What You Missed
On Monday, September 20th I thought I might try getting in another CHH peaks despite my experience on Packsaddle and Pine Island last week! I decided that since I had limited time I would try South Vly since the distance seemed manageable for the time I had. I knew I should get an early start but it was so cool and overcast in Livingston Manor I delayed a little getting started at about 8:00 AM for the Spruceton Valley. I wanted to park on the Beech Ridge Road and walk through the DEP access toward South Vly. The VO map showed a parking spot that looked ideal. Once on the Beech Ridge Road I drove the entire length and concluded that the parking must be roadside since I saw nothing that resembled a lot. I was not comfortable with the parking or the narrow DEP access so I headed for parking on another side road. This time I found a parking lot and a woods road at the end of the pavement. I wasn't sure the woods road was on public land so I elected to bushwhack from the lot and head for South Vly. Sheba and I left the lot at about 9:30 AM and headed out through largely open woods. In the woods were some of the nicest and highest stone walls I have ever seen. I headed generally northwest and we started to climb up a hill. Since it was a little early in the hike to be act South Vly, I took a look at the map and my compass and concluded we were ascending another bump. I decided that there was no reason to climb more than we had to and that we would circle around this bump toward the north! I don't know what the hike over that bump would have been like but it could not have been harder than hiking around it! After a little sidehilling, we ran into prickers and nettles as bad as I have ever seen! When one would give out the other would take over and some areas had both. I couldn't find any roads although a few areas looked like someone or something and tried to work there way through the mess.
The best I could try to do to alleviate the misery and the bloodletting was to head for the cover of the woods as often as possible. I got a little far north and at one point was headed northeast just to work around the prickers and nettles. I adjusted my direction but continued to make avoiding pain the first priority over direction. Eventually we started at steep ascent toward South Vly and did run into a road at tone point going up the mountain. This too was pricker infested so I got off it as quickly as possible. We crossed another road but it seemed to be headed more north and was pretty dense with vegetation. We crossed the road and ascended some more into woods and then broke out of the woods into...a completely open clearing! From the map I was about .25 miles from the summit. We stopped so that I could take pictures. I gave Sheba a drink before packing up to continue to the summit. We headed into the woods trying to avoid open areas and headed for some minor rock ledges. Once up and over the ledges, we continued on relatively flat ground at the top. We walked around for some time looking for the highest point but the dense underbrush made this difficult. I had already decided that time was growing short if I was going to make it back for XC practice. Also, I had no intention of following our route back to the car. Sheba led us back to the clearing and I took a southwest bearing toward the woods road on the map. It appeared to be on DEC land so off we went.
Immediately, as soon as we started to descend, we ran into vertical rock ledges and cliffs. Sheba and I did our best to pick routes down through the ledges. I knew we should not descend anything we could not ascend again if we had to. Things went pretty well but some areas were damp and slippery while others had loose rock. I tried to stay under the cover of trees to stay away from the nettles and prickers but this was not always possible. The closer we got to where I though the road might be the more open it became and the more of the aforementioned we encountered. We walked down one of the few drainages that had some running water and then hit one that was dry. I kept expecting to find the road but there was none and I did not relish the idea of bushwhacking ALL the way back to the car! When all hope seemed gone, we ran into the road. It started as little more than a trail and then turned into a track. It immediately started a substantial climb out of the hollow we were in. After the height of land it started to descend and follow a major switchback. I decided to stay on the road and at one point got a view of some of the other hills in the Spruceton Valley. The trees around me and those on the hills were already starting to change colors. After the switchback the road continued its descent and became much more rocky making walking difficult. Soon the stone walls reappeared and shortly after POSTED signs appeared on the right and State Forest signs popped up on the left. From what I could tell the road is on state land and would definitely offer easier access than the route I took. Next to the woods road was a deep gully with only a little water but indications that it might harbor quite the stream in a wetter season. Soon we were back at the parking area and ready to return home. It was 1:15 PM and I would have to hurry to get to practice on time. The 4.5 mile bushwhack had taken 3 hours and 45 minutes. On the drive home I stopped to take pictures of the Spruceton Valley and Frost Valley. These pictures show how the leaves are changing in this are of the Catskills.
On Saturday, September 18th I planned to hike around Splitrock Reservoir in New Jersey. I had read about this hike on NJHiking.com which has some GREAT material about New Jersey hikes and includes a description, maps and photo gallery. They classified the hike as challenging due to its distance, constant change in elevation and poorly marked trails. I thought I might be up for the challenge. Sheba and I got a late start but I would have begun earlier if I had known that this would be a day of misdirection! I decided to drive down the Quickway to Harriman and then take the Thruway south to I-287. The directions then said take exit 43 and follow Fanny Road to Valley Road, to Rockaway Valley Road and finally Splitrock Road. The first exit on I-287 was 66 so I knew I had some distance to cover. I kept watch the exit numbers go down and they finally reached the 40's. After exit 44, I was ready to get off at the next exit which turned out to be exit 42! There is no exit 43 going south. Exit 42 has no easy off-easy on access so it took me a while to get turned around and headed north. Once I got off at exit 43 I followed Fanny Road until it disappeared and the next road was nowhere to be found. Fortunately, a local person walking by got me straightened out and the rest of the trip went well. Splitrock Road goes from pavement to gravel as it nears the parking area but the lot is large and impossible to miss. We arrived at 11:00 AM and the lot was filling up. Many of the cars had racks for boats of various types with kayaks seeming most popular. We were out on the road just after 11:00 AM heading for the other side of the reservoir outlet to pick up the Four Birds Trail.
We approached the old bridge over the outlet dam and walked to the other side. The bridge has a high fence which made taking pictures difficult but it ended on the other side and the views from here were good. We stopped OS that I could take pictures. the sky was overcast but this added some interest to the shots. The reservoir from this end looked large. We walked up the road looking for the beginning of the trail. As we started to climb a hill, I decided we had gone far enough and might have missed the start. We bushwhack through open woods down to the reservoir but did not find a marked trail. I decided it must be up on the ridge and we executed a short but steep ascent up to the ridge where we did find the trail. In general the trail climb up and down over some low hills with the constant change in elevation providing a challenge. The other challenge was the very poor trail marking especially where there were turns. I began to relabel the trail in my mind as the For the Birds Trail! The trail followed the reservoir shore for some time and then headed into the woods only to come back toward the shore. At about 1.75 miles the trail began a more serious ascent of a small hill which did not offer any unobstructed views. At about 3 miles the trail ran parallel to the shore and I walked down to near the waters edge. The views were spectacular and the sky had cleared with some sunlight illuminating the water. I took some pictures and then noticed another spot right on the waters edge. We walked out on some exposed rock to get an unobstructed view of the water and the other shoreline. I took some photographs before returning to my pack and getting back on the trail. Just after this spot there was an opening in the trees and I noticed a fairly new house high on the opposite shore. I took a few pictures and though about the view they must have! A little further on was another beautiful spot on the shore and we again walked own to the water's edge so that I could take more pictures. In this area there were several islands. Looking at one of the pictures later, I could see blue heron with its winds spread full on one island!
At 4.5 miles the trail curved around an arm of the reservoir that almost looked like a beaver pond. This required another stop. A little further along the trail, we walked over the outlet from Dunham Pond. In rainier seasons this would have been tricky but the ground was nearly dry. I was going to bushwhack up to the pond but decided time was an issue. A little further along was another unmarked trail led to the left and I saw a wooden sign that said Winnebago. I just had to investigate! In a few minutes we were on the shores of Dunham Pond looking at an impressive stonework bridge and spillway at the outlet of the pond. I took pictures of the structure and of the small but pretty pond before returning to the main trail. As we walked I could see a set of cliffs on the opposite side of the reservoir through the trees. I suspected these were Indian Cliffs which were billed as the best lookout on the reservoir and I took a few shots. Somewhere around 6 miles we made the turn onto the blue Splitrock Trail and headed across the northern end of the reservoir. The trail passed by Misty Pond which was not marked at all on my GPS map. The pond was large and had nice color contrasts so I...took photographs. By 2:20 PM and 6.7 miles, we had arrived at the climb up to the cliffs. We were shortly standing on Indian Cliffs with a view over most of the reservoir, Misty Pond and the rest of the surrounding countryside. I took lots of photographs including one of a man apparently walking on water! After this, we started down from the cliffs and dropped quite a bit of elevation as we headed toward the Charlottesburg Road. We hit the road at about 7.3 miles and I was surprised to see it was not paved or even gravel covered but just a typical woods road that had a name! We tried to follow the blue Splitrock Trail markings using the map I had from the website, but, as the written description said, it was not easy.
After several mistakes along the way, I decided to stay on the "road" as it passed close to the reservoir and I expected to get a few more good views worthy of some pictures. We stopped several times so that I could take some shots of islands and other features. Soon some houses came into view. At one point the trail marking became clearer and headed over some rocks and up toward a ridge. I decided to stay on the road. We had met no others hikers for the entire day but soon two mountain bikers stopped and we talked for a few minutes. A little further on walked to the water to take some pictures and saw a blue heron on a rock in the middle of the reservoir. As I took some pictures, a few kayaks paddle up and we talked briefly. We made one more stop on a sandy beach and I found a split rock to photograph. The road came to a parking area and changed to a passable gravel road. I was hoping to catch a trail that followed the shoreline back to the car but did not find one. We stuck to the road and had some nice views on the way out to Splitrock Road. One side road did look promising but I did not want to take the chance of crossing private land. Along the road we met two people on horses. At the end of the road we made a right on Splitrock Road and walked a little less than a mile back to the parking lot. The lot was now full as we completed the 11.5 mile hike in 5 hours and 15 minutes of total time arriving back at the car at 4:15 PM. This was a hike well worth the effort. After looking at a number of ways to drive home, I decided to return the way I had come. As it turned out, this was the final mistake of the day. Once on the Thruway the traffic was inching along since everyone was being diverted off at the Harriman exit. A horrific accident that killed six people had closed the Thruway north of Harriman. I arrived home after 9:00 PM and a 5 hour drive!
On Wednesday, September 15th I wanted to take a short hike before XC practice and chose to take Sheba up to Frick Pond and do the Logger's Loop. My intention was to head up the Big Rock Trail after hitting Times Square and then take the Flynn Trail back to the car. I was trying to break in a new pair of Sole insoles without heating them in an oven. They feel GREAT but really cut down the room inside a shoe since they offer so much more thickness and support than any insole that comes with a shoe. We started our hike at 11:00 AM from the Frick Pond lot by hiking out to the pond and turning left to take the Quick Lake trail up to Iron Wheel Junction. Here we turned right onto the Loggers Loop. By this time my left foot had a slight pain at the heel and I knew a blister was in the works. I chose to continue and were soon at Times Square and headed up the Big Rock Trail. Within a short distance my foot was really hurting and I knew I did not want to ruin my plans for hiking on the weekend. I stopped and removed the Sole insert and tied the shoe loosely. We headed back down the Big Rock Trail and took a left a Times Square to head back to Frick Pond and the trail back to the car. My heel was irritated by the time we got back to the car but I avoided a major blister. I'll have to figure out how to use the insoles or send them back since I don't want to purchase all new shoes a half size bigger. The hike covered 3.7 miles in 1.5 hours. This was not as long as I had planned but allowed me to still consider hiking on the weekend.
On Saturday, September 11th I thought I might try getting back to hiking some of the CHH peaks. I had Packsaddle and Pine Island as my primary objectives but thought about South Vly and Hubbell Hill. A wise hiker once said "I don't consider the CHH hiking season to start until there is at least 6 inches of snow on the ground" (Mudhook). Since I am not wise, Sheba and I headed for Packsaddle and Pine Island during prime pricker and nettle season. I decided that I would hike up along Schoolhouse Brook and hit Packsaddle first and then head over to Pine Island. From the beginning I was thinking about walking down Pine Island to Arbor Road and walking the roads back to the car. I wasn't worried about getting started too early so Sheba and I left the house at about 9:00 AM. As we turned onto the Frost Valley Road from Pole Road a small (200 pound) bear ran across the road in front of us. We arrived at Schoolhouse Brook at about 10:15 AM and I confirmed the location where I wanted to start. I decided that I would ask permission of a local landowner even though the land along the brook appeared to be a state right-of-way. I got permission and parked the car and we were off hiking by 10:30 AM. Sheba and I followed some nice roads part of the way but then struck out on a bushwhack only to regain the road shortly. This happened several times along the way. There were some posted signs on either side of the road so I tried to stay between them until we hit the yellow paint blazes marking the state land boundary. The road seemed to continue toward the col but I always get impatient trying to follow roads so we struck out through the woods to the northwest. We began to climb up the steepest part of Packsaddle on the south side. Sheba is better at choosing route than I am since I always seem to find the drainages which look like nice paths but are full of nettles> There were also a few prickers to spice things up. The ground leveled out some as we gained the summit plateau and wandered around to find the highest ground. As with many CHH peaks, there seemed to be some viewpoints near the edge of the mountain but I was not fooled. Returning in the winter may reveal these to be good places to take photographs of the surrounding hills and valleys.
From Packsaddle I took a bearing east and a little north to aim for the col between the two peaks. As we descended, we hit a very nice woods road that looked as if it had seen recent ATV use. The road wound back and forth down the mountain. Several times I was about to leave the road since it was headed in the wrong direction and each time it switchback to head in the direction I wanted to go. This side of the mountain is rather steep in places and a road has to do this for any vehicle to make the grade. Soon the road hit the col on the north side and turned south and then east and up Pine Island. I was pleased since this was better than walking through the plentiful pickers that lined both sides of the road. I wondered how long this would last! It lasted until we were on the fairly level area near the top of the first "bump" on Pine Island where I noticed some movement up ahead. A cute little bear cub shot up a tree. At the bottom of the tree was the mother who was a lot bigger and not as cute. She made some snuffling noises and raised up on her back legs. At this point I altered our plans of staying on the road as long as possible as we turned away from them and headed off into the prickers. After spending some time moving away from the bears, I tried to head north again and up to the flat part of the mountain to regain the road. We were never able to find the road again and the last part up Pine Island was a miserable "prickerfest"! The prickers were high and dense and there were very few breaks or animal trails through them. We finally entered a more wooded area and hit the highest point on Pine Island. I decided to head down to the col and then to Arbor Road to walk the roads back to the car. I though this would be easier than retracing our route and meeting the bears again! There were some more prickers on the way down but we soon hit more wooded areas with fewer of them.
As we headed down the contour map showed some steep areas and I was not sure if these were simply steep or if they were cliffs. We did hit some steep, rocky areas on the east side of Pine Island but none were too bad. Somewhere on this descent I checked my GPS and then later went to check it again. It was gone from the clip on my pack! I have been having trouble with this clip and was mad at myself for not checking how secure it was. I decided to take a few minutes to backtrack. I told Sheba "back" and she headed back up the hill. I was sure she was not following our exact track and was about to speak to her when I noticed she had stopped and was sniffing the ground. When I got to her, I saw that she had found the GPS! I resolved to make sure she got some extra treats and we headed back down. We came to a woods road junction where one road went left and right and another headed steeply down. We turned right and walked for a few minutes but appeared to be headed back up the hill. We turned around and tried the road down. This road also seemed to be headed a little too much to the south instead of southeast but I decided to stay on it. Soon I could see a house ahead so I took a turn to the east on another woods road and shortly ended up on paved road near the Tumbleweed Ranch. Sheba and I started to walk down the road and I noticed that the scenery was beautiful as was the weather. I got the camera out and started to take pictures of the mountains, the road and some of the houses. Westkill was in front of us and Packsaddle and Pine Island were behind us. Some of the houses on this road were VERY nice and had great views. By 2:30 PM we were on the Spruceton Road with about 1.5 miles back to the car. It was a pleasure to walk along the road. We were back at the car by 3:00 PM having covered the 7.6 miles in 4.5 hours. When I got home I assessed the damage. Fortunately I always where long pants and a long-sleeved shirt on this kind of bushwhack. My legs had a few significant scratches from above the knee to the ankle with many small puncture marks. I hope to remember to take some heavy gloves with me next time to make handling the pricker canes and nettles easier.
On Thursday, September 9th I had planned to try to connect the hikes I had done in the northern and southern parts of the Neversink Unique Area but the weather in the morning looked really lousy. I decided to wait until after cross country practice to make a decision. The weather cleared a little during practice but the skies were still variable with some sun and blue skies in one direction and dark clouds in another. I decided to try the hike anyway since the cool weather would make hiking easier and I have plenty of rain gear. I got my gear and Sheba and headed down the Quickway to Rock hill. by 12:40 PM I parked at the end of Katrina Falls Road and we were on the trail almost immediately. I usually clear my GPS but I left Monday's hike stored so that I could see how close we were to the southern route from that day. We hiked quickly at what felt like about a 3 mph pace since the trail was now familiar and it is wide and easy to follow. By 1:10 PM we had hiked the 1,5 miles to the trail junction where the blue trail continues south and the red trail turns east. As we headed down the blue trail, we met two hikers coming toward us. We talked for a few minutes and they mentioned they had been to High falls. I had forgotten about these falls and, although they were not in my plan, I decided to take the short side trip to visit the, before continuing south. The blue trail had obviously been cleared and blazes placed by the NYNJ Trail Conference. There were some interesting twists and turns as well as some ups and downs as the trail roughly paralleled the river. By 1:54 PM we were at the turnoff to the falls which was marked in yellow and was about 3.4 miles into the hike. We walked the .15 miles down to the falls and out onto the rock shelf. I was able to take pictures from the side and then, by walking around on the Rick shelf, from the front or downstream side of the falls. Although the sky was cloudy the pictures looked good. We spent only a brief time down by the river before returning to the trail.
When we were back up on the main trail it became obvious that the blazes stopped at this point and that the Trail Conference had stopped their trail work at this point. A woods road continued from the trail so we followed it as it was rather prominent. After a little more than .25 miles the road split and became a lot less distinct. At first we took the right branch but this immediately disappeared and I decided that I did not want to bushwhack as I was trying to map out a route others could easily follow. We walked back up and took the left branch which became much easier to follow as we walked along. The road wandered through the woods in a relatively flat area at the base of a ridge. In places there were tire tracks from an ATV but in other the road all but disappeared only to become easier to follow just ahead. There were numerous roads and paths that crossed or branched from the road we were on but I knew I wanted to head generally south and a little east. At one point it looked like we would have to climb the ridge but the road simply skirted a small ravine. I consulted my GPS and was pleased to find we were headed directly for the route Cindy and I had walked in the southern part of this area on Monday. I had a feeling we would come out by the ruins of an old hunting camp where we had made our turn. Sure enough, the road led directly to the camp and connected to the southern route. At this point we had already hiked 5.5 miles and it was 2:50 PM. I decided it was time to turn around and head back. I had wanted to find a loop route but that would have to wait until next time. When we turned around, I told Sheba to go back to the car and she took off at a good pace. BY 4:05 PM we had covered the 3.5 miles back to the northern route near Denton Falls. The last 1.5 miles took until 4:30 PM when we were back at the car. We covered the total of 10.4 miles in 3 hours and 50 minutes for a moving average of over 3 mph!
