What You Missed
On Thursday, September 20th I was ready to get out and hike again after some health problems had sidelined me for some time. I decided to go to Trout Pond to see how much water was going over Russell Brook falls. A torrential rain on Tuesday had flooded Livingston Manor. I hoped that two days later the water would be clear rather than muddy at the falls. We arrived at about 10:30 AM and parked, as I always do, in the parking area on Morton Hill Road. We walked down Russell Brook Road toward the lower trailhead. As we approached the viewpoint over the upper falls I could hear what sounded like a lot of water flowing through the narrow gorge. We walked off trail and own to the viewpoint to find crystal clear water using downstream. The volume was high but not as high as I have seen it proving that the storm on Tuesday was quite localized. I took pictures of the upper falls and the water as it races between the rocks to the lower falls. We walked back up to the road and down to the lower parking area. From the parking area, we followed the woods road down to the bridge. Just after the bridge we turned right on the path to the lower falls. Even though the water was high, we were able to walk to the pool at the base of the falls. I took some pictures and tried to get some different angles than in the past. Sheila romped through the stream and the splash pool. I got her to sit still for a few photos before she bounded off again. Water seems to energizer her more than anything else. We walked back to the woods road and started the walk up to Trout Pond. The temperature was in the low 60's and the sun was beginning to warm things up. We arrived at the pond at 11:20 Am after hiking 1.7 miles. I took some shots of the pond. The light was favorable and the sky had some nice puffy clouds to add contrast. After only a brief stay, we were back on the road to the upper end of the pond.
At the upper end of the pond there is a new wooden bridge sturdy enough for snowmobiles. We walked to the edge of the pond and Sheila immediately began to run through the water. I took out the camera to get some pictures. I tried to get some shots of Sheila but I kept getting the wrong end in the frame. From the bridge the trail starts the ascent of a shoulder of Cherry Ridge. Not too far from the bridge Sheila, Sheila began to act oddly. When I approached her, it sounded like she was standing on an underground beehive. I discovered that the noise was her training collar that had shorted out and was on continuous vibration! I immediately removed the collar at which point it turned off. We continued a little father and met an older couple resting by the side of the trail. We talked for a while and I found out they were from near Barryville. After a short conversation, Sheila and I continued on up the trail. The hike over the rolling trail seemed to go quickly. There were many wet areas but they were easily avoided. We were soon headed down to the trail junction near Mud Pond. We hit the junction at 12:30 PM after hiking 4.1 miles. We turned left and headed back down to the area of the falls to complete our loop and from there it was a short walk back up to the car. We arrived back at the parking area on Morton Hill Road at 1:05 PM after hiking 5.7 miles with a 1200 foot elevation gain.
On Friday, September 7th I wanted to do something close to home since I needed to be at school by 2:00 PM for cross country practice. Once the season starts Saturdays are consumed by meets. We generally leave at 7:00 AM or earlier and may not get back until mid-afternoon. I decided to head for Frick and Hodge Ponds and hike the loop as fast as Sheila and I could make it without jogging! I knew that I had plenty of pictures of the area and, although, the weather was beautiful it was little different than the dozens of times we had been there before. We arrived at about 10:30 AM and I decided to hike up the Flynn Trail to Hodge Pond, across the front of the pond to the Quick Lake Trail and then back to the car passed Frick Pond. As we started the hike I had Sheila off her leash but quickly thought better of that when one of the dogs from the cabin came barking through the woods. I shooed him away as his owner had no control over him. Once we got a little further up the Flynn Trail I released Sheila and she was fine for the rest of the hike. The trail started to look a lot wetter than it had been for most of the summer with water in the ditches beside the trail. As we got to the path to the "boggy meadow", I decided not to visit and continued to the junction with the Big Rock trail. We made the 1.7 miles in just over half and hour. I stuck with my plan and we headed for Hodge pond. When we arrived, Sheila went for the pond but I called her back and we stayed on the Flynn Trail as it headed west of the pond and up to the gate on the other side. As we walked along the flat part of the Flynn Trail to Junkyard Junction, I noticed how wet the trail really was. So did Sheila! We reached Junkyard Junction at 11:38 AM and I was pleased the 3.25 mile trek had taken only a little more than one hour.
At Junkyard Junction we turned left on the Quick Lake Trail and started the long, downhill march to Frick Pond. Areas of this trail were also damp. The first part of the trail is also used by snowmobilers so it was pretty clear and we made good time. We arrived at Iron Wheel Junction id 1.5 hours covering 4.85 miles. From this trail junction the snowmobile trail continues straight ahead on the Logger's Loop. We turned right to stay on the Quick Lake Trail and immediately had to slow our pace. There are more and more blowdowns every time we take this route as this part of the trail has been long neglected. New paths spring up each time and old ones become more solidified as hikers seek to avoid the worst areas. By 12:30 PM we were crossing the bridge at the outlet of Frick Pond and heading up the hill for the last half mile to the car. I stuck to my plans and did not take any pictures at Frick Pond. The last part of the trail was wet! We arrived back at the car by 12:35 PM having covered 6.3 miles in 2 hours!
