What You Missed
On Sunday, Sept 21st I wanted to get away from Livingston Manor and hike a 35 I had not done in September. I decided to try Westkill from Diamond Notch just to see what it was like. I had never hiked in from this trailhead. Sheba and I got a late start and the skies were still cloudy and the valley hazy when we left. A few cars were parked at both Slide and Panther as we headed for Route 28 and then Rt 214 toward Hunter. I turned left in Lainsville and headed up the road looking for the parking area. Near the end of the road I did not see a parking area but I did see a lot of "No Parking" signs placed by local residents. Where the road dead ends I saw a "troad" (not a trail but not a road) but decided that the parking area could NOT be on this since it was so narrow and rutted. There was also no sign indicating a trailhead! (I later found out that the parking area IS further up this road from a hiker I met later on Westkill. I gave up and headed for the Spruceton Road where I knew I could find my way.
Sheba and I arrived at the Spruceton lot at about 10:40 and got ready to hike. I had put on a long sleeved Icebreaker shirt but decided to switch into a Mountain Hardwear Wicked T short sleeve and carry the warmer shirt. I also ditched the hat, gloves and light jacket since the temperature had climbed from the 40's into the mid-60's! I did keep my Marmot Precip since showers were in the forecast. There were quite a few cars in the parking lot and when I signed in I noticed one group of 17 lead by Dave and Carol White were doing the Hunter loop. Others were signed in for Westkill. I stopped several times along the way to take pictures of the Westkill. The water was low but the light seemed right! We stopped at Diamond Notch Falls to take some pictures. After crossing the bridge we turned right to start the climb. I remembered how this hike usually surprises me with its length and difficulty. Sheba and I kept up a good pace pausing only briefly for pictures and a drink.
The trail ascends rather steeply at times but the first part was rather dry and the nettles were beginning to recede. A few large deadfalls lay across the path but were easily avoided. Eventually the trail begins to level before climbing again. Along the way we caught up to and passed a group of four. We chatted for a moment before pushing on. The trail began to level and that's when the muddy areas appeared. The could be avoided but Sheba didn't bother! We kept ascending until the "cave" where we stopped for some pictures. After that, we passed the 3500 foot sign and continued on. The trail descended slightly to a lower point before the final climb up to the Buck Ridge lookouts. We continued on for about .1 miles to the summit which is marked with a sign and a rather impressive stone cache. When we returned to the lookouts, we got a drink and a snack since it was just after noon. The views were still hazy but were clearing some as the sun came out. I took pictures from both sides of the lookout. Some of the cloud formations were interesting.
I decided to put away the camera and make a quick descent down the mountain and back to the car. Sheba seemed to be willing and we started down at a fast pace. We again passed the group of four still working their way to the top. We met two more groups of two people on their ascent. On the way back from Diamond Notch Falls we met several other groups headed in the opposite direction. I signed us out at the register and we were back at the car a little after 2:00 PM covering the 6 miles in about 3.5 hours.
On Friday, Sept 19th I wanted to get in a short hike after school so I came home, got my pack and Sheba and headed for Hodge and Frick Ponds. The leaves were just beginning to turn but had not really begun to show their colors. We parked at the trailhead at 3:00 PM and got going right away. I wanted to do a rather long loop but be back in time to head to The Lazy Beagle for dinner. Teaching and coaching cross country limited the amount of hiking I can do. The weather was perfect and the temperature was crisp; maybe even a little too crisp! The skies were clear and blue with only a few wispy clouds. Sheba and I made Frick Pond in around 10 minutes and then headed right to Times Square. At Times Square we turned right to take the Big Rock Trail. As long as my hiking time is limited, I wanted to take the steeper route to Hodge Pond.
Keeping a quick pace Sheba and I got to the top of the climb at the junction with the Flynn Trail in about 40 minutes. We turned left and headed for Hodge Pond and arrived in less than an hour. The pond was pretty as usual but the leaves had not changed enough to add any color. I took pictures while Sheba got a drink. At this point I decided to go back to the Flynn Trail and head toward Junkyard Junction. I sometimes circle around the back of the pond but I wanted to be back by 5:00 PM or just after! Sheba and I headed out on the trail which had some damp and muddy places in spots. At Junkyard we turned right on the Quick Lake Trail which is slightly shorter than the Logger's Loop. As we headed down this trail I noticed that the air was getting cooler. I debated putting on the longsleeved top I had brought but decided to just keep hiking. I did make a mental note to pack a light hat and gloves next time.
The Quick Lake Trail part seemed long and very uneventful. Several small streams were nearly dry. Soon we were at the bridge over the outlet of Frick Pond. I have said before that this is one of the nicest pictures in the Catskills and is only a little more than half a mile from the parking area. A round trip walk of a little over a mile yields a great view. This area is even nicer when the leaves change and geese land on the pond. I took some pictures before we headed back to the car. We made the 6 plus mile hike in just over 2 hours arriving back at the parking area at 5:15 PM.
On Saturday, Sept 13th Karl and Kathleen were up from Virginia for Cindy's birthday. Kathleen went to ride with here mother so Karl, Cindy and I decided to take a short hike. I was fighting off a cold that had come in suddenly but thought an easy hike might improve my spirits. We took Sheba and Maggie, Karl and Kathleen's chow mix puppy. Sheba isn't too fond of other dogs but is better when out in the open spaces with them. We parked at the top of Russell Brook Road to begin the hike at about 10:00 AM. The road was dry and dusty and, despite the sound of running water, the brook was low. We made our way to the lower parking area, crossed the brook and signed in at the register. We decided to do the steeper trail to Mud Pond first and turned left.
The number of cars at the parking area suggested that there might be campers at the fire circle near the brook but nobody was there. We talked as we climbed the long hill to Mud Pond. Maggie ran ahead and investigated the sides of the trail. Sheba was in full "herding" mode since there was more than one of us! At the trail junction we turned right and headed over the ridge toward Trout Pond. The walk went quickly as we talked and soon we were over the top and descending the other side toward the pond. As we neared the pond, we heard voices and found that the campers were at the fire circle near the outlet of the pond. They had forsaken both lean-tos to use tents. I took some pictures from the inlet and noted the low water level in the brook and the lake.
We walked quickly passed the campers who had several young children making a lot of noise. Soon we were passed them and headed toward the outlet. The water level was low despite the effort of the beavers to raise the level with a dam. The walk back to the falls went quickly. We did not visit the falls as we wanted to get home and the low water meant the falls were not at their best. We walked back up Russell Brook Road and arrived at the car just passed noon. The hike of a little over 4 miles had taken just over 2 hours.
On Sunday, Aug 30th I was ready to hike after the first week of classes and the Hurricane Hannah watch. The remnants of the hurricane resulted only in a gentle soaking rain on Saturday which replenished the groundwater but did not increases stream levels much. I had not been out since the previous Monday and Sheba and I were both ready to go. I decided to "bag" as many peaks as I could in this one day chose to travel to the Blackhead range to hike the three peaks there. The weather prediction was for the mid to high 70's but it was cool enough in the morning to make me done a light OR Sequence long sleeve top. As I drove to Hunter there were several places where tress were down alongside or in the road. We arrived at the Big Hollow parking area at about 9:30 AM ready to hike. The weather was still cool so I left the long sleeved top on. Another hiker started out before us but soon returned to the lot with a perplexed look. He was headed for the Blacks but the signs were confusing him. It is true that the sign at the beginning of the trail mentions Acra Point and even Windham but does not list ANY of the Blacks as a destination. I assured him he was headed in the right direction and we headed off together.
As we hiked I discovered that he was also a science teacher and taught in the Hudson school district near Albany. We both were headed for Lockwood Gap where he indicated he would probably head for Blackhead and go on to Acra Point. We set a FAST pace probably trying to compete a little although we was 10 years younger. Despite the rain the day before the trail was not very wet although many of the rocks were damp enough to be slippery! We talked a little about teaching, ticks and snakebites. Soon we were at the switchbacks with a clear view of Blackhead. This view doesn't show up in pictures well but it always impresses me how Blackhead seems to loom over the hiker. Within 50 minutes we were at Lockwood Gap. Along the way a young man passed us and we rejoined him at the Gap. He and his father were from New Jersey and had gotten up at 5:00 AM to come hiker in the Catskills. They had hiked the mountains before in various seasons and I was impressed since many young people would not awake that early "just" to hike. My hiking companion and I split as Sheba and I headed for Black Dome and Thomas Cole. Before starting up the mountain, I changed into a short sleeve top since I was completely soaked from the effort I had put into hiking.
We slowed our pace a little but still kept it quick. I had decided to refrain from taking pictures until the turn around point on Cole. The temperature was still cool and the views were as clear as I have ever seen perhaps due to the stiff breeze. We summited Black Dome in about 20 minutes and headed for Cole. The climb up Black Dome is always fun since there are several opportunities to scramble over rocks and use roots to pull yourself up to the next level. The walk from Black Dome to Cole is uneventful. Along the way a few views of Cole can be glimpsed but nothing that photographs well. It is also obvious that the hike is along a narrow ridge of land between the two mountains that falls away on either side. There is a minimal elevation drop between the two peaks but there are several interesting scrambles. Within 30 minutes we were passed the highest point on Cole and turned around to head back to Black Dome. I got the camera out and snapped a few pictures on the return trip including a view of Black Dome.
On the summit of Black Dome Sheba and I stopped at the rock ledge that offers a wonderful lookout to the south. This day the haze was nearly absent and the peaks of the Devil's Path clearly visible. I took a number of pictures of the peaks and the valleys below before going back to the main trail. On the way back to Lockwood Gap we stopped before the descent to take pictures of Blackhead and the Big Hollow Valley from another viewpoint. The blue sky with a few white clouds contrasted beautifully with the dark greens of the evergreen trees. ON the way down to the Gap I snapped some pictures of the rock scrambles before putting the camera back in the pack anticipating the climb up Blackhead. The hike up Blackhead is quite different than the one up Black Dome. It is slightly less steep in most areas and there are few rock scrambles. There are some open rock faces that offer great views and I knew I would take advantage of these on the way back. We did meet two young women hiking down Blackheads and said hello as we passed.
I reread my original trail description of Blackhead. I was obviously impressed by the hike over the rock faces which now seems rather routine. After a short distance of about .25 miles the trail leveled and we followed it all the way to the trail junction near a rock outcrop that marks the summit of Blackhead. The weather was warmer now but still cool and the sky remained exceptionally clear. Sheba and I turned around an began the hike back with me taking a few photos of the trail along the way. I heard the roar of airplane engines and looked up to see two four-engine turboprop aircraft flying in formation. I assumed they were military and I hurried to get out from under the trees to take a picture. I found that...airplanes fly a LOT faster than I can walk! Soon we were back on the exposed rocks that offer excellent views from Blackhead back to Black Dome and into the Black Dome Valley. These views are to the east and north and south. I took MANY pictures of Black Dome including some close-ups of exposed rock that marked my previous position less than an hour ago.
As we dropped down to the other rock ledges new angles an views became available for more pictures. As I was taking these shots, the airplanes returned apparently circling the area. I took several pictures but was unable to make out their markings or type of aircraft. Sheba and I continued our descent to Lockwood Gap which went quickly despite some wet areas on the trail. We turned right to continue on the trail to the parking area. The descent is NOT fun! Like many of the mountains the trail is littered with loose rocks that slip and side and tend to turn ankles. Near the end of the return trip the trail is flat and passes over two bridges. The last part of the trail has ROCKS. There are large rocks and small rocks but there are always rocks. You can try to step on them or over them or between them or try to find a trail around them. We did meet several groups starting their climb. It always amazes me what some people wear to climb and that they feel a small water bottle is enough equipment! Sheba and I were back at the parking area by 2:00 PM. We completed the 7 miles in about 4.5 hours.
On Monday, September 1st I knew I had one last day to hike before the start of school. Teaching classes and coaching cross country SERIOUSLY cut into my hiking time. I looked at my grid and found That I had not hiked the Blacks or Indian Head and Twin on the Devil's Path. I decided to try the Devil's Path in the morning and see if I had anything left for another hike in the afternoon. Sheba and I got an early start and were at the parking area on Prediger Road by just after 9:00 AM. There were already several cars parked. I had decided to hike the quickest route which is up to Jimmy Dolan Notch, west to "bag" the two peaks of Twin and then back through the notch to the east to get Indian Head. After that, all that remains is to go back to the Notch, turn right and head back to the car. The walk up to Jimmy Dolan Notch is not very difficult but it always seems longer than I anticipate. At the Notch we turned right to head up to Twin.
The hike up to Twin has several interesting but short rock scrambles which Sheba handles without a problem. We stopped briefly at the lookout on the east peak of Twin where there was a great view but quiet a bit of haze. I thought about not doing the higher west peak but quickly dismissed that idea. I decided to take pictures on the way back and we got back on the Devil's Path to the west peak of Twin. The trail descends into a Col between the two peaks before climbing to the higher peak. We arrived at the summit and got a drink and a snack. I began to take pictures of Sugarloaf and the mountains beyond. I heard voices coming from the trail up from Pecoy Notch just as we were getting ready to leave. Two hikers arrived and we talked for a minute. They had started early in the morning on Spruceton Road and had hiked from the Spruceton Road trail head over the Devil's Path. So far they had climbed Plateau, Sugarloaf and Twin. They still looked fresh and were headed for Indian Head. I wished them luck and returned to the east peak.
The views from the east peak are usually good and can be spectacular. The haze this day hung on the mountains and in the valleys but the view was still impressive. I took some pictures before we returned to the Devil's Path to Indian Head. By this time I was beginning to feel more tired than I had anticipated. Once again I reminded myself that 11 miles of hiking at Sam's Point is NOT the same as hiking the 3500's. When we arrived at the Notch we immediately began the climb up Indian Head. This walk has several steep areas and some rock scrambles to keep things interesting. There is even one small scramble near the summit which is marked by a large rock. Once at the highest point we turned around and started back down the trail to the Notch. We met a few hikers performing trail maintenance and quickly arrived back at the Notch. On the way down we met some more hikers going down and spoke to them briefly before bypassing them. Several times I remembered our winter hike through over 4 feet of snow! We were back at the trail head around 1:00 PM. I decided that I had had enough for one day and that 6 miles was sufficient. We returned home and I prepared for the beginning of my 35th year as a teacher.
On Saturday, Aug 30th Karl was up from Virginia for the Labor Day weekend. We decided to try to fit a short hike close to home in between family commitments. We chose Balsam Lake Mountain since it is close to home, short and very familiar to us. We drove up the Beaverkill Road under somewhat overcast skies with the prediction for possible thunderstorms. We arrived just after 10:30 AM to find no cars in the lot. I was surprised that no one was manning the tower for the long weekend but there didn't seem to be a real demand! We hiked and talked with Sheba staying close to Karl until we got to the turnoff up the steeper side of the mountain. We turned left and began the climb.