On Monday, September 6th Cindy and I decided to explore the southern part of the Neversink Unique Area by starting a hike from Skinner Road near Westerbrookville. We weren't in a hurry to get started and planned to be at the trail head by about 10:30 AM. We left Livingston Manor and took the Quickway to Wurtsboro and turned on the exit for Route 209 South. After 5.3 miles I turned right on Pine Kill Road and went another 1.2 miles before turning left onto David C. Rhodes Road. After going across the bridge and up the hill, I turned Left on Skinner Road. This is where the fun began! The first part of Skinner is well-paved and ascends up the ridge. Eventually, just after passing through a farm, the road turns to dirt. We went straight ahead although we were not sure at that point we were headed in the right direction. After a few hundred feet we met a hunter who told us the road was rough but passable. He was very knowledgeable about the area and was also very interested in mines, as am I. We talk for a while and then I started the drive to the trailhead. The road became rockier with some major ruts and erosion but I kept driving until a yellow gate with a STOP sign signaled the end of the trip. There was a small parking area with a big rock in the middle and I was glad we were the only car around. I would not attempt this trip without a vehicle with a high clearance! We parked and started to hike at about 10:45 PM. We walked straight ahead through the gate and then straight to the register box. I signed in and we continued up the trail which is actually a woods road. We would find that although there was a trail box there were absolutely no trails. I did have a map hand drawn by Brian Cavanaugh as part the Trail Builders project but it was old and did not have many "features". Cindy and I knew we were on our own and free to explore.
We stayed on the woods roads which did seem that they had been traveled at some point. After .5 miles a trail seemed to head north and east but did not look well used so we stayed on the road. Around .72 miles the woods road opened into a clearing and we had a choice of straight ahead to the northwest or a left which head more west. We continued straight ahead and passed through what would have been a swampy area in wetter weather. The road seemed to climb a little but not very noticeably. At about 1.5 miles the trail made a major split and I decided by using my GPS and the map that we should bear right. The path became more of a trail but was still very clear. We did pass several paths and woods road that crossed our trail but we continued stark ahead along the top of the ride to the northwest. I was hoping to hook up with a trail that would lead to the "Lost Trail" and head toward Denton Falls to connected with the northern loop I had done last week. At 2.75 miles the trail ahead became less distinct with the trail to the left seeming more prominent. I think we were at the area on the map where Brian indicated that the trail needed to be "checked". Since we didn't know exactly where the trail ahead lay we decided to turn left and follow that section of the trail.
The trail to the left headed southwest and started to drop off the ridge. As we walked the ruins of an old building came into view with a rather well-defined road running passed it. The GPS marked this as Griffin Road and made it seem more developed than it really was. Cindy and I turned left or south-southeast to head back in the general direction of the car. We were now walking parallel to our route out but at the base of the ridge rather than on to of it. The forest was very nice and the walking for the most part easy. I knew we would have to head northeast at some point to get back to our earlier route to return to the car. This would mean hiking up to the top of the ridge. We passed one possible connector road which headed too much toward the north. As we walked we came across a road up the ridge at about 4.3 miles. It was marked with a sign that read "Peterson's Turnpike", or something like that. I would like to have waited for the next turn but did not know if there was one or if there would be one! We turned and started up the ridge. The road followed switchbacks several times and was eroded, steep and rocky in places. After a gain of 450 feet over .6 miles we were on the ridge and walking parallel to our path from earlier. At 5.2 miles we intersected our original route and followed it back to the car. The 6.6 mile hike took 2 hours and 55 minutes and we were back at the car by 1:40 PM. My next hike in the area will be an attempt to link the upper and lower loops and further map out the area.
On Saturday, September 4th Karl was up from Virginia and wanted to hike at North South Lake since he had never been there. We got a later start than I expected when no one else elected to come with us. We arrived at Schutt Road at about 10:15 AM and were on the trail shortly afterward. We decided to take the Blue Escarpment Trail and stayed to the right when the trails split at the junction around .54 miles into the trip. We continued our descent to the lowest point at the Layman Memorial at about 1.23 miles into the trip. From here we followed the Escarpment Trail along the edge of the escarpment and stopped to take some pictures along the way. We stopped at Sunset Rock and Inspiration Point but also at several other viewpoints along the way that are as good or better than these. I was able to get some nice spots of Kaaterskill High Peak and Roundtop across the way as well as shots up the clove toward west. Twilight Park was easy to spot with houses seemingly hanging on the side of the mountain. At the first lookouts the Hudson River to the east is hidden but the river comes into view the farther along the trail you hike. At about 2.7 miles we had a choice to stay on the Escarpment Trail or head down the path to the Palenville Lookout. We decided to walk straight ahead and go for the Lookout on this cloudy but clear day. This route always is longer than I think and I often doubt I am headed the right way due to the length and the switchbacks. The trail drops until about 3.35 miles where it levels some and you continue to walk to about 3.8 miles where there is a switchback and a steep descent. It is here that I forget that this is longer piece of the trail than I remember. Once at the switchback we scrambled down the steep descent and then proceeded a little over .5 miles to the little descent to the Palenville Lookout.
The view from the lookout was good although the vegetation hides much of Palenville at this time of year. The views of the Hudson were about as clear as they get and the view up the clove was nice. I took pictures of the old foundations and several of Karl and the two dogs in the three "thrones" that people have erected at this spot. I then took many pictures down into Palenville, into the clove and up to the interesting cloud formations. At this point we were pressed for time and quickly headed back to toward the car. The rest of the trail would have to wait for next time. The climb up the steep section was easier than the descent and we were soon back at the trail junction with the Escarpment Trail. Here we decided to take the Escarpment and Schutt Road Trails back to the car and turned right up the Escarpment Trail at 6.2 miles. This is also the Long Path at this point. After a little climb on the newly rerouted trail we were at the trail junction and turned left toward the Schutt Road parking area. We passed by South Mountain and the site of the Kaaterskill Mountain House until we were back at the trail junction after 7.6 miles of hiking. We continued on for .6 miles retracing our route from the beginning of the hike. We were back at the car by 2:05 PM. We covered the 8.2 miles in 3 hours and 45 minutes with plenty of time stopped for pictures.
On Friday, September 3rd I decided to visit the Neversink Gorge and the Neversink Unique Area. This area has been around for a LONG time and has even had trails marked in some fashion by the DEC and local residents. The Sullivan Striders use it for trail running and I got one of the few available maps from their website. The New York New Jersey Trail Conference is working in this area now to upgrade the trails and blaze them all using the familiar red, blue and yellow discs. I knew that the trails offer several combinations to make loops with side trail to visit the Neversink River and the various tributary brooks. I decided to access the area by parking in the lot at the end of Katrina Falls Road in Rock Hill. After 9:00 AM cross country practice, I went home to pick up Sheba and my equipment. We left Livingston Manor on the Quickway and headed for Rock Hill. I got off at the Rock Hill exit and then clocked the mileage to make sure I could find the parking area. This was unnecessary since the parking area is at the end of Katrina Falls Road and a convenient yellow gate with a STOP sign lets you know you can go no farther. I parked the car just before noon, got my bearings and headed passed the gate on an old woods road with blue discs at a few minutes passed noon. The temperature was in the high 70's or low 80's but the high humidity made me start to sweat immediately. The skies were very overcast although there was no rain in the forecast. As we left, another hiker was coming up the road and asked me about the trails. I told him it was my first trip and we wished each other a good day. In the first .5 miles the trail loses 200 feet of elevation as it descends toward the river and a junction with a yellow trail. All the yellow trails lead to the Neversink or one of the tributary brooks. I decided to continue on the main blue trail since I was planning on returning to this junction on my way back to the car. At ,6 miles we crossed a "road" bridge over Wolf Brook. We stopped so that I could take some pictures since there was quite a lot of water flowing over the rocks and under the bridge. Just passed the bridge I began looking for the start of the red trail at Big Maple Junction. I intended to hike the loop in a clockwise direction. Just after the bridge the blue trail turned to the right and I saw no blazes to mark the red trail. I did find a big maple and a path which made me suspect that the junction was at that point but I decided to continue on the blue trail and hike the loop counterclockwise.
The blue trail is a wide open woods road which is relatively easy to walk and rolls only a little as it parallels the river. Views of the Neversink can be seen through the trees and there are many inviting areas to walk down the bank to the river. I decided to stay on the trails and in another .6 miles, about 1.2 miles into the hike a yellow trail appeared on the right and we turned to go down to the river to Denton Falls. The trail here was another woods road and was easy to follow despite the lack of any blazes. Down at the river the "falls' were little more than a small rapids in the river. It was a little disappointing but I took some pictures before we walked the .3 miles back up to the main blue trail. Sheba and I turned right and were soon walking up hill toward Mullet Brook. The trail took a sharp right and then crossed Mullet Brook on a bridge at about 1.9 miles. Just after this there was another yellow trail leading down toward the river and this one seemed to be marked with yellow discs and some old yellow on white blazes. I consulted my map and found THIS was the marked trail to Denton Falls. The previous trail was not marked on the map and led to a "swimmin' hole"! We turned on the blazed trail and started the .25 mile descent to the falls. This trail has been worked on recently and has the yellow discs from the trail conference along most of its length. In some places the discs are missing but the old blazes are present and the trail is easy to follow. It does get a little steep at times especially as it approaches the river. Denton Falls is a pleasant rapids on the river not that much more spectacular than the rapids at the swimming hole. There was quite a bit of water in the river but I could see evidence that there was much more at times. I got the camera out and started to take pictures as I worked my way downstream on the exposed rocks. I was able to get a view of the "front" of the falls from some rocks in the stream. After this, Sheba and I returned to the main blue trail to continue our loop hike. The trail continued uphill and became more narrow. Around 2.5 miles the blue trail continued south but we turned left or east on the red trail. Actually, I don't remember seeing any red blazes but the turn was obvious.
The red trail continued the climb and even got a little steeper as I began to look for the next yellow trail that would lead to the falls on Mullet Brook. We didn't have to wait long since this yellow trail to the left appeared only .1 miles passed the turn and about 2.6 miles into the hike. We turned and walked the .15 miles down to the falls. There was a limited amount of water passing over the falls but they were still pretty. I took a few pictures. It was obvious that there was a splash pool at the bottom when the water was higher. The fact that a larger volume of water is present at times was also indicated by the scattering of large rocks in the stream bed. We walked back up the hill to the main trail and continued the hike. The map indicated a 90 degree left turn ahead followed by another not far beyond that. The trail gained about 200 feet of elevation over the next .5 miles when the trail turned almost due north. There was no junction but just a pronounced change in direction. Just after this we crossed Mullet Brook on a bridge and then came to a junction with a yellow trail. We headed left to stay on the red trail east and then north as the trail descended over the next .9 miles. At this point the red trail met the blue trail at the big maple tree from earlier. We again crossed Wolf Brook but, instead of going directly back to the car, we turned left on the yellow trail to walk the .3 miles down to the river. The Neversink Gorge here almost lives up to its name with some high rocks on the other side. I stopped to take pictures but it wasn't until I was packing to leave that I saw another person on the far bank relaxing near the river. Sheba and I hiked back up to the main trail and to the car. We covered a total of a 5.8 miles in 2.5 hours returning to the car by 2:30 PM. I hope the trail conference finishes blazing the trail and publishes some maps since there are definitely more areas to hike. At some point I will try parking in another area and hiking up the Lost Trail from Eden Brook or coming in from the "road to Nowhere" on the yellow trail.
On Thursday, September 2nd I decided to revisit Frick and Hodge Ponds after early cross country practice. I had thoughts about hiking to Quick Lake but, like always, I put those away for another day. We parked at the Frick lot at 12:00 PM and started our hike out toward Frick Pond on the Quick Lake Trail. I brought the camera but decided not to take too many pictures since I have many shots of this hike. The day was warm and the sky was clear with just enough puffy clouds to form a nice contrast. The trails were dry despite some rain and we were soon at the bridge across the Frick Pond Outlet. I just couldn't resist stopping to take some pictures before continuing the hike. We headed left to stay on the Quick Lake Trail and walked around the numerous blowdowns which apparently have become part of the trail! We moved along at a good pace hitting Junkyard Junction at 3.1 miles in less than 1.5 hours. Here we headed right on the Flynn Trail toward Hodge Pond. At Hodge Pond we turned left to go around the "back" of the pond. I walked down a faint path to the pond and took some pictures before continuing on around the pond. The trail here is more of a jeep road and is kept in very good condition. The surface is almost level and it is actually mowed periodically! For just a simple trail this is a beautiful trail to hike. Down at the outlet end of Hodge we stopped in the field so that I could take some more pictures. Sheba decided to wade into the deepest black mud she could find and then wash it off in the clear water. Back on the Flynn Trail the walk seemed to go quickly up to the junction with the Big Rock Trail. From Here we continued all the way down the Flynn Trail and back to the car. We covered 6.7 miles in 2 hours and 45 minutes with at least 20 minutes set aside for photography.
On Tuesday, August 31st the forecast called for hot, humid weather with temperatures in the high 80's. I had planned several hikes and, after finding Cindy had other things to do, I decided to go to southern Harriman to hike Almost Perpendicular, visit Claudius Smith's Den and perhaps find some new mines. I decided to take the Quickway to Route 6 and get on Seven Lakes Drive at the traffic circle. I was looking for a parking area near the end of Seven Lakes to access the trails I wanted. When I got to the Reeves Education center, I knew I had gone too far and turned around to look for the parking area on the west side of the road. I did "find" the parking area but it was on another side road. I could have parked at Reeves and walked up the road and over to the trailhead on the gas pipeline right-of-way but decided to drive to the parking area and park at the trailhead. Further down Seven Lakes Drive Johnsontown Road is a right hand turn and then another right hand turn. It is also posted as Rockland County 97. The "No Outlet" sign gave me an idea I was on the right track. I drove around the traffic circle at the end and pulled off to the side to park at about 10:00 AM. Two other cars were already parked as I got my equipment ready and Sheba and I started out. We walked back toward the road looking for the blue disc trail which was a theme that would be repeated throughout the day. I consulted the map and found that the blue disc trail actually turned up the hill to the northwest just before entering the traffic circle. the first part runs along the access road for maintenance of the gas pipeline. The trail then cuts into the woods and parallels the pipeline briefly before heading more northwest. We found that any area of the trails in this area that are readily accessible are covered in broken glass. Why people have to enjoy themselves by causing hazards for others is beyond me! What is missing in their lives that the sound of breaking glass is so satisfying? After about .85 miles and 20 minutes of hiking a high rock formation appeared on the left. It looked like it might be a good viewpoint and since I was not familiar with the area We went off the trail and up to the lookout. There were limited views but the lookout itself was interesting. The pictures I did take were hazy since the weather was warm and humid. I was not sure if this was the Almost Perpendicular viewpoint but I hoped there was more to come.
Back on the main trail Sheba and I continued to hike and almost immediately the trail hit a very steep little climb. It was steep but hardly perpendicular! The top was about 960 feet in elevation and only a mile from the start of the hike. It offered excellent views particularly to the south and east. I took some pictures but the views in the distance were still hazy. I decided to put this on the list of places to revisit when the weather was clearer and there was some color to the trees. We continued our hike down from the viewpoint into a little "valley" surrounded by several high rock formations. The trail then ascended Pound Mountain and then descended again as it approached Elbow Brush. We heard some voices up ahead at about 1.9 miles and we stopped at Elbow Brush where I took some pictures of a narrow passage between the bedrock and a piece that has pulled away over the years. This area can be avoided in one of several ways but it is interesting and not all that narrow. Just passed this point we met up with four other hikes, a group of men in their 70's, and stopped to chat with them. I am always glad to see that hiking is a form of exercise that can be enjoyed for many years! In this area was a jumble of rocks with some places to walk through. It wasn't exactly a cave but was interesting. I was pretty sure this was not the Claudius Smith Den and the others confirmed this. We said goodbye to the group and continued to hike to the junction with the Tuxedo Mount Ivy Trail. This trail runs roughly east-west and it took me a minute to find the blue disc trail which proceeds straight ahead and directly up the rock face to another viewpoint. We climbed up to the viewpoint at 2.3 miles and stopped so that I could take some shots. Just across on the next hill I could see Smith's Rock but it was hard to determine where the "den" was located. I continued on the blue disc trail but did not see the "cave". At this point I heard the other group approaching and decided to ask the "experts". They told me to go back to the trail junction and take the red Tuxedo Mt Ivy trail west to the base of the cliff where I would find the "den". I thanked them and Sheba and I headed off on the red trail.
It was less than a few hundred feet until an opening appeared on the right of the trail. We were able to walk into this "cave" and make our way to the other side. It was cool and I stopped to take some pictures from both entrances. Back on the trail we walked to the base of the cliff and found the rest of the den in the form of a rock overhang. There was a fire pit and chair set up and I imagined Claudius Smith and his men gathered around the fire. Smith was raised in Brookhaven on Long Island but his family moved to Smith' Clove (Monroe) in the early 1740's. His family was well-respected and when war broke out many became Loyalists. Claudius led a band of men who defended the Loyalists in Orange County and attacked the rebels. Eventually he became so notorious that Governor George Clinton offered a $1200 reward for his capture. Claudius Smith was hanged in Goshen, NY in 1779 as were two of his sons. After inspecting the den and several rocks and rock formations Sheba and I got ready to go back up to the blue disc trail. We passed a large rock that appeared to have primitive petroglyphs painted on it. The scene depicted hunters with weapons attacking some animal with a series of trees in the background. My impressions was that closer inspection would reveal a modern nature to the work. We regained the height of land on the blue disc, passed the other group where they had stopped for lunch and then tried to find the blue disc trail. We walked down a rock face without finding ant blazes and then wandered around bushwhacking near a small swampy area for some time until I decided to go back to the rock face and start over. Near the top I found where the blue disc trail headed off slightly to the right marked by a few faded blazes on the rock. The trail started to descend after crossing over another viewpoint and at about 3.4 miles I started to look for the junction with the Ramapo Dunderberg Trail that I wanted to use as part of the return route. I lost the blue discs again but continued in the general direction and found a trail marked with blue V's. This was the Victory trail and we turned left or west and soon found the trail junction.
The Ramapo Dunderberg Trail headed southwest and stayed relatively flat between hills on the east and a drop off to the west. I was looking for some evidence of the Black Ash mines but did not remember exactly what they were supposed to look like or where they were located. I looked up the mountain and saw some areas that looked interesting but I did not see the telltale tailings piles. At this point both Sheba and I were very hot and I was not sure how long the water supply would last. I decided to stay on the trail and leave exploring for another day. At about 4.0 miles I noticed a tailings pile to the left of the trail and decided to walk up to it. Just behind the pile was one of the openings for the Black Ash mine and we stopped so that I could take pictures of flooded adit and tailings pile. We walked down to the trail and continued south and I found the second adit to the Black Ash mine and took some more photographs. The trail continued to be open and easy to follow but began to descend as it approached the Tuxedo Park and the Thruway. Just after descending to a small parking area, Sheba and I turned left or south-southeast on the white Kakiat Trail that would help us complete our loop back to the blue disc trail and the car. We were both dragging a little from the heat as I considered whether or not to look for the Dater Mine near the trail junction with the blue disc trail. I decided to make this decision when we got closer. The Kakiat Trail followed a woods road and immediately began to ascend to an old telephone line right-of-way. The ascent was only about .3 miles and about 200 feet but I it was hot and very humid. As we neared the junction with the blue disc I could see various paths and roads leading up the mountain toward the direction of what I though might be the Dater Mine. I started to turn up the mountain but decided to leave this for another day when I was more informed and more rested. From here it was only .2 miles to the blue disc trail and .7 miles back to the car. We completed the 7.5 mile hike by 2:30 taking about 4.5 hours for this exploration!