On Saturday, September 1st Cindy, Sheila and I had hiked to Terrace Mountain from Woodland Valley. We drove home through Margaretville and around the Pepacton Reservoir. When I got home, I really wanted a shower and was just finishing when the ambulance pager went off. The call was for a knee injury at the Little Pond State Campsites. The trip is about 15 miles and as I drove to our ambulance station I wondered how bad the injury could be. On the way the control center told us that the Beaverkill Valley Fire Department would be waiting for us in the parking lot since the injured part was a hiker about half way up Touch-Me-Not Mountain! When we arrived in the parking lot, I grabbed a trauma bag, splints, blankets and a pillow and several triangular bandages. The fire fighters brought a Stokes basket, backboard, several flashlights and other equipment. As we started up the trail, the daylight was beginning to fade and I knew we would be coming back in the dark. I was thinking about what the extent of the injury might and what I would have to do to stabilize it. When I looked back, I found I was alone which was not surprising as the others were carrying more equipment. I reached the steep section and heard voices ahead. I saw people on the trail and the patient in a sitting position with his leg supported by a pack. One look was all that was needed to see that his right kneecap was out of place and nearly vertical on the lateral side of his knee! When all the equipment arrived, I splinted his knee with a board underneath and then it was time to move him into the basket. The lift went well but he could not lower is leg to the bottom of the basket. We improvised by placing another splint across the stretcher to support his leg. With everything lashed securely in position we started down the mountain in the dark led by the flashlights. The fire company did an excellent job of transporting the injured hiker with jarring him or dropping the Stokes. It took over 1.5 hours from the time we arrived to get him to the ambulance but the rescue went well. About a week earlier I had been on the same trails and had fallen on my knee. I thought about what I would have done alone with a serious knee injury!
On Saturday, September 1st I had planned to head for Woodland Valley early to hike Wittenberg and perhaps Cornell. The previous evening I had been out three times on ambulance calls so "early" was out of the question. I asked Cindy if she would like to hike and she said "Yes" so we got dressed, put our equipment and Sheila in the car and headed out. The drive seemed a little long as we headed out Route 47 passed Frost Valley on the way to Route 28. There were no cars at Biscuit Brook but quite a few at Slide and Panther. We arrived at Woodland Valley around noon and I paid the $6 day-use fee. We were on the trail by 12:15 PM. The first part of the trail is pretty steep to start out but we soon made the trail register at .3 miles. We continued to move along the steep trail until in began to level and entered the pine grove at the top. Once through the pines we walked between some large rock formations to the point where the trail makes a 90 degree turn to the left and ascends again. This ascent is extremely rocky and I was missing the support of my hiking poles. I found it hard to manage Sheila on her leash and my poles but now that she is off the leash a good part of the time I will have to remember to carry the poles again! At the top of this climb we walked through another pine grove and stopped to get a drink and a snack before pushing on. We climbed a rock scramble and then the trail leveled out and actually descended some. I hate going down because you just have to regain the elevation! The trail after this point rolled quite a bit. It descended into several completely dry creek beds and then began the ascent to the trail junction to Wittenberg. When Cindy saw the sign that said 1.3 miles to the summit she determined that she was not prepared to make the climb this time. I encouraged her by informing her that there was only another 1100 feet of climb to go but she was adamant. I suggested we turn left and go to the Terrace Mountain lean-to. I had never walked this trail and I wanted to see what progress had been made on the reroute of the Long Path. We turned left at 2.6 miles just before 2:00 PM and started down the trail.
The trail to Terrace Mountain started out as a pleasant walk through some hardwoods on an open trail. At about 2.7 miles I noticed a path to the right of the trail. We walked out the path and discovered a large open rock face. I had not expected any views on this part of then hike but there were some nice ones to the northwest and I think we spotted Panther. The shelf of rock was quite large and we walked to the east to find a large stone fireplace and "chairs". I took a few pictures and then noticed that there might be some views from the edge of the rock so we walked a little further east and along the edge. There were several places that offered limited views which I am sure would be better in the late fall or winter. I caught a glimpse of Cross Mountain from one viewpoint. After taking some shots and walking a little further the rock shelf ended so we headed back to the fireplace and then to the trail. After the path, the trail crossed some open rock and was poorly marked except for some cairns. The forest changed to evergreen trees as we descended. At some point Cindy decided to sit and wait while Sheila and I went on to the lean-to. The walk to the lean-to was about .6 miles but dropped over 200 feet. The forest changed back to hardwood until the trail entered a cleared area with the lean-to on the right. The lean-to was minimal but in good shape and I took a picture before searching for trail markers or other evidence that work was being done on the Long Path. I walked around the cleared area and did find a path but...no markers at all! From reading the articles and emails, I thought the project was well underway but I may have been mistaken or looking in the wrong place. I turned around and found Cindy relaxing on the trail. We started back up to the trail junction which we reached at just after 3:00 PM about 4.4 miles into the hike.
