road here was a lot of rocks and the rain began to fall a little harder. I decided I might need to alter the plan to go all the way to Blackhead but I was going to make it to Arizona!
For the next 1.5 miles we hiked up toward Dutcher Notch as the trail began to climb a little more seriously. In many places high stone cliffs rise on either side. In other places there is a deep gorge on the left side of the trail. After 4.25 miles we reached the Escarpment Trail. It was 11:45 AM so over 4 miles in two hours with time for pictures wasn't bad. We turned left and started to gain some real elevation as the rain turned from sprinkles to showers! The climb up Arizona was very interesting. It was beautiful in spots despite the rain and steep and difficult in others. There were several switchbacks and a few scrambles up and over rocks. There was even a "tunnel" in one spot. When we reached the plateau near the top, the rain stopped and we walked to a nice lookout at the 5 mile mark. I WILL go back to this pot as the views were hazy at best but must be wonderful on clearer days! I could see down to Lake Capra and over toward the Hudson. I took a few pictures and then decided to press on since Blackhead seemed so near. Without looking at the map, I reasoned that we had already done quite a bit of climbing and the rest of the trek to the top would be relatively easy! For the next .8 miles there was about a 300 foot elevation gain but it seemed very easy. The trail follows the narrow spine of the escarpment and the Blackhead Range. After this we actually dropped over a 100 feet and began a gentle climb up toward Blackhead for .75 miles.
At this point the climb began to get steep all the way to the summit of the mountain. For the next half mile we gained 500 feet. There are two areas before the summit that look remarkably like the top. The second has the legend "Camp Steel 1936" painted in white on the rocks. We were at the top by 1:15 PM having covered almost exactly 7 miles in 3.5 hours. There isn't much to see at the summit so I took a few pictures and we stared back. On the way down we met the only other hiker we would see. He had dropped his bike on Barnum Road and then parked at Colgate Lake. I resolved to teach Sheba how to drive or at least how to ride a bike! We stopped only a few times on the way back so that I could snap some pictures. My main priority was to get back without getting soaked. Of course, the closer we got to the car the brighter the skies became. I will admit that the long, flat walk back was a little boring but I was not very tired when we got back to the car. Sheba also seemed in good shape. My GPS told me that we had covered 13.8 miles in 6.5 hours with a moving average speed of 2.5 mph. I was surprised that the vertical was only 2650 feet but, after, "shorter", 6 to 8 mile hikes, it was nice to know I still "have it"! When we left the parking area, I couldn't help but head into Tannersville for a meal at Pancho Villa's before heading home.
On Wednesday, May 11th my son, Kurt, and I decided to do a short hike near home before my afternoon track meet. We decided that Frick and Hodge Pond by way of the Quick Lake and Flynn Trails would be nice. The forecast was for partly cloudy skies with temperatures in the 60's. Since this area is close to home, we were able to get to the parking area and start our hike by 8:30 Am without getting up too early. The temperatures were in the high 50's when we started which was very comfortable. The skies weren't very cloudy and the conditions for taking pictures at both ponds seemed to be ideal. We hit Frick pond by 8:50 Am and there were some geese on the pond. I took pictures of the geese and some more of the pond. We walk clockwise around the pond and bore left at the trail junction to head up the Quick Lake Trail. The trail was damp in places and there is a lot of blowdown. This part of the trail is not open to snowmobiles and is not well maintained. At Iron Wheel junction we turned left to stay on the Quick Lake trail instead of returning on the Logger's Loop. The walk up the hill to Junkyard Junction and the Flynn Trail seemed to go quickly. The Flynn Trail was wet and overgrown in places. When we got to the junction with the trail around Hodge Pond we turned left to go around the back of the pond.
At the head end of Hodge Pond I walked down to the water to take some pictures. It was 10:10 AM we were 4 miles into the hike. There were a lot of salamanders in the water and I was able to shoot through the water. I also took some pictures of the pond as the lighting was advantageous and the colors were beautiful. We continued to walk around the pond to the outlet where we rejoined the Flynn Trail, Sheba enjoyed a drink and getting soaked in the pond. I took some more pictures before we headed back to the parking area. We were at the car just before noon having spent around 3 hours on the 6.8 mile hike with plenty of time spent taking photographs.
On Monday, May 9th my son, Kurt, and I decided to do a short hike with a view. We got a late start and I had a track meet in the afternoon so I chose to go to Jensen Ledges in Lordville north of Long Eddy. In particular, I wanted to investigate what seemed to be a pile of laid up stone that makes up the first set of ledges. We loaded up our gear and Sheba and were in Long Eddy by about 10:20 AM. I wanted to see if I could find the end of the Bouchouxville Trail in Long Eddy. I wanted a slightly longer hike than the one from the other end and also was interested in seeing something different. We turned down a side road in Long Eddy but soon began to see too many posted signs. There didn't seem to be anyone to ask so we got back on Route 97 north and headed for Lordville Road. In Lordville we headed out toward the trail head on the dirt road which was in pretty good condition. We arrived at the dead end trail head at 10:45 AM and started to hike immediately. Without the snow, the hike on the bare woods road went quickly. There were a few wet spots but they were easily bypassed. The sky was blue with only a few clouds and within a short distance I removed and stowed by light jacket. Within less than half an hour we were at the small creek just before the ledges. The creek was running with some volume due to the recent rains. I took some pictures from the top and then decided to work my way down the side of the falls. I avoided the slipperiest rocks and got pretty far down before deciding it was too "exciting" to go further. I took quite a few pictures before climbing backup. As always, up was easier than down!
We walked out to the ledges and the large cairn that has been erected. Without the snow, it was very clear that this was an area where bluestone had been quarried. There is a deep pit and many scraps of stone lying around. Kurt found machine marks on several of the stones. I walked around and took pictures of the stone. The views were wonderful on this clear day and I took a lot of shots. We continued our hike by walking over to the large open rock ledge that make up the "second" set of ledges. The views from here were even better and I took more pictures. We turned around and followed our route back to the car.At this point, we decided to walk down to the river. This is a short walk and just before getting to the river we stopped to take pictures on the railroad tracks. After this, we climbed over the flat cars and walked down to the river. We could walk out quite a ways. I took pictures up and down the river and of the ledges we had just visited. We walked back to the car and headed home. We did stop in Long Eddy at The Basket Creek Historical Society but it didn't look like anyone had been there for some time. Our hike was a little over 3 miles and lasted less than 2 hours but it was fun just the same!
On Friday, May 6th my son, Kurt, and I decided to meet somewhere to go hiking. I wanted to go to Breakneck Ridge as it is one of my favorites and I had not been there for some time. Kurt lives near Poughkeepsie which made it a shorter drive for him. We decided to meet at the parking area at 9:00 AM since I had to be home for my retirement dinner that evening. Sheba and I left Livingston Manor around 7:30 AM and headed to our destination by way of Bear Mountain. Once on Route 9D headed north I remembered how long the drive was and called Kurt. He was just outside of Beacon and we agreed to meet at the parking area for Little Stony Point. When we arrived, Kurt was already there and we transferred to his car for the ride back to Breakneck Ridge. We were able to park in one of the few spaces right next to the tunnel and the trailhead. There was only one other car parked when we started out on the trail at 9:15 AM. The temperature when I left the house was 31 degrees but when we left the trailhead it was already 55 degrees. Kurt ware a vest over short sleeves but I opted for a single long sleeved layer. The sky had a few clouds but blue was the predominant color. The Hudson River was a little muddy but most of the trees were green with buds or new leaves. I had forgotten how much fun it is to climb Breakneck Ridge! It is mostly rock with some nearly vertical areas and other places that require traversing steep rock slabs. Most of these areas have alternate trails to allow you to pick your own root. As we ascended I remembered that there are a series of "false summits", places where you think you are on top of the ridge but aren't. We made a lot of stops along the way so that I could take pictures of the route and shots across the river.
By 10:50 AM we had traveled about .85 miles and had much of the vertical ascent behind us. At this point the yellow Undercliff Trail heads off to the right and is the shortest way back to The Cornish Estate. We continued on the main trail and made a few more ascents. At 1.6 miles the red Breakneck Bypass Trail branches off to the left. A little further on at 1.9 miles the blue Notch Trail turned right. We took this trail and started to descend down the mountain toward Breakneck Brook and the Cornish Mansion ruins. By noon we were at the pond near the dairy barn where we took some pictures before going on to the ruins. We walked around the barn taking pictures and looking at the ruins in detail. After inspecting the barn, we continued on the Brook Trail toward the Cornish Mansion. We continued passed the point where the blue Notch Trail turns off to the left and crossed the yellow Undercliff Trail. The footbridge on the Brook Trail was wished away but we could find 1 none of the prices. Fortunately, someone had placed a log across the stream with a sturdy branch for a "handrail". The bridge over Breakneck Brook on the Undercliff Trail was untouched and in good shaped. We continued own the Brook Trail until the junction with the Cornish Trail. We went to the left to follow the blue Cornish Trail.