This climb is not very difficult but we kept up a pace that made up for it! We only stopped briefly along the way and once when we got to the spring. When we hit the summit plateau, we quickly walked the remaining distance to the tower. Non one was there and we were free to climb to the top to get a look around. As I climbed I could see that fog and haze hung over the mountains and valleys near and far. We didn't stay long and were soon descending the other side of the mountain. On the Dry Brook trail we kept up the pace with Karl lingering several times to pick and eat the plentiful blackberries. We were back at the parking lot by 12:15 PM having completed the 4 miles hike. A few cars in the parking lot indicated others were probably ascending as we had earlier.
On Thursday, Aug 28th I decided that I wanted to return to Sam's Point since there are so many different choices. I thought we might hike to Indian Rock and then out the High Point Carriageway and back on the Berrypickers' Trail. We could then walk around Lake Maratanza and visit the Ice Caves and Sam's Point or go back to the car directly. The weather was a little overcast and cooler than it had been when we arrived at the parking area at 11:50 AM. There were few cars in the parking lot as we headed to the left on the Sam's Point Loop Road. The wide, flat road rises gently and was a real contrast to the Breakneck Ridge Trail from the day before. We kept up a rapid pace as we walked by the Berrypickers' shacks and the start of the new South Gully Trail. No one else appeared to be hiking as we walked down the road and passed the various radio and TV towers.
After 1.1 miles we turned left onto the High Point Carriageway and hiked the remaining .4 miles to the Indian Rock Trail. We turned left onto this trail to walk to Indian Rock. I had nor been there in some time and the first thing I noticed was how dry the often swampy area was. The board walk that makes up much of the trail was unnecessary! The trail appears to end at a rock lookout which is actually only about half way to Indian Rock. The views from here were nice despite the haze on the surrounding hills and the distant mountains. We hike the rest of the way out to Indian Rock. I took more pictures of the countryside and of the Rick itself before heading back to the High Point Carriageway. I stopped to give Sheba and drink and to add up the mileage. The NYNJTC maps do NOT have all of the trails marked but the map from the Conservation Center is accurate. The hike I had planned would be well over 9 miles depending on the exact route and the accuracy of the map's mileages!
Sheba and I quickly hiked the 1 mile to the junction with the High Point Trail but stayed on the carriageway. We did meet two men on the carriageway and one was talking on his cell phone. The other carried a measuring tape and a log book. They appeared to be involved in some kind of work for the Preserve. The carriageway is little used in this area and is narrow at its beginning. The rocks that once made up the base are fully exposed and make walking difficult. Soon the path widens and begins to descend toward the lowest point on the hike. This goes on for about 1 mile until the junction with the Smiley Carriageway. Everything was so dry I was surprised to find the swampy area on the carriageway wetter than ever! Sheba and I carefully worked our way around this area but not without some work. Further on the path is very indefinite and, of course, is not marked. I was glad I had been on the trail before since it is easy to lose your way.
We turned right at the Smiley carriageway and began the . 6 miles of ascent to the Berrypickers' Path. The carriageway turns almost due east just as it passes Napanoch Point. We didn't stop since the hike would already be long.At the Berrypickers' Path we turned right to head southwest back toward the site of the former lookout tower. Sheba knew where we were going and I only had to follow her lead. The trail is marked but not well at times but Sheba doesn't care! This trail always seems long as it winds its way back and forth over rocky areas and woods places. Sheba stayed on a trot the entire way except when she cam back to check on me! At one point Sheba stopped and I was surprised to see the same two men we had met earlier headed toward us! Soon the trail turned west and even slightly north and I could see on the GPS that we were almost at our destination. We stopped on the viewpoint where the lookout tower had been. I gave Sheba a drink and took a number of pictures. We then packed up and head back down to the High Point Carriageway.
The 1.4 miles back to the loop road seemed to go quickly even though the first mile is mostly uphill. At the loop road I decided to aim for 10 miles or more of hiking by turning left to go around Lake Maratanza in the opposite direction. The road to the Ice Caves is only .8 miles from the junction and we stopped along the way to look at the lake. The water level in the lake was obviously low but not as low as I have seen it. We were at the Ice Caves Road in no time but I decided that visit would have to wait for another day. It is only .4 miles to the spur trail to Sam's Point but in that distance we met at least three family groups headed for the Ice Caves. Sheba and I passed by the entrance to Sam's Point and continued down to the Conservation Center just .6 miles away. We met several more groups along the way and were in the car by 4:15 PM we covered 10.5 miles in 4.5 hours!
On Wednesday, Aug 27th the weather was warm but the skies seemed to be clear. I wanted a challenging hike with a view and had decided to go to Breakneck Ridge and Mount Taurus. Cross country practice went late and it is a long drive but I had made up my mind! As I was driving toward Middletown, there was construction work on Route 17, so I took an alternate route which added to the time! We crossed the Newburgh-Beacon bridge, went south on 9D through Beacon and were at the parking area by 1:00 PM. Breakneck Ridge is one of the most popular day hikes in the United States and it is impossible to get a parking spot on a weekend! This day there were plenty of parking spaces and we parked and got started right away.
We walked south on Route 9D to a small pull off just before the road tunnel. The trail up Breakneck Ridge starts here and at the top there is the first of many views across to Storm King Mountain and up and down the Hudson. We stopped only briefly before continuing UP the trail. Every other time I have been on this trail there were people ahead and people behind. Some of these people want to ascend or descend too quickly and some are VERY SLOW in either direction. The trail is very challenging with at least three different levels. I always seem to misjudged the climb and believe I am at the very top every time I get to the end of one of these sections. Many of the sections have very steep areas that require strong muscles and a good grip to negotiate. There are almost always alternative way to get around these areas but I like to climb as much as possible.
Sheba usually simply walks up the steepest parts but sometimes chooses the alternate trail. In any case, she is always waiting for me at the top of each section. As long as you are careful, there is little more danger here than on other trails. The key thing is to be careful and always aware of your position. There ARE places where a nasty fall could result in serious injury. We continued to work our way up each section stopping at times to take pictures. We saw only two groups of hikers and stopped to talk to each briefly. It was warm and I was beginning to feel the effects sooner than I would have thought. After 1 mile of continuous climbing, some steep and some easier we were at the very top of the ridge. We stopped for a drink and to enjoy the view and then started along the ridge where the trail rolls considerably. We descended into an area between two hills where the yellow Undercliff-Overcliff Trail starts on the right. This is a new trail that we had not used and I took some time debating whether or not to turn here. Since we were not quite at the highest point on the ridge and since hiking in the shade had made things more bearable I decided to wait until the blue Notch Trail branched off to begin our descent. In just .4 miles from the initial climb we were at the Notch Trail.
We turned right on the Notch Trail and then began to descend losing almost all the elevation we had gained climbing. Several switchbacks made the descent easier. The trail passed between Breakneck Ridge and Mount Taurus and was a pleasant walk in the shade. The trail merged near the pond just north of the Cornish dairy barn just .5 miles from the start of the trail. I stopped at the dairy farm to take some pictures and then continued on down the trail. In another .2 miles the Undercliff-Overcliff Trail crosses and we turned left to go up and over Mount Taurus. This trail is seldom steep but ascends until it reaches its highest point on Bull Hill. At times it follows woods roads. In several places the walls that shored up the sides of the road are visible and in very good shape. Several switchbacks make the climb easier until after about 1 mile several viewpoints open up near the highest point on the trail.
One reason I wanted to hike over Mount Taurus was to get pictures south on the Hudson toward West Point. Every other time I had hiked here I reached those viewpoints in the morning when the light was not favorable. From The lookout at the top of this trail I got some good pictures and knew I would get others as we descended. The trail we were traveling down is hard packed and on this day was bone dry. There are many loose rocks which make any missteps a problem. In a little more than half a mile some other viewpoints opened up to the south and I took more pictures. In a little less than a mile we approached the quarry. As I walked I noticed something scurrying through the dirt. I looked carefully and saw...a lizard. It was small, only about 2 inches long, and I quickly focused the camera and got several good shots. (From an Internet search, I believe these may have been Northern Fence lizards!) We stopped at the quarry so that I could get some pictures and then walked down to Route 9D and the Little Stony Point parking area.
I had intended to walk up to the Cornish estate both to take pictures and to avoid, as much as possible, walking along 9D. It was late and I decided the road would be the fastest way. I was really worried about walking through the road tunnel to get back to the car. The tunnel was the least of our worries! For 1.25 miles along Route 9D, there is NO SHOULDER! When I could see a car coming, Sheba would get under the guard rail and I would get as far off the road as possible. It did not help that the weeds in this area have not been trimmed. As we passed the trailhead from the Cornish Estate I realized this would have been a better choice. Walking through the tunnel was easy since there is at least 5 feet between the wall and the traffic. We arrived back at the car a little after 5:00 PM. the difficult 6.25 mile hike had taken 4.5 hours. I decided to cross the Bear Mountain Bridge and head up Long Mountain Parkway. This route was stop and go traffic until Route 17 since it was rush hour!
On Sunday, Aug 24th I was ready to take a day off. The weather was cloudy and foggy and I was tired from hiking the previous two days. I decided that I would go somewhere since the upcoming week looked busy and might limit my opportunities. I decided that I would go to hike Anthony's Nose and perhaps some of the camp Smith Trail along the Hudson. Sheba and I got a late start and arrived at the small pull out just north of the trailhead on 9D. We got out of the car and started to hike with just a few drops of water in the air. The trail up to the top of the ridge is part of the Appalachian Trail and is pretty steep in several laces! We settled into our normal rapid pace even on the steeper parts. I noticed that the air temperature was only a few degrees warmer than at home but that the humidity was MUCH higher. This would continue throughout the day. The trail was absolutely bone dry and the dirt was like powder. Part of the way up the trail we met a gentleman working on trail maintenance so we thanked him and moved past.
We reached the top of the .4 mile climb in only 10 minutes and the skies were still cloudy. I knew the views from Anthony's Nose would not be good so we turned left to stay on the AT and hike toward the trailhead on South Mountain Pass. The "trail" here is a wide woods road which is rocky and rutted in places. It rolls some but there are few difficult parts. The road skirts Camp Smith which is an active Army National Guard Training site. This is NOT a place to trespass and I kept an eye out for the trail markers and POSTED signs. We soon turned off the road and onto a trail and immediately met a couple hiking in from South Mountain Pass. We talked for a while and I mentioned the Phelps Mine. It was at this point I developed a plan to hike out to the trailhead to add some distance to a short hike and then try to find the mine.
I had never been on this trail and I thought since it came "down" from South Mountain Pass that it would be uphill on the way out and downhill on the way back. This was not the case as the trail wandered up and down over several small hills with a number of switchbacks. Along the way I noticed a well built stone "wall". Upon investigating it was actually the side of a roadway, long abandoned but in great shape. The stone was carefully laid showing the craftsmanship of the day. We continued on the trail until we met another woods road and turned left to go toward the trailhead. We arrived there shortly after walking a little over a mile. There wasn't much to see at the trailhead so we turned around and began to walk back on the road. The map clearly showed the Phelps Mine to the south and slightly east. What was not clear was whether one of the dotted lines on the map indicated a woods road that would go directly to the mine. As we approached an informal campsite on the left side of the road I saw a path leading away from the campsite and up the mountain. Sheba and I began to follow the path. It was very clear in places and was even marked with a cairn but then it would disappear. I decided to simply bushwhack to the top of the hill and did so despite some thick brush. At the top of the hill I consulted the map, my GPS and the compass and concluded I was too far west and so headed almost due east. Soon a woods road presented itself and I turned left continuing east. Within several hundred feet I saw a rusty fence on the hill to the right and an open tailings pile on both sides of the trail.
I was disappointed about the fence but still felt I could probably get a good look at the mine. As we climbed up the tailings and the access road to the mine, I saw that one of the panels of the fence had become "detached" allowing access to the mine adit. I told Sheba to stay outside the fence as I entered. The adit is a hole that goes straight down. It is about 20 feet in diameter and surrounded by loose stones. I carefully eased my way down the slop toward the opening to get a better look. I knew this was not smart but...I had to see what was down there. My foot slipped and dislodged some stones which fell into the opening. It seemed like seconds before they stooped bouncing and hit bottom(?)! I decided that I would take pictures from where I was and snapped a few before retreating carefully up the slope! I knew that the mine had originally opened as an iron mine but that copper and zinc had been found there. Much of the mining later extracted sulfur ores. I inspected a pile of tailing nearby and found a crystal to be named later. Near this pile was an air shaft with a grate. We wondered to the top of the hill and found no other mining evidence. On our way back down to the woods road I did spot some remains of foundations. I wanted see if the woods road provided an easier way back but the prominent Camp Smith signs made me decide to return the way we had come. I told Sheba "Trail!" and she followed our exact route back to where we had started. Sheba is my CPS (Canine Positioning System)!
Sheba and I walked the mile or so back to where we had hiked up from Route 9D and continued straight ahead on the blue Camp Smith Trail for about .5 miles to Anthony's Nose. There were only five people in the area but there was also an annoying small dog. Sheba and I walked around the area. There was still some haze over the river and more on the far mountains. However, the weather was far better than at the beginning of the hike which made my decision to go to the mine first look good. Looking down from Anthony's Nose reveals the Bear Mountain Bridge. The Popolopen Gorge Bridge is also visible with the footbridge between the forts and Bear Mountain below it. Directly across from Anthony's Nose is Bear Mountain with the Perkins Tower at the top. Several marinas dot the shoreline and boats were plying the waters. Slightly to the south is Iona Island which was once and arsenal but now serves as a limited access bird sanctuary. Further down the river, Indian Point is visible. It was very hot and humid so I took my pictures from different angles and the went back to the shady area off the open rock. I decided it was still early and that we should try hiking along the Camp Smith Trail to the south. We passed the people with the dog and continued on down the trail. "Down" is a good description since that was the predominant direction the trail took. There were several viewpoints along the way but few were as good as from Anthony's Nose. As we descended I could see some people on the trail ahead. "On" is the right word since they were sitting in the middle of the trail! They didn't seem to want to move so we went around them and continued. We met a group on top of one of the lookouts headed for Anthony's Nose from the Hudson Highlands Gateway on Route 202 further south. We talked for a moment and then continued on the trail only to meet another group coming our way.
I decided we would hike down to the nearest trailhead on Route 202 and then return.The walk was only about a mile but not an easy one. There were no cars at the parking area so we "tagged" the road and then began the walk back. Sheba always perks up on the return trip but I was dragging a little from the heat, humidity and three consecutive days of hiking. We climbed the mile back to Anthony's Nose and stayed on the blue Camp Smith Trail heading back to the area where we would catch the AT to descend to the car. Along the way we met a family coming toward us with two small children. We also caught up to a father and his two sons going back down. We walked with them and talked. This hike has been listed as a good one to do with children. Until I met these kids, I was wondering whether that was a good idea. All of the children we met seemed to be full of energy and a spirit of adventure! As we neared the AT, I looked up to see the same trail maintainer that we had seen in the morning. We again passed him after saying "Hello". As we descended I noticed he was still having a conversation with...the roots and rocks he was removing from the path. Some of his words were not too kind. I took more notice of him this time. He was wearing a long, thin coat or duster with a floppy "Aussie" hat. He carried his tools in a plastic garbage can slung over his shoulder. Perhaps the most striking part of the outfit were the catcher's shinguards he was wearing! I was going to stop to take some pictures but moved on quickly down the steepest part of the trail. We met two other small groups of people and the father with his sons stopped to talk with them. I excused myself and Sheba and I continued on down to the car. Along the way I snapped some photos. We were back by 4:00 PM completing the 6.7 mile hike in 4.5 hours.