As we approached the trail junction, we heard some voices discussing some hiking options. On the way up the trail from the campsites we had met a few other hikes. A few hikers had been coming down the trail and several were going up. One young man at the junction had on a hat and this apparently gives Sheila fits! We apologized and continued along with me trying to reason with the dog. This scene was repeated several times as we met several groups of hikers heading up the trail. Some were going to Wittenberg but at least two groups were going to the Terrace lean-to. We continued our trek back at the campgrounds where our car was parked. I was tired and really beginning to feel the bike ride from the day before. What was bothering me the most were my knees on the descent over the rocky areas without poles. The trip down did go faster and we were soon at the trail register. I put Sheila on her leash which made the last part of the descent difficult as it was almost impossible for her not to pull me on the way down. We were back at the car by 4:40 PM having covered 7 miles in just under 4.5 hours.
On Friday, August 31st Karl was able to get out of work early so we decided to get in a bike ride. I KNOW this is the Catskill HIKER site but I sometimes like to get my exercise in other ways! We decided to do a loop this time through Willowemoc and Parksville. We left my house at about 2:30 PM and rode out the DeBruce Road toward Willowemoc. Neither of us has managed to replace the batteries in our bike computers which may be just as well since it allows us to enjoy the ride. DeBruce Road is a series of ups and downs with more ups on the way out. After the Fish Hatchery Road at 6 miles, the road climbs some before descending into Willowemoc. We stooped at the spring to get some water and then started up Cooley Road to go to Parksville. Karl had warning me about the climb but I remembered it as rather gentle but long. After a few miles, it was clear that he was thinking of the loop when he did it in the opposite direction where the climb IS steeper. We dropped down to County Route 176 which is the new designation for the section of State Route 17 that has been replaced. The surface had just been paved and was very smooth with only a little traffic. It was strange riding a route that I would never have attempted before. Soon the new surface gave out as we approached the Morsston exit and the steepest climb on the route. The hill is short and I was glad. From there it was under the Quickway and down to Old Route 17. We turned right and descended the hill to the Livingston Manor flats. I could tell that my speed was close to 50 mph on the descent and I tried to carry the speed for as long as possible. We were back at the house by 4:00 PM covering what I estimated was 15 to 18 miles. This is a route I will definitely try again.
On Wednesday, August 29th I wasn't sure whether or not I wanted to hike. By the time I decided to go out, my choices were limited to something close to home. Not wanting to repeat a hike I had done recently, I chose to go to Pelnor Hollow and try to hike to the junction with the Mary Smith trail. This was a route I had not tried before as there is no parking at the end of Pelnor Hollow road. Sheila and I left the house at noon and headed for the Beaverkill Campsite Road. We crossed the river and turned right on Pelnor Hollow road. The road was paved near the beginning but quickly turned to gravel and dirt. After a little more than a mile, we arrived at the last house on the road at which point the "road" deteriorates to rocks and roots. I had spoken to the owner the year before and he gave me permission to park by his barn. On this day there was no one home and I didn't feel comfortable parking without renewing the permission. Some signs indicated parking further up the road and I thought perhaps the situation had changed. I decided to drive up the narrow road with my low-slung, four-wheel drive sports car! After a few hundred feet the road was better and I thought this might last. I was wrong! Soon there were large rocks sticking up, deep ruts and large roots and branches. I was about to try to back down the road when a woman appeared. She was trail running back toward the main road. We talked and she said she thought I could make it up the road although the expression on her face said otherwise. She did indicate that she felt I could park anywhere on the road since few people got as far as I had gotten! I crept ahead trying to avoid bottoming out. There were two wooden bridges along the way which I tried to pass over as quickly as possible. Within about .4 miles I arrived at a small cabin where the road became impassable. I saw no parking to speak of but the road beyond would be accessible to a vehicle with higher clearance or ATVs. I decided to turn around at the cabin and back up the road a little before parking. I though that this would allow anyone else the chance to turn around and I did not plan to be gone long.
We started our hike at about 12:20 PM and I observed a sign that indicated the lean-to was 1.4 miles up the trail. We walked slightly uphill on a wide woods road which traveled through mostly hardwood forest with a couple of open spots. After about .3 miles, another sign showed .5 miles to the lean-to. We continued the hike until the lean-to appeared on the left of the trail. I looked at my GPS which showed a little over .9 miles. The sign on the tree indicated .9 miles back to the "trailhead". So much for the accuracy of signs! We continued on as the trail headed to the left slightly and began to look more like trail than road. The grade also increased but the biggest change was that the prickers began to become MUCH more prevalent. Soon I was surrounded by eye-high briars; some new, some old. I tried my best to keep from getting scratched but my arms began to look as if I had stuck them in a cage of bobcats. Sheila on the other hand was diving through the prickers with great abandon and no apparent injuries!
On Tuesday, August 28th I had decided to head to Frick Pond again to hike. To vary the route some I wanted to hike from the parking area to Frick Pond and then go to Mongaup Pond to set up some kind of loop. Sheila and I arrived at the parking area just after 11:00 Am and got right on the Quick Lake Trail to Frick Pond. Sheila has been behaving well off her leash and I seldom use it anymore unless other hikers are around. We stopped at the bridge so that I could take some pictures even though I have many from this location. Sheila decided to jump in the pond and frolic in the water. After a few minutes, we headed around the pond and turned left the trail junction to head out on the Quick lake Trail. This trail is in bad shape with a lot of large trees across the trail. Hikers have been creating their own paths around the blow down which soon will become the permanent trail. At the small stream across the trail Sheila again hit the water before we continued to the junction with the Logger's Loop Trail. At Iron Wheel junction we turned right to take the Logger's Loop Trail to Times Square. This trail ascends gently and then descends to the four-way trail junction. We arrived at Times Square at about 12:06 PM after hiking one hour for the 2.7 mile distance. We turned left and head up the Big Rock Trail.