By about 12:30 PM we were at the first indication of the Cornish ruins; the large cistern beside the road that is the Cornish Trail. Just a few hundred feet down from the cistern is the greenhouse. The greenhouse appears, from the trail, to be primarily a wrought iron framework. We walked down the circular driveway to the front of the greenhouse, something I had never done before. The greenhouse from in front is even more impressive with solid stonework and interesting details. I took many pictures before walking through the woods to the main mansion. I had not been here in two years and never in a season when the vines had not yet grown in. The stonework was much easier to see without the vines covering it. There is a covered area where carriages and cars could pull up to let passengers disembark. The interior chimney with fireplaces for each floor is easily seen. In the front there are inlaid tiles on the "floor" and the window sills are thick pieces of slate. I walked around more than I had before and found several outbuildings and structures. Kurt and I visited some of these and took pictures before returning to the main trail to continue on toward the Little Stony Point parking area.The "trail" at this point is the driveway from the mansion and is at least .75 miles long. The concrete used for the driveway is in good shape as is the reinforcing cement used to prevent rock slides from the ridge.
We arrived at the parking area for Little Stony Point and crossed the Route 9D at 1:15 PM. Little Stony Point projects out into the Hudson and was quarried for stone. We walked a roughly anticlockwise route around the point. Our first stop was a north facing beach with white sand and a lot of driftwood. Unfortunately, the beach also had its share of garbage! We continued to walk around the edge of the point and had a nice view of West point. As we continued back to where we started, we turned left on a path that leads up to the highest rocky crag on this point. The rocky overlook is not very high but it overlooks the very flat river. We had views north to Breakneck Ridge, Storm King Mountain and Pollepel Island. To the south were good views of the United States Military Academy at West Point. We took pictures and then returned to the car by 1:50 PM. We had hiked 6.0 miles in about 4.5 hours. I will be returning to this area to hike some different trails on the east side and on the west side at Storm King Mound and Black Rock Forest.
On Thursday, May 5th Cindy and I headed to Trout Pond to do a short hike. I wanted to see how Russell Brook Falls was flowing after the most recent rain storms. We arrived around 11:00 AM and started our hike down Russell Brook Road to the lower parking area. The road was in good shape but I always like to walk rather than drive down the road. As we approached the falls the crescendo of noise announced that the stream was indeed flowing well. I wanted to get a closer look and so found a place to walk down the steep bank to an area that overlooks the upper rapids and the lower falls. I took pictures of the upper falls and then dropped down almost to the brink of the lower falls to get some more shots. I wanted to drop down to the base of the lower falls but it was slippery so I decided to go back up to the road. After a hundred feet or so, I was able to find another path down the steep bank and eventually made my way to the base of the main falls. This was a different angle than I normally get and I took quite a few pictures before walking along the bank to the large boulder in the middle of the stream. I had not taken pictures from here before and the view was very good. The slight elevation and head on view may be even better than taking pictures from the stream bed on the other side. After completing my shots, I walked along the bank to the ruins of the dam and took a few more photographs. Cindy also walked along part of this route to take her own shots. We both headed back to the bridge on the main trail and started up toward Trout Pond. The trail was wet in paces and there was a slight breeze blowing. The day was warm with blue skies and some white clouds.
As we walked up the wide wood road to the pond, we noticed a lot of recent blowdown. At the outlet end of the pond the breeze was now a wind and there were white caps on the pond. I took some pictures as I began to get cold. Back on the main trail we started to head toward the upper end of the pond. The wind increased and many of the trees, some already damaged, began to crack around us. We decided to return the way we had come. As we dropped down from the pond, calm returned as we were protected from the full force of the wind. It was at this point that I discovered that I had lost my gloves. Back at the falls, I decided I would retrace my steps to see if I could find my lost gloves. I did not remembered putting them down to use the camera and I always put them in a pocket when I do. I found them on my path near the stream where they had silently escaped my pocket. Cindy was on the other side of the stream and I heard her exclamation. She had discovered a snake which initially hid under a rock. Now the snake was coming toward her from underneath the rock in an aggressive bob and weave motion. I walked around to where she had "escaped" from the snake and walked up to the dam where she had found it. The snake Was sunning itself and went under a rock as I approached. Seconds later it came out from under the rock and approached. It wasn't more than two feet long but it DID have an attitude! I took some pictures and got it to follow my hand movements. After several more shots, I left the snake in peace and we headed back to the car. The 3.5 mile hike wasn't long but 2 hours was enough for some exercise in the sunny weather.
On Sunday, May 1st my friend Kevin wanted to go hiking. The forecast was for partly sunny skies with temperatures in the 60's. I decided we wanted a view and that the closest one was from the Balsam Lake Fire Tower. Kevin arrived at my house before noon and headed up the Beaverkill Road. As we passed the Beaverkill Valley Inn, Kevin asked about it and I realized he had not been in this area before. I pointed out some of the major "landmarks" as we continued up the road to the trailhead. We were at the trailhead at the end of the Beaverkill Road just before 12:30PM. One hiker and his dog were returning from Graham Mountain. He was from New Paltz and had just started his quest for the 35's. I told him I had been on Graham less than a week ago and had to deal with some snow. He told us the only remaining snow was off the trail and that only a few patches of ice remained. We headed out at about 12:35 PM for our hike. We walked and talk and the 20 minutes and .9 miles to the first trail junction went by quickly. As we climbed the steeper side of the mountain I could tell it was the third day in a row hiking. I was not keeping up my usual pace. Sheba seemed a little tired also. I originally had put on a long sleeved top and a light windbreaker. I packed a light softshell jacket! When we got to the trail head, I had left the shell in the car and now on the ascent I put the windbreaker in my pack. The temperatures were easily in the 60's with only and occasional breeze.
At about 1.45 miles we were at the sign for the lean-to and I mentioned to Kevin that I had never been there. He suggested we walk out to it and we did. The lean-to and privy are in good shape. The trail to the lean-to is only about 600 feet! We stopped for a moment and took some pictures before returning to the main trail to finish the climb. Just after the trail to the lean-to we passed the 3500 foot sign and the spring in quickly succession and were soon on the summit plateau. BY 1:45 PM we had traveled the 2 miles to the summit and broke out into the clearing. There was a group of about 8 hikers finishing a meal. They had come in from the Millbrook side. I didn't want Sheba checking out their lunch so I had her climb the tower stairs to the first landing and stay there while I went up to take some pictures. She never moved. Kevin followed my up. The skies were more overcast than I would have liked without the clouds that make for pretty pictures. The trees are still bare of leaves and the only greens were the balsam fir. The visibility was good and I did take pictures of the far mountains which seemed to stretch on forever! After finishing our photography, we descended the tower, took some pictures of a dog basking in the sun and started won the other side of the mountain. As we walked, we got some good looks at Graham peeking through the trees. This part of the trail has some flat spots which were very wet but were also easily avoided. Again, the hike back to the first trail junction went quickly as we walked and talked. Just before the trail register we met four young people from SUNY Delhi beginning their hike. We were back at the car by 2:55 PM having covered the 4.5 mile hike with 1250 feet of vertical gain in about 2 hours and 20 minutes.
On the way back to Livingston Manor, I pointed out the suspension bridge at the start of the Hardenburgh trail. Levin suggested we stop and so we did. There was a car and a motorcycle in the small parking area. Kevin signed in and we walked down to the bridge. The Beaverkill was running high due to the recent rains and the bridge was definitely necessary. Several others times I have visited it would have been just as easy to hop across the river on some stones! The bridge is very interesting and unlike any other in the area. It is a true suspension bridge with steel towers at either end. Suspension cables hold up a wooden plank deck. The bridge sways quite a bit more than I would like and some of the boards are a little loose and old. I took pictures from the near end and then walked to the middle to take some of the stream. After this, I walked down stream a little to get a side view. After this, we walked back up to the car and headed home.