On Saturday, Aug 23rd Cindy and I wanted to hike somewhere that was challenging but short and with a view. I had never hiked to Huckleberry Point near Kaaterskill High Peak but had read some excellent reviews of the hike. Cindy and I didn't set the alarm so by the time we got coffee and a bagel at Peez Leweez it was already after 9:30 AM. We headed for Platte Clove by way of Big Indian and Phoenicia and arrived in the parking lot right around 11:00 AM. The ROAD CLOSED sign had been removed from Platte Clove Road. I was surprised to see only a few car in the parking lot for such a popular destination. We got right on the trail and started to walk. The first mile or so of the hike is on wide woods roads. The roads cross private land and we were surprised at one point see hear and then see pickup truck coming toward us. The woman driving said hello and the continued on down the road. The temperature was still in the high 60's and we were in the shade for most of this part of the hike. The trail was damp in a few places with only a little mud.
Soon we were at the right turn for the yellow Huckleberry Point Trail. We turned and began walking the more narrow but well-marked trail. The trail passes through a variety of different ecologies including dense shrubs, hardwoods and evergreens. On the initial part of the trail piles of stone and even some foundations show remnants of civilization. At about .4 miles on this trail we crossed a small stream and began to ascend a hill From this point on the trail "rolls" quite significantly. None of the climbs are very steep or really very long but they are there. In several places I though we might be getting close. Finally, we met another hiker who said "Hello" and "enjoy the view!" We didn't know what to expect as we walked into the open area at the end of the trail.
Words cannot really express the views from the lookouts around Huckleberry Point. Directly below is Platte Clove and across Platte Clove are Overlook and Plattekill Mountains. Views down into the Clove and to the west and east are outstanding. To the east the Hudson is visible. There are several different lookouts and accessing them depends on how you feel about heights, narrow rock ledges and loose rocks. I descended at least 50 feet to get a better view to the west into Platte Clove. After coming back up a ways, I walked east looking for a viewpoint that would showcase the Hudson and the views eastward better. There were a few openings but nothing spectacular. I took MANY photographs but none can really give you the feeling of actually being there. We were soon retracing our path back to the car. As always the return trip seems to take longer especially when it is out and back. As we returned we met many groups coming up the trail. We were back at the car by 2:00 PM having taken 3 hours to cover the 4.5 miles AND take many pictures. As is our custom, we headed for Pancho Villas in Tannersville for a meal before returning home.
On Friday, Aug 22nd I was ready for a longer hike so I hurried home after cross country practice, picked up Sheba and headed for the Trapps. The weather was beautiful and I wanted a hike with a view. It had been a while since we had hiked to Gertrude's Nose so I decided to take the Millbrook Ridge and Gertrude's Nose Trail to this area. Once there I would decide how to return. We drove to the parking area by the Trapps Bridge and parked at about 12:15 PM. I put Sheba on her leash for the short walk back up 44/55 to the bridge and the trail access. The views of the valley showed clear skies but some haze. The temperature was still climbing and was in the high 70's. We walked up to the Trapps Bridge and then out onto the carriageway before turning abruptly left onto the blue Millbrook Ridge Trail.
The initial climb is steep over open rock faces with some dwarf scrub pine. The views are immediate as you climb revealing the New Paltz valley on one side and the Gunks on the other with the Catskills as background. Whenever I hike this area, I always go off the trail and hike to some of the higher surrounding rocks to get a better view. Later, I remember this is NOT necessary as the trail rises to many different viewpoints. Several of the initial lookouts have excellent views back down to the Trapps and the Undercliff area. There area also views to the valley below where houses and businesses including the BrauHaus are visible. The initial part of the trail varies between open rock and pitch pine and some hardwood forests. It snakes to the edge of the ridge and then twists inward toward the middle of the ridge. Most of this part is exposed and both Sheba and I felt the effects of the heat. The best views, of course, come when the trail comes near the edge of the ridge. The Smiley Tower at Skytop is clearly visible.
The trail is usually "dry" without any streams or water sources. On this day is was exceptionally dry showing NO SIGNS of any recent rainfall. Several hawks roads the air current but most of the birds were vultures. Sheba and I kept moving so that they would not get any ideas! We passed the Bayrus Cutoff and shortly afterward met a small group resting by the side of the trail. They had a map without any scale and did not know how far the next cutoff trail might be. I assured them that the Millbrook Cutoff was only half and hour ahead at a "moderate" pace. On the approach to Millbrook Mountain signs indicated that the trail had been rerouted and we followed the new blue blazes. To our left large yellow POSTED signs were very evident. I wonder what happened to precipitate this change. I was a little disappointed as the old trail siting allowed a clear view of Millbrook Mountain on the approach. At one point we crossed a small clearing and descended to an area that would clearly have been wet if there was any water. We were now on the old trail and on the approach to Millbrook Mountain.
There are few places I hike that fool me as much as the approach to this rather modest mountain. There are several places where the ascent is steep but short and I think I am at the highest point. Views back to the east toward the Trapps and Skytop come into view. The opposite side of the ravine is clearly visible and at one point a small cabin can be seen as the only building on the other side of the ravine. In many places the trail passes VERY close to the edge of the ridge and you can see the sheer rock faces directly below and to each side. Near the top of the mountain large talus piles can be seen at the bottom of the cliffs. Sheba and I stopped several times for water as the temperature increased and we both began to drag. It became apparent to me as the time passed that this hike was a little longer than I remembered. Finally we were at the top of Millbrook Mountain as designated by a sign and the junction of several different trails. I was still determined to get to Gertrude's Nose so we stayed on the ridge and took the red Gertrude's Nose Trail. This parallels the Millbrook Carriageway until the carriageway heads north while trail we were on hugs the ridge and the cliffs.
As we descended Millbrook Mountain toward a power line right-of-way a blast of cold air hit us. I remembered this area from previous trips. There is a deep crack in the rocks here where you cannot see the bottom. What I did NOT remember is the cold air that blows OUT of this crack. Sheba and I stayed in the area for several minutes and the cold air seemed to revive both of us for the final part of the hike out to Gertrude's Nose! We descended to the right-of-way and then ascended the other side. I don't often write about the smells of hiking! Sometimes there are flowers which sent the air, often the smell of balsam is evident and at other times there is simply and earthy odor. On this day the predominant smell was BLUEBERRY PIE. There were so many berries everywhere along the path that they gave the air a distinct odor! On the approach to Gertrude's Nose there is a slight ascent and the trail begins to pass through evergreen forest. Soon after that we broke out into an area of open rocks and we were there. It had taken about 2 and a half hours to walk out, much longer than I had thought.
The views of the rest of Gertrude's Nose from one area were outstanding. The views to the valley below and the mountains beyond were beautiful. Even the ledges and cliffs across the ravine were good. This area was actually much larger than I remember and much more rugged. There are many cracks in the rocks where you are walking and many are VERY deep. I watched Sheba carefully since it is easy to slip even for a sure-footed canine. Near the edges of the cliff rocks have split off and pulled away in many places with some falling to the base of the cliff. We took a long tome walking through the area and I took many pictures. The trail slowly descends toward the ravine and we went in this direction. I had decided to cross the ravine, pick up the Millbrook Carriageway, take that back to Millbrook Mountain and then retrace our path to the Trapps. I had though of dropping down to the Coxing Trail but I didn't remember that trail as being very pleasant and a cool breeze had moderated the air temperature.
We crossed the ravine and walk a bit in the woods before coming to a steep, rocky ascent. That was when I remembered that the hike TO the carriageway had several memorable areas including some climbing to gain elevation. Sheba and I got right to it and were soon on top of the opposite ridge and on the carriageway. I immediately knew this part was a good choice since the walking was so easy on the relatively level and flat carriageway. We quickly covered the distance to Millbrook Mountain and got back on the Millbrook Ridge Trail. I put my camera away which I knew would increase our hiking speed. I also noticed that Sheba had a whole different attitude. She was no longer dragging by my side but was out ahead and picking up the pace. She knew we were headed back and she was eager to get there. Descending Millbrook Mountain proved as challenging as ascending but the idea that we were returning seemed to keep both of us in high gear! I began to notice that my Asolo Fugitives were irritating my toes but it was too late to worry about this. I need wider shoes! Near the end of our journey we both heard voices from our left off the trail. There isn't much out there but cliff and I soon realized that was what these climbers were interested in. As we approached the descent back to the Trapps several individuals and groups were sitting or lying on the warm rocks in the sun. We descended to the road and walked back to the car by 5:45 PM. We covered nearly 10 miles in 5 hours and a half hours. I often wonder how fast we would move if I forgot the camera!
On Tuesday, Aug 19th the weather started out in the morning as predicted...lousy! By 10:00 AM it wasn't looking much better but the rain had stopped so I decided to take Sheba and go for a short hike at Trout Pond. After three days off, Sheba was more than ready to go. We arrived at 11:20 AM, parked on Morton Hill Road and started our walk down Russell Brook Road to the falls. The weather was cool but the skies had cleared and it was sunny. The falls were making a lot of noise but closer inspection showed there wasn't a lot of water going over. I decided to head up the steeper part of the trail and over to Mud Pond. We did this and the time seemed to pass very quickly. At Mud Pond we turned right to start toward Trout Pond. The trails were wet with dew and some surface moisture but most of the spots that are usually wet were dry! The weather had cleared and the sun was out and the walk was beautiful but uneventful. When we arrived at the inlet to Trout Pond, it was obvious the water level in the pond was down and it was easy to cross the stepping stones in the inlet stream. We went around the pond and started back down to the falls. Along the way we met only one other hiker. Soon we were back at the falls and on our way back up Russell Brook Road to the car. We finished the 5.5 mile hike in under two hours at our normal pace.
On Sunday, Aug 17th I was in Rochester, NY for a 3:00 PM wedding. The night before we had a picnic at Mendon Ponds Park in the suburb of Rush. The park was large and really beautiful and I took a short walk. I knew that this area, like much of New York State, had been shaped by glaciers but the features here were very prominent. I saw low ridges that were eskers formed when deposits were made by glacial streams. The low rolling hills were kame hills and there were at least two kettle lakes. Saturday night I researched the park on the internet and found that it was on the National Registry of Natural Landmarks for its outstanding glacial features! Kurt and I decided to hike one of the esker ridge trails and visit then visit the Devil's Bathtub, one of the kettle lakes. We parked at about 9:30 AM in one of the large lots and walked across the road to the East Esker Ridge trail which was marked as 4.7 miles.
The hike began as we walked into a short section of woods along one of the park roads and then out into a field briefly. Ahead of us were some low kame hills bathed in sunlight. We reentered the woods and began to walk southwest along one of the esker ridges. The trees and bushes along the trail hid the fact that the trail is only 10 or so feet wide and drops off 50 feet or more on both sides. These ridges formed when streams flowing under the glacier deposited sediments the glacier had scooped up in its travels. Soon we dropped down off the ridge next to a pond. Besides the marked trails there are many informal trails that crisscross the park. Before exploring the Round Pond I went up on one of these trails. As we walked by the pond we were almost at water level. I took some pictures of the vegetation including some cattails. I wanted a higher vantage point to look down on the pond. Soon an informal trail headed off to the right of the main trail and seemed to climb. I started out on this trail and it did climb above the pond but offered only limited views. Kurt joined me and we walked back to the main trail.
The main trail continued passed the pond and between some of the esker ridges. The trail constantly rose and fell as we climbed over low ridges and kame hills. Soon the trail turned west and continued to rise and falls as we climbed to the top of ridges, descended from them and climbed again. Soon it met the Douglas Road at Calvary Shelter one of the many shelters and pavilions that dot the park. Here the trail turned south and headed for Pond Road skirting most of the ridges and hills. On Pond Road a parking area serves as another trailhead for the East Esker Trail. From here we followed the trail north and then east along some of the other ridges. After a descent and another ascent we found a wooden bench sited just off the trail. There was a nice view of the valley and hills beyond from this area. We could even see cyclists on the road below.
From here the trail headed almost due north in the direction of our car. We continued to walk along ridges occasionally coming off one ridge to walk over a hill and onto another ridge. Along the way we met a few other people walking or hiking and at least one high school cross country team out for a run. As we neared the northern part of this trail we ascended to the highest point in the park at 820 feet! We continued walking to the northeast and then east as we rounded a water tower to head west again back to the car.
We drove to another area of the park that has a kettle Lake called the Devil's Bathtub. The parking area also has a picnic pavilion right next to it and offers a nice view of Deep Pond. After parking, we took the stairs down to The Bathtub. A boardwalk skirts the eastern edge of this depression made when a large block of ice fell off a receding glacier. Again we were at water level with limited views of the kettle lake. We continued to walk on the trail looking for other features and a way to look down on the lake. The trail in this area was not well marked but we kept turning in a way that would take us around the pond. On the way we again walked up small hills and along ridges. There were several small "puddles" in the forest with healthy algae growths. The path we were on intersected a blue trail. This seemed to indicate that we were headed in the wrong direction! We agreed to stay on the trail and see if it would take us back to the car. Within less than a quarter mile we made a turn and could see the parking area. All together we had covered well over 6 miles in just about 3 hours.
On Friday, Aug 15th Kurt was up from Florida for the first time since his wedding in December. He didn't have much time but wanted to make the most of it by hiking. Brad and Krista were also home and Brad was up for a hike. Kurt was going to meet his college friends Friday afternoon so we thought we would hike the Devil's Path or the Blacks. As we drove out DeBruce Road and turned onto the Frost valley Road the skies began to look darker and darker to the north. I decided that we should stop and hike in better weather so I pulled over at Slide Mountain. I had done Slide several times this summer but the point was to hike together so this was a good choice. We were at the parking lot and on the trail around 8:30 AM. The weather was cool but the skies at this point were overcast with the sun coming through on occasion. At least is was not threatening to rain!
We started our hike right away and were surprised to see that the Neversink was completely dry. There was no need to find stepping stones since there was no water and we just walked across. Crossing the small tributary a little further along also was not a problem. We kept up a fast pace as we turned onto the old woods road and then up the trail to the top of Slide. The weather never really got sunny and there was a lot of haze and fog on the mountains and in the valleys. We passed the 3500 foot sign and continued on to the junction with the Curtis-Ormsbee Trail. From here we headed toward the summit stopping at the lookout to the right of the trail for a moment before moving on. After we crossed the summit, we stopped on the rock shelf to look at the sites. There was really nothing to see so we decided to head down toward the spring.