The Big Rock Trail always deceives me as it is a little longer and gains a little more elevation than I remember. The 1.1 mile journey saw us gain 600 feet and we arrived at the Flynn Trail in about 25 minutes. Our climbing was not done as we continued straight ahead on the snowmobile trail that would take us to Mongaup Pond. I thought about a side trip to Hodge but decided I did not need the extra mile. We climbed for another .25 miles and gained another 125 feet to the highest point on the hike. From this spot it is about one mile "as the crow flies" to the shores of Mongaup Pond. Since we were not flying, we continued on the trail as it wound its way toward the pond. From the high point to the loop road was a little over 2 miles and dropped 700 feet. As we approached the road, I put Sheila on her leash as the campgrounds were surprisingly busy. Shortly after getting on the road, we walked to the shores of the pond so that I could take some pictures. We headed back to the road and continued our walk to the entrance to the campsites. From There we walked out the access road to the junction with Beech Mountain Road. We turned right on Beech Mountain Road and walked the .25 miles back to the car. We arrived back at 2:10 PM having covered 8.5 miles in 3 hours including stops.
On Thursday, August 23rd I had some things to do in the morning so I chose to hike at Big Pond. I decided to hike from Big Pond over Touchmenot Mountain toward Little Pond. From there I intended to hike to the Beaverkill Vista on Cabot Mountain and then back through the Little Pond State Campsite using the roads. When we arrived at Big Pond there were no other cars in the parking area. I parked and we started our hike at 10:25 AM by crossing the road and starting on the TouchMeNot Trail which is also part of the Finger Lakes Trail System. The first mile of the trail is a constant ascent which gains about 770 feet to the trail junction with Campground Trail. As I have found in the past, the first part of the trail was littered with broken bottles! I have never understood the attraction of breaking bottles and making the trail dangerous for others! Once the glass gave out the nettles took over. I was happy to see that someone had been maintaining the trail and had beaten back the nettles and the prickers. The trail has several rocky sections and some with protruding roots so a good look at the trail surface helps. By 11:00 Am we were at the trail junction and could hear others approaching from the Campground Trail. A father, his son and their dog were hiking up ROM the campsites to go to Big Pond to fish. We talked for a few moments and I suggested they return by completing the loop trail since there is a nice viewpoint in the other direction. Sheila and I turned right on the TouchMeNot Trail as they headed down the trail to Big Pond. The trail began to descend through some rocks and the day was getting warmer although the humidity seemed low. As I finished the descent, I wasn't watching my foot placement, got my feet tangled up and fell hard on my right knee. It took a moment to assess the damage but I found I could easily bend my knee and it only had a deep abrasion and a contusion. I knew the smart thing to do was to turn around and get back to the car just in case it was worse than it looked. I decided to press on and complete the hike.
At 1.6 miles the TouchMeNot Trail meets the Little Pond Trail to complete the loop around Little Pond. We continued straight ahead on the TouchMeNot Trail to climb Cabot Mountain. I was glad the trail maintenance continued through this area as the nettles are quite prolific here. The sign at the trail junction noted that the Beaverkill Vista was only .5 miles away. I knew that it was slightly further and that parts of the climb were very steep. Sheila and I covered the flat part of the trail quickly and then started to wade through the nettles at the beginning of the climb. Soon we reached the steepest part of the trail which but the climb was easier without a layer of ice and snow! The trail leveled at the top of the climb but then started up again. It seems this part of the hike is one that I always leave out of my memory. The trail leveled for a few hundred feet and at 2.2 miles we reached the vista at 11:40 AM. The actual climb up Cabot is about .35 miles but gains 460 feet for a 25% grade. The steepest sections are over 35%! The view at the Beaverkill Vista was nice but it is definitely better in the winter when there are no leaves on the trees. I took some pictures of Little Pond experimenting with the long range zoom at exposure setting on my new Canon SX40. After getting a drink and a quick snack we headed back down Cabot Mountain. The descent was easier in some ways than the climb but it did bother my knee a little more and the steeper spots and a lot of loose rock. We were back at the trail junction by 12:15 PM and about 2.85 miles into the hike. I decided at this point to continue the loop around Little Pond so we turned right. After a little over a quarter mile we emerged into an open field that had a nice viewpoint toward Little Pond. The area has the foundation of an old house and a small pond. I took some pictures of the scenery and the foundation before walking to the edge of the pond. The pond was very muddy but the shots were interesting.