On Saturday, August 28th I wanted to try a new trail that trail conference volunteers had created in Sterling Forest. The Bare Rock Trail which was shown as "proposed" on some maps was now completed and open for business. I was interested in the view to the west over Greenwood Lake and equally interested in the view from the fire tower. The other times I have been at the tower it was closed and I wanted to see the countryside from above. I decided to park on Route 17A just outside of Greenwood Lake and hike in from the north for a change of route. On a previous hike we had gotten to this parking area and then turned around to go back to the car at the other end of the park. We started out after 9:00 AM and I elected to take Route 17A through Florida and Warwick. Passed Warwick it was a left toward Greenwood Lake, up and over Mt. Peter and then up the hill out of Greenwood Lake. I wanted to park at the trailhead for the West Valley Trail since I had never been on it and it would make a nice loop. When we got to the trailhead, there was some construction equipment present so I decided to go a little further and park at the lot for the Sterling Ridge and Sterling Valley Trails. We parked and were on the trail by 10:35 AM. Only one other car was in the lot at the time. We took the yellow Sterling Valley Loop Trail out of the parking area just passed a gate but turned right and up the ridge on the blue Sterling Ridge Trail within a very short distance. This trail climbs for about .25 miles and then travels along the ridge with a few ups and downs. Along the way we met a pair of hikers and their dog. We said "hello" and passed them to continue our hike. At about 2 miles there is a nice viewpoint overlooking Sterling Lake. At about 2.3 miles the orange blazed Bare Rock Trail branches off to the right.
The Bare Rock Trail stays rather level for a short distance and then begins to descend somewhat. Along the way I met a lone hiker coming toward us and the trail. We passed with greetings and continued in our own separate directions. After descending the trail rises toward a ridge that parallels Greenwood Lake. The trail stayed off the ridge and I wondered if it ever would get to the lookout. I need not have worried since the trail designers knew that the Bare Rock Lookout was of great interest to hikers and was the reason the trail was created. At 3.7 miles a side trail clearly marked drops to the viewpoint on the east side of Greenwood Lake. The viewpoint was VERY nice allowing views of the lake and the Bellvale-Bearfort Ridge that I had never seen before. We stopped for some time to get a drink and a snack and for me to take many pictures. It was a good day fort photography with some sun and clouds in the sky for contrast. After staying for some time we walked back up to the main trail to continue the hike. For the next 1.6 miles the trail climbed over a hill and then began a descent to the junction with the green blazed West Valley Trail and the red blazed Fire Tower Trail. This is where I ran into some problems. From the newest map I had I knew the red trail should branch off just after a short distance going north on the green trail. We walked a little but could not find the red trail. Thinking the map might be a little off we started south, passed the trail junction and continued on the red trail. I decided we were going too far south and turned east, crossed a Jennings Creek and found a white blazed trail which was not on the map. I had intended to bushwhack to the top of the ridge to find the Sterling Ridge Trail but decided to follow the trail since that's where it was headed. Once on the Sterling Ridge and Highlands Trail we ascended an interesting part of the trail to a lookout and then descended before tackling the steep trail up to the tower.
The part of the trail up to the tower is only .4 miles but gains almost 300 feet. We arrived at the tower to find another pair of hikers just coming down. The tower gate was open but the ranger had left some minutes before so the cab was closed. I attached Sheba's leash to a tree and ascended the tower to just under the cab. The views were good on this day with both Green wood Lake and Sterling Lake clearly visible. There was some haze on the distance and I wondered what the countryside would look like in the fall once the leaves had turned. I took pictures in all directions and then started down the tower just as the pair of hikers from earlier in the day arrived with their dog. They headed down the Fire Tower Trail toward the lake as I reached the ground. I gave Sheba a drink and took some pictures of the tower before heading down the same trail. I had thought about investigating the mines, furnace and foundry around the lake but decided to leave that for another day. We descended the Fire Tower Trail until we hit the Fire Tower Connector trail at 7.75 miles where we turned north. In a short distance we were on the blue lake loop trail headed north along the lake shore. We walked 1.2 miles along the shore to the junction with the Sterling Valley Loop Trail. Before going to the left and back up to the car we bore to the right and went down to a nice viewpoint on the lake where we once again met the couple from the morning. We went to a small point of land that sticks out into the lake and I took some pictures. After this it was back to the trail junction. The last 1.6 miles started pretty flat along a wide road and then began to ascend at the end to regain the elevation of the parking lot. We were back at he car at 3:40 PM having covered the 10.8 mile hike in 5 hours. The overall speed was quick since the 5 hour time included many stops along the way.
On Friday, August 27th I wanted to try a long hike with some mountains. I have finished all the 35's for August but that doesn't mean I can't hike them again! I decided to head to Prediger Road to hike the Devil's Path over Indian Head and Twin. I thought I might throw in Sugarloaf and maybe even Plateau. I knew this was an ambitious plan so I would take one mountain at a time. We got a later start than I wanted and arrived at Prediger at 8:30 AM; an hour earlier would have been better. We hiked the first 1.5 miles on the Devil's Path in 45 minutes getting to the trail junction by 9:15 AM. A right turn and a short hike brought us to the turn where the Devil's Path starts up Indian Head. In another hour we had hiked 1.2 miles and gained 1050 feet to the first viewpoint. From here there were good views of the hills below Indian Head. Also visible were Kaaterskill High Peak and Round Top with the Catskill Community at their base. We stopped OS that I could take some pictures and then continued on up the mountain. The next .2 miles may well be the steepest on the mountain with several rock scrambles. We again stopped at the next viewpoint so that I could snap some shots before continuing to climb up to the relatively flat summit plateau. The next .75 miles to the summit has a few more climbs and a nice lookout top the east where we made our last stop before the summit of Indian Head. Since the summit has no view, we pushed passed it and down to the Col between Indian Head and Twin. There are some partial views going down Indian Head but none good enough to stop for pictures. We hit the Col at just passed 11:30 AM and a little over 4 miles into the hike.
The climb up Twin is somewhat easy at the start and never gets very steep except for a few isolated areas. By 11:55 AM we were at the east lookout and I took some pictures of Indian Head before climbing up to one of my favorite views in the Catskills. We reached the east peak of Twin by noon and about 4.5 miles into the hike. I always stop at this point for as much time as I ever stop and take pictures even though I have taken them all before. From this open rock shelf there are views over to Indian Head, Overlook Mountain and the Hudson River to the east. Echo Lake is visible below and to the west are the west peak of Twin and Sugarloaf as well as the rest of the Devil's Path. After taking pictures, eating lunch and getting a drink we started out for the west or higher peak of Twin. The hike is about .6 miles with a very minor dip between the two peaks. I took some pictures from the west peak before continuing on the trail. Below the west peak are some interesting rock formations. There are two areas of rock overhangs which people use for shelter. The second area is by far the bigger and the trail passes through a narrow cleft in the rocks where the "cave" is at the base. I took some shots here before starting one of the more difficult descents in the Catskills. In the .6 miles from the west peak of twin to the Col with Sugarloaf the trail drop over 800 feet. There are several Ares where the trail passes over jumbles of larger boulders and one nearly vertical wall of rock. By 1:25 PM we were in the Col and I had to make a decision. Physically I felt fine and knew I could make at least Sugarloaf. Mentally, I just wasn't interested! I decided to hike out to the Roaring Kill trailhead by way of the Pecoy Notch Trail.
As we started to hike down from Pecoy Notch, I regretted a little not going any farther but that feeling passed quickly. On the way down we stopped at the beaver pond which was full and overflowing. Picking a path through the outlet of the pond was tricky but I stayed pretty dry. After a few pictures, we continued the hike to the stone furniture. We stopped here so that I could take some pictures of this area and some shots of Kaaterskill and Round Top. We completed the 1.9 mile walk to the trailhead by 2:30 PM and then started the road walk back to the car at the Prediger road lot. We walked out the Elka Park Road to Dale Lane and then out to Platte Clove Road to Prediger. This part of the walk went fast as we covered 2.8 miles in about an hour. We arrived back a the car by 3:30 PM having covered 10.6 miles in just under 7 hours. As we walked along Dale Lane and Platte Clove Road, I was struck by the views that many of the homes enjoyed. On the north side of Platte Clove Road the houses have a view of the Devil's Path with Kaaterskill High Peak and Round Top in their "backyard". As we were getting ready to leave, two women appeared in the parking lot from the Devil's Path. One was holding her left wrist and I offered to take a look at it. She had fallen on some wet rocks on a relatively flat stretch of the trail. After taking a look, I suggested that she stop by the Kingston General emergency room before returning to New Jersey as her wrist was displaced indicating a fracture or dislocation.
On Thursday, August 26th I wanted to get a hike in between cross country practice in the morning and a meeting at night. It had been raining on and off for several days so I decided to go to Trout Pond to check out Russell Brook Falls. I had done this route in some time partly because we had hiked it so much in past years and because it is short. We arrived at the upper parking area on Morton Hill Road at about noon and started to walk down Russell Brook Road to the lower parking area. We always walk since I like the easy walk down the road which parallels Russell Brook. There was a slight breeze and the temperature was in the 70's with little humidity. The sound of the wind the trees and the occasional bird song was interrupted only by sound of Russell Brook. I could tell there was some water flow in the brook and as we hiked further I could look down to see that it was moderately full. At the parking area we found only one truck and we hiked down and across the bridge and headed over to the falls. I took some pictures of the falls from different angles and played with different camera settings. When we were done at the falls, we headed up the trail/road to Trout Pond. When we arrived I was surprised to find the water level quite low despite the recent rain. I took pictures toward the inlet of the lake. Some very dark clouds hung in the sky making for interesting photography. The clouds looked for all the world like they held rain but none developed. We walked to the other end of the lake and found the inlet stream almost dry and the lake very low. I took some more pictures. The lower lean-to seemed all set up as if someone was in residence but we did not see any people around. Sheba and I continued around the lake and on the trail over Cherry Ridge. The hike was a little longer than I though which was a good thing in this case. The back part of the loop went quickly and was rather dry except for a few low spots. Soon we were at the turn near Mud Pond and we headed left and back toward Russell Brook to complete the loop. Once we closed the loop it was back out to Russell Brook Road and up the hill to the car. The truck was gone and there were no vehicles in the upper lot so the lean-to remains a mystery! We covered about 5.5 mile sin around 2 hours arriving back at the car just after 2:00 PM.
On Saturday, August 21st Kurt and I wanted to do a longer, more challenging hike. My feet seemed to be OK after the ordeal of the previous day so I put on my Asolo TPS520 boots and we headed for New Jersey. I had read about a ruined mansion in the Ramapo State Forest that seemed interesting. Along this route was also Matapan Rock, Camp Glen Gray, the Millstones and a paleoIndian rock shelter. Kurt and I wanted to get an early start so we were on the road just after 7:00 AM and headed for the trailhead. I decided to try the main highways this time and took the Quickway to the Thruway and then I287 to exit 57. The trailhead is on Skyline Drive just off the exit on I287. It was a quick trip and we were hiking by 8:35 AM. The parking lot was very rough and only a few other cars were parked. Many trip reports warned that the parking lot fills quickly on weekends so I was glad we had started early. We started out on the blue MacEvoy Trail which gained some elevation as it paralleled what should have been a stream. The bed was dry but from the amount of debris in the bed and the width it was obvious the flow here would be impressive in the right season. The first .6 miles of the trail was rocky with roots and a 200 foot elevation gain. We passed by trail junction with the white Todd Trail and the yellow Hoeferlin Memorial Trail. The trail then came to the shore of Ramapo Lake and joined a paved road and became completely flat. We stopped at the dam on the lake and at another place to take pictures since it was a perfect day. We noticed a sailboat on the lake which seemed unusual for a lake in the middle of a state forest. I checked my NYNJ Trail Conference map and found that there is a private inholding with lake rights in the middle of the state forest. As we walked by we saw the name "Bear Run" and the house and grounds were impressive! At the north end of the lake we came to the junction with the white blazed Castle Point Trail and the white on red C of the Cannonball trail. We turned north and stayed on the Castle point Trail when the two split almost immediately.
Over the next .3 miles the Castle Point Trail rose about 250 feet and several viewpoints off the trail gave excellent views of Ramapo Lake to the south and the Wanaque Reservoir to the west. We stopped so that I could take some pictures and then continued on the trail. There was a rock outcrop near the top of the trail and a stone wall with mortar. As we hopped up over this wall I knew we had found the VanSlyke Mansion! Several sites have the history of this mansion which is roughly contemporary with the Cornish estate near Beacon and the ORAK Mansion in Harriman Park. They are all evidence that there were always those who had more money than others and weren't afraid to spend it. A father and some young boys were at the site and I was impressed with his patience with them and their interesting questions. Kurt and I stooped for quite some time to walk in and around the stone wall. I took a lot of pictures of the various rooms from inside and outside. It is easy to imagine the original view unhindered by the current trees. A long road and driveway leads up to the mansion and is still in good shape. It is obvious that fire played a part in the demise of the estate as the remain woodwork shows signs as does some of the rock. There is a large brick Chimney, a few ceramic tiles and a covered buggy/car port. After walking around for some time, we got back on the main trail and started to look for the water tower which was supposed to be farther along the path. As we walked along the path I found what I though was another foundation. Kurt quickly pointed out the smooth side, pipes and stairs leading down into what was once the swimming pool! There was another viewpoint along the way but we didn't see any tower. Back on the trail we noticed pipes just below the surface with valves at intervals. After a short walk and a slight climb the tower came into view!
The tower seemed to be much more intact than the rest of the buildings and was impressive as we approached and as we drew near. At first I though there was no door but we found the entrance on the east side. Inside there is still some wooden supports and a wooden "ceiling". We speculated about what kind of tank might have been used and how the water got to the house. The tower is higher than the mansion so a partial gravity feed would have been possible. I noticed that there were several long iron "cables" lying on the ground and one that came down from the top of the tower. I believe these are "hoops" that may indicate that the tank was a wooden "barrel" filled by rain water. We took many pictures and then stared down off the ridge to join the coaligned Hoeferlin Memorial and Cannonball Trails as they crossed over Skyline Drive at 2,4 miles and headed north toward Matapan Rock. Like many of the trails in New Jersey, these trail are never very far from a road or at least the noise from a highway. In this case I didn't mind too much since I had Kurt to talk to. At one point the trails descended into an area where there were fences from a utility company. The blazes sort of disappeared but we found them again near the road and we continued the hike. In about a mile from crossing Skyline Drive we were walking through the woods and came across the red blazed Matapan Rock Trail. We turned right or west and walked out to this open rock face. The view was extensive but took in mostly large houses on the opposing hills and in the valleys below. We took some pictures and then headed back on the Matapan Rock Trail. At this point we decided that we would cut out the upper loop of what I had planned since it did not have any special attraction and was just there to add some miles. We continued on the Matapan Rock Trail toward Camp Glen Gray and Lake Vreeland. This is where things became confusing!
When the red trail ended we should have run into an orange trail but instead found a woods road we turned right in the direction of the camp and soon found where the red trail ended. We had missed a small turn near the end. Soon out buildings of the Boy Scout camp began to show up and then we neared the shores of the lake. There were entirely too many people present as the lake is used by the boy scouts but is also open to the public. It is more a pond than a lake and Kurt and I quickly left following the orange trail that would take us east toward the Millstones or so we thought. As we climbed the trail, I checked the GPS and found we were going south and had turned the wrong way. We decided not to retreat but to push on south for a short distance and then turn east on the white Millstone Trail over Millstone Hill. The climb was interesting and passed several glacial erratics on the way to the summit just .7 miles from the lake. As we descended the next .3 miles we came to a trail junction and a sign that said "Millstones". I must admit I was a little disappointed. There were definitely stones that were worked and looked as if they might have been destined to be small millstones. What was not clear was why they were in this area, if any had been completed or where they were to be used. At this point Kurt and I made a ninety degree turn to the south on the Yellow blazed Yellow Trail. This trail moved up and down over some hills and had several switchbacks before taking us near Todd lake, another small pond with lily pads and frogs. When we arrived at the white Todd Trail we turned right or west to follow the Todd Trail to Skyline Drive and the junction with the yellow Hoeferlin Memorial Trail. This would be our way back to the MacEvoy Trail and the parking area but first we wanted to visit the Indian Rock shelter.
From the Millstones it was about a mile to Todd Lake and then another mile to Skyline Drive. There were some rolling hills as we approached Skyline Drive. I made the mistake of crossing the road and wandering around to look for the rock shelters. After consulting the map, I realized that the rock shelters were on the other side of the road, so we recrossed and started out on the trail. I had no idea how far to go and as I was about to suggest to Kurt that we give up a sign painted on the rocks pointed the way. Again, I was a little disappointed at what we found. I believe that some artifacts were found at this location and there is a rock overhand. This must have been a very temporary shelter as it is very exposed. We walked up the hill along the rock outcrop looking for other shelters but did not find any so we followed the yellow trail back to the road. We crossed Skyline Drive and continued to follow the trail until it ended at the blue MacEvoy Trail where we turned left or east and headed for the car. We met many groups of people. Some groups appeared to be hiking while most seemed to be headed to Ramapo Lake. For some the slight elevation change from parking lot to lake level seemed all they could handle! From the shelters it was about a mile south on the Hoers Trail and then another .miles to the car. The total distance was 9.7 miles and we arrived back at the car by 2:00 PM making it a 5 hour and 25 minute hike.
On Friday, August 20th summer school was over and our son, Kurt, was visiting from Florida. We decided to enjoy a hike together at Sam's Point. Kurt was not sure he had ever been there and if he had it was a long time ago. We decided to go to the Ice Caves and then perhaps to Indian Rock and High Point. We knew the falls would be dry and the 8+ mile loop was more than Cindy wanted to tackle. We didn't get an early start but arrived at about 10:30 AM to find only a few cars and a bus in the lot. I went inside to pay the $$0 for a parking pass good for one year which is well worth the price. At around 10:45 AM we started to walk up the left branch of the loop road toward Sam's Point. We met a few members of the group from the bus and some other people already coming down and we said "Good morning!" By 11:00 AM we had covered the short distance to Sam's Point and were enjoying the almost clear view. There were no other people on the Point at this time. After a few pictures, we headed back to the main loop road and walked to the right turn down to the Ice Caves. The turn is about .5 miles and the road down to the start of the Caves is another .4 miles for a total trip from Sam's Point of less than a mile. We did me a few groups coming up from the Caves and several had dogs with them. As we started down the rock steps toward the various clefts in the rock that make up the Ice Caves the cool air rolled over us. At several points along the way, we stopped to take a closer look at the rock formations and to take some pictures. After walking through the first big "canyon", we walked along the trail at the base of the rock cliffs, over some bridges and across some "streams". There actually was some water along the way which is a rare sight for this dry summer. Soon we were at the first wooden ladder which Sheba really hates. Kurt found her a way around and over some rocks and we headed for the old wooden door that marks the beginning of the Ice Caves,
As we passed through the door, the temperature dropped another few degrees and it was pitch dark. The Walkway is lit by lights controlled by motions detectors and if you move very slowly they don't light for some time. We worked our way through the caves but did not see any ice! At the end is another ladder but Sheba found her own way around this one! The open rock face at the end of the caves offers a nice view of the valley below. From it you can see much of the rest of the Shawangunks and Lake Awosting if you look carefully. If Verkeerder Kill Falls has any volume of water going over it you can sometimes hear or see the falls. We didn't hear or see anything and decided we would not go down the trail to the falls. I took some pictures before we headed up the trail to the old parking area and then back up to the loop road. We turned right to continue on around Lake Maratanza thinking we might head to Indian Rock and High Point. It was about this time that I noticed the new Salomon Quest boots I was wearing were getting very uncomfortable! The other Salomon boots I have, Wings GTX and B52, both have roomy toe boxes. At first the more compact toe box in these boots felt secure but now it was just irritating my foot! I decided to "rough" it and continue to hike but it was darned annoying. We stopped at the shores of the lake to take pictures and then continued around and turned right to head fro Indian Rock. From the Ice Caves road to the lake is about .45 miles and the distance to the turn is another .35 miles. After about .4 miles, we turned left onto the wood plank puncheons that form the path through the bog to Indian Rock. This day the bog was completely dry but the path was well cut out. The walk from the main road out to Indian Rock on the trail is only about .5 miles and downhill most of the way but my feet felt every step. It was clear to me that I would not make it to High Point but would be just glad to get back to the car. Indian Rock is very interesting and I took pictures of the rock and from the open rock face on which it sits. I then got the idea that I would climb up onto the top of the rock which I had never done before. The view from the top was rather "awesome" and worth the climb up and down. We started back to the main trail and turned right to get back to the loop road. I stopped and put a bandage on each of my little toes which, surprisingly, did not help much at all. Back at the loop road we turned right to continue on around and back to the car. It was only 1.15 miles back to the car but I was very glad to get there. It was a nice 6.5 miles and 3 hours and 20 minutes with my wife, son and dog but I had trouble enjoying the last half. I hoped at that point that I could still hike on Saturday since I had something special planned for Kurt and myself in New Jersey!