Going down to the spring from the summit of Slide is one of my favorite parts of the hike. There are several rocks scrambles on the way that are interesting to descend and ascend. Along the way we tried to get a view but there wasn't much to see. When we got to the ladders above the spring, we stopped and had some limited views of Cornell and the fog in the valleys. At this point we turned around and head back up to the summit and then down the other side. I knew Kurt wanted to get going to meet his friends so we didn't waste much time. We were back in the car by 11:30 AM having covered the 5.5 mile hike in under 3 hours.
On Tuesday, Aug 12th Cindy and I decided to take a quick walk with Sheba in the afternoon after summer school. We headed for Frick Pond since it is close and an easy walk. We parked at 2:30 PM and headed up the Flynn Trail intending to take the Big Rock Trail back to Times Square and then walk around the back side of Frick and then to the car. It had rained and the trails were wet in places but the weather was nice. The skies were clear and it was sunny but a few degrees cooler than it had been. The walk up the Flynn Trail is a constant but gentle uphill. We walked and talked but did not meet any other hikers or any wildlife. We were soon at the junction with the Big Rock Trail. I would have hiked a little more but kept my promise and turned left!
The walk down the Big Rock Trail to Times Square was longer than I remembered but was certainly easier going down than up. This trail is a snowmobile trail in winter and we have snowshoed up from Times Square, a challenging ascent. Finally we were at Times Square and we continued straight across to take the trail around the "back" of Frick Pond. The trails began to get VERY wet in places with enormous patches of mud in places. This trail has a wooden boardwalk over some swampy areas. When I first set foot on this walkway, I almost took a nasty fall. The boards were wet and covered in a slimy algae making them as slippery as ice! They boardwalk is in the shade of the trees and does not get much of a chance to dry. I was VERY careful the rest of the way but Cindy had less trouble as she was using her poles. As we approached the junction with the trail to Hodge Pond, we met a group with several young children. We both advised them that the trail to Hodge is long and that the route we had just used was dangerous because of the boardwalk. We continued on the trail to the bridge over the outlet of Frick Pond. The view from here is always interesting no matter the weather or the season. Some geese were on the pond and we stopped to watch them and take in the view. After this brief stop, we continued back to the car finishing in under two hours. It was a good hike anyway!
On Saturday, Aug 9th I was ready to try Rocky and Lone with just Sheba as company. These were the only two peaks I needed to complete the month of August, the first month I have completed. I had planned to do this all week even though the early weather reports were for a 30% chance of showers. When I got up Saturday the forecast had changed to partly sunny with highs in the mid 70's. This would be ideal weather for this hike. Rocky and Lone aren't that high or hard to climb but the hike TO them by itself would be enough for most people. I intended to walk out the Fisherman's Path along the East Branch of the Neversink. I planned to do Rocky first and then come back to get Lone on the return trip. The bushwhack up Rocky goes pretty fast but the trip over to Lone is never pleasant. The return trip form Lone is mostly downhill but only a few herd paths are available and the terrain is difficult. Sheba and I arrived at the Denning parking area to find a few cars parked. We got started at 9:20 AM and I noted a pair of hikers signed in for Friday, Balsam Cap and Rocky. It was good to know someone else was up for a challenge!
The first 1.2 miles of the hike is on a woods road which is wide an easy to navigate. This trail continues toward the northeast and leads to the Curtis-Ormsbee Trail up Slide Mountain. Sheba seemed exceptionally eager to hike as she ran ahead, ran behind and ran to the river to frolic in the water. We turned right on the trail that leads to the bridge over Deer Shanty Brook and the East Branch of the Neversink. After only about .25 miles we crossed the first bridge and then the second bridge. I noticed that a cable has been added to the second log bridge to act as a "handrail", Just after the second bridge we turned left off the trail onto the Fisherman's Path. The Fisherman's Path is not marked but is quite distinct in most places. In other places the path all but disappears or branches into several different paths. The walk along the Neversink is beautiful and the further you go the more remote and isolated it gets. Someone is usually camped along the path but this day we saw no one.
I was using my GPS to follow the route I had used last year when hiking with Harry Rampe. There are several places where the path on one side of the river becomes steep or muddy and crossing the river is the best choice. When we arrived at the first such place I decided NOT to cross and continue on the south side of the river. Sheba had other ideas! She crossed right where we had crossed last year and stood on the opposite shore waiting for me. I called her and she reluctantly came back over. After walking only a short distance, the path became muddy and steep and I decided Sheba had the right idea. As I looked for a place to cross, I ended up going back to where she had crossed before! Was that a smile on her place? We continued for about 1.5 miles to the point where you can turn southeast and hike up to Lone. I decided to hit Rocky first as we had last year and we continued on for another 1,2 miles.
As we approached the area where we were to cut south-southeast to Rocky I decided to start the ascent earlier than we had last time. This was a BIG mistake since I ended up on the wrong side of a tributary. We had to walk along the hillside and then down into the tributary and up the other bank. I will remember next time not to do this! The climb up Rocky looked very familiar most of the time and I followed Sheba as she picked her way through the woods. Most of the time she was only 10 or 20 feet from the exact track we had used last year. Part of this ascent is pretty open but there are several rock ledges to negotiate. Near the top the spruce trees get very close together and pushing through them is a chore. We were able to find some paths and after .8 miles were at the rocks that mark the summit. The canister is in a clearing just off the summit and we found it easily and signed in about 12:30 PM.
I remembered the walk to Lone very well from last year. It is only about a mile and is evenly divided between the descent of Rocky and the ascent of Lone. The walk consists of pushing your way through dense spruce trees trying to find a path of some kind. All the while on the descent you have to watch for rock ledges which sometimes require a walk to get around. Nothing is easy and the fact that I went too far south initially didn't help. Going too far south means losing too much elevation so I headed north a little to pick up last year's route. After only a short distance but a long time, I noticed that the trees were thinning and turning to hardwood at that the ground was rising. I checked the GPS and confirmed we were in the col and about to start the ascent of Lone. The forest opens up in this area but there are many rocks underfoot. Soon we were on the rock ledges on Lone which require you to pick a suitable route. Sheba again came to the rescue picking the exact track we had taken last year through three different set of ledges! Once we were through the ledges we picked up the a herd path which leads to the canister.
The walk up the herd path avoids most of the dense spruce and goes pretty quickly. I signed in at the canister and then we took a side path to the lookout on Lone. The lookout is a single rock that juts out slightly from the side of the mountain. There is only room for one or two people. It is a struggle to get to this lookout but it has some of the best views in the Catskills. This day did not disappoint since there was only a little haze and the views were great. To the east Rocky was visible. To the west the Burroughs Range loomed very large. I took several pictures before turning around and going back to the canister. We walked passed the actual summit and began our descent of Lone. Again this is only about a mile to the Fisherman's Path but what a mile! I had picked the route last year and I remember some of the other hikers having tough time.
The descent is roughly in a northwest direction which allows you to lose elevation and hit the Fisherman's Path a little further to the west than a direct descent of the mountain. I seemed to keep drifting to the north and losing elevation too fast. I wanted to avoid any surprises like large rock ledges so we traversed the slope to go west and hit the route from last year. There seemed to be too many places where deadfalls blocked the path and rocks made the footing unstable. By this time I was getting tired and sinking my right leg deep into a hole between two rocks didn't help! Certain landmarks began to look familiar and we hit the Fisherman's Path a little east of last where we came out last year. Next time I am going to try a more direct route down since I think I would rather hit the Fisherman's Path further east since it is MUCH easier walking. From this point we stayed on the south side of the river even though the path became muddy and steep at times. The 3 mile walk back to the car seemed short compared to the bushwhacking we had just done. Near the bridges we did see some tents and we overtook a couple coming back from Table. We arrived at the car just after 4:00 PM having covered a tough 10 miles in just less than 7 hours!
On Thursday, Aug 7th I had a limited amount of time after summer school ended. The weather was and I decided the best view on a short hike was Giant Ledge. I loaded Sheba in the car and we were off. When we parked there were only a few cars but there was a bus from a camp in the lot. Sheba and I got going right away. The trails were a little wet from the recent rain but we still made the turnoff to Giant Ledge and Panther in 20 minutes. We made a left and continued our quick pace toward Giant Ledge. I expected to meet some hikers on the way to the Ledges or at the Ledges but when we arrived we were alone. The view from Giant Ledge was good and I took several pictures from each lookout. The Burroughs Range was quite impressive and Panther Mountain was easily visible. I was feeling so good I though about going up to Panther but decided to return.
Sheba and I made equally good time on the return trip. As we neared the trail junction we heard voices coming from the trail to Woodland Valley. The camp hikers had apparently headed in that direction. We turned right to go back to the parking area and met two pairs of hikers coming up the trail. As we descended some of the rocky areas two of the camp hikers caught up to us on a dead run. They said "Hello" as they passed us. I wished them "Good luck" since I thought one of them would at least turn an ankle before getting to the bus. Three more boys passed us after that. I thought that this was a poor idea for a camp activity! When we got back to the parking area, the boys were telling the adults what a good time they had and by the time I had left most had returned without injury. We covered a little over 3 miles in just under two hours.
On Tuesday, Aug 5th I wanted to hike somewhere that had a view since the weather was GREAT. I had almost decided to go to Minnewaska but the long drive seemed to rule it out. Cindy was headed for Hunter Lake so I was free to go wherever I wanted. As I was deciding the pager sounded and I went on an ambulance call! When I got home Cindy had still not left for Hunter Lake so we decided to take a quick walk at Long Pond. This is a nice walk for a short time since it has some uphill at the beginning and has a quick finish down Flugertown Road.
We parked and began our hike immediately with a brisk walk up the only hill on the hike. We kept up a brisk pace and were soon at the turn down to Long Pond. We went down to the pond but the water was high and I was disappointed that there were no red-winged blackbirds around. Back on the main trail we continued to the T-junction and turned right toward the trail to the lean-to. Shortly we were turning right onto the trail to the Long Pond lean-to. When we arrived, we looked around and then returned the way we came until we were back at the trail junction. We continued straight ahead and crossed the brook a little while later. Once on Flugertown Road we took left to head back to the parking area. A little under 5 miles in just over two hours.
On Monday, Aug 4th I was ready to hike after a weekend of ambulance calls and parading! I decided to go to Sam's Point and do the loop down to Verkeerder Kill Falls and back on the Escarpment Trail to High Point. I got home as quickly as I could got Sheba and my gear and left. The sky looked threatening but I was going to stick to my plan! We parked outside the gate at the Conservation Center since I wasn't sure how long we would be out or when the gates closed. By 2:35 PM we were on the carriage road up to Sam's Point. We didn't go out to the Point but stopped to take some pictures and continued on to Ice Caves Road. I decided NOT to visit the Caves but to turn left onto the trail to Verkeerder Kill Falls.
As we made the turn a family group was coming up from the Caves and turned behind us to go to the Falls. Sheba and I had no trouble staying ahead of them even though I stopped numerous times to take pictures. The sky was dotted with white, puffy clouds in most places and some darker ones in others. The views were just beautiful to the valleys below and the mountains beyond. As we approached the Falls the clouds began to gather but I was committed.
We walked out to the overlook at the Falls and I wasn't surprise to see a very low volume. Despite the sometimes violent storms this summer, the overall amount of rain has left the area very dry. After taking some pictures, we went to the other side and I photographed the Falls from another angle. We soon were on the Long Path again and headed back up to the escarpment. The Falls is by far the lowest point on the hike and the climb to the escarpment is short but challenging. Near the top I took some more pictures and then continued on the trail. Shortly a signed warned that continuing straight ahead was NOT a way back to the car. The sign seemed to suggest turning around and returning the way we came. I had other ideas. Sheba and I turned left onto the Escarpment Trail that would take us along the rocky trail and to High Point.
The views along this trail were magnificent this day as the dark clouds had cleared without dumping any rain. I took pictures of the rock formations along the escarpment. Many of these pictures show where you are going or where you have been as the trail winds along the rocky outcroppings. The views into the valley were nice and only a little haze obscured the furthest mountains. The trail continues to climb toward High Point and goes up and over several nearly vertical "cliffs". Sheba never seems to have much trouble even on those where I struggle a little. Soon we were in some thick brush just before High Point. After climbing the last rock face to High Point, I looked around at the views. The Smiley Tower at Mohonk was clearly visible. Further to the north and in the distance were the profiles of the Catskills. We didn't stay too long as the hour grew late.
The walk to the site of a long gone observation tower is short. The views from this lookout may be better than those from High Point. The trail leads down to the High Point Carriageway in this area. The rest of the trip is a 2.8 mile walk along roads that become ever more maintained as you approach Lake Maratanza. We passed by Indian Rock and met a couple who were hiking. Sheba and I pushed on passed the various antennas and transmission towers. We walked down to the lake to see the water level. The lake is so blue and nearly full despite the lack of rain. I took pictures and we returned to the road. We hurried passed the South Gully Trail and the Berrypickers shacks. The blueberries and huckleberries were plentiful everywhere we had been but I had not seen anyone picking. I did stop to take some pictures of a bee on a thistle before walking back to the car. We were back by 6:15 covering a little over 8 miles in less than 4 hours!
On Thursday, July 31th I wanted a long but fast hike. I had done most of the close 35's this summer and did not have time to travel. I decided to go to Trout Pond and hike passed the lean-tos to Campbell Brook or Campbell Mountain Roads. From these trailheads I could hike the roads back to the car. I did not intend to take many, if any pictures. I was not sure how Morton Hill Road had fared in the last downpour but I thought it was worth a try. When we arrived at Morton Hill Road there was a "Road Closed" sign at the bottom. I decided to see what the sign meant! The road was a mess but passable and soon Sheba and I were at the parking area.
We arrived at about 2:30 PM and got moving right away. Before I knew it we were at the lean-tos in record time. We continued on the Trout Pond Trail toward Campbell Brook. It was interesting to see that the trail up to Trout Pond was washed out but the trail that continued from the lean-tos was not. This may be because the DEC has been "improving" the lower part of the trail with a bulldozer! We were at Campbell Brook Road in about an hour and I decided to continue on. At the Campbell Mountain Road trailhead we turned right on Campbell Mountain Road and followed it until it met Morton Hill Road. Turning right on Morton Hill Road took us back to the car. The walk down Morton Hill showed some areas that were seriously effected by the last storm. There are also several interesting areas on this road. One area has an obvious pine plantation on the right with a hardwood forest on the left. We finished the 8.8 mile hike by 5:15 PM or only two hours and 45 minutes!