We headed back out to the main trail and down toward Little Pond. All of the small streams along the way were dry with only a little dampness showing. Along the way we walked out to a beaver meadow which has a nice backdrop of hills and I took some pictures. As we went back to the main trail, I could here hikers approaching and put Sheila on her leash. A family of four passed us as they headed up to the viewpoint. We continued down to the Loop Trail around the pond and turned right to walk around the far side of the pond. I was surprised to see that many of the campsites were occupied even though it was only Thursday. At the outlet end of the pond, we walked across the bridge and stopped so that I could take a few pictures. I had intended to walk down the access road to Barkaboom Road and then back to the car on the road. When we got to the Little Pond parking area, I changed my plan and turned left to get to the trail behind the bathrooms. The Campground Trail ascends TouchMeNot Mountain where it meets the TouchMeNot Trail at the same place we had been earlier in the day. As we started up the trail, I began to wonder at the wisdom of climbing some more especially with a sore knee! I was a little tired and found the climb challenging. From the campgrounds the climb is only .8 miles to the highest point and gains 750 feet but some section are over a 25% grade. After the highest point, we hiked about .25 miles to the trail junction where we turned right to head the 1.1 miles back to the car. The downhill was beginning to bother my knee but we made it back by 2:20 PM having covered 6.8 miles and 2200 vertical feet in just under 4 hours. The parking lot at Big Pond was full with some people swimming and others getting ready to canoe.
On Tuesday, August 21st I wanted to do a hike close to home since varsity cross country practice has started on Monday. I decided that we could go to Trout Pond as long as we did a different route. I decided to walk down Russell Brook to the lower trail junction, cross the brook, hike to Mud Pond and then around Trout Pond and back to the car. Crossing the brook where the old culvert used to be has always been tricky for me since the culvert was washed out several floods ago but I thought that the relatively dry weather would make crossing easier. Sheila and I arrived at the parking area on Morton Hill Road at about 10:00 AM and got right to hiking. I like to park at the upper parking area to add a little mileage to the hike and because I like the hike down the road. Russell Brook Road parallels Russell Brook and as we walked down the road there was a lot of noise coming from that brook. I was afraid I had underestimated the amount of rainfall in the recent storms which might make crossing the brook downstream difficult. I was beginning to regret the decision not to carry my "water shoes"! When we got to the first viewpoint over the falls I decided to stop to take a look at the water volume. I also wanted to take some pictures as the sun was not as bright as it had been during our last few hikes. Sheila was off her leash and behaving quite well as I took off my pack and got out the camera. The water volume was low and the amount of noise was due to the water flowing over the exposed rocks. I took a few pictures and then walked back up to the road. There were no cars in the lower parking area as we passed by and continued on down Russell Brook Road. The road was "open" and showed signs that vehicles had been driven on it recently. At .9 miles we passed the sign that announced the end of road maintenance. Shortly after the sign, at about 1 mile, was a barrier that divides the navigable road from what lies beyond. Several floods have all but wiped out the road in several places making vehicle traffic impossible from the barrier all the way to Russell Brook Campsites on the other end near Cooks Falls.
Just after the barrier was the first of many areas where the stream had eroded away the road. In this case, water running off the bank had washed a gully in the road. Further down the road were some more gullies and the finally an area where there was no road only brook. At this point we climbed the left bank carefully worked our way along until I could see some road below. The bank was wet and slippery but we made it back down without falling too far. The sun came out and warmed the air a bit but it was still very comfortable with low humidity. The increasing sun made taking pictures more difficult though. At 10:55 Am we were about 1.8 miles from the parking area when I noticed a small falls. I took a few pictures from the road and then we walked down to the stream bed and I took off my pack and took out my camera. As I was preparing to take some shots, Sheila was jumping into the water and running through the stream all the way up to the waterfall! She loves the water and it always seems to "energize" her! I took some pictures of this small drop and then convinced Sheila to get out of the water and back on the road. I had been surprised to find that there was a faint path through the vegetation on the road that seemed to be the result of human activity. Not far below the falls at 2.0 miles if the area where I wanted to cross. The water there was actually deeper and running more swiftly than I remembered. I did find a spot just above this to cross and soon we were both on the other side. We walked down to the culvert and I stood on some rocks to take a few pictures. Sheila decided to walk out on a tree trunk but then could not get turned around! She ended up on the very rounded culvert where she did managed to reverse her direction. She was very hesitant to get back on the of but made it Ok. I took a few more shots and looked up to see her back on the culvert! This time she would not jump over to the log and I had to "rescue" her.
We walked along the road to the junction with the Mud Pond Trail and turned right to start the long climb to the pond. The first part of the trail up to the register was very wet. Beyond the register and all the way to the pond the trail appeared to have been cleared and it almost appeared that a vehicle had been driven on the trail's surface. As the trail leveled it passed under some evergreen trees and the carpet of needles made a soft covering on the ground. We stopped at the beaver pond to take a few pictures and scared up a deer that had been drinking. The trail beyond this point is usually wet with a few stream crossing but on this day it was pretty dry. The trail skirted a ridge and some interesting piles but was cleared all the way to Mud Pond. From the brook the trail climbs almost 600 feet in 1.2 miles before it levels out at the pond. As we started around the pond, I noticed a path down to the shore to an area I had never visited. We walk down to the pond and found a designated campsite and a nice viewpoint from which to take some pictures. As I was taking some shots a bird flew across the pond. When I later looked at the pictures it appeared to be a bald eagle. Back on the main trail we walked through some wet areas as we continued around the pond to the trail unction at 4.4 miles. I considered walking directly back to the parking area but turned left to start over the hill to Trout Pond. This trail also seemed to have been cleared recently. Over the next mile the trail rose 400 feet to the highest point of the hike on the shoulder of Cherry Ridge. From that point the trail drops 450 feet over the next .75 miles to the shore of Trout Pond.