On Tuesday, August 17th I wanted to hike a challenging route in the Catskills after doing the Burroughs Loop on Friday. Since I have done all the 3500 foot peaks in August, everything was up for grabs. I decided to hike the Blackhead Range as I had not been there for a while. I didn't really hurry to get up and son Sheba and I did not arrive at the trailhead at Batavia Kill until 10:05 AM. As it turned out, I could have arrived earlier and included Acra Point, Burnt Knob or Windham in my plans. When we did arrive there were a few cars already parked and a group of six younger people about to head out. I got my gear ready and Sheba and I got on the trail a little after the first group had left. My plan was to hike up the east (steep) side of Blackhead and then do Black Dome and Thomas Cole before returning to Lockwood Gap and following the Black Dome Trail back to the car. We caught the group at the register but they left a little before we did. We caught them again shortly before they had gone too far and passed several of them before I struck up a conversation. When I asked where they were headed, they said "Windham!" I explained that they could go the way hey were headed but that it was not the shortest way. I showed them on the map and they thanked me and turned back. I was a little disappointed since I thought I might have company for the second time in two hikes. Sheba and I walk up the trail and crossed the two bridges. They were hardly needed as the water was so low but at least there was some water. The recent all night rain had put some water into the small creeks but also made the rocks and roots slippery! Only 15 minutes into the hike we were at the trail junction and we stayed to the left to take the Batavia Kill Trail up to the Escarpment Trail to Blackhead. The walk along the Batavia Kill Trail was peaceful and the recent rain seemed to make everything greener - including the nettles! Parts of the trail were a little overgrown in places but nothing too serious. We stopped at the Batavia Kill lean-to for a moment to take some pictures before resuming the hike. The lean-to is sound but looks like it could use some "sprucing up". By 10:50 AM, just 45 minutes on the trail, we arrived at the end of the Batavia Kill Trail where it intersects the Escarpment Trail. We turned right and I knew the fun was just beginning.
The first part of the Escarpment Trail has some short but steep ascents to really warm up the legs. There is one viewpoint along the way which is more open when the leaves are off the trees. Eventually the trail starts to get much steeper and has some enticing views over your shoulder as you climb but better views are to come. Shortly we arrived at the best lookout and stopped a moment to get a drink and a snack. I took some pictures of the valley below and some of the hills. There was very little haze and the sky was very blue with a number of interesting clouds. After snapping some shots of Sheba, we continued the hike. As the trail approaches the summit it gets very steep with a few rock scrambles and areas where logs have been added to deter erosion and make climbing easier. This part of the trail becomes very "exciting" in the winter when it is covered with snow and ice! We arrived at the trail junction at the summit of Blackhead by 11:38 AM. I decided to investigate the viewpoint marked on the map which was a little further along the Escarpment Trail. We turned left and walked to an open clearing but I did not find much of a view. We continued but the trail started to drop off considerably so we headed back to the summit. At some point I want to hike up the Escarpment Trail from Colgate Lake or even over from North South Lake with a car spot! Back at the summit we stopped to take a few pictures and then walked along the relatively flat summit trail to the lookout on the west side of Blackhead. This viewpoint is a true gem as it gives an impressive view of Black Dome straight ahead. When I get views like this I always think the same thing 'That mountain is too high and too steep for anyone to climb!' I took my pack off as I gave Sheba a drink and ate lunch. I took a lot of pictures including two panoramas with my camera. The camera will take three pictures and stitch them together with only minimal effort and matching on my part. After the break, we headed down the steep and slippery path to Lockwood Gap. There were a lot of loose rocks so I took my time and started to wonder whether or not I really wanted to hike to Thomas Cole. I decided to get up Black Dome first and then make that decision. No one was in the Gap so we hit the junction and continued straight ahead up Black Dome
Again, the first part of the trail is rather gentle but then gets steeper as you get higher. Whoever maintains the trail had done an excellent job in cutting the weeds and brush that can obscure the path. This continued all the way to the summit. Parts of the trail were dry with loose gravel which made getting a good footing important. After edging along a fairly narrow part of the trail and hopping up a rock block, we were at the lookout toward Blackhead. The viewpoint right on the trail is not as good as the one as the one you can walk down to only a few feet up the trail. I walked own to the open rock outcrop and had an unobstructed view of Blackhead and the valley below. Colgate Lake and Lake Capra were both visible as were hints of the Hudson River in the distance. I took many pictures since the contrast of the deep blue sky and clouds with the green below pleased me. I knew there was still some steep sections to go so we got back on the trail and pushed to the top. The trail flattened near the summit and we arrived at the lookout to the north at 12:52 PM. Here there are many carvings on the rocks with one dated 1889. We stopped so that I could take some pictures but the sky did not appear as blue as before from here. Thomas Cole is only .8 miles from Black Dome which is a shorter hike than from Blackhead to Black Dome so I decided to head over to that summit. There is little to photograph on the way over or back. It was quiet and pretty with a few interesting spots to climb. There are limited views and all the way through the Col it is obvious that you are on a narrow ridge between the mountains. Close to the summit of Cole is an unmarked trail that leads north and own the mountain. I remember walking down it at one point but do not remember whether it ended or I just gave up! We headed back to Black Dome and passed the lookout only 50 minutes from when we had been there before. Then it was on to Lockwood Gap. We turned left on the Black Dome Trail and started down the mountain. The first part of the trail down was overgrown and is getting very narrow in spots as it hugs the side of the mountain and is eroding. Below this the trail turns into a long descent of ankle turning rocks. Finally the trail widens and levels out some and becomes a nice woods walk. Soon we were back tat he trail junction and headed toward the car. We were back by 3:05 PM having covered the 8 miles in almost exactly 5 hours total time and 4 hours moving time.
On Friday, August 13th I wanted to hike a challenging route nearer to home than I had over the last few weeks. I wanted to compare the difficulty of the Stonetown Circular in New Jersey or the Mount Greylock loop in Massachusetts to a hike over some Catskill peaks. I decided to try the Burroughs loop from the Slide Mountain parking lot on Route 47 to Woodland Valley and over the three peals back to Route 47. This was slightly different than I had done before when I had always parked at the Panther Mountain lot. I decided to use the shortcut just passed Winnisook Lake as I could not see any reason to bypass it to hike down the road to the Panther lot. I figured it would cut a little distance and some vertical gain but I was Ok with that. The forecast for the day was for overcast weather with temperatures in the 70's. Sheba and I arrived at the Slide Mountain parking area at (;30 AM and were walking out onto the road at 9:37 AM. I had checked the west branch of the Neversink River and it was still absolutely dry at the crossing. The ground WA wet from some brief showers the night before so I expected some slippery rocks and roots along the way. I was determined to take pictures at frequent intervals to try out the PhotoMapper program I had been playing with. This program matches the time on pictures with the time on your GPS route and geotags the pictures. It will then export a KMZ file which can be used in Google Earth. As we walked along the road I noticed a marker that I had not seen before that had Winnisook Club chiseled into it. I wanted to inspect the marker at closer range and stepped onto the side of the road. The paved ditch was damp and covered with small pebbles and I quickly found myself sitting in the ditch with bloodied knuckles. Sheba was very attentive in licking my face and then my hand and I congratulated myself for such an auspicious beginning to the hike. In less than a mile we were at Winnisook Lake and I took some pictures before walking to the end of the lake and starting to hike out on the shortcut trail which is an easement on club land.
The walk on the easement trail was almost flat but I surprised at the great shape the trail was in. The first hundred feet or so had some long grass but after that it was clear and open with only a few muddy places. Toward the end some bushes closed in a little but otherwise it was well maintained. I suspect the residents of the club have been using it and keeping it trimmed back. The walk to the trail junction with the Giant ledge - Panther Mountain Trail was about 1.5 miles. At the trail junction we stopped so that I could document the hike by taking some pictures. After only a brief pause, we were off again on the trail toward Woodland valley. As the miles began to add up, I realized that the hike was longer than I remembered and that I could have referred to my own summaries had thought about it! As we hiked I noted that this trail too was in better shape than I remembered. We crossed a damp place that usually has running water. The moss here was pretty but the dampness only allowed for some nettles to grow and there was no running water. We continued to descend as I was reminded that it is called Woodland Valley. The trail had been rerouted in at least one placed making it slightly longer but it was much better marked and easier to follow. At 4.3 miles we hit the lowest elevation up to that point and crossed another dry stream bed. On the other side was the long staircase of stone steps that ascends a hill just before the drop to Woodland Valley. We climbed the stairs and started the long but gentle descent to the campgrounds. Along the way I took some pictures of a bright orange fungus on a rotting log. Nearer the campgrounds we met a group of three headed in the opposite direction. They said that they were headed for Giant Ledges and perhaps Panther and I wished them good luck. After about .9 miles and a descent of over 500 feet we were at the Woodland valley campgrounds and ready to start the ascent up Wittenberg. At 5.45 miles we stopped at the new bridge across the creek and I took a few pictures.
As we were about to leave the bridge and start the hike up the mountain, another hiker, Matt from Brooklyn, appeared and we started to walk up toward the register box together. I immediately like Matt and was hoping we could stay together for at least part of the hike. His plan was to go to Slide and then retrace his route back to the campgrounds were he was staying with his family. Although this would be less miles than I was hiking it would be equally challenging since it would include walking back over Cornell and Hunter. We signed in at the register box at about 12:15 PM and started the long climb up Wittenberg. In our conversation I found out that Matt had done the Appalachian and Colorado Trails and really liked long distance hiking. He also had climbed Kilimanjaro, one of my personal goals. He was obviously more accomplished than I but had never climbed these Catskill peaks. We seemed pretty evenly matched in ability and I was anxious to go at least as far as Slide together. Hiking with someone who has not seen the views from these peaks is exciting as it always rekindles in me an appreciation for their beauty. This route up Wittenberg is about 3.55 miles and has a vertical gain of over 2300 feet! I didn't take as many pictures along the way as I had planned but I was enjoying the conversation with my hiking partner immensely. For some reason, the hike up Wittenberg is one that I always think is shorter and I tend to forget the many and varied rock scrambles along the way that make it interesting. It didn't seem too long before we were passing the 3500 foot sign and then walking the final rocky approach to the summit. We had met only one group of young men descending as we were hiking up. We arrived at the summit and broke out onto the open rock outcrop at 2:25 PM. Matt was impressed by the view. There were three young men on the summit who were doing a car shuttle over the three peaks. They were very affable and we talked for some time. One was in the Catskills to hike Slide and Hunter, the two 4000 foot peaks, to add to his NE 115 list. We stayed on the summit for about 15 minutes for pictures and a snack before heading for Cornell at about 2:40 PM.
The trip to Cornell is short but very interesting as there several interesting scrambles. After climbing several scrambles, it was time to attempt the "Cornell crack". It had been over a year since I had done this and I was wondering how it would go for Sheba and I now that we were a little older. I need not have worried. Sheba made it up three-quarters of the way by herself and could have gone the distance but I gave her a little boost. I put my poles on the ledge above me and Matt handed me my pack which followed the poles. I jammed my foot in the crack and easily lifted myself to the top. Matt followed me without much trouble. The view from the outcrop back to Wittenberg was better than I remembered and required me to pull out the camera once again. Back on the trail we headed over the top of Cornell with the obligatory stop at the clearing most consider the summit. Again, the view was worth a picture or two before we headed down the other side of Cornell toward Slide. The distance between Wittenberg and Cornell is only about .75 miles but the trip is interesting. We stopped on the way down Cornell to take some pictures of Slide. On this day the view was clear and quite stunning and the pictures were perfect. We continued on the main trail by descending several rock hops on the west side of Cornell and then continuing on a fairly damp trail past large rock outcrops and to the Col between Cornell and Slide. After another 1.3 miles from Cornell and 11.1 miles into my hike we were at the Col and ready to start the climb up Slide. This part of the hike starts out gently an increases in difficulty as you reach the slope of Slide. There is one steep ascent that require pulling yourself up using tree branches and rock handholds. Another is a nearly vertical wall of rock which leads you up to a narrow ledge to walk along and then scramble to the top. It amazes me that when I look for Sheba she is usually above me looking down - all this without opposable thumbs!
At the top of these scrambles we continued passed a large outcrops with a deep cleft and then walked the steep slope up to the spring. This is the first time I can remember the spring being completely dry! There was only a small amount of dampness but no running water. Next we climbed the ladders and stopped near the top to take pictures back to Cornell. The sky had actually cleared some and the sun was out as we worked our way up through the rock scrambles toward the summit of Slide. We were on the top at about 5:05 PM and paused briefly to take in the experience and snap a few pictures. Sheba posed politely as both Matt and I took pictures. At some point along the way I had suggested to Matt that he continue on down Slide with me and I would give him a ride back to the campsites. He had agreed and we started down Slide toward my car. We stopped at the lookout below the summit of Slide which gave us a nice view of Giant ledges and Panther. This was a brief stop as I really needed to get home. I had underestimated the time for the hike and Cindy would be expecting me far earlier than I would arrive. The trip down Slide is always "brutal" since there are few views and just a lot of "rolly rocks" to hike over. Having someone to talk to helped and we soon made the right onto the Phoenicia-West Branch Trail with about .7 miles to got to the car. As we walked I noted that the spring on this trail was dry and there were only a few areas of standing surface water. We walked out to the parking area cross the bone dry West Branch and hit the car at 6:46 PM! I had hiked 14.6 miles and 4860 feet on elevation gain in just over 9 hours. This is slower than normal but my GPS actually said I had only 7 hours and 20 minutes of moving time with almost 2 hours of stopping which gave me my usual average of about 2.0 mph. I drove Matt back to Woodland Valley and arrived home at about 8:30 PM. Thanks Matt!
On Sunday, August 8th I wanted to hike somewhere with Cindy and had thought about something in the DWG including places like Walpack Ridge and Tillman's Ravine. We got out of church a little later than anticipated so we decided to only go as far as Port Jervis and hike the Lenape Ridge Trail and maybe the SRT to the Graham Fire Tower. We were in Port Jervis before 1:00 PM and started up Route 6 looking for the parking area and the trailhead. Once we reached the power lines on Route 6, we knew we had gone too far and we turned around and looked for the trail on the way back down the mountain. We didn't see anything and decided to look for the other trailhead on Minisink Avenue. No luck there either. I began to wonder who in the trail conference had marked this trail and why they wanted to keep it a secret. Back up the mountain we went! I parked at a pulloff that would barely hold to cars near the Town of Deerpark sign. When I walked across the road, I finally spotted the three red squares marking the beginning of the trail. No one could ever see this from the road and I would suggest to the Trail Conference that they should find a better way to mark this trailhead or remove it from their maps! We were out of the car and on the trail by 1:15 PM. Just after getting on the trail and through some open woods we entered a small, sunny clearing. I immediately noticed a snake across the trail. It was all black and about 2 to 3 feet long. As I approached it began to "rattle" and then quickly moved off into the taller grass and was gone! I thought it might be another snake mincing rattlesnake behavior but now am convinced it was a immature black form of the eastern timber rattlesnake. We continued our hike on the wide open woods road that descended and crossed some dry streambeds. The trail turned several different ways but the red markers were easy to follow. At .4 mile we made a hard left onto another woods road and continued to follow the trail markers until .7 miles at a trail junction. Here a set of white markers continued straight ahead but were not on the map. Red and white markers turned left into the forest and we followed them. At 1.15 miles we crossed a power line right of way and I remarked about the interesting rock formation farther up the power line.
At about 1.55 miles, we had ascended a short hill and were on a nice lookout across the valley. The views were beautiful and below us was a rock cut for the Conrail tracks. After taking some pictures here and at another, higher lookout we got back on the trail and started to walk up along a rocky spine. At 1.65 miles we were at the "interesting rock formation" we had seen from further down the right of way. By 1.7 miles there was trail junction with the red trail going down and to the right and the white trail continuing ahead. We decided to make a loop by heading out on the red and back on the white trails. As we ascended a hill between 1.8 and 2.2 miles, we entered an area that had been burned over by fire. It appeared that it had been intense as all the underbrush was gone and there were thick ashes everywhere. The tracks of the machinery used to create a firebreak were clear to see so I assumed that the fire was relatively recent as the tracks would have washed away if it had occurred last year. There were views along this escarpment to the north and west and the sky was clear. I took quite a few pictures before we moved on down the trail. Just before starting down on the trail a newly flagged route appeared on the right. It looked as if it was a new trail being constructed but the top part ran down across and almost vertical slab! The next part of the trail had crosses marked on the red trail markers and it was obvious somebody was working on the trail as the surface had been dug up. We descended on a smooth carpet of pine needles passed a large bedrock outcrop on the left. The day was beginning to get hot and the breeze we had enjoyed seemed to die out. The trail continued to roll up and own and sidehilled some areas until at 3.55 miles we hit the end of the red trail at the junction with the white trail. We turned left here to begin our trip back.
From the trail junction the first thing the trail did was to climb back up to the ridge. There didn't seem to be many views but there did seem to be evidence of much ATV activity. At 4.2 miles we were at the highest point on the ridge and viewpoints to the south and east came into view. Most of these were featureless but Memorial Tower at High point was clear as were I84 and Port Jervis. We began a slight descent off the ridge and then walked back up for some even better views including down the cliff to the pond below. From there we walked downhill for about .5 miles until we were back at the trail junction and just had to follow our previous route back to the car. On the way out I had not noticed that we were walking downhill quite a bit. I certainly noticed the uphill nature of the trail on the way back. From the junction it was about 1.7 miles back and a 250 foot gain. We were back at the car by 5:10 PM covering 7.2 miles in just under 4 hours.
On Friday, August 6th we were finished with the Taconic Crest Trail from Petersburg Pass by 2:00 PM. I decided that 6 hours of driving required a little more hiking so I headed for the Mount Greylock Reservation to hike Jones Nose and Saddleball Mountain. I though that if time allowed we might finally get to the March cataract and maybe even Stony Ledge. From Williamstown I headed south on Route 7 looking for signs for the Visitors Center and North Main Street. I had the feeling we had gone too far but then noticed North Main Street in a town called Lanesboro. As I made the left I noticed the sign for the Visitor's Center which as only noticeable going north on Route 7! From here I made a right and then made a mistake. Instead on bearing left on Rockwell Road and going toward the Visitor's Center, I stayed on Quarry Road. Do NOT do this as the road is in VERY poor shape. We finally made it back and turned on Rockwell road. We passed the Visitor's Center and as we drove some distance I began to wonder how I would recognize the parking area. Soon we passed a lot clearly marked for Round's Rock and just a little ways up the road was another well-marked lot for Jones Nose. We arrived to find a few other cars in the lot and some other people ready to hike. Sheba and I got on the trail just before 3:00 PM, passed a few slower hikers and were off. As we climbed through a field with pink and purple and yellow flowers, I turned to look over my shoulder and found a stunning view down the mountain into the valley and over the hills beyond. I didn't know if there would be better views so I stopped to take some pictures. The temperature was still in the mid-70's and a brisk breeze was blowing. Despite this there was still some haze and the far mountains were hard to photograph. After I took these pictures, we were back on the trail and entering some brush and then trees which obscured the view. As we continued on the trail, I was glad that I* had stopped to take pictures in the field since I could not find other viewpoints. In a little less than .5 miles the trail became less steep and at .6 we had a choice of bearing left on the CCC dynamite Trail or right and ascending to the At. We bore right and started another steep climb to the At which runs across Saddleball Mountain. At about .8 miles a spur trail labeled "view of the Catskills" turned to the left. We walked out to a rock outcrop and I took some pictures before returning to the main trail. Just passed 1 mile the Jones Nose Trail ended and we turned left on the AT.