On Saturday, April 30th I finished at Pratt Rock and Hardenburgh Falls and was headed home around the Pepacton Reservoir. As I approached Barkaboom Road it occurred to me that I could visit Tompkins Falls on the way back. I took a left on Barkaboom Road and was soon at the falls. It was, like all the other falls, flowing swiftly with a high volume and making a lot of noise. After parking, we walked down the road and down the bank to the creating wall to take some pictures of the falls head on. I wanted a better angle so I worked my way down to the creek bed and started to inch along the "shore" At one point I was grabbing on to one slippery rock with my hand and was about to step onto another slippery rock to duck under a cascade coming from a drain pipe. I re-evaluated my decision and turned around. Back at the car, we walked down to the top of the falls and I took many shot from different angles. The water had been flowing long enough to clear out most of the mud and the scene was very "wild" despite the proximity of the road.
On Saturday, April 30th I finished bushwhacking to the falls around Halcott by 2:00 PM and headed toward Parvenus just miles away. Pratt Rock just outside Prattsville is a short walk through a small local park to some high rock ledges that overlook Schoharie Creek. This would be the "view" I was looking for on this day. We arrived at about 2:30 PM AND GOT RIGHT OUT TO HIKE. This time I knew right where I was going and the path was clear. The history of Pratt Rock and Zaddock Pratt, the man who commissioned it is very interesting. Sheba and I hiked through the lower part of the park with its paths and picnic tables with one stop so that I could take a picture of Pratt Rock and all of its carvings from below. We then hiked around the back of the rock to ascend on the short but steep path. Once on top the little valley along the creek was laid out below. It was very green and the creek was swollen from all the rain. The small rapids in town were easily seen. I took pictures of the valley, the creek and the hills including a panorama. I left my pack at the first lookout and we hiked up to the next set of ledges to get a different perspective. After taking some more pictures, I picked up my pack and headed back down the trail that runs across the base of the cliffs with the carvings. The rock is slowly deteriorating and the carvings need a fresh coat of white wash. Vegetation that has been allowed to grow in the cracks on the rocks is slowly helping along the destruction. I took several pictures before we started back down to the car. We passed a young boy and his father on the up.Back at the car I decided to head for Grand Gorge and Route 30 to make a sort of loop and to avoid using the same route to get back home.
As I was looking at the map, I noticed a falls marked at the south end of the reservoir. It was marked Hardenburgh Falls on Intake Road and I knew I had never been to that location. As I pulled away from Pratt Rock I knew where I was headed. The road and the falls were easy to find but I wasn't expecting too much. I parked just after the bridge over the creek on Intake Road and walked out on the bridge to inspect the falls. It was a substantial falls with a nice drop and a high volume of water. I decided New York City wouldn't mind too much if Sheba and I headed down the path to the base of the falls to take a few quick shots. I took some pictures from the bridge and then headed down to a rock ledge that gives a view over the brink of the falls and back up the stream under the bridge. After a few pictures, we walked own the path into the creek bed. I took some additional shots from this angle and continued to be impressed by the volume and sound of the falls. We walked back to the car and headed toward Grand Gorge. I intended to drive back to Route 8 on Route 30 and then around the Pepacton Reservoir and home.
On Saturday, April 30th I was busy in the morning helping with a 5K running event at the high school where I coach. I thought I would have a comity in the afternoon and had not planned to hike. When the commitment evaporated, I drove from Liberty back to Livingston Manor in beautiful weather. The forecast was for NO RAIN and partly sunny skies with temperatures in the high 60's. I decided that I wanted to go somewhere with a view AND inspect some waterfalls that I thought would be flowing freely from all the rain! I deiced to satisfy a long held curiosity and investigate the falls near Halcott Mountain. I had been to the falls by the parking area and another one further away. I wanted to investigate the three falls I could see from Route 42 by bushwhacking to each and then maybe walking upstream a little. Sheba and I arrived at the parking area around noon and set off on this adventure. We stopped by the first falls and I took some shots. The volume of water was as high as I have ever seen and the light was good. The only way to cross over was to hike up to the top of the falls and jump from stone to stone across the swollen creek. We then headed through the woods roughly paralleling Route 42 until we got to the next stream. When we arrived at the water, it too was flowing nicely. When I looked upstream I could see more cascades so we bushwhack up the side of the creek. This happened several more times until we were at least a half mile upstream and the land was rising sharply. At this point the volume of water was less and I stopped to take pictures. We worked our way downstream and stopped at each small waterfall to take some pictures. To me each seemed subtly different and I found the experienced very relaxing and enjoyable. Once we were down as far as we could go, the stream was too high and wide to cross so we headed to a point I had seen upstream where we were could cross.
On our way over to the next waterfall, we encountered some cliffs on the left and had to head a little further up than I had intended. On the way we found several large "piles" of stone that had been laid up like a wall but did not connected to anything else. Jim Kennard and I had seen numerous such structures on Halcott when we hiked it during the winter. They were a mystery then and are still a mystery top me. I took pictures and then we hit the next stream. We headed upstream as we had on the last creek. At the last cascade I could see, we stopped and I took my pictures. We continued to work downstream until we were at the brook that parallels Route 42. At this point, the choice w3as to head back up and follow our original route or walk along the stream. I elected to stay low and walk along the stream watching for an opportunity to cross and walk the road back to the car. The stream was flowing fast and was deep in places. One tree that had bridged the creek was too high and skinny while the next was a little low. Finally, just after the middle stream and opportunity presented itself and I hopped across some rocks. I was worried about Sheba crossing but this was, as always, a misplaced concern. Sheba simply jumped over the creek and we walked the few hundred feet back to the car. It was around 2:00 PM and now I wanted someplace with a view. We spent longer on the waterfalls than I had intended but I knew that Prattsville and Pratt Rock were less than 10 miles away!
On Friday, April 29th my friend Jim Kennard and I wanted to do a hike that included a view as we were inspired by the forecast for generally clear skies with only a slight chance of rain. Jim had never hiked up the east side of Indian Head so we decided to park at Prediger Road and hike the Devil's Path. We would hike up the east side of Indian Head and down to Jimmy Dolan Notch. From hear we planned to ascend both peaks of Twin and then return to the Notch to get back to the cars. We met at the parking area around 9:45 AM and started to hike almost immediately. The trail was very wet as we walked from the parking area over to the trail that comes in from Platte Clove. Along the way we stopped at a "new" waterfall created by the melting snow and recent rains. By 10:45 AM we had walked the 1.8 miles to where the Devil's Path turns right and up Indian Head. I always remember the first time Cindy saw the sign that stated there was a 1300 foot elevation gain in a little under 2 miles! On the way up to the summit we stopped at all the viewpoints are were treated with good views all the way to the Hudson. As we neared the flat part of the trail before the final ascent to the summit, we ran into quite a bit of snow on the trail and under the surrounding trees. After another brief stop, we continued on to the top. We arrived at the summit of Indian Head at 12:45 PM and continued on the Devil's Path toward Twin.
On the way down Indian Head to the col we stopped to get some pictures of our destination and then continued down. In the col we decided to explore the path that leads to the left or southwest. I thought I had done this before and found nothing but I was wrong. I took the low road between the cliffs that border the path. Jim took the high road on the right. Jim found some campsites and a nice view. I found a beautiful view down the notch and took pictures of the scenery and the surrounding rock walls. Back on the trail we ascended to the east peak of Twin stopping at the viewpoint along the way. We were at the first summit by 1:50 PM and were about 4.8 miles into the hike. The east summit of Twin is one of my favorite views and we stopped for a snack and pictures. There were some dark clouds hanging around which made for interesting shots but made us want to hurry to complete the hike.
We headed off to the higher, western peak of Twin and arrived there at about 2:25 PM. Despite the clouds, we took some time to take in the view and shoot some photographs before heading back to the car. The views a Sugarloaf from this peak are nice as the mountain in really "in your face". We wasted no time in heading back to the east peak and down to Jimmy Dolan Notch. We started down at 3:25 PM having covered 6.4 miles.