On Tuesday, July 29th Cindy had the day off so we decided to hike Slide after I got home from summer school. The weather prediction was good and Slide is less than 45 minutes from our house. When I got home Cindy was nowhere to be found. I got ready and decided to take Sheba and do the hike. The weather was beautiful and we arrived at the parking area on Route 47 at 2:30 PM. Only two other cars were parked but as we were getting ready another car with three young men pulled into the lot. I didn't want to get behind them so Sheba and I got right on the trail. My concerns about crossing the two streams were unfounded as the water was low and a few stepping stones were sufficient. The trail was muddy in spot with some running water up to the turn onto the trail toward Denning.
After making the turn, the trail became wet with some standing and running water. It wasn't deep anyplace so we either walked around or through it. We were at the turn up Slide in less than 20 minutes. I wanted to see how fast we could make the summit so we pushed ahead. The weather was hot and only a little humid and the trail passed quickly. At one point we met three young men headed down the mountain. Soon we passed 3500 feet and the Curtis-Ormsbee Trail from Denning. We kept up the pace and bypassed the lookout near the summit in favor of a visit on the way back. We made the summit in 57 minutes 58 seconds which is a new personal best! There were two men on the rock ledge lookout and I had planned to head down to the spring first anyway.
On the way down to the spring I noticed some new viewpoints. Whether these were completely "natural" from blowdowns or had been "enhanced" by hikers was not clear. We headed down to the spring to get a look at Cornell. I stopped at the top of the first ladder to get some pictures. The day was clearer than most and the Ashokan was visible to the right of Cornell. After taking pictures and giving Sheba a drink, we turned around to head back up the trail. I stopped at several new viewpoints but most did not have clear views. One that did have good views was near a "campsite" to the right of the trail on the way up from the spring. We stopped at the top to take in the views and so that I could snap some photographs. We also paused at the lookout to the right of the trail on the way down. Other than these stops we moved quickly. We met the three young men from the parking area still ascending after over and hour and a half. Further down we passed the two men that had been at the top. I was pleased when we were at the car by 5:15 PM. We had covered 5.5 miles in about 2.5 hours!
On Saturday, July 26th the rest of the family was going to Middletown to shop. The plan was that I would hike and then meet them for lunch. The best place I know to hike in Orange County is Schunemunk Mountain so Sheba and I headed for Otterkill Road near Salisbury Mills to start the hike. We arrived to find only two other cars parked at 9:00 AM. The Moodna Trestle is visible from the parking area and is an impressive structure. It is the largest free-standing steel structure east of the Mississippi. By some rating systems it is the biggest train trestle in the United States! Sheba and I headed toward the trestle on Otterkill Road and cut into the woods where the trail begins. This is not well marked but we had no trouble finding it. My plan was to hike to the top of the western ridge on the Trestle Trail and use the red trail to hook up with the Long Path on the western ridge. Near the southwestern end of the ridge I would take the blue Western Ridge Trail to the yellow Jessup Trail on the eastern ridge. Following the Jessup Trail would bring us to a red trail that ascends back to the Trestle Trail junction on the western ridge.
The Trestle trail immediately starts a climb to the top of the western ridge although other routes are possible. The hike is steeper in some places than others. We arrived at the first viewpoint to the north and west and I took a few pictures despite the haze. We continued on the Trestle Trail for a total of 1.5 miles to the junction with the northeastern end of the Barton Swamp Trail. We turned right and walked the short distance to the Long Path which ascends the ridge from Clove Road in the area of Hil-Mar Lodge. The Long Path follows the crest of the ridge for about 1.3 miles before meeting the Western Ridge Trail. It winds its way out onto the edge of the ridge to offer sweeping views near and far to the west and north. At one point a sand and gravel operation is the major feature next to placid Lenni Lenape Lake. Beaver Dam Lake is also clearly visible from this lookout and the Catskills can be seen far in the background. The Long Path then heads back into the forest on top of the ridge. The trees vary from dwarf pines on the bare rock ridge to various hardwoods off the ridge. The blueberries were ripe and there were a lot of them. The geology of the ridges is interesting. As we hiked we walked across much of the pink to red conglomerate that composed much of both ridges.
At one point along the Long Path we did see another hiker headed in the opposite direction. As we approached the Western Ridge Trail the Long Path passes over several areas of completely exposed rock. The rock was very dry and was still tricky to negotiate. This is NOT a hike to do on a wet or icy day! The Western Ridge Trail descends the ridge and merges with the Barton Swamp Trail. We turned right at the bottom and the left after a short walk to continue to follow the Western ridge Trail up to the eastern ridge. I was worried that Barton Swamp might be a challenge but it was nearly dry with only a few damp spots. This part of the hike is steep in places and requires some rock scrambling. The distance is short, however, and after about .5 miles we were on the eastern ridge and turned left on the Jessup Trail to the highest point on Schunemunk. As we headed northeast on the yellow Jessup Trail, I watched for the white spur trail to the left that leads to the Megaliths. This trail is less than .1 miles and is worth the "detour". The Megaliths are large blocks of stone that have pulled away from the surrounding rock and look as if they were dropped in place. They are worth seeing and the views from this area are nice.
We returned to the Jessup Trail to continue our walk. The eastern ridge has many of the same features as the western ridge but the views are mostly to the south and east. One of the most prominent features is Silverstream Reservoir to the northeast. By this time I was interested in the views but also in completing the hike to meet the family for lunch. There are several areas where the trail is sited along crests of rock and then open, slanted rock faces. At times the trail swings out onto the edge of the ridge to take in some viewpoints before heading back into the trees. This part of the hike consists of climbing down off big rocks so that you can climb up big rocks. At one point I heard a groan ahead which proved to be another hiker voicing his delight. After about 1.3 miles, we began to descend the eastern ridge.
The trail descends the ridge and then ends up at a junction near Baby Brook. Baby Brook sometimes belies its name and can be hard to cross. Today the brook was easy to ford and we start up the trail to the western ridge again. Like the ascent to the western ridge at the other end, this trail is steep at times but short. The distance from the brook is much less than .25 miles. Once on top of the western ridge we were a the junction with the Trestle Trail. Going down this trail was tricky at times. I wanted to make some time but every time I sped up there were loose rocks underfoot that would slow me down. Soon we were back at the road and it was a short walk to the parking lot. We finished the 6.5 mile hike just before 1:00 PM. The 3 hours and 50 minutes it took us to hike included many stops for pictures but was the quickest time we had ever recorded.
On Friday, July 25th Krista and Brad were home for the weekend and wanted to do a short, easy hike without many hills. The Frick Pond area has plenty of variety so we headed there. We got a very late start but I decided that the Logger's Loop would be okay. We got there at around 3:00 PM with Sheba and headed out on the trail to Frick Pond. The trails were VERY wet from the recent rain with flowing an standing water and some muddy spots. We hiked out the trail and visited Frick Pond. The water was high and fast as it left the outlet and the pond was beautiful as always. We stopped for a while to take some pictures and then headed over the bridge and around the pond to the left on the red Quick Lake trail.
The Quick Lake trail was also wet and the number of biting insects increased. We were soon at Iron Wheel Junction where we turned left on the Logger's Loop Trail. The little brook that crosses under the trail at one point was running freely and making a lot of noise. We were soon at Times Square where we continue straight ahead and back toward Frick Pond. In several places on this trail it was impossible to avoid the water and mud! Soon we were back at the pond where we turned left and headed back to the car. The walk was just over 3 miles and we were back at the car in just under 2 hours.
On Saturday, July 19th I convinced Cindy to go to Dry brook with me to do the complete Huckleberry and Dry Brook loop. The entire loop is 10.5 miles but the trails I had hiked on Wednesday were relatively easy going and the suggested completion time was about 5 hours. I wanted to do the lower loop first on the Huckleberry Trail and then come around to finish on the Dry brook Trail to take in the viewpoints. I hoped there would be less haze and more view this time around. After completing some tasks around the house, we got a later start than I had wanted and arrived at the Hill Road trailhead at 10:00 AM. We immediately headed for the Huckleberry Loop Trail on the right or south side of the road. The sign indicated that if was ONLY 5.4 miles to the Ploutz Road trailhead which would be about half way.
The first leg of the trail took us down to Huckleberry Brook Road to the upper parking area and we were there within minutes. We turned right and walked down the road toward the lower parking area where the trail continues into the woods. Huckleberry Brook had quite a bit of water in it and I stopped to take some pictures of the stream with its interesting mosses and rock formations. The walk down the road didn't take long and we were soon at the lower parking area and the bridge over the brook which is just beyond the entrance. I took some pictures of the bridge and then we started up the trail. Up is a good description since the trail starts to climb a ridge to a height of some 2800 feet. There are several switchbacks to avoid powering up the very steep slope. Part of the trail follows and old woods road which proved to be misleading. As we walked at talked we missed the very obvious red disks which indicated a turn to the right. We continued ahead on the road for about a quarter mile until we both realized there were no disks to be found. This didn't immediately tell us that we were on the wrong trail since the disks are few and far between and the trail poorly marked in places. Everything led us to believe that this trail is not very popular: no other cars in the lot, no other hikers to be seen, few names in the register book, old and sparse trail markers.
Once we were back on the trail it climbed steeply toward the ridge and then leveled a little before switching back to climb some more. The forests on this ridge are very old with some being described as "first growth". I am not an expert but there were some very old softwood and hardwood trees. There were also some interesting rock formations showing obvious sedimentary layers. Just after one steep section and one of the interesting rocks we entered a section of the trail where someone had cut down most of the brush and vegetation on the path. This was a good things since the undergrowth was extremely dense and would have been impossible to walk through in any other way. Underfoot there were hidden rocks and branches which made every step difficult. This section led to an area where there were thick raspberry canes and the ever-present nettles. After two hours we had made barely 3 miles, I suggested we turn back since I didn't know what Cindy could handle and how far we still had to go. We both agree that the way back was miserable and ahead couldn't be worse. We were wrong!
The next part of the hike descended to a small field, ran along its edge and then reentered the woods near some impressive rock formations. From this point on the vegetation closed in over the trail so that there was no trail! I had to pick up a stick and knock down ferns, nettles and chest high raspberries! This gave a whole new meaning to bushwhacking! We were ascending small hills only to have to descend the other side. The vegetation would let up momentarily and just as we got our hopes up it would close in again! The only guidance we had was from the infrequently red disks. It did not look like any human being had been through this area this summer! The brambles and bushes hid an multitude of rocks and fallen trees to trip us up when we were not watching. I knew from the map that I wanted to head for Ploutz Road but the only road on my GPS was Hull Road. As it turns out they are the same road! When we were about a mile away from this road and still slogging through the brush I began to survey our options. At Ploutz Road we could try walking down to the Millbrook Road and asking at a house to use their phone. Calling a friend or a car from Margaretville seemed a real possibility. I knew that walking back to the car on the roads would be over 10 miles so that choice seemed poor. We could survey the trail that completed the loop and both continue to hike. I was tired at this point and Cindy seemed exhausted. The only plan that made sense was for Cindy and Sheba to stay at the parking area and for me to hike as fast as I could alone back to the car. I didn't relish the idea of splitting up but it seemed like the best choice.
To get to Ploutz Road requires a short uphill climb and I could feel how tired my legs were. The sign was not encouraging as it announced that the car was 5.1 miles away. That was almost the same distance we had come and it was almost 3:00 PM. It had taken us over 4 hours to hike about 5.5 miles! I discussed my plan with Cindy and she reluctantly agreed. I said goodbye and head up the trail. We had been descending for some time from the 2800 foot ridge we had been on. I knew that the highest point on Dry Brook Ridge is 3480 feet and that Ploutz Road was at 2400 feet. I would have to ascend 1000 feet to the ridge and I hoped I had the energy left to do it. The trail started to ascend almost immediately, gently at first and then more steeply. It was much like the ascent up the ridge on the south side only to a higher elevation. Soon I was almost to the top and near the intersection with the Dry Brook Trail. I had made the ascent in just over 30 minutes. At this point my calves began to cramp and, then, a cramp started in my upper right leg making walking impossible. At that moment it became clear to me that not all dangers come from falls or bears. I was able to stretch the leg and massage out the cramp. I also decided that saving water for later was foolish and that drinking it sooner might ease the cramping. Soon I was able to continue hiking.
I arrived at the junction with the blue Dry Brook Trail and turned left. My leg was still cramping on an off especially when stepping up. I continued to walk but was very careful with my gait. I soon was at one viewpoint and took a moment to take in the view. It was hazier than the last time I had been on he ridge and pictures were out of the question. I continued to walk and found exactly the same situation at the next set of lookouts. I turned my attention to getting back to the car as soon as possible. The trail along the ridge is mostly flat or descending. I thought I knew where the turn for the trail back to parking area was and set my GPS accordingly. After walking a little further, I passed that point as was confused. I though I might have passed the turn which, in retrospect, was silly. I had my previous track in the GPS and checked it to find the actual turn which was still about .2 miles away! I got walking again and was at the turn in no time. The sign said 1.65 miles to the parking area and I started a RAPID descent. Going down did not seem to bother my legs at all. The trail was wide open in most places and only narrowed a few time through the briars and nettles. At several points I tightened the pack and jogged. I did catch up with one couple ahead of me. I stopped just long enough to warn them about the lower part of the loop.
I entered the wide smooth trail through the pines and was back at the car by 5:15 PM. I had covered at total of 11.5 miles in 7 and a quarter hours. I did the last 5.1 miles in about 2 hours and 15 minutes. I immediately started the car and headed for the Millbrook Road to pick up Cindy and Sheba. It was a long drive to get to Ploutz Road. Just a little passed the Kelly Hollow Ski Area, I spotted Cindy and Sheba walking toward me. They had rested for a time and then walked down Ploutz Road to Millbrook Road. When we were all in the car, we took stock. Cindy had banged her shins in several places. My legs were still cramping despite consuming at least 4 liters of water. We both had various insect bites, nettle stings and scratches from the briars. We were both tired and glad to be done for the day. There are few hikes that I would discourage people from attempting but the lower part of this loop is one. DO NOT hike the whole loop unless you are prepared to spend a lot of time hacking your own path. For those intrepid enough to try, make sure you bring plenty of water since none is available for almost the entire loop!
On Friday, July 18th I wanted a short hike in anticipation of a longer walk on Saturday. I decided to take Sheba up to Long Pond and do the loop around Flugertown Road. I got ready right after summer school and we headed out. I wasn't sure about the weather and wanted to be done before any afternoon thunderstorms appeared. We parked at about 2:30 PM in the lower lot on Flugertown and headed up the snowmobile trail toward Long Pond. The trail starts with an invigorating uphill but quickly flattens and becomes a nice walk. As we were walking, I noticed what I thought were many insects on the ground. A closer look revealed that they were hundreds of toads smaller than a dime! At the spur trail to the pond, we turned right to go have a look. despite the dry weather the pond was fairly high. As I got near the edge I heard and then saw several red-wing blackbirds. I managed to get some pictures but I may go back to take some more.