There is something distinctive about the AT, at least everywhere I have hiked it on the northeast. Most times the AT runs high along a ridge, when available, usually undulates over a certain kind of rock and runs through pine forests. The AT ran across the Saddleball Mountain Ridge although not always on top. As we hiked the long ridge, I was thinking about what time we should be back at the car and whether or not we should do the Cataract or not. After about 1.6 miles, we were back at Rockwell Road and I decided to walk down the road and take the Hopper Trail to the Sperry Road Campgrounds. The walk down the road went quickly but I began to consider the time and the fact that I did not want to feel pressed at the Cataract or Stony Ledge. I decided to walk the .7 miles down to Sperry Road and pick up the CCC Dynamite Trail back to Jones Nose and then use that trail to retrace our path to the car. As we walked quickly down Rockwell Road we found a nice viewpoint to the west and stopped so that I could take some pictures. We were soon at Sperry Road and turned left to pick up the CCC Trail. This trail stretched about 1.35 miles from Rockwell Road to Jones Nose and was slightly uphill all the way. This trail was the wettest we had been on lately as evidenced by the functional puncheons and plentiful nettles. Once on the Jones Nose Trail we turned right and walked back to the car. In the open field the wind had picked up to gust that would blow me first left and then right. We were back at the car by 5:45 PM having covered the 6 miles hike in 2 hours 45 minutes. The March Cataract would have to wait for the FOURTH time I visit Greylock!
On Friday, August 6th I planned to go to hike Berlin Mountain, the highest point in New York outside the Catskills and Adirondacks. I read some trip reports about parking a the base of the mountain and hiking up but they seemed a little confusing. I also read about the Snow Hole north of Berlin Mountain. I decided to park at Petersburg Pass on Route 2 and hike south on the Taconic Crest Trail to Berlin Mountain, return the same way, hike to the Snow Hole on the Taconic Crest Trail and then, finally, return to the car. Sheba and I were in the car and on the road by 5:45 AM and arrived at the pass at about 8:50 AM. The parking area is very large but only one other car was in the lot. I signed in on the trail register and we immediately headed out on the trail. The first part of the trail was pretty overgrown with weeds and I hoped this would not continue. Shortly the narrow trail gave way to a wider trail and woods road and started a short but steep ascent part way up Raimer Mountain. The ground was only a little damp but the rocks were some of the "greasiest" I had come across. Once on the crest the trail flattened a little before rising to around 2450 feet. The trail then descended toward Berlin Pass. Just before the descent, views of Berlin Mountain could be seen through the trees. We dropped more than 200 feet to 2230 feet at Berlin Pass before starting up Berlin Mountain. It had taken just a little more than 30 minutes for us to get to the pass. About every 20 feet there were signs prohibiting ATV and about every 20 feet there were signs of ATV tracks and mud bogs created by their use. We arrived at the flat, open top of Berlin Mountain by 10:05 AM which was just a little over 1 hour of hiking time. I had anticipated good views and the were nice. The problem was that most of the views were distant and a haze still hung on the hills. The skies were cloudy and some of the clouds were dark and threatening but no rain was forecast for the day. There was a constant breeze at about 10 mph but some gusts were well over 290 mph. To the west it was easy to spot Mount Greylock with its two towers. It was nice to get a profile of Mount Williams and Mount Fitch to the north of Greylock to see what I had hiked several weeks before. Views in the other directions were and least partly blocked by the trees. After taking some pictures and getting a drink and snack, it was time to head back. I had contemplated using a different trail to return but had left my map in the car. There are a myriad of trails so I decided to take the same route back. The return trip went even quicker since there were fewer pictures to take and we knew exactly where we were going. We were back at the car by 11;20 AM and crossed the road to hike north to the Snow Hole.
The first few hundred feet of the hike north were very steep with some steps to make the climb easier. Near the top of the climb there was a trail register and a sign explaining that the area was part of the 2500 acre Hopkins Forest which is owned and maintained by Williams College. There were even extra trail maps in the bin by the sign! As we started up the trail another spur trail led off to the left and I though it might offer some views. We walked down the trail which opened up onto what looked like an old ski slope. There were great views back to Raimer Mountain and To the east and south. These were some of the nicest views so far on the hike. After taking pictures, we returned to the Taconic Crest Trail to continue on our way. This part of the trail was all trail and was very well maintained. At about .6 miles from the Pass, the Shepard's Well Trail came in from the right. The trail continued to rise although gently in most cases. We came across one area where trail maintenance was taking place with new water bars being created. The construction was new and, in fact, the tools had been left on the trail! In another .6 miles the Birch Brook Trail joined from the right. After this the trail ascended and there were some excellent views to the west. Again these views were better than anything we had seen to the south. Another .5 miles saw us briefly cross into Vermont and then back into New York. At 2.5 miles from the Pass we started to descend on the trail. In another .25 miles a red spur trail turned off to the right. We took this trail which leads to the Snow Hole after a short descent. The Snow Hole is supposed to have snow and ice in it until mid-July. Since it was now early August and the weather had been very warm, I wasn't outing on any snow! When we arrived a family group of four was already checking out the deep cleft in the rocks. They were the first people we had seen all day. They told me there was no snow but that it was cool. After they exited, Sheba and I walked down and they were right. It was cool and damp and dark. Taking pictures was difficult but I tried. After spending some time there, we headed back the way we had come. On the way back we met three or four small group of people. One pair were the trail maintainers who were students and Williams College and members of the Williams Outing Club. We arrived back at the Pass at 2:00 PM having covered 11.5 Niles in 5 hours including the time for picture taking. I decided that six hours of driving deserved more than 5 hours of hiking so we headed for the Mount Greylock Reservation to hike Jones Nose and Saddleball Mountain.
On Sunday, August 1st I planned to go to Salisbury, Connecticut to hike the At over the Lion's Head and Bear Mt. Bear Mt. Is the highest peak in the state but the highest point is further north and west on the shoulder of Mount Frisell which is mostly in Massachusetts. I had hesitated to do the hike with Sheba as there were varying reports of rattlesnake sightings in the area. In the end I decided that the sightings were few and far between and Sheba obeys particularly well on the trail. We left Livingston Manor early in the morning and arrived in Salisbury just before 8:00 AM. I drove north on Route 41 trying to find the At parking area. I passed it THREE times before noticing it as I headed south! The entrance is VERY narrow, without any real signage and is easy to miss. The parking area will accommodate 8 to 10 cars and a half dozen were already parked. After parking, I noticed that I had pulled into a spot that had a large amount of broken window glass. I parked the car again and hoped I would have four inflated tires when getting back to the car. The trailhead had a large signboard and a privy maintained by the AMC. We were hiking by 8:10 AM in weather that was a little cooler, about 72 degrees, but just as humid as it had been. The first part of the trail to the Lion's Head is wide and pretty smooth and the elevation gain is minimal. Several turns make the climb even easier. The woods were still dry but at about 1.4 miles we crossed a running stream with cool, clear water. Sheba got a good drink before we went on. At just over 2.0 miles the Lion's Head Trail joined from the left coming in from Bunker Hill Road. I had considered this option but wanted to hike the AT and also wanted the extra mileage and elevation. From this junction the trail became rockier and harder to walk. It also became much steeper as it ascended the Lion's Head WI the very last part being an open rock outcrop. After another .25 miles, at about 2.3 miles into the hike, we arrived at the viewpoint known as the Lion's Head. The views from here were expansive but the day was a little hazy. As I took some pictures a couple arrived from the Bald Peak Trail, another easier way to get to the Lion's Head.
We left the Lion's head and continued on the At north toward Bear Mt. At 2.64 miles the Bald peak trail joined the AT from the left. I had thought the AT in this area would be more exposed but instead it ran under a leafy canopy most of the way. This was nice since it decreased the temperatures but was a disadvantage since there were no views! Along the way to Bear Mt. There were several places to camp and a few water sources. The Riga Lean-to came up at 3.0 miles into the hike, followed by the Ball Brook campsite at 3.5 miles and the Brassie Brook Lean-to at 4.25 miles. Ion another .6 miles we came to the Riga Junction where the Undermountain Trail comes in from Route 41. This was another route some guide books had suggested. We continued on the AT to the junction with Bear Mt. Road at 5.0 miles. From here the trail became much rockier and steeper. The AT wound up and over many rocky outcrops offering some limited viewpoints. We met a group returning from the top of the mountain and then we were finally there. We had hiked 5.55 miles and were at an elevation of 2330 feet. At the top of the mountain is a stone pyramid more than large enough to accommodate 20 people. We arrived ahead of another small group and I was able to take some pictures before it was "occupied". We walked to the top of the pyramid and I took some picture. The views to the north and east are wide open but the views west and south are limited. I regretted not stopping on the way to the top to take some pictures but I recalled that these views were not spectacular. As more people arrived Sheba and I took our leave. I had to decided whether to return along the AT or to make a loop using the Paradise Lane Trail and the Undermountain Trail back to the AT. I decided on the loop so we headed down the north side of Bear Mt. on the AT.
The AT down Bear Mt. To the north was very steep. Most northern sides of mountain sin this area are steeper than their southern counterparts due to the way glaciation eroded the rock. On the way down I met a couple and their dog and talked to them briefly about the trail ahead. They had just come from Sage's Ravine and I briefly thought about going there. At a little more than 6.0 miles we crossed the border into Massachusetts and then arrived at the trail junction. Straight ahead the AT leads to Sage's and I was drawn to go there. I decided that I did not know exactly how far the return trip would be or how difficult and that I would leave the Ravine for another day. We turned right on the Paradise Lane Trail which immediately began to gain some elevation. At 6.5 miles we passed the Paradise Lane Group Campsite. From here the trail was flat or slightly downhill for the next 1.15 miles until we reached the junction with the Undermountain Trail at 7.6 miles. The Paradise Lane trail was fine but it was a lot like the AT above it; pleasant but without any views or other interesting features. We turned right on the Undermountain Trail and started toward the AT at the Riga Junction. At 7.9 miles we passed a bog that was almost completely dried up. At 8.6 miles we were back on the AT. At the junction we again met up with the couple and there dog that we had met on Bear Mt. We turned left on the AT to head back to the Lion's Head and eventually the car.
A long 2.4 mile stretch of the At put us back at the Lion's Head. At this time a large family group of about a dozen people had spread themselves out over the entire viewpoint. They did not seem to be inclined to give me even and inch and I felt off intruding but I did! The views were not much different than earlier except for being a little brighter. The haze still hung over the mountains making distance shots difficult. I picked my way over and around the members of the group who seemed oblivious to my presence. Normally I would tell Sheba to stay put or leash her but I decided to let her forage among the members of the group. As I packed up to leave one of the women gave me a half-hearted apology saying 'I am sorry you hiked up here and we are spread out in your way.' I felt like saying 'But not sorry enough to move!' but I did not and we left. The hike back to the car was downhill and seemed pretty short. On the way back I thought about how many people I had met hiking who seemed only concerned about themselves and ignored other hikers. I decided these people were the few and that the many were eager to help, offer advice and allow others to enjoy the views that should be open to all. We were back at the car by 2:15 PM having covered 13.5 miles in just over 6 hours.
On Friday, July 30th we arrived at Ricketts Glen and parked on the north side of Rt 118 in the main lot. Since earlier in the morning the number of cars had swelled from one to more than a dozen but I decided to hike anyway. We got started at about 1:15 PM with Sheba on her leash and me following closely behind. The initial walk is flat along Kitchen Creek and has no falls. Soon, after crossing the first bridge, Murray Reynolds Falls comes into view with two more falls before the junction of Ganoga Glen and Glen Leigh and about 1.6 miles. Like the falls on the other two creeks these were reduced in volume but most showed an adequate volume. At Waters Meet I had intended to go right but decided to go up Ganoga Glen first. I took the lower trail which has some really slippery rock even when dry. This trail goes down into the stream bed and then climbs the banks and can be dangerous when the water is higher. Each of the falls used to have a small yellow on brown sign giving its name. Now many of these signs are hidden or are not present at all. Each falls has it own character and is interesting in its own right. Some people prefer high drops while others like wider falls with greater volume. Part way up Ganoga Glen is Ganoga Falls which is the highest falls at 94 feet and perhaps the most dramatic. Some of the falls have trails down to the creek bed at the base of the falls while others have paths. Both the trails and the paths can be steep but the vie of the falls is almost always better at the bottom. By 3:30 PM we were at the top of Ganoga Glen and ready to traverse to Glen Leigh.
At 3.4 miles into the hike, about .57 miles from the top of Ganoga Glen, the trail runs between several large boulders. This is Midway Crevasse. In another .5 miles or about 4.0 miles into the hike the trail forks and we took the right branch to go down Glen Leigh. The falls in Ganoga sometimes get more mention than the falls in Glen Leigh but the later has great cascades including Ozone, one of my favorites. We worked our way down the glen which initially has some very steep rock steps. Despite the time, I made an effort to set up some shots. I am a hiker who takes pictures but sometimes I think I might like to learn more about the cameras and be a photographer who hikes to take great pictures. Glen Leigh has a few more bridges than Ganoga and some of these offer interesting views of the falls. Soon we were at the last falls, Wyandot and then back at Waters Meet by 4:35 PM. At this point I put my camera away and Sheba and I jogged the rest of the way out to the parking area. We were done at 5:05 PM taking 3 hours and 20 minutes for the 7.5 mile hike. Pennsylvania has very good maps for the trails in its state parks and the one for Ricketts Glen has an overview of the entire park on one side and a close up of the falls on the other.
On Friday, July 30th We left Heberly Run and started back toward Jamison City. I took the left onto the Sullivan Falls Road which seemed a good bet to get us to Sullivan Falls! The problem with the roads and the maps is that the names seldom agree and some of the roads are not marked. I stopped at one pulloff but decided I needed to go a little farther. The road is dirt and is somewhat washed out in places. It is passable but I drove very slowly. At about 1.2 miles and 15 minutes from the turn there was a parking area on the left as the road began to ascend. From the parking area I could see a distinct trail leaving toward the stream. We parked and started to walk on the trail arriving at Sullivan Falls within minutes. The trail took us to the top of the falls where the stream has cut an impressive channel and flume through the bedrock. Looking down over the falls I could see the deep green of the plunge pool below. I took pictures of the rock formations and the top and some pictures of the water going over the falls into the pool below. We walked back out the path but this time we walked down toward the base of the falls and the pool. The path was obvious but quite steep. Once at the base of the falls, I took a lot of shots of the falls and the pool which was a deep, emerald green color. I walked across the stream to take some pictures from the other bank to get a different angle on the falls. The lighting was not ideal as it was coming from behind and above the falls. It was a beautiful sunny day which is not always the best time for photography. After finishing the shots, we headed back up the bank and I decided we would walk the stream and the bank up to Pigeon Run which was the next falls on the list.
The walk along Sullivan Run was not too much fun! There were swarms of small insects along the way. The run was clog by blowdown for a good part of its length requiring use to move to the banks which were also covered with downed trees and brush. The ground was damp and soft and the stream bed full of large cobbles. Once passed Big Run this improved some and with .6 miles we were near Pigeon Run. The falls are actually on Pigeon Run in a narrow slot and so are different than most of the other falls. When we got to Pigeon Run, I found it wasn't running much at all! In fact, there was barely a trickle going over the falls. I took a few pictures and then decided not to go nay further up the run. I felt that coming back when there was some water and doing the whole loop might be the best idea! We walked back downstream and up the steep bank several hundred feet to an old haul road. The road was easy to follow and in pretty good shape. We followed it all the way back to the road where we were only a few hundred feet from the car. The 1.6 mile diversion had only taken an hour. It was at this point that I decided to check out Ricketts Glen. I did not want to drive 5 hours to hike only 6 miles. There had been no cars at the parking area in the morning so I decided to head up the road to the intersection with Rt 487. This proved to be an adventure in itself as the bad road got worse. Driving so slowly seemed to take forever but soon the intersection appeared. I turned right to head to Rt 118 and the main parking area for Ricketts Glen. Rt 487 has a two mile stretch of steep downhill with many warnings to trucks about using low gear. I got behind one that was moving very slowly down the grade and watched several other trucks coming up the hill very slowly. The drive went quickly and we were soon in the parking area which now had 20 or more cars. I decided we would still try the hike since there are about 7.5 miles to spread out the visitors.
On Friday, July 30th I decided that I wanted to try a hike in Pennsylvania that I had though about for some time. To the west of Ricketts Glen lie Pennsylvania State Game Commission Lands #13. This is a remote a wild area with no designated trail and only a few old haul roads. What it does have is Heberly Run and the Sullivan Branch of East Fishing Creek. These streams are reported to have some very nice waterfalls rivaling Ricketts Glen but without the crowds. The lack of trails means following the informal paths along the streams and being willing to walk in the streams when needed. It also means finding your way up and out of the deep ravines that enclose many of the waterfalls. As I left home I was not sure whether I would do a circular route or treat each hike separately. The trip reports I had read said that the route in the north between the two was difficult and that descending Sullivan Branch could be dangerous. Sheba and I got an early start leaving Livingston Manor at 6:45 AM. After a little over 2 hours we passed by Ricketts Glen and I began to look for Either Stephen's Hill Road or Comstock Road to turn north off Rt 118 to head for Jamison City and Heberly Run. None of the roads were marked and I eventually came to a four corners with a sign for Center. I turned north here and followed the signs to Center and made the turn to take me to Jamison City. I went straight through Jamison City making notes of Sullivan Falls Road on the right. The paved road turned into dirt but was in pretty good shape. I passed a large brick smokestack in the woods on the left and the game commission buildings. There was a large parking lot on the left but I did not see the gate mentioned in the trip reports of any evidence of a stream. I continued a little farther on the road and it ended at a large parking area with a yellow gate and a stream. Sheba and I started our hike at about 9:15 AM by walking over to the stream. One look at the stream reminded me of how dry it has been and I wondered if there would be any waterfalls to see! I had just bought a pair of waters hoes and was pretty sure I would not be needing them!
We walked along the side of the creek or in the creek bed when we needed to. Sometimes we would cross and then recross the stream as needed. At times there is an informal path that reminded me of the Fisherman's Path along the Neversink. The ground was damp and soft and there were huge "sand" deposits in places indicating the stream at times carries a much larger volume of water. At about 1.2 miles into the hike the banks of the stream began to rise high around us and we arrived at Big Falls. The falls were beautiful and I took pictures but I was left wondering how much more awesome they would be after a good rain! I could see how a higher volume of water could be a good and a bad thing. Higher water volumes would make the falls more interesting but would make the walk much harder and more dangerous. After taking pictures, we looked for a way out of the gorge and found one on the left bank. Sheba led the way up the steep bank with loose soil and leaves. There was a path of sorts and we followed it up and then parallel to the stream until we could safely walk back down to the stream level. Many times as we were walking along the stream bed I was impressed by the number of cobblestones we passed over. We continued up the stream until I could hear the sound of another falls and the banks again began to rise around us. At about 1.94 miles we arrived at the lower cascade of Twin Falls. This was a smaller falls than the first both in volume and drop but it was still pretty. I took pictures and then Se found a way to work up the steep bank on the right. Had the banks been any wetter the path might have been almost impossible to negotiate or at least much more difficult. Once at the top we immediately descended to the stream bed and walked to the upper drop of Twin Falls. Here I took pictures before crossing the stream. On the far bank I took a few more shots and then we worked our way up the left bank, walked along the stream and then went back down to the stream bed.