I have never liked the trail to Prediger Road through Jimmy Dolan Notch except in the winter. In the winter the snow covers the rocks and you can slide over them on your snowshoes. On this day the rocks were wet and slippery and I did some unintended sliding. When I caught myself during one skip, I put a rather pronounced bend in my Black Diamond poles but was able to straighten it a little. After dealing with the rocks, the next part of the trail has lots of roots to trip over and various mud holes. We continued down to the trail junction and then back out to the car. We were back at the car by 4:40 PM having covered 8.4 miles in about 6.5 hours. This is not my usual speed but it did allow for a lot of photography and some exploration
On Tuesday, April 26th I was anxious to try the Giant Ledge bushwhack again. I read some of the trail reports again and was even more convinced that we had been too high up the slope below the Ledges on Friday. This was my fault since I had decided to take a "shortcut" and did not drop all the way into the col between the Ledges and Panther on Friday. This tome it was my son Kurt who accompanied Sheba and myself on the hike. We arrived at the parking area on Route 47 at 9:15 AM to find no other cars in the lot. By 9:20 AM we were crossing the road and on our way. We had dressed lightly since the temperatures were forecast to be in the high 60's with a possibility of the 70's. I left my jacket in the car it was so warm a the trail head and within a half mile I wished I had worn long sleeves. We made good time without really hurrying making the trail junction by 9:52 AM and turning left toward the ledges. As we walked and talked the weather got even warmer and the hike went by quickly. The trail was not as wet as I thought it might be but there were some very muddy spots. The skies kept changing from partly sunny to a solid haze. We reached the first lookout at about 10:25 Am. The views were similar to Friday; not bad but not great either. I elected not to take the same pictures again but Kurt took a few shots before we moved on. As we walked on the trail we passed up stopping at the other viewpoints as they are too different from the first. At the end of the plateau, we dropped down to where Brad and I had started the bushwhack on Friday, We continued to drop down into the col. I had forgotten that this was a significant drop which explains the poor results we had on the previous bushwhack attempt.
At about 2.1 miles we turned right or ENE and dropped about 125 feet from the trail to around 2900 feet of elevation. At this point there was a broad flat area that was easy to negotiate. This area was BEAUTIFUL and VERY WET. There were large expanses of swamp with green moss and lots of frogs. In some areas there were still small heaps of snow. We walked along this area and dropped to 2850 feet in spots to avoid the water. All the time the cliffs were to our right barely visible through the trees but forming a nice back drop. We stopped to take pictures of the swamp. I also tried to get some shot of the cliffs. About 2.7 miles into the hike I saw a possible path up toward the base of the cliffs and I really wanted some pictures. I turned toward the cliffs and ended gaining about 90 feet of elevation over a .15 mile side trip. Much of this was hard fought climbing through blowdown and over large chucks that had separated from the Ledges over the years. At one point I was thigh deep in snow. Finally I had some open shots of the cliffs and they were impressive from this angle. The skies were clear and blue with a few white clouds and I took quite a few pictures before climbing back down. Kurt and I continued to hike parallel to the cliffs for another .45 miles heading at first south and then southwest. We intersected the trail much further away from the ledges' viewpoints than I thought we would. We were below the spring about a half mile from the trail junction. The temperatures felt like they were well into the 70's. We made the turn at the junction and continued back toward the car. We met five or six people headed up as we were on the way down. We were back at the car by 12:50 PM covering the 4.5 mile hike in 3.5 hours. Next time I plan to start on the other end and spend more time on the talus slopes below the cliffs.
On Friday, April 22nd I was anxious to try the Giant Ledge bushwhack I had read about in several trail reports this winter. The reports said that it was possible to hike below the Ledges by bushwhacking from the col between the Ledges and Panther. There is a flat area at about 2900 feet that follows the cliffs back to the trail up to the Ledges. Brad and Sheba and I headed out Friday morning under overcast skies. The forecast was for some sun and temperatures in the high 50's. We arrived at the parking area at about 11:30 AM to find a few cars parked there. We were on the trail across Route 47 at about 11:35 AM. Although this trail usually fools me with several similar ascents to the trail junction, this time it seemed to go quickly. We arrived at the trail junction by 12:00 PM and made the turn left toward the Ledges. We walked and talked and soon were at the last steep climb up to the plateau. We arrived at the first lookout at around 12:25 PM. We stopped to take some pictures and get a drink and snack. There was some haze but we snapped some shots before getting back on the trail. As we walked along the trail, we stopped briefly at a few other spots before starting to descend toward the col. We kept looking for a way down to a lower elevation. After one aborted attempt, we found a promising route and started down to the base of the cliffs.
The route we found was definitely NOT flat and easy to follow as advertised. We were sidehilling a lot and slipping and sliding on the wet ground and leaves. We had to work our way over some blowdown and over and around large boulders. We kept looking down to see if there was a better route but I was not sure we wanted to go down if it meant we would just have to climb =backup! At one point Brad called my attention to an animal down the slope from us hopping from rock to rock. It was a dark brown fisher with a few areas of black fur. It paralleled our route for a while oblivious to us and then cut up across our path. It disappeared at the base of the cliffs. I was glad Sheba gave it a look but never left my side. We continued on for a little longer and then decided to turn around. I knew we probably too high up the slope but decided that turning back was the best bet. We were back on the trail at about 1:45 PM. Our half mile "detour" had taken about 50 minutes. It was then a simple walk back down the trail to the car. We were back at the parking area by 2:55 PM. Our 4.3 mile effort had taken about 3 hours and 15 minutes. I was eager to read some trip reports and come back better prepared!
On Friday, April 21st I wanted to get in a "local" hike before getting ready for Maundy Thursday services in the evening. I get tired of hiking in the Frick and Trout Pond areas all the time and decided to try Graham Mountain which I did not have in April. As I left Livingston Manor it was raining just a little but that was supposed to stop after a brief period. The temperature was in the mid 30's with a slight breeze but, as always, I was overdressed for the weather. As I drove up the Beaverkill Road the temperature began to drop and the rain turned to light snow! When we arrived at the trail head, there was a dusting of snow on the ground. There was one car in the parking lot and I struck up a conversation with a hiker preparing to hike Balsam Lake and/or Graham for the first time. He was a teacher from Long Island and lived in the same place I had lived 30 years ago. His daughter attended the high school where I taught. It is a small world. After answering a few of his questions, Sheba and I started up the trail at about 9:00 AM. There was still no register in the trail box which is a shame since this is such a popular mountain. We made the first trail junction at about 9:20 AM and continued up toward the second trail junction and the herd path toward Graham. As we hiked the trail changed from almost bare to being covered with a light coating of snow. Looking in one direction the skies were cloudy but blue. In the other direction there was no blue to be seen and the trey overcast was ominous. The wind was beginning to pick up but the trail is fairly sheltered. I had strapped my snowshoes to my pack but it was obvious from the trail conditions that I would not need them on this day. We arrived at the second trail junction at around 9:40 AM and then were quickly at the herd path. I almost "dropped" the snowshoes at this point but I looked at the snow on the herd path and decided to carry them with me.
Almost immediately it was clear that there was more snow on the herd path to Graham than there had been on the trail. There was a "spine" of hard-packed snow and ice down the center where other hikers had walked and this was supportive. Off this spine the snow was soft. Several times I thought I might stop and don the snowshoes but then I would turn a corner and find a lot of open trail. I tried to stay on the spine or off the trail so I did not "posthole" and make conditions worse for other hikers. The snow got deeper the high I went but there were still large open areas. Some areas were quite wet with snow melt and were a little difficult to work around especially just below the last climb to the summit. On the way up the last climb I noticed that the wind had picked up dramatically. We got to the top at about 11:35 AM after hiking around 4 miles. It was so windy I walked over to the ruins and dropped my pack there. We got a snack and drink and then walked out to the lookout. After snapping two or three pictures, the camera died again showing that battery life is greatly effected by temperature! Back at the building, my hands were cold and the wind was still whipping. I replaced the batteries in the camera but decided NOT to go back to the lookout. There was a lot of haze and some snow in the air which limited visibility. We stared down the mountain stopping briefly at the viewpoint on the right to take some OPEC. While we were there, I noticed another hiker ascending the main trail. When we got back to the trail and started down, we almost immediately met the hiker who had been in the parking lot earlier that morning. He had decided to hike Graham first in the hopes that the weather would clear and that he would get some good views from the fire tower. We talked for a minute and then headed our separate ways. I noted that both of the other hikers had chosen to carry but not wear their snowshoes! By 12:45 PM we were back at the main trail after completing 6 miles of hiking. Several people and their dog were back from Balsam Lake Mountain and they told me that the views were poor.I decided to skip the fire tower and go back to the car. We were back at the trail head just after1:30 PM having completed the 8 mile hike with 1900 feet of elevation gain in just under 4 hours!