We walked back to the main trail and then turned right to continue the loop. At the trail junction we turned right to head out to the lean-to. After a short walk, we again turned right onto the spur trail to the lean-to. At the lean-to we turned around and headed back to the trail junction. This time we walked straight ahead to get out to Flugertown Road. The last time we hiked this route this section of the trail had large "lakes" that had to be avoided. The trail had been partially covered with snow. Near the road the trail descends to two bridge over the creeks. I remember having to go off trail since the trail itself was so icy. On this day the lakes were just a bit muddy and the trail near the brides was dry. We walked out to the road and took the road back to the car without incident. Arriving at about 4:30 PM, we covered a little less than 5 miles in about 2 hours.
On Wednesday, July 16th I was in the mood for something different that I had not done before. I had been reading some about the Dry Brook Ridge near Margaretville and decided to give it a try. The entire loop is about 10 miles but I knew I could hike up to the lookouts and back and save at least 1.5 miles. The highest point on the ridge is 3480 feet making it close to another 3500! I printed out the trail.com guide by Peter Kick to read some more about this hike. It includes pine plantations, first growth forests and several viewpoints west over Cold Spring Hollow and the Pepacton Reservoir. When I got home I got dressed, got my gear ready and Sheba and I headed out. I underestimated the location of the parking area thinking it was closer to Downsville than Margaretville. In fact, I had to drive PAST the turnoff for Route 28 to pick up Huckleberry Brook Road. Less than half a mile on this road and I turned left on Hill Road. In a little over a mile the Parking area appeared on the right. I parked at 2:45 PM and decided to try the upper part of the loop.
I signed in at the trail register and we began to hike. The trail led upward toward the ridge threw a plantation of pine trees. The trees were tall, straight and regularly spaced. The trail was covered with pine needles making it "soft" to walk on. The trail had several switchbacks and gradually worked its way into hardwoods. These tress were also quiet tall with few branches near the ground. At some points the trail narrowed and passed through areas of briar or nettles. In other spots it widened and followed old woods roads. After walking for about 1.5 miles and climbing from 1800 feet to 3000 feet, I was on the ridge and at the junction with the blue Dry Brook Trail. The walk seemed to take longer than I thought it should but that probably since it was my first time on the trail. The Dry Brook Trail goes toward Margaretville to the left so I turned right to head toward the viewpoints to the west and the Pepacton Reservoir.
On the ridge the trail meanders back and forth and up and down but is mostly flat. Hints of a view appear on the right as you walk the trail and at about 1 mile there is a limit view to the valley below. I kept walking and found a rock shelf that afforded on unobstructed view into Cold Spring Hollow and the eastern end of the reservoir. The haze made taking good pictures difficult but I snapped some anyway. The lookout offered several different "levels" and the view ROM the lower one was completely open. I walked back up to the trail and continue on for a short distance to find another viewpoint. I decided that trying the entire loop would have to wait for another day. We turned around and hiked the 1.2 miles back to the red Huckleberry Loop Trail and turned left to head the 1.5 miles back to the car. Going down was MUCH faster than coming up and we were back in about and hour and a half. We competed just under 6 miles in about 3 hours and 15 minutes with some time for pictures.
On Tuesday, July 15th Cindy had the day off from work and we wanted to hike together. We wanted something local and relatively short so we chose the Trout Pond area. We though that walking down Russell Brook Road to the other trailhead might be different. From there we could walk to Mud Pond and then back to the car or around Trout also. We loaded up our gear and Sheba and got to the upper parking area on Morton Hill Road at about 2:30 PM. We hiked down Russell Brook Road to the trailhead and then continued on down toward the lower trailhead. The road continues to be eroded by the brook and on this day the brook was higher than I anticipated. When we arrived at the "crossing" the water was too high to cross. After inspecting various possible crossings, I decided to throw some rocks in to create a "bridge". Cindy countered by suggesting we take off our boots and wade across. Sheba seemed to second this idea by wading back and forth several times. I finally gave in and we waded across. The water was cold and the rocks slippery but we made it OK. After putting our boots back on we continued the hike.
From the road we took a right up the trail and crossed under the power lines. We continued to ascend the trail up along the brook that runs beside the stream that forms the outlet for Mud Pond. There was a plentiful supply of nettles to and plenty of slippery, wet rocks keep us paying attention. As the trail leveled and we approached Mud Pond, Cindy asked if we could simply return to the car rather than hike around Trout Pond. This was NOT my plan but I agreed and we headed back down the trail to the register box and the falls. We stopped briefly at the falls so that I could take some pictures and then hiked back up the road to the car. It took around 3 hours to hike about 6 miles but we did spend some time crossing the brook and taking pictures.
On Monday, July 14th I wanted a quick walk after work. I came home and got Sheba and headed for Frick Pond. I though I might explore the snowmobile trail toward Quick Lake for a slightly different route. We arrived at the parking area at 2:35 PM and headed for Frick Pond. The weather had clearer up and the sky was sunny with a few clouds. The trail surface was wet in spots from the downpours of the night before. I took some pictures of Frick Pond and then we continued on over the bridge and around to the right side of the pond. At the trail junction we headed left staying on the Quick Lake Trail. At Iron Wheel Junction we stayed left on the same trail avoiding the Logger Loops Trail back around the pond. As we headed for Junkyard Junction the snowmobile trail appeared on the left. I started up the trail but decided better of it and returned to the Quick Lake Trail.
At Junkyard Junction, we turned right onto the blue Flynn Trail and headed for Hodge Pond. After a little more than a mile, we were at the pond and turned left on the jeep trail around the back of the pond. The views were nice but not very different from other times I had been at the pond. We stopped at the outlet end of the pond for me to take some pictures and for Sheba to get a drink while wading in the pond. The stop was brief and we were soon back on the Flynn trail headed back to the parking area. At the junction with the Big Rock Trail I decided to continue on the Flynn Trail. The time passed quickly and we were back a the car a little after 5:00 PM. We finished the 6 mile trek in about 2.5 hours!
On Saturday, July 12th I had been planning to go to do the Blacks. The weather prediction included some sun so I though it would be possible to get some pictures. I drove through Hunter and took Scribner Hollow road up to Route 23C and then turned to go to Maplecrest. Sheba and I found the parking area pretty full when we got there at 10:30 AM. We parked a little bit down the road and got right on the trail. When I signed in the register, one large group of 10 had signed in on July 10th. Their destination was Hunter Mountain! I wish they had packed a few more people into each car since they were occupying most of the spaces in the lot. Sheba and I continued up the red Black Dome Trail for about .6 miles. At the trail junction the Black Dome Trail continues up to Lockwood Gap. We turned left on yellow Batavia Kill Trail
We continued on the Black Dome and Batavia Kill Trails gain only a small amount of elevation and are fairly wide and open. There was some water in a few places but otherwise the trails were dry. A few crossing required a little rock-hopping but many of the streams were completely dry. The two crossings that do have bridges could easily have been made if the bridges were not there. After about .8 miles on the Batavia Kill Trail, we turned onto the blue Escarpment Trail. Immediately the trail begins to climb and, at points, it climbs steeply. This is the reason I take this route sine I enjoy the rock scrambles along the way. This route also provides some nice views since there is NO VIEW form the summit of Blackhead. The Escarpment Trail continues for another .8 miles and the steep ascents just get steeper. When you look over your shoulder, you can see Acra Point, Burnt Knob and Windham. The view was somewhat obscured by the foliage.
The Escarpment Trail turns southeast at this point and begins a long section toward Stoppel Point. We turned right or west on the Blackhead Trail and walked across the summit ridge. As the trail starts to descend there are several great viewpoints toward Black Dome immediately to the west, Colgate lake to the south and Windham to the north. In the distance to the south the view of the Devil's Path is unmistakable. The haze obscured a clear view of the surrounding mountains and valley. The weather report had predicted also a 0% chance of rain but there were some dark clouds hanging over these mountains. The Blackhead Trail continues for abut .6 miles down into Lockwood gap between Blackhead and Black Dome. The descent must be done carefully as it is steep in places and the loose rock and dry earth make for tricky footing.
Even though a black cloud was literally hanging over us, I decided to press on to the top of Black Dome. This is another steep ascent but it is a short one. We got on the red Black Dome Trail and started up. The trail starts out at a moderate incline and then gets steeper as it progresses although it never matches the east side of Blackhead. Until now e had met only one person back at the parking area. On our way up Black dome we met almost a dozen people coming down. Near the top of the mountain a rock shelf offers a nice view back to Blackhead. As I was taking pictures, I looked down to see a garter snake sunning itself almost at my feet. As we walked along the summit ridge, some birds flew off but one baby landed on the ground by the side of the trail. It did not move so I took some pictures before going on. After walking about .5 miles from the Gap we were at the summit of Black Dome which offers another rock shelf looking south. The haze prevented the clear views I had hoped for but we stopped for a snack and a drink.
The skies had not cleared and, if anything, looked more threatening but I knew the summit of Thomas Cole was only .7 miles farther and the climbing was easy. Sheba and I flew down the trail and met a couple hiking up from Barnum road to Black Dome. As we approached the summit of Thomas Cole another hiker, a UConn student, passed us also. We reached the highest point on Thomas Cole, turned around, and started back. The college student was within site and he tried hard to stay ahead of us. He was doing well until the ascent of Black Dome where he took a break. I stopped to talk at which point the other couple that had passed us returned from Black Dome. Sheba and I continued back down to Lockwood Gap and took the red Black Dome Trail back down the mountain. The trail has a number of switchbacks which add to the distance but help moderate the incline. From the Gap we walked 1.15 miles back to the Batavia Kill Trail junction and then the last .6 miles back to the parking area. It never did rain. We covered 7 miles over three of the highest Catskill peaks in 4.5 hours. This included plenty of time for pictures and conversation.
On Thursday, July 10th I started left summer school immediately after the last class. I had heard about another new bridge on the trail to Table from Denning and was anxious to see for myself. I already had my clothes and equipment laid out and Sheba and I were able to get to the trailhead by 2:30 PM. I knew we had plenty of time to finish the hike but I was also aware that things can sometimes go wrong. I didn't want to dawdle or waste time and then regret it later! When we arrived at the trailhead, there were some members of an ADK crew organizing materials at their trailer. I said "Hello!" but was focused on getting started. I signed into the register and then Sheba and I headed up the Phoenicia East Branch Trail. This trail is actually an old woods road and is wide and open in most places. The trail was almost dry with only a few damp places here and there.
After about 1.2 miles the Phoenicia East Branch Trail continues on toward Slide Mountain. Sheba and I turned right onto the Peekamoose Trail that goes to Table then Peekamoose and then out to the Sundown Road. We hiked the .25 miles down to the bridge over Deer Shanty Brook and got to examine the bridge situation first hand! The two logs that made of the old new bridge were down in the river. The new bridge consists of two large I-beams that span the creek. These are support by the abutments that were built last year. The bridge is decked with 4 by 4's and has rustic railings. The height of the bridge above the stream and the method of construction ensures that it will be there for some time. We walked on and crossed the other bridge which is still constructed of two logs.
The trail passes some campsites and the ADK teams were set up at one. Sheba and I continued on. This trail has long sections with little or no view and very few points of interest. At two places there is a significant drop which means a climb to regain elevation. After the second "bump", there is a short trail to the right which gives a view to Peekamoose and Table and down into the valleys below. From here it seems to take forever to reach the highest point on Table. We passed the spring and the lean-to without investigating either and finally got to the rock which seems to be the highest point on the trail. I wondered whether it would be advisable to try for Peekamoose but I remembered telling myself the last time that the distance is only .8 miles and the drop between the two peaks is minimal.
Sheba and I set a quick pace to Peekamoose and were soon tat he large glacial erratic that marks the top. We walked a little further but I decided that the views would not get any better so we turned around and started back. Now my goal was to simply get back to the parking area. We seemed to be really moving slowed only by the climb back up to Table and the rises along the way. After coming down Table, Sheba stopped in the trail indicating someone was ahead of us. One of the seasonal rangers employed by the DEC was coming our way. He was the first person we had seen. We greeted each other as we passed then it was back to the bridge. The walk to the car seemed to take forever but we were back just after 6:00 PM. We covered almost 9 miles in only 3 and a half hours!
On Monday, July 7th I started teaching summer school. After the first day was done, I needed some time to unwind. I decided to get Sheba and go to Trout Pond. We parked at the top of Russell Brook Road at about 2:30 PM and walked down to the trailhead. On the way several cars passed us coming up from the parking area. When we arrived, there was only one truck remaining. I signed into the register and then started up toward Trout Pond. We moved quickly since my only objective was to get some exercise and relax. When we reached the outlet to Trout, I could see a bright orange boat in the water near the inlet. As we approached the lean-tos I could see that it was a father and son fishing from an inflatable. I greeted them and then pressed on.
Sheba and I moved VERY quickly up to the shoulder of Cherry Ridge and then down to Mud Pond. I brought the camera but did not intend to take any pictures unless something unusually presented itself. We saw nothing out of the ordinary and did not even stop at the falls since I could see the volume was low. We were back at the car by 5:15 PM having hiked the 4 plus mile route in under 2 hours!
On Saturday, July 5th Cindy and I wanted a short, local hike we could do together. We decided that Balsam Lake would be okay since although it is steep in places it is only about 4 miles round trip. We ate breakfast at Peez Leweez, came home, changed, grabbed Sheba and headed up the Beaverkill Road. We arrived at the parking area at about 10:30 AM and got started right away. When I signed the register, I was pleased to see that the Roller family had the tower open this weekend. Rich is part of a New Jersey Search and Rescue Team and knows a tremendous amount about many different subjects. The initial part of the trail is easy walking and we made the trail junction in about 20 minutes. After we turned to go up the mountain, the trail got much steeper and we took our time giving Cindy some time to rest along the way. We arrived at the summit at about 11;35 AM which I though was good time for not pushing the ascent
Cindy went up the tower first while I talked to Rich. She said that although the sky was overcast the view was good. I went up with the camera when she came down. It had been a long time since I had been in the cab and there is a circular map and locating device to find all the Catskill peaks. After taking some pictures, I came down. We got a drink and ate a snack and talked for almost an hour. Rich pointed out a large "family" of snakes under one of the big rocks. We headed sown just after 12:30 PM and immediately met three people coming up from the Dry Brook Trail. We continued on down the mountain and made a left a the bottom to return to the car. Along the way we met about a dozen people. They didn't really seem to be equipped for hiking and asked where the tower was. Back a the turn up the mountain we met four more hikers. We got back to the car at about 1:30 PM which meant we had covered 4 miles in about 2 hours of actual hiking time.
On Friday, July 4th I decided I wanted to take a short hike locally since the forecast was for partly cloudy skies with showers. When I awoke in the morning, there was a thick blanket of fog which seemed to hang around longer than usual. I decided that I would head over to Panther since it was local and short. Sheba and I arrived at 9:30 AM to find only three cars in the parking area with two young men getting ready to head out. They made some comments to each other that indicated to me that they had not been in the area before. Sheba and I got started right away and kept up a very quick pace. I thought we might catch up to one of the groups ahead of us especially since one was only going to the Ledges. We were at the trail junction in less than 20 minutes and we turned left to go to Giant Ledge an Panther. The trail was wet and muddy in spots but many of the problem areas weren't.