We continued our walk upstream repeating the same theme of walking wherever seemed most appropriate. There were several more spots where it would have been very difficult to find a route if the water had been high. At about 2.7 miles and 2 hours into the hike I began to hear another falls and the banks on either side rose to the highest they had been so far! Shortly after we arrived at Lewis Falls which had less water than I had hoped but was still pretty. The fact that the banks rose so high around the falls added to its beauty. I took pictures and then we walked back downstream to get away from the high banks and ledges. We found a steep ascent on the right side of the stream and were able to work our way up and around the top of the falls. At this point I had to make a decision. The loop route runs farther up Heberly run and then follows Shanty Run until it cuts across the top of the plateau. I have to admit that I was just not in the mood on this day to fight through a bushwhack that might have little reward at the end. I decided to cross the stream and follow Grassy Hollow Road back to the car. We would approach Sullivan Branch in another way. The road has a grass and dirt surface but is in good shape. There are parking areas along the way and the road is open during the spring and fall hunting seasons. As we walked down the road I could hear the various falls and see them at times. I though that it might be possible to walk the road during high water and descend to the falls from the road to get some pictures. Of course, descending and then ascending the steep bank would be a challenge. We arrived back at the car at about noon having taken around 2.5 hours to cover the 4.6 mile trip. It was time to head for Sullivan Falls and the Sullivan Branch to see what the falls there had to offer.
On Sunday, July 25th I decided that despite the forecast of thunderstorms I would hike the Stonetown Circular Trail. Part of the trail is in Norvin Green State Forest and the rest is in The North Jersey Watershed. The 10 mile loop features Signal Rock and Tory Rocks on the western half and Board, Bear and Windbeam Mountains on the eastern half. To try to avoid the showers in the forecast for 1"00 PM, Sheba and I left home at 5:45 AM and arrived at our destination at 7:20 AM. I decided to hike the western half first and leave the mountains for last. I parked at the Stonetown Recreation Area off Stonetown Road near the intersection with West Brook Road. To actually get to the trail required going back out to Stonetown Road and walking a little over .25 miles north. At this point Magee Road bears to the left near the firehouse. We walked down Magee Road until it makes a sharp left and crosses a stream on a bridge. At this point the red triangle on white blaze of the Stonetown Circular indicate a turn into the woods on a woods road. Unfortunately, after this blaze on the road there are no more blazes until AFTER the first fork in the trail. This problem was to be repeated MANY times throughout the hike where the trail was poorly marked and blazes too far apart to help a first time hiker. At the first fork we went left and were soon climbing to our first viewpoint at Signal Rock, about 1.5 miles into the hike. The view of Windbeam from here was good but the sun to the east made the photography difficult. We then climbed up to the to top Signal Rock and descended down the other side to head for Tory Rocks at 2.0 miles into the hike. After Tory Rocks the trail descended to a junction with the orange Sonoma Trail on the left. Here again the problem was that the Stonetown Circular blazes were nowhere to be seen. I made a ninety degree turn to the right and headed down the road and across a bridge over a small stream. It was here that I again picked up the red triangles and headed back into the woods.
We were soon ascending Harrison Mountain and at about 3.85 miles a woods road ran off to the right and up to what looked like a promising lookout. We walked up to this area and found and excellent viewpoint to the north and east. Back on the main trail we crossed a power line right of way and were soon a the junction with the Horse Pond Mountain Trail. This junction also brought us to the section of the Stonetown Circular that is coaligned with the Highlands Trail. From this point on the trail is well marked both by the red triangles and the aqua blazes of the Highlands Trail. From the top of Harrison Mountain we began a 500 foot descent over the next .6 miles. Along the way we again crossed the power line. From this crossing there were good views Down to the Monksville Reservoir marred only by the power line itself. We continued on the flat part of the trail the edge of the reservoir until we crossed Stonetown Road and started back over the three mountains. The next 1.25 miles were pretty flat to the base of Board Mountain. There was a nice lookout with a view down to the Monksville Dam. The woods were very dry despite the rain for several days. It was also quite hot and very humid. At 6.7 miles we began to climb Board Mountain and I found out that biking 30 miles the day before had taken a toll. The vertical gain was only 350 feet but it was over only .4 miles! The view from the to of Board Mountain was goof and we stopped so that I could take pictures and we could share a snack and drink.
The descent of Board Mountain was gentle at the start but soon became very steep. After dropping 200 feet, we ascended another 300 feet to the top of Bear Mountain. Near the summit I found a high rock that gave some good views. As I was taking pictures, I heard voices further up the trail. We came down off the rock and continued on the trail and promptly ran into a group of ten hikers, the first we had seen that day. They were hiking from Stonetown Road over Horse Pond Mountain and were using a car shuttle to get back. They mentioned they had seen a bear on the trail about .5 miles further on. Sheba and I said goodbye and walked to a very nice viewpoint a little further on just before the descent into the col between Bear and Windbeam. We dropped 400 feet over the next .7 miles into the col and I kept Sheba with me and made noise just in case the bear was back on the trail. From the col we started up Windbeam and met three more young hikers headed toward us. From the col the ascent up Windbeam, the highest of the three and a peak on the NJ1K list, was .6 miles and 540 feet. The highest point has no views but there are excellent views to both the east and west a little further along the ridge. The trail dips and then ascends several times and we stopped so that I could take pictures. The reservoirs were low and islands had appeared that I had not seen before. After descending into the col between Windbeam and Little Windbeam, the Highlands Trail and the Stonetown Circular separate. We stayed on the red blazes and descended the steep trail to Stonetown Road. Once on Stonetown road, we turned right and walked up the road about .3 miles to Mary Roth Drive where the car was parked. We covered the 10.4 mile hike in 5.5 hours with PLENTY of time for photography. When we got to the car at 12:35 PM, the temperature display read 98 degrees. Once we got underway this dipped to 88 degrees. The rain started just as predicted at 1:00 PM.
On Sunday, July 18th Cindy and I decided to hike after church. We wanted someplace that would have some views but wasn't too far away from home. I suggested hiking from Route 23 to Lake Rutherford along the AT. Cindy thought this sounded like a good idea so we headed toward Port Jervis and up Route 23 to High Point. Just passed the main park entrance on the right is the park office and a little further on the maintenance buildings. Just passed the maintenance buildings is a sign for AT Parking. We turned left and found a large lot with no cars. At 12:20 PM we were on the blue trail out of the parking lot trying to find the AT. At .2 miles the Iris Trail came in from the left and we turned right not knowing exactly where we were going. IN a few hundred feet signs for the AT appeared and the trail turned left to run along the ridge. Just passed 1.0 miles, a spur trail led to Sawmill Pond and we turned here and walked down to an open rock outcrop that offered nice views of the pond and the surrounding landscape. We decided not to walk down the steep trail to the pond but did take many pictures before walking back up to the main trail to continue the hike. The trail continued to roll up and down as it descended to an area between two ridges and then gained the next ridge. At 1.75 miles the AT came up to a nice viewpoint over Lake Rutherford and we stopped to take some pictures. The At continued to descend and at 2/65 miles we passed Dutch Shoe Rock on a ridge to our right. This is a huge glacial erratic shaped a little like a wooden shoe. We passed the spur trail to the shelter at 3.1 miles and the map seemed to indicated an unmaintained trail led from the shelter to the lake. We decided to stay on the main trails and started to look for the Iris Trail on the left. At 3.3 miles the AT made a sharp right just as shown on the map and at 3.5 miles an unmarked road or trail went off to the left. Since the trail was not marked we decided to continue on the AT to find the Iris Trail back to the car. When we arrived at the next trail junction, it was obvious that the one we had passed with the unmarked trail had been the correct one so we turned around, took the unmarked trail and soon found the red dot blazes that told us we were on the Iris Trail. Marking this trail at the junction would be a GREAT idea!
The Iris Trail continued to descend until at 4.4 miles it abruptly turned north toward the Lake Rutherford. At this turn we could see signs ahead asking hikers to KEEP OUT. The lake is part of the Sussex water supply and the shores are off limits. The trail now started to ascend slightly and crossed a small stream on a bridge as it hugged the shore of the lake. Views on the lake began to appear and we stopped and took some pictures of a tall rock cairn which seemed to be in an area that would usually be under water. At 5.15 miles there was a path to the right to a spot that the map indicated was a viewpoint but the views were block by the leaves on the trees. From here the trail started a long but gentle ascent until at 6.64 miles we were back at the blue connector trail to the parking lot. On our way up this trail we met several groups of people headed down toward the lake. I wondered why they were going to the lake since the shores are off limits and wading or swimming in the water is prohibited! We were back at the car by 4:05 PM having covered the 7 miles hike in around 3 hours and 45 minutes.
On Friday, July 16th I decided to go back to Mount Greylock to hike a long loop to the top and back. Since hiking the Hopper Trail to the top of Massachusetts' highest mountain several weeks ago, I had been looking at some guidebooks and trail reports and planning a BIG loop hike. My plan was to park on Pattison Road in Williamstown and hike the AT over the Greylock Range including Mt. Williams, Mt. Fitch and Mt. Greylock. On the way back I planned to descend the Hopper Trail to the Money Brook Trail and the take the Mt. Prospect Trail up and over Mt. Prospect and back to the AT. I was interested in the last part since many books said it was the strabismus and most difference trail in the Greylock Reservation. I got up at 5:00 AM and was on the road by 5:30 AM having gotten my gear together the night before. My concern was that thunderstorms were forecast for the late afternoon nut, of course, forecasts can be wrong! Getting wet after a long hike isn't really and issue since most of the times I am drenched in sweat and the cool rain feels good. Lightening storms on a mountain are an entirely different story! After driving on obscure back roads last time, I decided to try a more direct route. I drove to Kingston on Route 209 and then took the Thruway north to Albany. If I had been paying attention, I would have gotten off at the exit for 787 North but the toll booth agent at the next exit told me to take I90 East to I787 and this worked well. I got off I787 in Troy and followed the signs for Route 2. Route 2 goes through a small part of Troy and then directly to Williamstown! Once in Williamstown, I remembered many of the landmarks since I had been there for a college cross country race many years ago. After passing through Williams College, I turned right on Luce Street which turns into Pattison Road. This road passes the Williamstown Reservoir on the right and then the treatment plant on the left. Parking for the AT is just passed the treatment plant on both sides of the road but the parking areas are small. We arrived at 9:!0 AM and were out and on the trail 5 minutes later.
Although the Mt. Prospect Trail was supposed to be the steep trail the first part of the AT was also a challenge. Walking into the woods at the start of the trail was flat but that was only for a few hundred feet. After that, the trail started to ascend and got steeper as we went. Along the way, I heard a voice and looked ahead. Seeing no one I turned around to find a young hiker who had caught up with us. We stopped and had a talk. He was an AT through hiker from Scotland who had dropped his pack and gotten a ride to hike the section we were on and then pick up his pack and continue the journey. I encountered about a twenty people on this hike from start to end and about half were AT through hikers! The young man pushed on and after an hour, a mile and a half and a vertical gain of 1450 feet we were at a trail junction. A small viewpoint opened here. Below I could almost make out Williamstown but the haze was so thick I didn't bother and try to take a picture. We continued straight ahead but I quickly realized that we were headed for Mt. Prospect. We turned around and went back to the trail junction to find where the AT turned off. Back on the AT, we began a descent toward the Wilbur Clearing Lean-to. I began to wonder if the descent was necessary since my GPS showed a more direct trail to the top of Mt. Williams, our first destination. The map I had also showed this trail so we hiked back up the AT toward the trail junction. I found what appeared to be the trail on the map but it was overgrown and LONG unused. I decided to follow the AT down toward the lean-to and see what would happen. Just short of the lean-to the trail turned to the left, crossed some elevated walkways and started to ascend again. The first part to the crossing of Mitch Road was gentle but the last section to the top of Mt. Williams was rocky and steeper. From the lowest point near the lean-to this was about a 600 foot ascent to the summit. Along the way I found a very interesting outcrop of quartz and took a few pictures. I was hoping for a view from the summit but there was still a lot of haze and the viewpoint was pretty grown in. The first 3 Niles of the hike had taken about 2 hours.
The walk along the At from Mt. Williams to Mt. Fitch was almost flat with a slight descent to a col and then the ascent up Mt. Fitch which has an elevation of 3100 feet. We made good time here since we covered the mile between these two peaks in about 25 minutes. The AT skirts the summit of Fitch so we bushwhacked to the top. There was no view so we just came back down to the AT to continue on toward Greylock. The first part of this section was almost flat with a slight incline. As we approached Mt. Greylock, we passed the Bellows Pipe Trail and then the Thunderbolt Trail. At this point we were on an area that had been cleared for access to these old ski slopes. The trail was wide and almost a road but it got steeper and was strewn with rocks. At the end a set of steps took us up and across the road to the summit. After a short, steep section we arrived at the Thunderbolt Shelter which is for day use only. I took a few pictures from here before continuing on to the tower at the summit. We walked over to the lookout but the haze was still thick so we just walked down to Bascom Lodge to refill our water. It was 12:45 PM and we had covered the first 6 miles of the hike in about 3.5 hours. Sheba and I both drank a lot of water and then I refilled the Camelbak and the bottle. We ate lunch and then started down the Hopper Trail the way we had during the previous visit. The descent passed the pond and across the summit road went quickly and we arrived at Sperry Road by 1:25 PM. A quick walk down Sperry Road brought us to the right turn to continue our descent on the Hopper Trail. By 2:15 PM we were at the junction with the cutoff trail that would take us down to Money Brook and the Money Brook Trail. We crossed Money Brook on a bridge and turned right toward Mt. Prospect on the Money Brook Trail. At this point I consulted the GPS to find we were at and elevation of around 1360 feet having lost over 2100 feet since Mt. Greylock. The GPS indicated the turn for the Mt. Prospect Trail was about .5 miles ahead.
The Money Brook Trail began to gain some elevation and crossed back and forth over the brook in several places. Just before the Mt. Prospect Trail junction the Money Brook Trail began a steep ascent. I have to admit that 9.5 miles and over 5 hours into the hike I was hot and tired. In addition, the skies were growing darker and I was beginning to hear thunder far off. I knew we could continue on the Money Brook Trail to the Wilbur Clearing Lean-to and then follow the AT back the way we had come. This would be the shorter and flatter route so I chose...to turn left and head UP Mt. Prospect. Again, the trail I was on did not seem to match my GPS or the trail map exactly but the sign had said Mt. Prospect so I continued. The trail certainly was going up but it wasn't that steep...yet. After about .25 miles this changed and the trail started a brutal ascent up the mountain. It was not well marked at first and hard to follow as it wound its way up over and through a rocky area. Shortly after this the trail turned due north and kept a continuous ascent to the summit. Near the top the trail leveled a little and then rose over one more bump to the top. There was one viewpoint along the way. I stopped to try to get some pictures through the haze and take a break before continuing ever upwards. At least at this point there was no doubt we were on the right trail. After over 1100 feet of vertical gain over in a mile and an hour of hiking, we arrived at the summit cairn. We stopped to take some pictures but the thunder was growing louder so we didn't take too long. We were over 10 miles and 5 hours into the hike.
We now started down the other side of Mt. Prospect but the descent was very gentle, quite pleasant and quick. We arrived at the trail junction and viewpoint from earlier in the morning but quickly walked by as the storm clouds gathered. It was obvious that the storm was moving in from the west and although I saw no lightening I heard the thunder! Down was certainly cooler and easier than up but by this time my feet were hot and tired. Sheba trotted along ahead and only her panting gave me any indication she was hot. We both continued to drink. I mat have finally learned my lesson from previous encounters with severe cramping from dehydration! The return trip seemed long in both time and distance since I was tired and was trying to beat the rain. The trip back may me appreciate how steep the trail was and how long the climb up had been. We finally crossed the woods road near the bottom and hiked out to Pattison Road just as a few drops began to fall. I changed clothing in the car since everything I had on was soaked with sweat. As I did this, it began to pour but the deluge lasted only 5 or 10 minutes. I checked the GPS and found we had hiked exactly 13 miles in 7 hours and 20 minutes! What was even more impressive was that we had gained 4673 feet over the hike! Next time in the area I want to get to the March Cataract, Jones Nose and maybe hike the Thunderbolt and Bellows Pipe trails.
On Sunday, July 11th I wanted to get in a hike after church despite the weather prediction of thunderstorms. I knew I didn't want to drive too far and I did not want to fight through a bushwhack. I decided to go up Slide on the Step Trail since I like the views and I knew there would be almost no one else on that trail. I drove to the main parking area for Slide on Route 47 and Sheba and I were on the trail by 12:20 PM. I knew that the woods had been dry but I expected that the recent rains might have supplied some water. To my surprise the Neversink was dry. I spent a moment looking for signs of some water but there was none. The second much smaller stream had some water in it but nowhere near the amount that is usually flowing. We continued to walk up the trail until we got to the woods road. We did meet a group of four coming down and two more young men later on. On the woods road we turned left and walked to the cable that separates sate land from Winnisook Club property. We turned right into the woods and immediately found the Step Trail. I don't know whether this trail is easier to find now since I have been there many times or whether more people are using it. We stopped at the first viewpoint and I took some pictures. The conditions looked good in this direction but the sky was beginning to darken. I gave Sheba a drink and got out a sandwich before we started up again. By the time we are moving again there was an almost continuous roll of thunder and rain drops were falling. The trail was nearly dry but the vegetation in most areas was incredibly green. As we worked high and higher the mosses were a vibrant green that I do remember seeing before. The long stretches of steps in some areas are really interesting and I began to think of how long ago these were created and the history of the area. As we approached the second viewpoint, we walked through a "tunnel;" with a large boulder on one side and evergreen trees on the other. The climb up here requires a firm grip on an well-placed root to get up to the next level. The view from this lookout is much the same as the one below only higher. What had changed was the sky! To the south it was still sunny but huge, dark clouds were rolling in from the north. After taking some pictures, we continued on the trail through the pine forest. One section of the upper part of the trail was particularly stunning with large rocks covered in moss. I tried taking pictures here but the light was not ideal. Shortly we were approaching the main trail.
When we reached the main trail, we turned left toward the summit of Slide. There was still about .75 miles to go and the weather was uncertain at best. We met a family of four descending and then another group of four who were also headed down. We continued up and as we walked I was trying to decide whether we would head for Cornell. This stretch of the trail always seems long to me but eventually we were at the viewpoint toward Panther. Another couple was already there with their dog but Sheba made "friends" quickly. I took pictures and then talked to the two hikers. I found out that they had hiked the Burroughs Range using several different trails in different seasons. The weather did not seem to be improving so Sheba and I continued on to the summit. There was no one at the Slide summit. As usual the views were non-existent. One look at the sky convinced me that I did not want to take the chance of getting caught on the peaks in a thunderstorm. I have done this several times before and have no desire to do it again. We turned around and headed back with me thinking about hiking the other two mountains from Woodland Valley in the near future. I detest the trip down the main Slide trail because of the many rocks which always seem to try to roll my ankles. This time the trip seems to go more quickly with Sheba venturing far out ahead of me. We were back a the car by 3:20 PM having covered the 5.5 mile trip in 3 hours.