On Monday, April 18th The weather forecast was for a gorgeous day sandwiched in between the poor weather on the weekend and two days of rain ahead. The forecast did call for some showers in the after noon but Cindy and I thought we could get in a nice hike and be back in the car before they hit. Cindy wanted to avoid another "mountain" hike so we decided to go to Minnewaska and hike to Millbrook Mountain and, perhaps, Gertrude's Nose along the Millbrook Ridge Trail. We arrived at the Trapps parking area just below the iron bridge on Routes 44/55 at about 10:00 AM. There were no other cars parked. I will warn you now. CAUTION: Do not park at the Trapps parking area near the old metal bridge for longer than 30 minutes. The Town of Gardiner is now enforcing this law and you will get a $25 tickets! We walked up the road to the bridge and onto the Trapps Road Carriageway. We immediately turned right into the blue blazed Millbrook Ridge Trail and began the rather steep but enjoyable rock scramble up to the ridge. On the way up we stopped to take a few pictures of the purple Catskills in the distance. I also snapped some pictures of the surrounding rock face with their stunted pitch pines. Soon we were at the top of the climb where the trail levels off and we stopped again to take MORE pictures! From this lookout there are views north toward the Catskills and south over the broad, open valley. Looking east you can see the Undercliff/Overcliff Trail and eventually the Smiley Tower at Lake Mohonk. This viewpoint is only about .5 miles from the start of the hike. From this point the trail stretches another 2.0 miles across the ridge with only some minor ups and downs. It stays near the cliff edge in most places but ducks back into the woods in others. Many times the trail follows along the top of rocky spines.
At the 2.5 mile point the trail begins to climb up Millbrook Mountain. In several places it is near enough to the edge of the cliff that you can get good pictures along the cliff. You can also get shots of the talus piles below the cliffs. There are several places that give good views back to the Smiley Tower. This part of the trail was relatively dry except where a few small streams crossed. There was no snow to be seen anywhere on the hike. We continued to walk along the trail, stopping to take pictures at intervals. A few times it seemed we were at the highest spot but another appeared ahead of us. Sometimes the trail would take us up high on the cliff edge but at others we were walking with a wall of rock rising on the left. Eventually we were climbing up the last rocky spine to the summit of Millbrook Mountain. At this point several trails and a carriageway meet. We stayed straight ahead but the trail marking became red indicating we were no on the Millbrook Mountain Trail. This trail heads toward Gertrude's Nose which is a little over a mile away. We dropped down some on the trail and approached the area where you must descend Millbrook Mountain and ascend to Gertrude's Nose. We were two and a half hours and about 4 miles into the hike and Cindy decided she was too tired to continue on to Gertrude's Nose. I was not happy about turning back when we were so close to our destination but I understood. We turned around and headed back to Millbrook Mountain where we picked up the carriageway. This only lasted a short distance and we turned left on the red Millbrook Mountain Trail. After a short, and wet descent, we turned right on the blue Coxing Trail. Near the beginning of the trail we met a father and his two daughters out on a hike.
The Coxing Trail is usually wet and this day was no exception. It was muddy most of the length. Some places had running water and the rest small ponds. We did some rock hopping and walked along the edge of the trail where possible. Some areas have planks over the water but more are needed. This rocky and wet trail certainly dampened my spirits as did the gather clouds and the wind that sprang up. After 1.75 miles on the Coxing Trail we came to the junction with the Trapps Road carriageway. We turned right to head back to the car.Usually these broad and flat roads are my least favorite "trails" but it was a quick and easy way to get back to the car. We quickly walked along the open road for about a mile back to the iron bridge and then walked down the highway to the car. After removing the parking ticket, we got in the car and headed out just as a light rain started. We covered 8 miles in a little over 4 hours with many stops for pictures!
On Friday, April 15th Cindy and I wanted to take advantage of some beautiful weather and a favorable forecast. I was interested in bagging some high peak that I did not have for April and suggested Windham from Peck Road. Cindy isn't too excited about climbing mountains but I thought this one was relatively easy and hoped for some nice views as a reward. We were not in a big hurry and arrived at the trail head at 10:00 AM ready to hike. There was only one other car in the parking area. The temperatures was already in the mid 40's and I was glad I had decided to dress in lighter layers. We had brought snowshoes but saw not snow near the trail head d very little on the peaks. I was a little concerned about leaving the snowshoes in the car but finally agreed. I would not be happy about turning around before the summit but left that as an option if we encountered deep snow. The lower part of the trail is flat and then it rises gently. This meant that much of this part of the trail had standing or running water from recent storms. This was easily avoided but it did make the rocks very slippery. We made the trail junction and turned right just after 10:30 AM and began the long climb up to the High Peak. The trail along the way varies greatly but is never very steep. As we passed under some pine trees the ground was still frozen in places. Some of the wettest spots have split logs to act as bridges. Few of these places were wet enough to warrant them. One or two spots had some snow remaining on the ground but we walked over or around these areas. The weather was nearly perfect with some sun and a few clouds. We stopped once by a small stream to get a snack. There was no snow, the water was crystal clear and the most prominent sound were the woodpeckers working on some trees.
By noon we had walked the 2 miles from the trail junction and arrived at the lookout toward the Blackhead Range. The views were good if a little hazy. From this viewpoint the mountains across the valley look so close and imposing. I often look at some of these peaks and think that they are too hard for anyone to hike! We spent a few minutes taking pictures before getting on the main trail to cross over the highest point and walk to the lookout toward the north. The first time I hiked this trail I was disappointed that there was no viewpoint as so many people and trip reports had described. I had come in from Peck Road and did not know that the best views are just passed the highest point! We arrived at the lookout to find that the views to the north were very hazy and that Albany was not visible. The views of the nearer peaks and the valley below were nice and we took more pictures. By around 12:15 PM we were ready to head back to the car. Cindy's "call" to leave the snowshoes in the trunk had proved top be a good one! The trip back seemed to go quickly and we were back before 2:00 PM having covered the 6.2 miles in about 3 hours and 45 minutes. We drove toward Tannersville and stopped at the stone chapel on Route 23C. This is where our older son was married and it holds a special meaning for us. We took some pictures of the chapel and of the Devil's Path before heading down the mountain into town to eat at Pancho Villa's. Pancho was not open! This was a great disappointment before we remembered The Alamo..in Phoenicia. We have always had good meals there and the portions are large. We arrived to find it open and we had another enjoyable lunch with enough to bring home.
On Saturday, April 9th I was ready to tackle Cowan as the last peak on my CHH list. I had been in contact with the landowner but was not sure he would be at home to show me where to park when I got there. The drive is about 75 miles and this would make the fifth time I was at his house! As I drove I formulated a plan to hike some other peaks if he was not around. This would be a great disappointment but would be better than going home empty-handed. When we arrived at 10:00 AM, the landowner was NOT home but someone at the house showed us where to park and assured me that it would be okay. I got my bearings from the topo map and compass and headed up through some fields toward the tree line. The views from the tree line toward Relay State Forest were very nice. In fact, these views would be the best I would get all day! The forecast was for temperatures in the 50's and it was already in the low 40's. I had on a single layer with a light jacket and was already getting warm. As soon as we entered the trees the steepness of the slope increased dramatically. Despite the eastern and southern exposures there was still some snow in the woods. I had learned my lesson and had by snowshoes attached to my pack. We ran into some very nice stone walls as we hiked. There were also some larger stone constructions which could have been foundations. There were several of these constructions of laid up stone and they were unlike anything else I had seen. We continued on a line straight for the summit as the ground grew steeper. Within half a mile we ran across a rather well defined road. On the other side of the road the land rose even more steeply so I consulted the topo map. It looked as if walking in either direction on the road would lead to some gentler terrain and I chose to turn left even though this appeared to turn away from the higher ground.
With in a relatively short distance, a road turned up toward higher ground but was still heading away from the summit. Another turn and then another and we were on a woods road aimed, it seemed, in exactly the direction we wanted to go. On the way up this road there were some limited views and I stopped to take some shots before pressing on. There was little or no snow and the skies were a little hazy but the sun was shining. I knew that these woods roads often end, head in the wrong direction or become choked with prickers before reaching the summit. The road split once or twice but we continued up toward the summit. The road stayed open and went right by the high ground. At this point there was one to two feet of snow but there was a had crust and I decided to forgo the snowshoes. We wandered off the trail to the highest spot I could find. It was almost exactly a mile along this route to the summit and it had taken about an hour with all the stops. After a drink and a snack and a few pictures, we started back down. I thought I might head down a different way but was not sure about the private property boundaries. I decided to go back the way we had come. As we approached the turn down the hill and into the woods, Sheba seemed to want to go straight ahead on the road and I thought this might be West Highland Road which was marked on the map. The surface was covered with hard packed snow and so I decided to see what would happen. I was pretty sure that the road would come out on Narrow Notch Road and we could walk the road back to the car. We walked along the road which was lined with a few houses and spaces cleared for building. Many of the homes had "For Sale" signs and all were posted. It occurred to me as we were almost to the "main" road that this was probably a private road but by then it was shorter to walk out the way we were going. When we got to the main road, it was only .7 miles and 15 minutes back to the car. The whole hike was 3.6 miles and we were done in just under 2 hours. I had a mixture of emotions as I put my equipment in the car. I was happy that I was able to finish. The last few peaks were not too difficult to hike and meeting property owners had been fun. On the other hand I was relieved in some ways that it was over. There are only a few of these peaks that I will revisit in the near future since most lack a view, have no other significant features and are packed with prickers and nettles!