As we descended to the bridge, I heard voices and put Sheila on her leash. A family of four was at the lower lean-to. I took some pictures of Trout Pond and then said hello as we passed by the visitors. As we walked down the eastern shore of the pond we met another family of four. They have a house on Morton Hill Road and we talked about other hikes in the area that they might enjoy. At the outlet end of the pond we met another group of three. I took a few pictures of the pond before heading down the trail toward Russell Brook Falls. I had not planned to stop at the falls but I usually end up stopping anyway. There wasn't too much water going over the falls but I liked the view and took some shots. We didn't spend too much time before returning to the main trail to hike up to the car. A car coming down the road stopped to ask us if they were headed for the trail to Trout Pond. I told them to park in the lot below and then Sheila and I walked back to the car. We arrived at 2:00 PM having covered 8.4 miles and over 1500 vertical feet in under 4 hours.
On Saturday, August 18th, I had planned to hike to Balsam and Belleayre Mountains and the Belleayre Ski area but was undecided whether to approach from Lost Clove or Rider Hollow. I remembered that the route from Lost Clove was very steep starting right at the beginning which made me lean toward Rider Hollow. I asked Cindy if she would like to go and was a little surprised when she said "Yes". Cindy likes to hike but usually prefers rolling terrain. After consulting my previous trip reports and the maps, I decided that we would hike from Rider Hollow and skip Balsam as there is only one limited view point on that mountain. I thought it might be fun to eat at the picnic tables on Belleayre and was hoping for some nice views to the northeast and southwest. The morning was cloudy and hazy so we were not in any hurry to leave. The weather forecast was for drier air with a temperature in the low 70's with a partly cloudy sky. Partly cloudy skies are much better for photography than bright sunlight. We put Sheila in the backseat and headed for Roscoe to take Route 206 to Route 30 around the Pepacton Reservoir. We turned right on Route 30 and then picked up the New York City roads at the bridge. At Millbrook Road we turned right and drove to the very end where we turned left on Dry Brook Road. After a short trip we turned right on Todd Mountain Road and then right on Rider Hollow Road. The roads were in good shape including the short stretch of Rider Hollow Road that leads to the trailhead. When we arrived at 10:40 AM, there were no other cars in the lot. We got out and let Sheila run while we got ready. She is much better now that she has been out a few times and comes when called. She still likes to go "off trail" to follow her nose but comes back quickly when called. For the first .35 miles we were on the red Oliverea-Mapledale Trail that runs along a brook. The brook was almost dry but rose high enough during the floods last fall to wash out the footbridge and reroute the stream bed. The bridge has been replaced and the trail rerouted up a hill and away from the stream. As we climb the hill, we heard the noise of a tree beginning to fall which made an exciting start to our hike
At about .35 miles, we took the yellow Mine Hollow Trail to the left toward the col between Balsam and Belleayre. The red Oliverea-Mapledale Trail continues up to the col between Balsam and Eagle. The Mine Hollow Trail ascends about 750 feet from the trail junction and stretches .86 miles. The gradient averages only about 17% but this includes some flatter spots with a few short but interesting steeper areas. Along the way there are a few large rocks to walk around but the hike is otherwise a nice walk through the woods. The day was cooler than previous ones and the humidity was relatively low which made walking even more pleasant. By 11:35 Am we were at the junction with the blue Pine Hill-West Branch Trail where we turned left toward Belleayre. We had hiked 1.4 miles and gained almost 1000 feet in 50 minutes. For a short distance this trail is flat but then it begins to ascend to gain the 500 feet more needed to get to the high point ion Belleayre. We hit the junction with the Belleayre Ridge Trail just after noon after hiking .9 miles from the trail junction. We checked out the USGS benchmark before following the trail out to the ski area where I wanted to stop to eat lunch. The walk along the woods road to the ski lodge was about a mile and a little longer and hillier than I remembered. When we reached the lodge, I was surprised to find we had the entire area to ourselves. Cindy sat at a table while I walked out onto the deck to take some pictures toward the southwest.
After eating we headed out to the nearest ski slope to take some pictures to the northeast. The haze had cleared and the view was good. I have to admit that green is not my favorite color and I made a note to return hear in the fall. Sheila was having a great time running around the open area. We walked a little further out to the next ski slope and took some more photographs. I convinced Cindy to walk out the road a little farther to the next slope as I though I remembered it had some different views. As we walked along the road, I saw to hikers ahead. I put Sheila on her leash but she was well behaved as they approached. We talked briefly before walking in separate directions. The next ski slope was a double black diamond and fell away quickly but the view was not much different than from the others. We turned around and headed back toward the lodge where we saw a young man and woman walking. These four people were the only others we saw for the whole day. The walk back to the Belleayre high point seemed to go very quickly and we then Mae the turn onto the Pine Hill-West Branch Trail. The hike was literally all downhill from this point except for a few nearly flat parts. As we descended, I did miss my poles which I had been leaving home while training Sheila on a leash. At the next junction we turned right on the Mine Hollow Trail and continued our trip back down to the car. We arrived back at the car at 2:45 PM having covered 6.9 miles and climbing 1800 feet in 4 hours. This included over half an hour when we were stopped and our leisurely photoshoot across the ridge.