We continued our rapid pace and the time seemed to fly by! In only 45 minutes we were at the Ledges. Looking out from the ledge there was only a white, soupy mass to view. Not a mountain, tree or the sky was in view. We also did not see the group that was headed to Giant Ledge so I assumed they had decided to go to Panther. We pressed on down into the Col and then up the ascent to Panther. At some point I noticed that the rubber on my left shoe was pulling away from the leather! I also found that the moisture from the wet vegetation was soaking into the "waterproof" leather. I was pretty annoyed since I purchased these shoes, Merrell Perimeter, only a few weeks ago and had, up to this point, though they were one of the best pairs of boots I had ever worn! The summit of Panther came quickly and we arrived at 11:10 AM to find...no one at the top. I was puzzled since two other groups had signed the register and we had not found either. We never did see either group! The view from Panther was much the same as from Giant Ledge so after a quick drink and snack we headed back.
Going down Panther went very quickly even though I took extra care to avoid slipping on the wet rocks. On the way back up to Giant Ledge we met a lone hiker headed for Panther. When we arrived at Giant Ledge, the fog had cleared enough to reveal the valley below although the surrounding mountains remained shrouded. I stopped to take a few pictures before continuing on. At one of the viewpoints were we stopped there was a father and son who had stopped to rest. I talked to them about other hikes with a view and then we parted company. The skies that had been clearing seemed to be getting dark and I wanted no part of a rain shower so Sheba and I hurried down the mountain. On our way down we met couples and groups a friends and large families and 18 people from Frost Valley all going up! I estimated they had at least one and a half or two hours before they would be back at the parking area! I figured they were risking getting wet at least and might be in danger from lightening. I talked to most of them and then continued to move quickly toward the parking area. When I signed out at the trail register, I found that 54 people had signed in after I had. Sheba and I were back at 1:30 PM having covered the 6 miles in less time taking into account the amount of times we stopped to converse with others.
On Wednesday, July 2nd I decided to do something strenuous since I had many errands to do on Thursday and the weather report was for a near perfect hiking day. I was looking for a hike that would be challenging but would also provide good picture taking opportunities. I had just done Wittenberg and Cornell so I considered the Blacks and the Devil's Path. The Devil's Path was closer so I decided to hike Indian Head and Twin starting at Prediger Road and taking the Devil's Path over Indian Head and through Jimmy Dolan Notch to Twin. I could then decide to go back down to the Notch or continue on over Twin. Sheba and I left Manor at about 8:35 AM and were at the trailhead on Prediger Road by 10:10 AM. I was surprised to see three other cars there but was still able to park with no problem. The next surprised was that the small footbridge over the stream was now gone! Instead there was a rather substantial earth and stone bridge over two metal culverts. In addition to this the path had been widened and compacted to make a smooth surface. This went on passed the trail register. A little further in was an area that was partly cleared with additional trees marked. I am not sure but this may be the new parking area that has long been promised for one of the most popular trailheads in this area of the Catskills.
The first thing that struck me about the trail was that it was WET! There had apparently been heavy thunderstorms in this area the night before that we did not get in Livingston Manor. There was moisture on every rock and root making them all slippery. There was standing water and mud in many areas. We crossed four separate flowing streams on the way to where the Devil's Path starts up Indian Head! After .4 miles the trail splits with the Jimmy Dolan Notch Trail turning right to go to Jimmy Dolan Notch, the col between Indian Head and Twin. This is by far the quickest route up to both mountains but I was in no hurry and wanted the views from the east side of Indian Head. Sheba and I stayed to the left on the Devil's Path. After 1.3 miles, we intersected a woods road. This road leads passed Plattekill Mountain and To Overlook Mountain the long way. After only a few hundred feet, the Devil's Path turns right and begins the ascent of Indian head.
The ascent, like many. consists of climbs interspersed with flatter areas. This trail has at least two places where you might think you are at the top only to find more trail and climbing ahead. My "up" muscles were definitely still tired and they were screaming at the beginning of the climb. I went slowly and used the step up and rest technique for a while. This seemed to actually improve how my legs felt and they didn't bother me much for the rest of the day. This trail has several challenging climbs which require grabbing onto rocks and roots and limbs and using whatever handholds are available to get up them. This day the problem was that everything was wet and you had to be very sure of both footing and grip. As we climbed I kept looking for the views that I knew would come. Near the summit are several lookouts and the views were spectacular! One nice viewpoint looks out at Kaaterskill High Peak and Round Top while in the valley is the Catskill Bruderhof. The Hudson is clearly visible but I have come to the conclusion that it is ALWAYS hazy! I took many pictures at each spot since that was my main goal. After 1.55 miles, I was sure I was at the top when the trail leveled off. Not so! The last .25 miles are relatively flat until the open rock that marks the summit. There is NO VIEW from the summit at all!
Sheba and I did not stop at the summit but continued on down the other side of Indian Head. There are no views over to Twin from here like there are of Black Dome from Blackhead. The descent was tricky since each rock was potentially slippery and there is also a lot of loose rock. After less than .5 miles we were down in the notch. We had not seen another hiker all day despite the cars on Prediger Road. We stopped for a snack before attacking Twin. The horizontal distance up Twin is only about .4 miles to the eastern peak and another .6 miles to the western summit. Getting up to the eastern peak consists of several challenging scrambles similar to the east side of Indian Head. We made it up through these quickly and I stopped once at a viewpoint but knew that it was nothing compared to the summit. When we got to the level ground at the top, we quickly walked to the rock shelf that provides one of the best viewpoints in the Catskills. We stopped for some time to take in the view and so that I could take pictures. The western summit is clearly visible. Just to the left is Sugarloaf and the Plateau. To the east Indian Head can just be seen but Overlook with the fire tower and TV antenna is clearly visible.
I considered turning around at this point but decided that the western peak wasn't far away, it offered different angles for photography and I wouldn't feel like I had climbed Twin unless we went there. We were off! Of course, there is a descent to a saddle between the two peaks and then a return climb up to the western peak which is longer since that summit is higher. There were MANY very wet areas in this saddle but we made good time and were soon standing on the highest point. I took some more pictures and then we turned around and went back to the eastern peak. Sheba was slightly ahead of me when we got back to the other peak and I could see another hiker using binoculars to survey the view. When I called Sheba, she didn't come immediately and I soon found out why. The other hiker had a dog and Sheba and Polly were getting acquainted. Sheba usually ignores other people, unless they have food, and she pays little attention to wildlife. She does get distracted by other dogs. This is the first time that there was no growling or other commotion.
I talked to Gary Lovett for a little while before starting down the mountain. He is a researcher with the Carey Institute an independent environmental group. He was making some observations for his research. Sheba and I started down the trail leaving Gary and Polly behind. On the way down I took some pictures and did not hurry. While taking my last picture near an interesting rock formation, I heard a noise up the trail. I looked up to see Polly looking down! Sheba and I continued to the notch and headed down the Notch Trail. This is one of my LEAST favorite trails since it is steep and has lots of loose rocks! This can be a recipe for disaster! As we descended I was reminded of the time this winter when Sheba and I arrived at Prediger Road after a snow storm. The ascent to the col was BRUTAL and the climb to the top of Twin one of the most challenging things I have ever done. The trail now looked at bit different with all its rocks and roots exposed! I must admit that I was moving fast to stay ahead of Gary and Polly but I did stop several times to take pictures. They caught up to us at the trail junction and we walked back together talking. Polly is a border collie and LOVES to chase sticks! Gary kept throwing the sticks she retrieved until we arrived at the car. We had covered about 8 miles in a little less than 5 1/2 hours.
On Tuesday, July 1st Cindy and I decided to do some hiking or her day off and my week before the end of school and the beginning of summer school. She asked for something relatively "flat" and I though about the mines in Harriman park. She had never been to see any of these and I thought she might like to view these "attractions". I chose the Pine Swamp, Surebridge and Greenwood mines with a possible detour to the Hansclever Mine on the way back to the car. The drive is a long one from northern Sullivan County so we arrived at about 10:10 AM at the parking area near Lakes Askoti and Skannatati. We immediately donned our gear and got started following the aqua blazes of the Long Path toward its junction with the yellow Dunning Trail.
The blazes near the lake are few and far between and the area is well-used. I missed some of the blazes for the Long Path and stayed nearer to the lake. This was a nice change and at one point I turned right and walk toward the area of the Long Path and easily picked it up. At this point my GPS on a bright and sunny day had still failed to register our position. So much for technology aiding the hiker! We continued without incident following the Long Path until it climbing to the area just south of the Hogencamp Mine and Cape Horn. After 1.2 miles, we turned right on the Dunning Trail where the Long Path turns left and head toward Pine Swamp and the mine. This trail is a wide woods road and is a very pleasant walk. The scale on the Harriman maps compared to the ones for the Catskills always fools me and the distance to the mine is only .5 miles. In just a short time we were approaching Pine Swamp on the right and I began looking for tailings piles on the left. The trail was very dry with all of the flowing streams brought to a trickle or worse. Pine Swamp was down in volume also. Soon the tailings appeared and we cut up the hill toward the mine.
There was still a pool of water near the entrance to the mine but the level was lower than the last time I had visited. We walked up to the mine entrance and I began taking pictures. The problem is that the mine is very dark and the flash cannot illuminate it well. Without the flash it is almost impossible to see anything. Cindy was not too enthusiastic about clambering over the wet rocks in the semi-darkness but Sheba and I went all the passed the vertical air shaft. I did notice this time that there were an abundance of gold flakes indicating iron pyrites and some green streaks on the walls of the mine showing some possible copper deposits. After taking some pictures I carefully worked my way back down over the slippery rocks and we went back down to the Dunning Trail.
We walked north for .15 miles until the Dunning Trail meets the Arden-Surebridge Trail where we wanted to turn left to go toward the Surebridge Mine Road that would lead to the other two mines. The stream that lies to the right of the trail usually has a large volume of water and can be hard to cross. Today it was dry! I noticed another cut into the rocks on the other side of the stream that I had missed before. We went over to investigate and found another mine. It was an open trench about 15 feet high and forty feet long. There are several other pits in this area and what look like the remains of foundations from mine buildings. We got back on the ASB Trail and headed for Times Square. After .38 miles we were at Times Square and we walked through with area for another .15 miles until the ASB and Long Path turn to the left. We continued straight ahead on the Surebridge Mine Road passing a swamp on the left and finally Surebridge Swamp on the left. The trail was initially pretty wet while passing the swamp but soon dried out again. The trail began to look familiar and I knew that mine would soon appear on the right.
After .4 miles on the mine road Surebridge Mine appeared on the right. Right off the path is the first small cut or trench but there is much more waiting in the woods. This is a relatively flat area so the mine consists of a series of pits and trenches with their accompanying tailings piles. There are tow or three long trenches one of which has an entrance at one end that goes further down into the bedrock. This was covered by water before but was now dry. I went down into the trench to inspect the entrance but it is very small and I did not have a light or hard hat. It definitely goes back into the rock. There is also a deep pit that appears to go down at least 20 feet before it is filled with water. I assumed from last time that it simply goes straight down but with the water level much lower it looks like it may extend further outward at the bottom. After talking pictures and walking around the area we headed back out to the trail.
As we continued down the trail we passed the junction with the Bottle Cap Trail and then started passed another area. Cindy had applied insect repellent before the hike. This now seemed like and EXCELLENT idea as the mosquitoes attacked me in waves. I have NEVER seen so many hungry mosquitoes in one place and Cindy said that I was covered with them. I though we might out walk them as we got by the swamp but this was not the case. We stopped and I applied 100% DEET which kept them from landing and biting but not from swarming. After .6 miles we were at the Green wood Mine. The tailings piles here are always impressive and I took some shots. The water level was down at the main mine entrance but the adit is still under water. I had wanted to hang around in this area but the insects were just to bothersome. We decided to gain some elevation by following the AT up and over Fingerboard Mountain.
From the road the AT ascends rather quickly up to the top of the ridge. I like to climb and was enjoying this ascent after the flat walking we had done so far. The AT is marked well in the area but the trail shows very little definition in places. After the initial climb the trail levels some and then continues in a series of short climbs and level areas. On one of these areas we met another couple and talked briefly before continuing on. After cresting another ridge we met a lone hiker accompanied by his dog. We followed the AT until the blue Hurst Trail turned right. We took this trail to return to Seven lakes Drive. The trail is a long descent and initially passes by a well-constructed stone shelter as it heads down to the road near one end of Lake Tiorati. We continued down the trail for .5 miles and then got on the road. I wanted to take the Red Cross Trail over to the Hansclever Mine when we got to Lake Askoti but by that time Cindy felt she was too tired to continue. I was a little disappointed but the mine will still be there next time. After 1.1 miles on the road, we were back at the parking area as the skies began to darken. By the time we were in the car and headed back to the Bear Mountain traffic circle it was raining and then pouring. We had walked about 6 miles and seen some very interesting sites on the way.
On Monday, June 30th I decided to get some hiking done in the week before the end of school and the beginning of summer school. I had not done Plateau in June so I decided to hike that peak. I didn't want to park at Notch Lake and pay a fee so I headed for the Elka Park-Roaring Kill Trailhead. The skies in Livingston Manor were cloudy but clearing when I left. When I arrived at the trailhead, the skies were overcast with some dark clouds and a few raindrops of the windshield. I decided to bank on the skies clearing and Sheba and I were on the trail by 9:45 AM. I had only been on this trail a few times and had usually used it to hike Sugarloaf and Twin. After a very short distance the yellow Roaring Kill Trail meets the blue Mink Hollow Trail. I turned right to go toward Plateau.
As we hiked I began to get the feeling we were headed more toward Sugarloaf than Plateau and was sure I had somehow made a mistake. I decided to continue since the trail looked familiar and several checks of map and GPS seemed to indicate I was wrong. Some we were at a rock ledge that acts as a viewpoint toward Plateau. I stopped to take pictures and then got back on the trail. As I have done before Is started back the way we had come missing the fact that the trail cuts back sharply and descends. I caught my mistake immediately and got headed in the right direction. This trail seems to go on forever. In places the rocks were wet from the overnight thunderstorms and there was some surface mud. Most of the streams across the trail were dry and the Roaring Kill wasn't...roaring.
Finally, we were at the trail junction with the Devil's Path and we turned right toward Plateau. I remembered that Karl and I had gone this way and found the hike very challenging but I was still fresh and ready to go. We crossed Mink Hollow Road thought this would be a good "trail" to check out at some point. We were soon headed up toward Plateau. The trail ascends some and then follows the base of the mountain for a distance. Then the trail turns slightly left and begins a relentless ascent to the summit. The trail climbs about 1300 feet in less than a mile and never really levels off to allow a rest. Several places have rock scrambles requiring some handholds on roots and rocks. In some places this was interesting since the rocks were wet and covered with moss. Some areas of this trail did have a lot of running water and this was the first time I had seen this all year. Sheba had little trouble and waited for me several times. I have to admit that my legs were feeling very tired near the top.