On Friday, July 9th I was free to hike the whole day since summer school is not in session on Friday. I had started biking again and I enjoyed it! What I did find out was that hiking shape and biking shape are two different things. I knew my legs were sore in places that hiking does not touch. I decided to head for Bearpen and Vly since I needed them for July and I thought I might get some views even though the day was humid. Sheba and I left the house in no big hurry and headed up to Roscoe and out the Rockland flats on Route 206. I was surprised when I got to the end of the flats and found the road CLOSED. Apparently the storms the night before had dumped a lot of rain in a short period if time and caused extensive damage to the roads. I decided to go back to the Quickway and head to East Branch and take Route 30 to Downsville. From here it is Route 30 to Route 28 east to Fleischmanns and then Breezy Hill Road to the Fleischmanns-Halcott Center Road to CR 3. This road has a lot of branches to the right since you go passed Elk Creek, Turk Hollow and Meade Roads. The last fork has Johnson Hollow Rd to the left and CR 3 to the right. I took the left fork and drove to the end of the paved road and parked in the snowplow turnaround. I often park just below the private property signs but I determined that no snowplows would be turning on this day. We were the only car in the parking lot when we arrived at 10:25 AM and we were on the trail almost immediately. It was slightly cooler with temperatures in the low 80's but I was surprised to note that the humidity seemed high. The first .9 miles of the hike is up a woods road used by hunters. The road is kept cleared but it is very rocky and I find it hard to walk. After a little more than 15 minutes it was time to decide which way to go first. I had though we would do Vly first and Sheba headed that way and we were off.
The forest was very dry indicating the area had not gotten any rain. The herd path was very prominent and so were the blue and yellow paint markings. It appeared someone had slapped some more blue paint on the trees. We ascended for about a quarter mile until the trail leveled some and I was reminded that this was one of those hikes that I always underestimate. The trail remains level through an often swampy area for about .2 miles before starting up again. It seems that I always get "lost" in this area and this day was no exception. We quickly rejoined the herd path and headed up. My legs were tired from biking and by now my clothes were soaked with sweat. We climbed up the last .3 miles to the top and found the canister with no problem by 11:25. I signed in and we had a drink and snack. Before starting back down we walked over to a viewpoint and I was able to take some pictures despite the vegetation and the haze. Going back down went much more quickly especially with Sheba in the lead. We were back at the road in the col between the two mountains by 12:05 PM cutting 20 minutes off the ascent time. It was now time to do Bearpen and we started by following the roads north and up. There are several steep areas on the roads and they always seem to be covered by loose rock and the dry weather didn't help this any! At least we weren't walking through mud pits! After the last ascent on a road we turned right on a faint herd path and the fun began.
The last people to sign into the canister on Vly did so on July 3 almost a week early. Although I could see the herd path to Bearpen, it was overgrown with some rather large briars. I was glad to See at least there weren't many nettles! Sheba took the lead and never gave it up following the path exactly. The prickers were think near the start of the path, thinned some and then got thicker again as the path flattened. We continued to follow the path until it met the woods road and then turned right toward the ski slopes and the summit. We were on top by 12:52 PM and had covered 1.5 miles of bushwhack in 45 minutes! I took some pictures of the valley and the mountains to the north. There was a lot of haze but I got some good shots including pictures of the Schoharie Reservoir. We walked back to the lower viewpoint which gives a different angle. We got a drink and ate some lunch before starting back. I tried another road on the way back but it looked like it was going in the wrong direction so we just headed up to regain the way we had come. We were back at the col in 40 minutes and returned to the car by 2:00 PM. Walking down the road with all the loose stones proved to be the most annoying part of the hike. We covered the 6.5 mile hike in 3 hours and 40 minutes. An occasional breeze eased the temperatures but the humidity stayed up and I was soaked by the time we finished. I decided to come home by way of Big Indian and Frost Valley and this was a quicker way to.
On Monday, July 5th I was almost headed out the door to go to Kaaterskill High Peak when I stopped to ask Cindy if she would like to come along. I wanted to bushwhack up to the snowmobile trail, find the lower plane crash, search for the cairn that marks the "other" way up to the High Peak and get some views from Hurricane Ledge. When we left Livingston Manor the temperatures were barely in the 70's and I didn't expect temperatures much above 80 for the day! We left just after 9:15 AM and arrived a the trail head in Platte Clove at 10:45 AM. I was worried from some trip reports for the weekend that the parking lot would be full but there were only two other cars when we arrived. We got right on the trail walking through the open gate and up the road. The temperatures already seemed high and the humidity was up there also. We moved along at a good pace over the very dry trails. Places that are usually pools of water or small streams were totally dry. Only two places had any significant water along the way. We did meet a couple and their dog and another woman near the Huckleberry Point Trail but there equipment suggested that was as far as they went.We made the 1.3 miles to the Huckleberry Point Trail in about 40 minutes and continued from here on the main trail. In another half hour or less we hiked the .7 miles to the cairn that marks the herd path that many hikers use to get up to the snowmobile trail around Kaaterskill. We decided to take this "shortcut" which disappeared shortly after we got on it. I wasn't worried since I had my compass and a map but Cindy seemed to doubt my navigational skills. After short and easy bushwhack, we found ourselves on the snowmobile trail.
At this point I was not sure which way to go but turned left to go around the south side of the mountain. Cindy took a rest while I explored. I almost immediately ran into the wreckage from the lower crash and continued on for a distance but did not find the cairn I was looking for. Of course, I had not read the trip reports carefully enough to know that the "other" path was a good way around to the south side of the mountain and actually come up and over Hurricane Ledge. Oh well, maybe next time. I returned to Cindy and we began to walk around to the north side of the peak where I knew we could catch the "main" herd path to the summit. This walk seemed long but this was because I had never done it before. Eventually, the snowmobile trail came up from below on the right and then the herd path with its cairn appeared on the left. At this point Cindy was pretty tired and the temperatures were pushing 90! She didn't want to give up and I think in my enthusiasm to summit I forgot how difficult the final assault can be. We slowly made our way to the top but once at the summit Cindy Seemed spent. She sat down to drink, eat and rest while I went out to Hurricane Ledge. The views were nice but the humidity meant that they were hazy. Sheba and I walked back to Cindy who looked a little more "refreshed" until I informed her that we had to go back down what we had ascended. I guess this was another detail I failed to mention. I shouldered my pack and Cindy's fanny pack and we started out.
We made the descent slowly and deliberately and as Cindy said "I'll take going down over going up any day." We had no mishaps on the way down to the main snowmobile trail. From there we walked back to the junction with the snowmobile trail that comes up from the blue trail and walked down that. We turned right on the blue hiking trail and headed back toward the car. Once Cindy was back on flatter terrain her pace picked up and we soon passed by the cairn where we had started the "shortcut". As soon as the trail started down I had to pick up my pace to stay ahead of my wife. Along the way we met a young couple looking for Hurricane Ledge. I explained the turns in detail and suggested that it was not an easy climb in the heat. A little passed the cairn, we were surprised from some rapid fire rifle shots. I could see to the right a hunters camp and I knew someone was just sighting in or target practicing but it was still disconcerting. We move quickly through the area and increased our pace when we got on the woods road. We were back at the car by 3:45 PM having taken about 5 hours to cover the difficult 8.5 mile route. We enjoyed the air conditioning in the car for a moment before heading off for a meal at Pancho Villas in Tannersville.
On Saturday, July 3rd I asked Cindy if she would like to try a hike I had wanted to do for some time. I have been wanting to go to Mount Greylock, the highest peak in Massachusetts, and climb it using the Hopper Trail route. The peak is only 3491 feet in elevation but the Hopper Trail starts in the valley at about 1060 feet of elevation. This means the gain is about 2430 feet which is significant. I knew that The July 4th weekend might not be the best time to go but though that The Hopper might be less traveled than some other routes. I wanted to get a REALLY early start but settled for getting out of the house before 6:30 PM. I made the mistake of trusting Google Maps for directions and this was a mistake. We were fine going to Kingston on Route 209 and picking up the Thruway (I87) north to the Berkshire extension and the I90. After that, we had an agonizing tome on some smaller two lane highways! Eventually we crossed into Massachusetts and took Route 7 North toward Williamstown. I was looking for Potter Road to Hopper Road but couldn't find it. I stopped at a store and a VERY helpful young lady who was also a hiker pointed us in the right direction. I also bought a trail guide published by the Williams Outing Club with hikes in the northern Berkshires and the Mount Greylock Reservation. From Route 7 we took Route 43 to Mount Hope and turned right into Mount Hope Park and directly onto Hopper Road. Where Hopper Road met Potter Road we turned left to stay on Hopper and were soon at the end. The parking area only had a few cars and we were ready to get on the trail by 10:15 AM. The weather was already in the 80's with bright sun and high humidity although there had not been rain for over a week.
The very first part of the trail is an old farm road which runs through...a farm. This part is flat and the Haley Farm trail leaves to the right and then the Money Brook Trail branches to the left. We stayed on the Hopper Trail marked mostly by fading blue blazes. The first mile of the trail nearly parallels the contour lines but constantly and gradually gains elevation. The trail is rooted and rocky in places. Some very large blowdown has simply been left in place and "steps" have been cut through it. Around 1 mile the trail turns more to the south and starts to gain elevation toward the Greylock ridge. Over the next mile there is a gain of over 900 vertical feet. There are no rock scrambles or anything really steep but the climb is relentless. At 2.0 miles the trail levels some and meet Sperry Road at 2.3 miles. We turned left to hike up Sperry road passed the campground office where a man offered us assistance and a map. We talked a minute before continuing on up the road and turning left at 2.6 miles to get back on the Hopper Trail. This part of the trail started innocently enough but then began to gain elevation again quickly. At about 3.3 miles the Overlook Trail branched to the left but we stayed on the Hopper Trail which begins to roughly parallel Rockwell Road. At 3.8 miles we crossed Rockwell and North Adams Roads and stayed on the trail but now the markings indicated that the Appalachian Trail had joined the Hopper Trail. From here it is only about .3 miles to the summit. There were a few more short sections to climb and just before the radio tower we stopped by Gore Pond, the highest body of water in the state. After this we pressed on to the summit passing the radio tower and crossing the road. We went by the stone inscribed with a quote from Thoreau and then crossed the road again. There is a metal sculpture that shows all of the Greylock Reservation and the hiking trails. Behind this on the very summit is the War Memorial Tower and to the right is Bascom Lodge. We stopped to take some pictures here. I was surprised there were relatively few people at the top since the summit can be driven on the newly paved roads.
We walked passed the tower and to the viewpoints on the other side. There were nice views to the east and I walked down the slope some to get better angles for pictures. After this we walked over to Bascom Lodge to see the views from there. From here we could look to the west to see the Catskills! I replenished our water and took some pictures, We sat for a while to eat before gathering ourselves for the trip back down the mountain. The way back seemed long but that often happens when you have reached your goal and are just trying to get back to the car. We started back at 1:00 PM and stopped only briefly on the way down. We decided we were too tired to go to the March Cataract which probably would have disappointed due to the lack of rainfall. We were back at the car by 3:00 PM. We covered the entire 8.5 mile hike in 4 hours and 45 minutes with PLENTY of time for pictures and breaks. After looking at the trail maps and the Northern Berkshire Trail guide, I am anxious to return to see some of the things we missed. One adventure would be to start in Williamstown and hike over Mount Williams, Mount Fitch, Mount Greylock and Mount Prospect in one day. The trail up Mount Prospect is supposed to be the hardest in the Reservation! It would be nice to include Saddle Ball Mountain also!
On Friday, July 2nd I was looking for a new experience somewhat closer to home and one that, preferably, would be lacking in SNAKES! I decided to try Little Rocky since I had been meaning to do it for some time and it was still on my CHH "To Do" list. I had read all the trip reports about the steep descent after summiting and wanted to avoid this if possible. I thought there might be two ways to do this. One would be to walk out the Ashokan HP Trail and then up to the ridge and then return the same way. This would be incredibly long. The other way would be to ascend the steep part first and then walk the ridge to Mombaccus or the Col before that peak and then descend to the Ashokan HP Trail. This would be a brutal ascent by all accounts but it is the route I chose. I knew I would have to try to avoid the strip of private land at the top but thought I could do this. Sheba and I arrived at about 10:20 AM in the parking lot and were on the trail 5 minutes later. We crossed the road and step across the nearly dry brook. I took a SSW bearing with the compass and did not vary much at all from this heading using the sun as a guide. The initial walk was easy with only slight elevation gains and some paths to follow. One problem I had was that I could in no way get a visual on what I was climbing. Soon the terrain grew steeper and much rockier and then the real fun began. We ran into at least three major cliff bands on the way up. From afar they looked almost impossible to negotiate and some even looked that way close up. We were able to work our way through all of them with some detours but the going was SLOW. At about 1.2 miles up we ran into a woods road which I followed briefly. The road seemed to go in the wrong direction and was very overgrown so I abandoned it for a more direct route. After 1.5 miles and 1.5 hours, we were wandering around on the top looking for the highest spot. I walked to the given GPS coordinates but also walked to what looked like higher ground to me and claimed success. It was now time to head off Little Rocky. I did not see any POSTED signs as I walked but my GPS track shows I may have briefly been on private land.
From the top of Little Rocky we headed southeast but always stayed on top of the ridge. We descended into the col between Little Rocky and the next bump on the ridge and then climbed that bump. Both the descent and ascent were not always easy but the woods were mostly open without too many prickers or nettles. The woods were also VERY dry. The trip was only about .7 miles which we covered in 30 minutes. Somewhere on or before the bump we picked up a faint path that we were able to follow until the col with Mombaccus. At the top of the bump someone had begun to arrange stones into furniture and I wondered who would do this on such a sparsely traveled path. Now we headed almost due east to stay on the ridge and then southeast toward the Col. This required getting down some small rock outcroppings but we were able to follow the path to the col. Once in the col I decided that Mombaccus was calling from only .25 miles away and that we would go to the top and then descend from there. This was the most miserable part of the trip up to this point as we had to fight through thick laurel and blueberry. The top was open and quite pretty but every time I walked to where I thought there would be a lookout I was thwarted! The plan to get off Mombaccus was to head north or slightly northeast on the descent until we hit the Kanape Brook Trail. This descent was only slightly less steep than the ascent up Little Rocky. It was rocky and filled with areas of prickers and nettles. I always seem to gravitate toward drainage areas since they appear open and easier to negotiate. I always pat the price of unstable footing and nettles! After a long descent, we were on the flatter ground below but there was no sign of the trail I was looking for. I decided to keep heading northeast with the hope that I would run across the trail. With less than a quarter mile we were on the trail and headed back. As we were almost done, a group of four young people were headed up the trail. From their attire it was obvious they were going to one of the many "swimming holes" on the brook. We were back at the car just before 3:00 PM having taken 4.5 hours to cover the 6 miles!
On Wednesday, June 30th I wanted to do the hike from Mount Tammany to Sunfish Pond that I had planned. I always get a later start than I plan but Sheba and I got on the road and headed for Port Jervis and Milford to take Route 209 all the way to Delaware Water Gap. The last time I was at Tammany I had some problems finding the Dunnfield Creek parking area and some more problems finding my way back from the trails to the parking area at the end of the hike. This time we got right on the Red Dot Trail up Tammany as soon as we arrived at 9:30 AM. I had never gone up this trail and was expecting it to be much hard than it was. I guess I would always rather climb steep than descend steep! We stopped at the viewpoints along the trail and it was obvious the day would be perfect for taking pictures. I also noticed that I was warm from climbing but hat I cooled off as soon as I stopped. We continued on up the trail meeting several hikers already on the way down! As we arrived at the open rock face at the top that acts as a lookout we met two more hikers. It was not yet 10:30 AM and we were making good time. I walked out onto the rock face and took some pictures before going back to get my pack and starting off after the two hikers that had gone before us. We continued behind them until they turned on the Blue Dot Trail and we continued across the ridge on the Tammany Fire Road. This unmarked path stays largely on top of the ridge as it meanders for about 3 miles until it meets the Turquoise Trail to Sunfish Pond. The walk was cool under the trees and only warm in the sun. The path was relatively easy to follow but there were no markings of any kind. Many of these trails and paths have a lot of sharp rocks which makes them hard on the feet. The walk didn't have many "features" but at one point a sign appeared. From our direction it was blank but on the other side was inscribed NJFFS Helispot 2.
We continued on and picked up the Turquoise Trail where I expected it to be. The turn was marked by a cairn but little else and the blazes are few and far between. Whoever began the practice of marking blazes on the rocks on the trail had a bad idea. They are barely visible when the leaves are not out and completely invisible in winter! After about .8 miles or so on the trail it meets and starts to follow a woods road around the pond. I was not paying attention to the trail or to Sheba who clearly wanted to make a turn. After a hundred feet, I saw no more blazes and went back to turn where Sheba had indicated. Only a little further on we came to a high point overlooking Sunfish Pond. It was obvious someone else was there since there was a camera on a tripod. The owner came up from below and some other people arrived. I took some pictures although the trees obscured some of the pond. There seemed to be many rocky areas along the shore but there was a large group of people at the opposite end. After a snack, we got back on the trail and headed out on the Turquoise Trail which soon ended at the Appalachian Trail. We turned left to go around the pond. This part of the trail was EXTREMELY rocky and hard to walk. At one point a side trail led down to the water and we walked across the rocks to get near the water so that I could take some pictures. As we approached the shore I looked up to see...a full-sized blimp in the sky. I took pictures of the blimp, the pond and the blimp and the pond before going back to my pack. Under a rock just next to my pack was a pretty good sized snake. The snake was small for a copperhead but I gave it a wide berth. The snake apparently felt the same way about be as it slithered away under the rocks. We continued on around the lake on the AT and encountered several groups of people enjoying the water and the sun. I discovered in conversation that there was a road coming up from Old Mine Road that came almost all the way up to the pond! At the southwest end of the lake we picked up the green Dunnfield Creek Trail and started to climb a little up to a small ridge.
We were walking along the trail in our normal formation when I happened to look down to see a snake across the path. I stopped in mid-step since I was familiar with...rattlesnakes. I had encountered them before but seldom this close or this suddenly! I immediately told Sheba to stay since she was coming back to investigate why I had stopped. I am glad she obeys my commands. My first thought was that she had walked right over this snake without disturbing it and how bad this situation could have! I kept my distance and took out my camera. The snake obligingly stayed put so that I could take some pictures. Its head was hidden in the brush but its body and signature tail were fully exposed. He was sunny himself but was otherwise very well camouflaged. After the pictures I contemplated the best way to go around the snake. I allowed for the fact that there might be another in the brush nearby and so using the trail was the best option. I used by poles to try to move the snake a little and encourage him to leave. This made the snake rattle and coil which really put me on edge. After this encounter, I made Sheba walk behind me for most of the rest of the hike! The trail did not climb the ridge but stayed close to the creek as it headed southwest toward the Delaware River. The trail was very rocky and uneven for the first mile but began to get smoother the further we went. I kept watching for snake but the cool areas near the creek and under the trees were not the places they prefer. The trail followed most of the twists and turns in the shallow creek and I gave up counting the number we crossed back and forth t0 avoid the steep banks on one side or the other. In about 3 miles form the pond, we were at the trail junction with the Blue Dot Trail up Tammany. A bridge here crossed the creek near what is sometimes called Dunnfield Falls. There wasn't much water in the creek but I took my last pictures anyway. We continued on the AT back to the parking area. We were back by 2:30 PM covering about 11 miles in 5 hours with plenty of time for pictures and wildlife encounters!