On Thursday, August 16th, I wanted to get in a hike close to home but was tired of Frick Pond and Cables Lake. Having been to Long Pond earlier in the week I decided to go to Alder lake to hike to the high point on Millbrook Ridge which, at 3480 feet, is very close to another 3500 foot peak! I had a few morning chores to complete but this also allowed the early morning haze to burn off. When Sheila and I arrived at Alder Lake at 10:30 AM there was only one car in the parking lot and the day was sunny but with some nice clouds for contrast. I kept Sheila on her leash by the lake as I did not want her to get too enthusiastic and jump right in. I took some pictures from the "lawn" and then walked down to the dam and took a few more. I experimented with the exposure on my new camera as the sun was a little too bright at times. When I was done with the pictures, we headed around the north side of the lake and I let Sheila off the leash. About halfway around to the trail junction, I saw a woman walking toward us. We stopped and talked and Sheila was pretty well-behaved. Carol from Cornwall had camped overnight after hiking the day before and was headed back to the parking area. After we parted, it occurred to me I should have asked if she had been at a campsite or at the Beaver Meadow lean-to. We continued to walk around the loop trail until we got to the junction with the Millbrook Ridge Trail where we turned left to start up to the ridge. I was happy to see that the trail showed signs of some maintenance. Someone had trimmed back the encroaching nettles and cut the blowdown across the trail in several places. The trail begins to gain some elevation almost immediately and crosses a few small streams.
At around 1.7 miles we stopped to walk out to a beaver meadow so that I could take some pictures. The stream through the meadow had some water with a few deeper pools and Sheila had a great time running up and down the stream. The water seems to energize her but she returned to me each time I called. After some shots, we went back out to the main trail with the lean-to being my next objective. The walk to the lean-to is about .6 miles and the elevation gain is 250 feet. We arrived at about 11:40 AM and we walked out so that I could take some more pictures. We didn't stay long and were soon back on the main trail. Just around the corner from the lean-to the trail turns a little more to the north. On that turn is another beaver meadow that is perhaps my favorite. A few pictures more and we were on our way to some more serious elevation gain to the ridge. Over the next 1.15 miles we gained 735 feet to the highest point on the ridge. In several places the trail levels and then hits a steep section. At the top of the climb the trail levels some and I noticed a small rock cairn on a boulder to the left of the trail. Someone obviously thought this was the highest point while I always use a point in the woods a little to the right of the trail. We continued until the trail started to go down again and I began to get the idea that we should continue to the Beecher Lake lookout. I decide that the round trip from the high point would be good enough and we started back at about 12:30 PM. The walk back seemed much faster than the walk out. Part of this was that the way back is mostly downhill but it was also due to the fact that we did not stop for pictures. As we approached the lawn of the Coykendall mansion, I saw two different groups of people enjoying the fine weather by the shore of the lake. Sheila and I were back at the car by 2:00 PM having covered 7.4 miles in 3.5 hours with about half and hour for picture taking.
On Monday, August 13th I wanted to get out and hike but was still battling a summer cold and allergies. I decided to stay local and go for the exercise so I got Sheila and headed for Long Pond. This would also allow me to again test my new Canon SX40 to compare some of my favorite shots of the area with some from the new camera. I parked the car and we were on the snowmobile trail to Long Pond by 12:15 PM. Sheila had been getting better off her lead and I thought this would be a good time for more training. Right out of the parking area the trail starts up a small hill and keeping amoeba pace can really warm you up! The day was warm and it was humid. After the climb the trail levels some and we were soon at the turn to the right that is the spur trail to the shore of Long Pond. This area tends to be very muddy so I put Sheila on her leash and tied her to a tree well away from the deep mud at the edge of the pond. I tried to take some photos of the pond but the sun was very bright and there weren't very many clouds in the sky. When we got back to the main trail, I unleashed the hound and we were soon at a trail junction. I had thought I might turn left and take the short loop back to the car but I was feeling pretty good so we turned right to head around the longer 6 mile loop. After a few encounters with deep puddles and muddy areas we were at the spur trail to the lean-to. It was 1:00 PM and we had hiked 1.83 miles. I had been to the lean-to several times and it doesn't offer much so we continued on the main trail.