On Friday, April 8th I headed for Delaware County again to hike the Moresvilles from the west side. I parked at around 8:30 AM and once I had my snowshoes strapped to my pack we were ready to go. There was a woods road that headed up toward the ridge and we took it. The temperature was just above freezing with blue skies and some sun. The road was muddy and had a lot of running water. As we hiked the road split several times but we continued in the direction that I though would hit a low spot between the NW and SW Moresville. Eventually the road turned up the mountain and became choked with a lot of large prickers. At some point I had the choice of continuing to follow the road or heading up the steepest part of the hill. I decided there was little advantage to staying on the pricker infested road. For a while I doubted my choice as we fought our way up the steep hill through some pricker patches. Eventually we came across another road with fewer prickers and followed it to a height of land. I got out map and compass and determined, to my surprise that we were just south of the southwest peak. We turned off the road and headed up over a gentler slope that was still covered in old prickers. As we neared the top, we ran into some snow but I was able to stay on top of the crust. I stopped at the highest point I could find and as I took off my pack sank up to my knees in snow. At this point I decided to put on the snowshoes! It was 9:30 AM and it had taken about an hour to hike the mile to this peak. I kept them on until we returned to the same spot. As we head north and a little east toward the northwest peak I hoped that the prickers wouldn't be too bad.
The trick to getting to the next peak was to stay on the ridge of high ground between the two mountains. This does mean that you have to cross another unnamed peak between them but it beats the alternative of losing a lot of elevation. As I looked across to the next peak it looked pretty high and I was a little discouraged. After descending some, we ran into a nice woods road that head down into the Col and right up toward the summit of the next peak. Before the summit was a power line right-of-way which offered some nice views despite the power lines. We continued to walk on the road which did not have too much snow in some places but had its share of prickers. Soon we were on the other side and headed down keeping to the high ground again and headed slightly northwest. We continued to follow the road and arrived on the summit plateau at about 10:30 AM and 2.6 miles into the hike. We hiked almost the whole length of the summit looking for the highest spot and then turned around. A snack, a drink and some pictures and we were on our way back to the car. We returned along almost exactly the same route with me following Sheba the whole way. The prickers seemed less of a problem on the way down. I kept thinking "Only one more! Only one more!" We were back at the car by noon cutting almost 30 minutes off the time it took us to get up. The hike was 5.2 miles this way but there were plenty of challenges along the way.
On Wednesday, April 6th I headed to Delaware County to look for hiking permissions from landowners for the three remaining peaks on my CHH list. One landowner was in Portugal but due to return soon and the caretaker did not feel he could give permission. One problem I have been having is separating "sure you can park here and hike" permission from "I own the land and it is OK with me" permission. After failing to make much progress in the area I started to drive home. Around Margaretville my mood improved and I decided to hike SOMETHING. I decided that I had been on all the trails to Dry Brook Ridge except German Hollow. I turned left on Route 28 in Margaretville and headed east toward Arkville. In Arkville I turned right on Dry Brook Road and shortly after made another right on Chris Long Road. The VO map indicated there was a trail head but no parking area and it was correct. I knocked on the door of the house at the dead end but no one was home. I turned the car around and pulled off the road and left a note on my windshield. Sheba and I were on the trail at 10:00 AM. There was NO SNOW down low so I decided to take some traction but leave the snowshoes in the car. Being a slow learner can make life SO interesting! The temperature was in the mid 30's but it seemed warmer and the sun was bright with blue skies. By the time I arrived at the site of the former German Hollow lean-to I was ready to take off hat, gloves AND my midlayer.
Until you have actually seen the German Hollow lean-to with your own eyes, it is hard to understand what happened. Several very large trees fell perpendicularly onto the lean-to. They split the lean-to in half and the situation remains the same today. There are several of these large trees down in the area and I don't remember if I read about the cause. I took pictures from all angles and we had a snack before heading up to the ridge. We were about .7 miles into the hike and the trail had no more than two inches of snow in a few spots. This all changed as we made the turn and started up to the ridge. As soon as the exposure changed the snow depth began to increase! Around a mile it was mid-calf. I was able to stay on top of most of it but breaking through every now and then kept things interesting. A few places were bare from running water but the rest was enrobed in snow. The going was slow. The trail levels at about 1.3 miles and then there is a slight climb to where it meets the Dry Brook Ridge Trail. We arrived at 11:00 AM taking only about an hour to traverse the 1.7 mile distance including at least 10 minutes to take pictures at the lean-to. At this point I decided to head back. We were back at the car just before noon having taken about 15 minutes less on the descent. We covered 3.5 miles in just under 2 hours for some exercise on a new trail. I did stop a few times to take pictures on the way down. By the time we were back to the car the wind had picked up and the skies were completely overcast. I had though I might stop at the Pepacton bridge to take some shots but by the time I arrived there was no point.
On Saturday, April 2nd my plan was to drive to Delaware County and knock on doors to obtain permission for the Moresvilles, Cowan and SE Warren. I did not necessarily intend to hike there but though I might catch a short hike on some trail on the way home. I had to pick up my car after almost three weeks at the body shop. I guess it takes a long time to fix the dents and scratches when a tree falls on your car in your own driveway! I didn't leave home until about 9:15 AM but the skies were looking bright and sunny with a few puffy clouds. The temperature was in the low 30's with a little breeze. We had gotten almost no snow from the "nor'easter" that was predicted to drop as much as 9 inches! I first headed to the vicinity of the Moresvilles on the east side. After locating the road I wanted I asked some walkers about access and they pointed me to the landowner. Unfortunately, although there were two cars at the residence, no one was home and the cars had not been moved since the snowfall. Strike one! I headed for the southeast side of Cowan near the Relay State Forest and found the road and the house I wanted. Pretty much the same story. There were cars in the driveway and no one home. Strike two! I headed over to Roses Brook Road to try to get permission for SE Warren and stopped to ask a couple loading hay onto their pickup from a barn. They pointed me to a gentleman who had sold the land but had lifetime use. He quickly gave me permission and the hike was on! I parked by the barn and got my equipment ready. There was hardly any snow in the valley and the temperatures were climbing into the mid 30's despite a brisk wind. It was then that I made the BIGGEST MISTAKE of the day. I decided to leave my snowshoes in the car. Sheba and I started our hike at about 11:00 AM by walking down a dirt road toward Roses Brook.
I was concerned about the amount of water but a little footbridge made the crossing easy. From here we followed the ATV and logging roads up the mountain. There was still very little snow but quite a bit of mud as we started up the road. Soon there was a light covering of snow on the ground and I decided the road was going too far east so I found another one that crossed a little brook and headed more to the west and up. The snow depth began to increase but there was still no problem as it was barely at boot top level. We continued to follow woods roads on and off until we were at the power lines. I decided to walk up the right-of-way since there was less snow. There were also some nice views despite the interference of the power line towers. The right-of-way grew very steep so we headed back into the woods. From this point to the summit the snow got deeper with 6 to 8 inches of new powder over several feet of existing base. Without snowshoes I would sink in every now and then but found the base underneath fairly supportive. I found the trick was to keep away from bushes and blowdown to minimize sinking up to my thighs. The going was tough but soon we were on the summit plateau. I walked to the nearest high point I could see which we obviously in the middle of a pricker patch. I sunk in but hit the high spot. I looked around and saw another spot further to the west but judged that I was already higher than it. It was 12:35 PM and we had hiked only 1.3 miles with an elevation gain of 1200 feet.