On Tuesday, June 29th we finished Buttermilk Falls by 2:20 PM and drove to Enfield Glen at Robert H. Tremain State Park. The parks are so close together that we were out of the car and ready to hike by 2:30 PM! The guidebooks and trip reports I had read all "warned" that the first part of the hike had a steep ascent to the gorge rim and did not have many points of interest for over a half mile! They were right on both accounts! Enfield Glen was the least developed of the three areas we visited which means there are fewer people but also that the trails are more rugged with fewer defined viewpoints. In some cases there were nice water falls that were hard to photograph because of the light or vegetation obscuring a goof shot. In some places I walked down to the stream and was able to take pictures from the bank or, in others, to walked out into the stream bed to photograph. In other spots I tried to take the best photographs I could through the shrubbery since there were no safe options available. In one place a nice falls came into view with a group of teenagers wading in the water. They seemed oblivious to the fact that others were present and were only concerned with impressing each other! More falls and more rock formations later we passed a bridge that crossed to the rim trail on the south side of the glen. We had not yet seen Lucifer Falls so we bypassed this bridge and continued climbing up the path and various stairs toward the head of the glen.
Soon we were walking next to a railing and a high rock wall. As we rounded a corner, Lucifer Falls came into view. It is truly impressive even with low water levels. This is another falls I want to come back to when the water level is higher! I took MANY different pictures of the falls which has an impressive drop. It was hard to get any detail and keep the whole falls in the frame. I even tried a panorama. We eventually walked passed this viewing area and another falls came into view. This one had much less height but was still very beautiful. Around another corner was a stone bridge which led to the path on the other side. Beneath the bridge was a narrow slot which channeled the water into another falls. I stood on the bridge and took pictures both ways in the gorge and then took some looking almost straight down from the bridge. We continued on up the trail with me taking a few pictures of the bridge. Eventually we arrived at the upper parking are and it was time to head back. Before turning around we visited an old mill and I took pictures of the falls that helped power it. By this time all of us were tired so we headed back to the beginning of the rim trail and climbed UP to the rim of the gorge. The trail flattened at the top but still had its downs and subsequent ups. In one place the trail dropped down an impressive set of stone steps to the level of the stream. We walked along the stream briefly and then had to climb back up to the rim. There were several viewpoints along the way with one offering a nice view down to Lucifer Falls. Other lookouts we too obscured to use a camera. Signs along the way kept us posted on the way out and back of the distance yet to go. Eventually the signs were for .5 miles had then .25 miles. Near the end of the trail we could see down to the gorge and another falls that I was sure we had NOT visited. This was the Lower Falls that the Gorge Trail on the other side misses. It is also the site of the swimming area for the park. Since dogs are not allowed Sheba stayed with Cindy while I took a moment to go down and take pictures of the Lower Falls. Below the Lower falls a small dam holds back some water to form a pool for swimming. The gorge below this is not as high as further up but has some nice features. On the other side is some artificial stonework and a stone building. I rejoined Cindy and Sheba and we walked through an area with some cabins until we found the road that goes back to the parking area just across the stream. There is a walkway for hikers but the cars have to drive through several inches of water and ford the stream to cross! We were thankful to be back at the car at around 5:00 PM having take 2.5 hours to finish the 5 miles hike.
On Tuesday, June 29th we finished Taughannock Falls by 1:00 PM and headed back to Ithaca on Route 89 to pick up Route 96 south. Once on this road it was a very short drive to Buttermilk Falls State Park. We were parked and on the trail by 1:20 PM. I was a little disappointed at first since the main falls simply has water that passes over a wide expanse of harder bedrock and does not really "fall. In addition, the natural beauty of the area is "spoiled" by a swimming area complete with concrete and lifeguards. I took some quick sots and then we proceeded up the stone steps to the right of the falls to walk the Gorge Trail. As we ascended the steps, I was able to take some more shots of the falls that minimum the swimming area. The way the stream cut through the rock to form the gorge was interesting and soon we were at another falls and stopped to take pictures. This falls also did not have a sheer drop but was narrower and, therefore, seemed to be faster flowing with a greater volume of water. As we continued along the path, we could see how it meandered along the gorge and how many interesting formations had been created. Another falls appeared as the water passed through a narrow slot in the rocks. In several places the swirling water had cut circular "pools" in the rock which were deep with rather large diameters.
More falls and more interesting formations appeared as the path continued climbing up the gorge. At the top of one set of steps a nice three-tiered cascade could be seen. A lean-to appeared on the right of the trail and we both thought it would be a GREAT place to stay! We passed by a bridge that crossed the stream and led to the rim trail but I wanted to make sure we saw the whole gorge so we continued on. We passed several more falls and interesting rock formations before coming to Pinnacle Rock. Here a spire of rock has either pulled away from the gorge wall or, more likely, is of greater hardness than the surrounding stone. In any case, it was quite impressive standing tall right next to the path. As we continued up the gorge the pattern of falls, plunge pools, slots continued but became less frequent as the stream volume deceased. We crossed a bridge to get to the Rim Trail on the east side of the gorge. This trail led down most of the way but had at least one are that dropped to the gorge before climbing again to the rim. In several places the trail met a service road and the path was not well marked. As we headed back down to the parking area, we noted the many vines that covered the trees in this area. We arrived at the car by 2:20 PM taking just over an hour to cover the 2 mile hike. I was a little tired and I knew Cindy might not want to continue on to Robert J. Tremain State Park to do Enfield Glen. I was a little surprised but very happy when she said she would go so it was off to our last and LONGEST adventure!
On Tuesday, June 29th Cindy was off from work and ready to do some hiking. I wanted to hike from Tammany to Sunfish Pond but she was worried it would be too long and too hot. She proposed heading north where it would be cooler. She suggested Watkins Glen but the website said "No dogs!" I don't like to change plans but began to formulate a route that would take us to visit several of the parks near Ithaca that have waterfalls. My plans included Potter's Falls in Ithaca, Taughannock Falls near Trumansburg, Buttermilk Falls and Enfield Glen south of Ithaca. We got started relatively early for us. I had checked the state parks website and all four of these allowed dogs if they are leashed. This is not Sheba's favorite sort of trip but it was better than leaving her home. We headed up Route 17 to Binghamton and then north on I81 to Whitney Point. From there we took Route 79 to Ithaca and then Route 89 north to Trumansburg. All went well and we arrived at the park at about 10:15. We paid the day use fee and found that it was good all day at any state park! We were on the trail before 10:30 AM. We decided to walk into the gorge and do that trail first since it was short and led right to the base of the 215 foot main falls. As we walked this trail several smaller falls appeared along the way and we stopped to take pictures. We were both impressed by the canyon that the stream had cut over the years. Equally interesting was the layer that acted as the stream bed. The rock layer showed :waves" in many places and in some Ares we were walking on this layer as well. In many areas the different hardness of the rock layers was evident in their erosion patterns. The walk was pleasant and the air temperature was cool and we arrived tat he bridge over the stream at the base of the falls by 11:00 AM. The main falls are certainly high and there was enough water to make them interesting. I would like to return after a heavy rain or in early spring! We stopped to take MANY pictures and then returned to the parking area
Back near the beginning of the Gorge Trail, we started UP to the south rim trail. Getting up to the rim required quite a climb, of course and there were MANY stone steps along the way. Once we were up on the rim, the trail leveled out and passed through shaded groves of the hardwood and some evergreen trees. Along the way a few lookouts gave interesting views of the canyon below and, eventually, of the falls itself. Soon we were nearing the upper reaches of the gorge and a new falls came into view. Here the gorge widened considerably and the different layers of rock were even more obvious. We were wondering how we would cross the gorge to get to the north rim but soon a bridge cam into view. It looked a old and from the side it was clear that it had seen better days. Once we were on the bridge another falls, as impressive as the main falls in many ways appeared on the left or southwest of the bridge. This falls also fell a long distance and the volume appeared to be as great as the main falls. A little further upstream we could see another bridge that routed traffic over the stream. We continued on the trail with a side trip that took us to the road bridge and back before continuing on the main trail. As we walked along the main trail an occasional view of the gorge would appear but none that were really unobtainable.
As we continued our walk, a nice view of the falls appeared through the trees so I took some pictures. The trail wound along the gorge and even joined the road for a brief time. Soon we approached the upper access to the park and the gorge. Here, those who wanted a quick view of the falls could simply park and walk down a flight of stone steps. I wanted to tell them what they were missing! This view of the falls was nice and was from a much greater distance than the Gorge Trail that we had done earlier. I took many photographs before we started back down the North Rim Trail to the car. Along the way I kept looking for a view down the gorge and out to Cayuga Lake. All the viewpoints were overgrown and the views obscured by trees and bushes, Finally a nice lookout offered a clear view of the lake, At another point we were able to look down to the bed of the stream at the bottom of the gorge and see people walking along the stream bed. They appeared very small even with the zoom. We continued down the trail stopping at several more viewpoints before descending the steps to the road a little north of the parking are. We walked the road back to the car. I stopped on the small road bridge to take some final pictures, We were back at the car just before 1:00 PM having taken 2.5 hours to do the 6 mile hike. It was now off to Buttermilk Falls.
On Friday, June 25th we finished Oxford and County House by 3:00 PM. I drove out Tunnel Hill Road to Jackson Valley Road and then picked up Karrsville Road to Rockport Road. This was easier than I though and I parked at the State pheasant farm at 3:15 PM. As I started to get out of the car, my leg cramped which is, for me, a sign of fatigue AND dehydration. I massaged the cramp out and drank the rest of a bottle of water before getting the gear on and walking across the road with Sheba. We walked up the hill following the signs for the overlook. This "trail" was mowed and we were soon looking out over the farms in this valley. The views from the overlook were spotty because of the lush plant life spring up. We continued up the hill on a woods road and found another which turned toward Upper Pohatcong. We crossed the first power line at about .6 miles without much problem and I was beginning to think this one was "in the bag". How wrong could I be? At just over 1 mile, we came upon a woods road and the POSTED signs began. I wanted to walk straight ahead to bushwhack to the peak but I did not want to walk across more private property. I chose to turn up the road to avoid the POSTED land and this is where the fun REALLY began. At first I hit and open space where there were SHARP plants and vines so thick it was impossible to pass. We backtracked and tried to stay in the shade as much as possible. It was NOT possible to stay away from open areas so we ended up really whacking bushes through some of the MOST MISERABLE terrain I have crossed in a long time. The thorns were big and brutal, vines grabbed at your legs and blowdown rerouted us.
We continued to work further north than I had wanted to avoid posted land. At some point I caught another trail which turned into a road and ended at the second power line. We walked across the right-of-way and tried to find a good place to enter the woods beyond. We found a place although not a good one. We were about 1.7 miles and one hour into the hike at this point. I figured with only .4 miles to go to the high point it couldn't be all that bad. What was I thinking? More open spots with more plant attacks! Swampy areas with the true nature of the footing underneath hidden by dense growth. Finally we started to pick up some paths as we neared the high point. It was discouraging to think we would have to fight our way back over the same route! The terrain began to flatten and the woods did open up as we approached the summit. We were about 2 miles into the hike and it was 4:40 PM meaning we had taken almost and hour and a half to get to the high point. I didn't see any POSTED signs nearby but I did see hunters shack so we turned around to follow our path back. I was exhilarated at this point and about as scratched up as I have ever been. These factors combined with the fact that I had already beaten down a lot of the plants that barred the way meant that the return trip seemed much faster. We stopped at the overlook for me to take some pictures and then headed back down to the road. At the gate was a sign that told the story of the Morris Canal and pointed out that the swampy area was actually the old boat basin. We crossed the road and went to the car. It was 5:50 PM and we had finished the grueling 4.4 mile hike in just over 2.5 hours. The return trip had taken about an hour. I stopped to take some pictures on the pheasants and then got in the car and headed home as the first New Yorker to conquer New Jersey's peaks!
On Friday, June 25th I was done with Fairway by 1:00 PM and turned by attention to Oxford and County House. I drove back to Route 31 and headed south to Tunnel Hill Road which I thought I would check out. I made a left onto Tunnel Hill and shortly found a pulloff on` the right side. I decided to park and start the hike from there. It was 1:10 PM when we entered the woods and began to bushwhack up the steep hillside. The hillside had some rather large rocks inconveniently hidden under ferns and other plants. It was here that we began to run into SHARP plants of different types. I am accustomed to the prickers in the Catskills which are mostly raspberry and blackberry canes. New Jersey seems to have these but also possess another array of barberry and what seems to be wild roses. The thorns and these are HUGE and the plants actively reach out and grab you as you pass by. The route I took skirted the bump dubbed Hill 888 and tuned to sidehill a lot but the walking wasn't hard because of this. We kept running into patches of rocky, blowdown and the ever present SHARP pants. After only .82 miles and half and hour we found the high point on Oxford but it seemed much longer than that. What I didn't know at this point was that the fun was just beginning!
From the top of Oxford I took a bearing east and just slightly north and headed down into Sykes Gap. The hillside I chose had enormous boulders with gaps and holes between them. All this was covered by dense vegetation including various SHARP plants. I thought the trip down would never end. Once we got into the gap things did not immediately get better. It was wet in places, there were more rocks and blowdown to avoid and some dense brush to get through. At least ahead of us I could see the ascent that was County House. Soon we were on the hill but there was still a lot of rocky areas to work through. The hillside was steep but not very long and there seemed to be a few paths. I wondered if I was in the right place since I saw no POSTED signs on this side of the mountain. Soon I was near the top and I though I could see a clearing through the bushes. The clearing proved to be the backyard of the house at the top. I found a surprised homeowner who said "Hello" and graciously granted me permission to walk around on his land and then head down his private driveway. It was 2:25 PM and about 1.6 miles into the hike. It had taken us 1 hour and 15 minutes to traverse the difficult route to the top of County House. I was VERY grateful since I did not want to even try to head back down to Sykes Gap let alone retrace my route over Oxford. We walked down his driveway turned right onto Jost Road which IS also private. Jost Road took us to Tunnel Hill Road which we walked back to the car. The return trip to the car was also about 1.6 miles but took only 35 minutes. We finished the 3.2 mile trip in 1 hour and 45 minutes returning to the car at 3:00 PM. I was tired and wondered if I could handle Upper Pohatcong. Most of the trip reports seemed to indicate that there were woods roads and that the bushwhacking was through mostly "open" woods. This was NOT to be my experience!
On Friday, June 25th I was finished The Tornfell by 11:20 AM so it was on to Fairway. I drove back out to the Hope Great Meadows Road and south on this to Route 46 and turned west. I picked up Route 31 south toward Oxford. I was looking for Mine Hill Road but had a little trouble finding it since the turn is not right off the main road and I did not know the street or route number. After one false start and some lucky turns, I was on Mine Hill Road and found the pulloff on the right just as the road starts to descend. I could even see a woods road! We were on the trail just before noon. I entered the woods road from where I parked and then immediately found another that headed UP and to the southwest. We stayed on this road for a while until it seemed to turn in the wrong direction and we began to bushwhack up the hill through the woods passed several fenced in mine adits. I walked over to take a look and two seemed to be just shallow pits. One did have a significant tailing pile so they may have been deeper than they appeared. As we walked through the woods we again joined up with a road and stayed on it until about .4 miles when it seemed to be headed in the wrong direction. I headed out on a trail that I hoped would go in the right direction but after a few hundred feet it was clear that it would not so I backtracked and bushwhacked down a hill and picked up a road which I suspected was the same road I had been on. At this point there were several building with mining equipment and drill cores. There was also a large tank but the area was posted so I headed across an open area and back onto another road.
The road took me to a power line right-of-way and then up along the right-of-way to its highest point. I crossed the power line and headed back into the woods on a road or trail. This road was posted on both sides but I continued on the theory that the road itself seemed to be OK. Soon the woods road joined a paved road so I turned left and continued up the hill. At 12:25 PM, after hiking 1.2 miles, we arrived at the old cell tower installation. The gates to the fence were unlocked and wide open. I walked around the buildings and stood on some rock outcroppings that seemed to be the highest point around. Back on the paved road we headed to the car on the same route we had taken up. I did stop to look at some of the buildings and wonder about the story of this area. On the way back we stayed on the road and it did take us back up the hill and avoided the second bushwhack. We were back at the car before 1:00 PM having covered the 2.4 miles in an hour! The next hike would be Oxford and County House which were nearby.
On Friday, June 25th I was finished with Whitehall Hill by 9:15 AM and was ready to head to The Tornfell. I took Route 206 south the I80 and then drove west to the exit for the Hope-Blairstown Road. I took this south and turned onto the Hope-Great Meadows Road which after a few miscues. Many of the buildings in Hope were beautiful constructed of quarried stone. I made a note to return to the town at a later date since this day was dedicated to peak bagging! I passed the Land of Make Believe which was packed with school children and head up the hill. At the top of the hill was a pulloff on the right. I was looking for the area Bill Maurer had described where a white trail started just below the pulloff. I saw no trail near the top so I drove back down the hill looking for another place to park. I didn't find any and had a bad feeling that hiking from the top parking area could possibly take me across private property AND it was VERY steep by the road. I decided to go to the Jenny Jump picnic area on Fairview Road and hike from there. We were in the parking area by 10:00 AM were on the trail not long after.
A blue trail leaves from the end of the parking area and is clearly marked. This trail proceeds along woods road lined with stone on both sides until it merges with a white trail and continues in the general direction of the peak. The trail climbs slightly and the starts a steady descent until about 1 mile into the hike. I don't like to go down when I know I have to go up but I knew the trail would be a lot easier to follow than trying to bushwhack a more direct route. At the one mile mark the trail ascends to a lookout but the views are non-existent now due to the vegetation. Just passed the overlook at about 1.45 miles we turned left off the trail to bushwhack to the high point of The Tornfell. I headed for a patch of ferns thinking this would mean fewer prickers and it worked as long as I avoided open, sunny areas. In a short distance a rock out cropping lay ahead and Sheba found an easy way up one end. We walked across this outcrop or ridge and quickly found the high point with a small cairn at about 10:45 AM. We headed back down the outcrop and then I decided to try a slightly different route back. This was not a good idea since we encountered a whole new batch of SHARP plants to battle. Just as we hit the trail, I heard voices and walked toward the viewpoint to meet a couple who were camping at Jenny Jump. They told me that the trail beyond the viewpoint had a lot of prickers and descended steeply. I think this is the white trail that comes up from near the Land of Make Believe but that will be another day's adventure. Sheba and I made short work of the hike back and were at the car by 11:20 AM having finished the 3.1 mile hike, including the bushwhack, in 1 hour and 15 minutes. This was peak two out of a planned six for the day and Fairway was next!
On Friday, June 25th my plan was to finish the NJ1K list if at all possible. I thought it would be hard but possible. I had no idea! I had 6 peaks to go and carefully planned a strategy to reduce the time to drive between them and maximize the time for hiking. The order I planned was Whitehall, Tornfell, Fairway, Oxford and County House and Upper Pohatcong. I read all the trip reports of the other members, printed maps of the areas and wrote down the GPS coordinates and elevations. I thought I was ready. I was out the door and on the road before 7:00 AM and headed to Milford and then south on Route 206 the Andover to take on Whitehall Hill first. I turned right onto North Shore Road and parked a the small pulloff on the right side just after the turn. It was just after 8:30 AM when we walked back out to Route 206 and took a left into the multi-use trail that parallels the road. After about .2 miles a blazed green trail appeared on the left and we turned onto it. The trail was easy to follow and well kept as it headed toward Whitehall Hill. At .55 miles into the hike it was obvious the trail would by pass the peak so we turned right and up into the woods. In only a short distance we found another woods road which we followed until .67 miles when it started to descend and head away from the peak. We bushwhacked up a steep, rocky hillside and headed for the high point. I knew that this might be private land so I was prepared to stop if I saw POSTED signs. As I neared the picnic table at the viewpoint, I heard voices. One of the property owners and a friend were at the lookout. He told me that I must have missed the POSTED signs and I apologized. He was very gracious and allowed me to walk to the high point AND take pictures from the viewpoint. To get to the top took only half and hour and was less than a mile. We returned the same way and were back at the car by 9:15 covering the 1.7 mile round trip in 45 minutes. The Tornfell would be next!