As we neared the summit, the trail leveled off some. This is misleading since it immediately begins a final ascent and the last .2 miles are pretty stiff. Finally we arrived at the boulders which provide a view over to Sugarloaf. We stopped to get a snack, drink and take pictures. At this point I was doubting whether or not I wanted to torture myself on Sugarloaf. After a short rest, we continued on up the trail to the summit of Plateau which is just short of the new Warner Creek trail. At this point we turned around and retraced our steps to the lookout and then back down the mountain. Usually descent bother me more than ascents but this was an exception. We fairly flew down the mountain and I was feeling pretty good by the time we were back at Mink Hollow Road. I decided to go start up Sugarloaf and see how I felt. As soon as I began to climb I knew that I would not be having an fun going up the mountain, My legs were dead! AS I was trying to make my decision the wind blew up and the skies got darker. I decided to try walking out Mink Hollow Road and back to the car on Roaring Kill Road.
The road starts as little more than a trail and is not blazed. I could see that people had been walking on it but I hoped that I was not violating anyone's property rights. The "road" was easy to follow although very rocky at the beginning. Shortly it turned slightly right and became a smoother surface. It was easy to follow but wet in some places. As I looked ahead I could see several large boulders across the trail and some parked cars. Although the area was not marked as a trailhead it had wilderness area signs and room for several cars. The road now became a smooth dirt surface with crushed stone. I made a note that this would be by far the easiest way to access both Plateau and Sugarloaf. Sheba and I followed the road until it turned into a paved surface. After a little more than 1.5 miles we were back at Roaring Kill Road. We walked less than 1 mile to get back to the car by 2:15 PM. We had covered 7.7 miles, some very difficult, in 4.5 hours.
On Saturday, June 28th Cindy and I decided to celebrate our 33rd wedding anniversary with a long, grueling hike. The weather prediction seemed to suggest showers late in the day and we planned to be done before they arrived. I needed Hunter for June so I suggested hiking up the Becker Hollow Trail to the fire tower. My intentions were to return by the Hunter Mountain Trail and the Devil's Path to Notch lake. A 1.5 mile walk on the road would get us back to the car. We left Livingston Manor shortly after 8:30 AM and headed out DeBruce Road. Near round pond I spotted something in the road. It turned out to be a small snapping turtle. I was afraid it would be hit by a car so I took some pictures and then ushered it off the road into the grass. We continued on our way and parked at Becker Hollow at about 10:10 AM.
We got right on the Becker Hollow Trail walking between the stone pillars that mark the remains of a long-forgotten camp or estate. The trail at the bottom is wide and flat without many stones or roots. This part is an old woods road as is easy walking. After a short distance a dam appears on the left and we stopped to take a look. At this point the sun was very bright, almost too bright to take good pictures! The trail began to narrow and gain elevation at this point. There were also several brooks running across the trail. This was surprising since most hikes streams on my latest hikes had been dry or at least reduced to a very low volume. There was enough water in many places to support a healthy and thriving crop of nettles! Fortunately the trail was wide enough to prevent any close encounters.
The trail begins to ascend in earnest and never lets up until the junction with the tower spur trail. The ascent is challenging up to 3500 feet and then gets even steeper. At this point the trail becomes rockier with looses stones and dirt. This is cruel since your legs are already tired from the climb up to this point! From 3500 feet there is still over 500 feet to ascend. The trail is exposed to the bright sun in most places and we found it important to keep drinking water. Eventually we arrived at the trail junction and turned right on the yellow fire tower spur trail. This trail is flat and even descends at points in its first half. After that the trail begins to ascend and has several switchbacks and sets of stone steps near the top. Suddenly, after climbing over a large boulder, the trail levels off and after a few hundred fee the ranger cabin comes into view. We walked out into the summit clearing to find no ones else on top when we arrived just after noon.
I took off my pack and climbed the tower. Cindy and Sheba stayed on the cabin porch to get a drink and relax. The sun was still shining but the wind had picked up and was even more noticeable at the top of the tower. Some haze hung over the surrounding mountains and valleys but I took quite a few pictures using different angles and zooms. I even took several shots down at Cindy and Sheba at the cabin. At this point half of the sky showed bright sunlight while dark clouds were rolling in to cover the other half. We decided to take the long way down the Hunter Trail and Devil's Path to Notch Lake. We wanted to move quickly since storms can blow in rapidly and become quite intense. I thought to myself that even though we were hurrying down to avoid the thunderstorms we would meet some groups going up! I put away the camera and we started to hurry down the trail.
As we were hiking down the Hunter Trail we met a young couple coming up and moving at a good pace. We stopped to talk briefly and continued down to the trail junction with the Devil's Path. I had already decided to forgo the side-trip to Leavitt Peak so we turned left on the Devil's Path toward Notch Lake. The first part of the Devil's Path is nearly level although narrow in places. At some point it begins a gentle descent and then a MUCH steeper one for the last .75 miles. At times the descent would be so steep that it might be impossible without the many switchbacks that make it more manageable. Near Notch Lake the trail passes over, around and through some interesting boulders and bedrock formations. One large rock seems to have been split down the middle. I took some pictures and then we continued on to the lake. We stopped at the lake and I took more pictures. We then decided that Sheba and I would walk the road back to the car and Cindy would wait at the lake. Sheba and I put it into high gear for the 1.5 mile walk. The first part of the walk ascends a small hill on Route 214. In a car it is barely noticeable but after 6.5 miles of hiking I was aware of the incline. As we walked I heard a noise in the tree behind us. The rain had finally started and was following us up the road! With about .5 miles to go we passed the young couple we had met on the Hunter Trail. Sheba and I made it to the car just as the rain seemed to stop. We had covered about 8 miles in just less than 5 hours. I changed clothing quickly and started back to pick up Cindy. The rain picked up again and I offered the couple a ride which they accepted. I dropped them off at their car at Notch Lake and picked up Cindy. We headed into Tannersville for meal at Pancho Villa's.
On Wednesday, June 25th I decided to take advantage of the only day that did not have thunderstorms predicted for a week. The forecast was for partly sunny skies with temperatures in the high 70's. Sheba and I got to Woodland Valley by 9:30 AM and, after I paid the $%5 parking fee, got right on the trail. Every time I hike Wittenberg and Cornell from the Woodland Valley Side, I forget how the hike begins. After crossing the bridge over the creek, the trail quickly rises until the trail register appears at about .5 miles. There is NO WARMUP time! I always think that I have missed the box since it is so far into the trail. I signed us in at the box and noticed only one party ahead of us. We quickly ascended through the rocks and roots that make up the first part of the trail. I was following Sheba who seldom deviates from the marked path.
Within 15 or 20 minutes we had reached the first area where the trail levels somewhat in a grove of pine trees. We continued walking until the trail turned abruptly to the left and started to climb. At this point Sheba alerted to something ahead and I saw some other hikers making their way up the trail. We soon caught up to two women and a man from Valatie, NY and stopped to talk briefly in a flat area just before the next climb. The trail turns right and then left up through some rocks. It was extremely dry and almost all of the running streams had NO WATER in them. There were a few pools of water and only a couple of muddy patches. This part of the trail meanders back and forth, climbs and little and then descends.
At 2.6 miles the trail meets a spur trail to Terrace Mountain. We turned right and got ready for the final 1.5 miles of ascent. The first part of is deceptive since the trail follows a wide woods road and ascends gently. This quickly ends and the real climb up Wittenberg begins. This consists of many scrambles up and over rocks and boulders followed by brief flat areas. Some of the scrambles required me to grab onto roots and small trees but Sheba made it up without a problem. This goes on for what seems forever. Every time I thought I was done, there would be another set of rocks to maneuver around or over. This area is usually rife with running and standing water and there was some in a few places. We finally got near the top and then broke out of the woods onto the summit of Wittenberg to find ...no one. We were completely alone. It had taken about 2 hours to make the summit. The view was the best I've had in some time. There was some haze over the Ashokan and on the far peaks but not enough to prevent taking pictures. I took quite a few including some of the summit with and without Sheba.
After getting a drink and eating a snack we started for over the Bruin's Causeway for Cornell. This trip is less than a mile and the Col between the two mountains always seems negligible to me. There were some VERY muddy areas between the two peaks. There are also several rocky areas to negotiate. The most significant of the these is the V-shaped notch or chimney just before the Cornell summit. Sheba made it OK and I did not even take off my pack to shimmy up the notch. I did scrape my elbow and bang my shin as usual! I am glad that I didn't slip at one point as I used some adrenalized upper body strength to get up the last few feet. From here we headed to the Cornell summit.
We took the spur trail to the Cornell lookout and I was a little disappointed. The foliage limited the view and there seemed to be more haze from this angle. A did snap a few pictures and then we started back. We paused at the top of the V-notch and I walked to the lookout to the right of the notch. This gave me an excellent view of Wittenberg and I took some pictures. Sheba did NOT want to go down the notch so I went down first. With a little "coaxing", she let me help her down and we were off. Along the way we met a young college student headed for Cornell. We exchanged greetings and I asked if he had seen anyone else. He said that a father and son were on Wittenberg and that he had waved to the other three people further down the mountain. As we retraced our steps we met the group of three headed for Cornell. By the time Sheba and I were back at Wittenberg it was empty again. I took some more pictures and we continued our hike.
As we descended the college student caught up to us which means he was moving very fast. We said hello and started a long conversation. He probably slowed a little and Sheba and I sped up our pace and we stayed together until the end of the hike! He had grown up in the area and is now attending Western Washington University. He said that he really enjoys hiking and climbing in the Cascades and Olympics but likes to get back home to the Catskills. He was a very pleasant young man and I enjoyed sharing stories with him. Having a human companion to talk to made the return trip go much faster, Sheba didn't seem to mind and loped along behind us the entire way. We returned to Woodland Valley before 3:00 PM making the trip about 9 miles in 5 hours and 15 minutes
On Saturday, June 21st we had not been hiking for two weeks and all three of us were ready to go. The prediction for possible thunderstorms had been changed to partly sunny until the evening so we wanted to make good use of the day. After taking care of some morning chores, we decided to head to North South Lake and do the Escarpment Trail. This is almost a two hour drive for use so despite our 9:00 AM start we arrived to find the parking area on Schutt Road nearly full at 11:00 AM. Another group with a dog started just before us so we took our time hoping they would get a head start and we would not encounter them again. Once we did get started we kept up our usual pace and over took them within a few minutes. We were soon passed them and headed toward the Layman Memorial.
Our first impression of the woods was that it was dry despite the frequent thunderstorms. The paths had only some condensation on the rocks but little mud. The streams were at very low volume. The laurel was in full blossom and made a beautiful white wall on many of the paths. We were soon at the Layman Memorial and noticed the crumbling left front corner. The views down into Kaaterskill Clove are limited from here so we pushed on. The memorial is the lowest point on the hike and there are several significant climbs to reach the relatively level area of the Escarpment Trail. Along the trail there are a number of named lookouts and in this area they are Sunset Rock and Inspiration Point. Many of the unnamed viewpoints offer views which are just as stunning and have fewer people. Despite the number of cars in the lot we saw few hikers and none of the lookouts were crowded.
We stopped at several viewpoints along the way taking a little extra time at Sunset Rock and Inspiration Point. The group with the dog that started ahead of us was at Inspiration Point and ready to turn around a go back! From these lookouts the predominant view is south across Kaaterskill Clove to the High Peak and Round Top. To the west is the Clove and Hunter Mountain. As you progress along the trail views of the Hudson River to the east become more prominent. After Inspiration Point The Escarpment Trail continues and eventually makes a sharp left and travels northwest for a time. At the site of the old Kaaterskill Hotel several trails meet. We turned right and stayed on the Escarpment Trail. We were there around 1:00 PM and stopped briefly for a snack and some water.
At this point the trail is relatively flat and follows and old carriage path for a short distance. It then meets a bypass trail where we turned right to stay on the Escarpment Trail and descend to Split Rock and Boulder Rock. Split Rock is and area where some of the bedrock has pulled away from the main formation causing a split and a chasm. Down in this area there were many laurel bushes and everything was very green. Boulder Rock is a large glacial erratic right on the edge of the escarpment. This viewpoint also offers the first real glimpse of the Hudson River. When we arrived there where about a dozen older Boy Scouts and there leaders spread out over the entire area. I wanted to take a few pictures without the scouts but they didn't seem to be in any hurry to let others enjoy the spot! We took a quick look from the viewpoint and continued on.
From Boulder Rock it is only a very short distance to the open field where the Catskill Mountain House once stood. This was the prototype for most of the other hostels which dotted this area. The view from here never ceases to amaze me and it is easy to see why this site was chosen. We walked along the edge and took some pictures. Along the trail I had answered question from a number of hikers. A women at this site asked directions to Sunset Rock where she was to meet a group. I explained there were TWO Sunset Rocks but that the one further to the northeast was the more popular one. We continued down the road that once was the driveway to the hotel. This road leads to the North lake beach and picnic area. The trail continues as it skirts these areas and then starts to ascend again. One ascent leads to a large area of bare rock dotted with scrub pines. I think it is one of the most interesting place son the trail. We arrived at Artist's Rock which has a beautiful view over the entire valley below. The story is that many artists, famous and unknown, have painted and drawn pictures of this famous landscape.
As we continued on the sky to the east began to cloud up and there were several claps of thunder. I though the worst but we never got any rain unlike our previous two outings. We continued along with the vague idea that we would head up to North Point and then back down by Mary's Glen and Shelter Rock. The trail ascends continuously on the way to North Point and some ascent are steep but short. In one area rock walls begin to rise on the right signifying the approach to Sunset Rock and Lookout Point. Further up the trail is a spur trail that leads to both of these excellent viewpoints. The more adventuresome hiker can find several different ways to climb up through the rocks to the lookouts. One crack in particular offers some challenge with minimal danger. Cindy and Sheba took the trail and I climbed through the rocks.
From Sunset Rock there is a great view of North South Lake which is second only to the view from North Point! We stopped so that I could take some pictures and offer some more advice to hikers. On the way back along the spur trail we stopped at Lookout Point which offers a view of the river. At this point the skies over us were getting VERY dark and I expected rain at any minute. We walked back down to the Escarpment Trail and decided to go as far as Badman Cave and then take the Rock Shelter Trail back to our car on Schutt Road. At the Cave I took some pictures and had a moment of regret that we were not going to North Point, We turned left on Rock Shelter and headed southwest. Again, we were impressed by how dry the trail was in this area. The trail is usually a stream but the rocks on this day were bone dry. The small stream next to the trail was barely damp. We continued on down the Rock Shelter Trail which, to me, is one of the least interesting trails I have ever been on! After a little over a mile we were back at the car by 3:13 PM. We had covered 7.8 miles in just over 5 hours. We stopped in Tannersville for our usual meal at Pancho Villas and were not disappointed.