Now it was a matter of how to get down. I decided just to reverse direction and follow the way we had come up. I reasoned that this way I at least knew where I had broken through and could try to avoid these spots. Sheba still had a lot of energy and ran down the hill ahead of me. I was able to make good time but was careful not to go to fast and break through. The temperature increased as we descended and the snow began to turn to slush. This made the final part of the descent very slippery but it was short and I did not use any traction device. I stopped to take a few pictures and we were still back by 1:30 PM. We had covered 2.6 miles in just OVER 2 hours. I also learned my lesson about snowshoes in early spring. I decided to check out the residence near Cowan one more time but had no better luck. I then got the idea that I would go north on Narrow Notch Road and head to the west side of the Moresvilles to see if I could get permission there. A homeowner at the end of a back road was home and we struck up a conversation about windmills and living on Long Island. He gave me permission to hike AND to park on his land. He also gave me some clues about woods roads in the area. I just need to take some time in the near future to do this hike and to get permission for Cowan and I will be done!
On Tuesday, March 29th I was pleased with my hike to Plattekill and ready for another bushwhack. Since I had obtained permission to hike East Jewett on Monday, I wanted to return to the Hunter area and try this hike. Once I was finished with East Jewett, I would have only four Delaware peaks to complete for my Catskill Highest Hundred list. We got another early start and parked at about 8:45 AM in a pull off on one of the side roads in the town of Hunter. Interestingly, the GPS and other maps show the road we were on as continuing on around in a loop. The paved part of the road was a dead end and we were soon walking on a woods road which showed no signs of having ever been paved. The road was pretty eroded and it did not head in exactly the right direction. I have learned to give these woods roads a chance since they usually switchback up the mountain and, although the distance may be longer, they usually lead close to where you want to go. Eventually the road turned away from the direction we needed to go and headed down so I was ready to turn off and start to bushwhack. At the point where I was about to turn another roads appeared and, again, headed up to the ridge. We began to follow this road and it too was not headed in exactly the right direction. Several times I was ready to turn off the road and simply head up the mountain. I decided to stay on the road and see where it went. The road led around to the other side of the mountain and began to descend so we turned into the woods and started up to the ridge. There was almost no snow in the woods and what had been on the woods road was VERY packed. I chose not to wear or take my snowshoes with me but I was packing my YakTrax XTRs and for a while it looked like a good choice. As we climbed the ridge, we did hit some steep spots but we also encountered additional woods roads, I got a few pictures of the Hunter Ski Area across the valley but they were through the trees with no clear views. I was fooled several times by spots near the "edge" of the mountain which looked open but were blocked once I walked over to them.
So far there had been few steep areas, no cliff bands and little snow. The woods were open and the hike had been easy. Within about .25 miles of the top this all changed.We ran into a cliff band which, while mot high, did pose an obstacle. After taking some pictures, Sheba and I found a way up through the cliffs. The snow increased in depth and the forest changed to evergreens. The firs trees were thick and hard to push through and I began to break through the crust where snow had covered some blowdown. I didn't think too much about this and pushed on toward what I could see was higher ground. I could see I was walking on a crust over blowdown and small fir trees but I was being careful. Near what seemed to be the highest spot I could see. It was just passed 10:00 AM. I was suddenly up to my waist in snow. Both feet had broken through and I learned the meaning of "spruce trap". Of course, this was nothing like those in the Adirondacks but there was a moment of panic. I immediately calmed down, broke some crust, used my poles and several nearby trees to pull myself out. I had a few bruises but otherwise was fine. I had wanted to bushwhack down the steeper side of the mountain to the path I had used on the way up but this would require pushing through some more dense trees and walking over more uncharted territory. I decided to head back the way I had come since I knew what lay in that direction. I told Sheba "Back" and simply followed here lead to the woods road. Going down was a pleasure and once we were on the roads things went even faster. We were back by 11:00 AM having covered an unknown 3.8 mile bushwhack with 1300 feet of elevation gain in 2 hours and 10 minutes. I took some more pictures of Hunter from the end of the woods road before getting in the car and heading home.
On Monday, March 28th I decided to head toward the Hunter-Tannersville area to hike the Plattekill Mountain in that area. I wanted to get this done before the weather turned warm enough to bring out the rattlesnakes. I am uncomfortable when hiking in snake country with Sheba and I want to avoid the snakes myself when I can! I was a little pressed for time and have enough experience to know that bushwhacks don't always go as planned. I looked at the maps and reports others had made and felt I had enough time for us to do the hike. After this, there would only be 5 left and I hoped to get East Jewett done during the week leaving only four Delaware County peaks to go! Sheba and I got an early start and arrived at the Platte Clove Preserve just before 9:00 AM. There wasn't much space to park but I pulled over as far as possible and we were on the trail before 9:00 AM. There was a thin covering of snow up to the bridge and then more and more snow as we went along. There are more trails now in the Preserve so I got turned around at least twice and had to consult my map. Unfortunately, I had left my VO Map in the car and my compass at home! In about half and hour we passed the turn for the Devil's Path up Indian Head and shortly after we arrived at the lean-to. At this point I was not sure when to turn up the mountain but I knew that there was a woods road somewhere. I decided to stay on the main trail until Codfish Point. If I didn't find the road by that time I would simply turn and go up. The trail rises continuously from Platte Clove but seems to get a little steeper after the trail junction. There were some areas of the trail that were pretty bare or had ice on them.I wore my snowshoes and was generally glad that I did. Soon the side trail to the left for Codfish Point appeared and still no woods road or tracks off toward Plattekill. We started down the trail to the left but the bright sun made me think that the views might no be that good. We turned around and headed across the main trail in a southwest direction toward Plattekill.
After walking only a few hundred feet into the forest, we picked up a set of snowshoe tracks and a woods road! We followed this road through some switchbacks for the next .5 miles. The set of tracks we were following stayed on the road also but were sometimes obscured by drifting snow. The temperature at the trail head was 17 degrees when we started and now a wind was blowing. The sun was out during most of the hike and this made things seem warmer. After about .5 miles on the road, the snow shoe tracks turned left and up the mountain and we followed. There were some rocky ledges to work around but nothing to serious. The evergreen trees at the top did start to get thicker the farther we went but nothing was impassible. I kept looking for viewpoints but the best were at the point where we turned up the mountain off the woods road so I planned to return there on the way back. We walked up through relatively open woods and found another slight rise. After about .3 miles from the turn, I was ready to claim victory since we had walked around on the top in several different directions. The track we had been following continued and I thought this hiker may have continued on to Overlook or Indian Head, a thought that I had. I did find a spot with two boulders and one had a wood pile on top. After taking some pictures of Sheba I followed her lead back down to the place where we had turned off the woods road. I stopped in this area to take some pictures of Indian Head and Kaaterskill through the trees. There were no really clear viewpoints for either mountain. I also took some pictures of the woods and realized that the "ledges" we had been walking around were really a stone quarry and that the woods road was really a quarry road to this area near the top of the mountain. We hiked back on the woods road following our trail from earlier until we where back on the marked trail between Plattekill and Overlook.
By the time we were back on the trail the sun's position had shifted and there were some clouds so I decided I had just enough time to walk out to Codfish Point. I had never been out to this viewpoint before and it was quite impressive., Since it has an exposure to the east much of the snow was gone. There were some "chairs" people had constructed from the quarry stone. The quarrying operation is pretty extensive extending along the top of this bluff for some distance. The views to the Hudson are open but they were hazy. I took some pictures of the landscapes and quarrying before deciding to head out. We hurried back down the main trail to the car. We were back at noon having covered 6 miles and 1400 feet of elevation gain in 3 hours. I drove into Hunter and up some of the various side roads near East Jewett and finally got permission to hike. Several people said that no one would care if I just hiked but I wanted to respect the rights of the private property owners. I though I might come back one day in the week to hike this peak.
On Sunday, March 27th Cindy and I planned to snowshoe with a group at Frick Pond. We agreed to meet at the parking area at 1:00 PM for the hike. Cindy and I arrived a little early and parked. We waited until 1:10 PM and then decided to start out since the "group" was either late or had decided not to come. I was annoyed since I was looking forward to hiking with a group for once since I so seldom get that chance. We hiked down the Quick Lake trail to Frick Pond and stopped at the outlet bridge to take some pictures. The skies were cloudless and a deep blue. The ice at the outlet end of the pond was gone and there was good light for photography. The temperature was in the high 20's and there was a slight breeze but the bright sun made it seem warm. We crossed the bridge and started around the side of the pond. At the trail junction we headed left to stay on the Quick Lake Trail toward Iron Wheel Junction. This part of the trail still has major areas of blowdown blocking the trail in several places. It didn't take long until we were at Iron Wheel. I guess snowmobile season must be over since there were no tracks on the Logger's Loop or the Quick Lake Trail. We turned right on the Logger's Loop.
Up to this point there had been some open spots on the way to Frick Pond but the rest of the trail had been covered in unbroken snow from the storm at the beginning of last week. The Logger's Loop trail had several uncovered areas but we negotiated around these. Just before the descent to Times Square there is some standing water to the left of the trail. The water covered a larger area than I remembered but looked to be only a few feet deep. the area did make for some nice pictures and I took a few before we got back on the trail. At Times Square Cindy decided we should go straight ahead and back to the car. I wanted to climb Big Rock and go down the Flynn Trail but this adds mileage and a significant climb. As we stared back toward Frick, we picked up some fresh snowshoe tracks.I suspected it was the group we were supposed to meet and we soon caught up to them. I didn't ask why they were late but just said hello and continued back to the car arriving at about 3:00 PM. We covered 3.9 miles in under 2 hours for a short but beautiful hike.
On Friday, March 25th I had a limited amount of time but wanted to do a 3500 foot peak so I decided on Balsam Lake. We wanted to get an early start as we did for Hunter earlier in the week but a ambulance call intervened. By the time I got back it was an hour later but I decided to go anyway. When we left Livingston Manor, the temperature was just short of freezing and the sun was beginning to come out bringing blue skies. As we headed up the Beaverkill Road it began to snow and the temperature started to drop. After we passed Quill Gordon Lodge the road began to deteriorate badly and I though that it might need a "seasonal maintenance" sign! In the last half mile of road, it was clear that the water flowing in the ditch alongside the road had eroded away much of the dirt road. A road that was never wide enough for two cars to pass was now barely wide enough for one! When we arrived at the parking area, it was not plowed so I parked as far out of the way as possible at the end of the road. The temperature was 17 degrees with a slight breeze. The parking area had 4 inches of fresh powder on top of a packed base. I got my snowshoes on and we headed out at about 9:15 AM. My plan was to hike up the Millbrook side of the mountain and then :ski" down the steeper side. There was no book in the trail register. This is a trend that I find irresponsible on the part of the DEC that is supposed to maintain these registers. On the way to the first turn up the mountain there were only a few bare areas where water was running but there was a lot of new blowdown. Most of this is too big to clear without a chainsaw and I hope the DEC sends in a crew sooner that later to clear this popular trail. The snow got a little deeper as we reached the turn up the mountain and continued up toward the second turn. We seldom hike in this direction and it surprised me that the elevation gain is significant but spread over a longer distance.
Looking straight ahead on the trail we could see blue skies and a little sun peeking through. As glance back toward the Beaverkill Valley revealed dark skies and obvious snow showers. I stopped to take few pictures before continuing on. By 10:25 AM we were at the turn up the mountain. We had hiked 1.85 miles and gained nearly 800 feet of elevation. After the turn, as we started to climb, the snow got deeper and deeper, 4 inches of powder became 8 inches and there were drifts that were even deeper. I had forgotten to put on gaiters but the snowshoes helped to compact the snow and my Mountain Hardwear Winter Wander pants have an elastic drawstring at the hems. Breaking trail through the fresh powder slowed down the ascent some but the sun has out and the views of Graham over my shoulder were nice. As the trail flattened some near the top, the snow on the fir trees weighed down their branches to form a low "tunnel" and almost blocked the trail in several spots. I took a few pictures and tried to avoid getting too much snow in the pack or down my back. Finally, I looked up and saw the tower through the trees and we passed the cabin. Once in the tower clearing I took some pictures before approaching the table to drop my pack for the climb up the tower. It was 10:55 AM and we had covered 2.8 miles and gained 200 feet.
In the tower clearing the sun was out and there were largely blue skies. The top of the picnic table was even with the top of the snow indicating a depth of several feet. The surrounding fur trees were covered with frozen snow and ice and they sparkled in the sun. I took off my pack and snowshoes, got out the camera and headed up the tower, The steps of the tower were covered in snow and ice and frozen snow covered the mesh fencing. As I ascended the wind grew stronger and was blowing at least 20 mph when I cleared the trees. This made the railings very cold and I decided to get my pictures and get down. The skies to the north and west were blue and the views beautiful. To the south and east the skies were gray and dark with indications that some snow was still falling in that direction. I took various shots of the mountains and valleys and of the snow on the tower before heading down. Getting down was more "interesting" than coming up as the steps were very slippery. Once at the bottom, I shouldered the pack and we walked out of the clearing on the trail toward the spring at 11:05 AM. As we walked the flat part of the summit, I took more pictures of the twisted hardwood trees encased in ice. Descending the steps on the trail down to the spring proved to be a challenge and it was easiest for me to walk off the trail where I could. Below the spring the trail was covered in powdery snow although I was never able to get the glide I wanted. I followed Sheba down even though I could not see many trail markers. Sheba followed the trail unerringly. I am not sure how she does this since, during the winter and with fresh snow the trail looks much like other areas of the forest. We arrived a the trail back to the car and 11:27 AM which meant the .85 mile descent had taken only 20 minutes. We were back at the car and ready to start home at 11:48 AM having covered 4.5 miles in 2.5 hours.
On Tuesday, March 22nd I wanted to get in a Catskill 3500 peak for the first hike of the spring and Hunter seemed like a good choice since it was close and we had not reached the summit on Sunday. I don't like to be too rushed and needed to get to track practice in the afternoon so I was up by 6:15 AM and out of Livingston Manor by 7:00 AM. The temperature was about 34 degrees and the skies were cloudy. The forecast for Hunter was for partly sunny skies with temperatures climbing into the low to mid 40's. The roads were in poor shape but I made good time arriving in the parking area by 8:15 AM. The temperature was 28 regress with a 20 mph wind blowing. I thought I was a little under dressed considering that I knew the summit would be colder and windier. For a moment I considered going home but I came to my senses and was on the trail by 8:20 AM. There was considerably more snow on the trail than there had been on Sunday with only a few bare spots. Sheba and I set our usual quick pace and after about half a mile I was considering removing my midlayer. The areas that had been bare on Sunday near the upper part of the trail before the turn were all covered in several inches of snow. It was snowing on and off and there were clouds and fog hanging around. There was no sign of the sun and I doubted the views from the tower would be any good. We were at the turn up the mountain around 9:10 AM which meant we had covered 1.7 miles in 40 minutes.
We made the turn up the mountain and the depth of snow increased. In several places the snow had blown off the hard packed snow and ice and formed drifts 3 or 4 feet high! The higher we ascended the thicker the fog became. There was also more snow and ice frozen onto the trees making for some very interesting and spooky scenes. From the viewpoint before the trail to the lean-to the hill before Rusk and Rusk were completely hidden in the clouds and fog. We pressed on passing the 3500 foot sign and soon arrived at the side trail to the Colonel's Chair. At this point there were several sets of snowshoe tracks that looked like they were after Monday's snow. I guessed some adventuresome hikers had headed for the tower Monday afternoon after the morning snow had stopped. We continued to make good time and arrived at the tower clearing at 10:00 AM. We had covered the 3.4 mile ascent in 1 hour and 40 minutes! There was a lot of ice around the cabin. I dropped my pack on the porch and got out the camera to take pictures. The trees were covered in a shroud of ice and snow and a fog drifted across the clearing. The whole scene was punctuated by a light snowfall. I took pictures of the tower, trees and cabin from the ground. I didn't see much point in going aloft but decided to drop the snowshoes and go up the tower. There were some interesting snow crystals on the fencing and rails so I took some shot and then started to climb. Without even looking I knew when I was above the trees as the wind velocity increased to between 30 and 40 mph. I hurriedly took a few pictures and then return to the relative calm of the ground.
There was no reason to stick around at the summit any longer so I donned the snowshoes again and started down. I was able to "ski" down many of the descents without a problem. We stopped at the small viewpoint but could see nothing. I stopped two more times to take some pictures before arriving at the trail to the lean-to. At the spring I took a few pictures and tried to show the height of some of the drifts. After making the turn onto the Old Hunter Road, I took a few more pictures of the snow-covered trail. After this, I put the camera away and we hurried down the rest of the way to the car. We were back at 11:35 AM having covered the 6.8 mile trek in 3 hours and 10 minutes. I was a little surprised at the time since it was quick but I had not felt rushed at any time. On the way out of the Spruceton Valley, I stopped several times to take pictures of the peaks along the Westkill Ridge. The trees were covered in a white coating and many were hidden behind clouds and fog.