At 2.5 miles the trail ends at an intersection with a woods road. We turned right to walk to a small field that has some nice views of a ridge. The field had some piles of logs and logging equipment. After a few shots, we headed back to the road to continue our loop. At 3 miles, we met Basily Road and continued to bear left since a right turn heads toward Wild Meadow Road and Round Pond. Basily Road is mostly flat and then heads down a little to a beaver pond near the Peters Hunting camp at around 3.6 miles. The camp owners have a private bridge across a deep stream and the trail used to cross below the bridge. Crossing in all but the direst times meant getting wet! The owners have opened the bridge to snowmobiles and hikers and the trail is marked across the bridge. On the other side Basily Road takes a more than 90 degree turn to head southwest. At some point the road becomes Flugertown Road. There are numerous legal and illegal camping Ares along the road as it runs parallel to a branch of Willowemoc Creek. At 5.7 miles the road changes from dirt and gravel to pavement and it was here I decided to leash Sheila again. The hike back to the car was only .5 miles but along the way I took a few pictures. We were back at the car by 2:45 PM having covered 6.2 miles in 2.5 hours.
On Monday, August 6th I wanted to get out and hike but was still battling a summer cold and allergies. I decided to stay local and go for the exercise so I got Sheila and headed for Frick Pond. This would also allow me to again test my new Canon SX40 to compare some of my favorite shots of the area with some from the new camera. I parked the car and we were on the Quick Lake Trail by 10:45 AM. I knew I would probably keep Sheila on her leash for most of the hike as she likes to follow animal trails around the ponds. The trails were wet after some recent rainfall and there were signs that some trail maintenance had taken place. We stopped at the bridge at the outlet end of Frick Pond and I took pictures of the pond, Flynn's Point and Sheila. It was shaping up to be a nice day with some sunlight and large billowing, white clouds in a blue sky. We headed on around the pond with Sheila straining to smell every track left my any critter. At the trail junction we headed left to continue on the Quick Lake Trail. At this point the trail maintenance ended and we were walking through thick ferns with only a faint track. As we entered the woods, all the blowdown that had accumulated was still there with some more recent additions. I had hoped someone would have gotten there with a chainsaw but I now realize that will probably never happen. This popular trail just isn't a high priority! It has been a long time since I have done any real work with an axe but that may be the only way this will get cleared. We continued on up the Quick Lake Trail to Iron Wheel junction arriving there at about 11:25 Am after hiking 1.5 miles. I was actually a little tired but we turned right to continue on the Quick Lake Trail to Junkyard Junction and the Flynn Trail. This part of the hike can seem long or short and on this day it went pretty quickly. In 1.6 miles the trail gains about 600 feet of elevation and we arrived at the junction at noon.
We turned right on the Flynn Trail and headed toward Hodge Pond. The trail was damp in some places and wet in others. There were parts that were almost obscured by shrubs and tree branches which need to be beaten back. This part of the hike is only about .5 miles long and descends most of the way. After we turned at the gate, we found the blowdown as bad as ever with a few additions. At the trail around the pond, we turned left to go around the back of the pond on the wide jeep trail which was nicely mowed. We walked down to the edge of the pond so that I could take some pictures before continuing on around to the outlet end of the pond. We arrived in the clearing at the outlet at 12:30 PM about 4.3 miles into the hike. I again took pictures and then got Sheila and I a drink. We continued up the hill on the Flynn Trail and I made a note of our starting miles. This part of the trail is a little uphill but flattens at the top just before the junction with the Big Rock Trail. We arrived at that junction at 12:50 PM and I was surprised to find that the distance from the pond was about .75 miles. We continued straight ahead on the Flynn Trail to get back to the car. This part of the hike is very familiar and can be a little boring as there isn't much to see. The hike is all downhill for about 1.7 miles and loses 600 feet of elevation. As we were nearing the end, I was looking off into the woods when Sheila began to pull on the leash. I saw a dark shape run across the trail ahead of us and disappear into the woods. It was too low to the ground to be a deer and to big for a dog or fox. I hurried us passed this spot since I didn't know what Sheila would do if she saw a bear. A little further on a deer was standing almost by the gate across the trail. We headed left to stay on the Flynn Trail and encountered another dog and the owners. We stopped for a moment while Sheila and the other dog met. I discussed some possible hiking routes with the couple before heading back to the car. We were back by 1:30 PM having completed 6.7 miles in 2 hours and 45 minutes.
On Thursday, August 2nd, I decided to take a hike despite the call for overcast and foggy conditions. I waited until about 11:00 Am until, some fog had burned off and then headed for Dry Brook Ridge to hike to the lookouts from Hill Road. We arrived at the small parking area just before noon and got started on the trail right away. The temperature was 75 degrees but had been rising steadily. This area as new to Sheila and she had her nose to the ground as soon as I let her off the leash. As we headed up through the pine plantation I noticed that I was more tired than usual. I have had a summer cold and allergies for several weeks and just can't seem to have a day when I feel even close to 100%! We continued on up the woods road with Sheila roaming a little too far for my comfort. I eventually put her back on the leash where she seemed very comfortable. Having Sheila on the leash also means I get a little extra help up the climbs. As we started to get to the upper part of the trail the prickers and other vegetation began to close in. As with many of the trails that do not lead to 3500 foot peaks, this one is not very well maintained even though it is popular. By 12:45 PM we had walked 1.85 miles and had finished most of the climbing. At this point the trail made a 90 degree turn from northeast to southeast. We hiked another flat .4 miles to the junction with the Dry Brook Ridge Trail where we stopped for a quick drink before turning right to head toward the viewpoints.
From the trail junction to the viewpoints the trail is mostly flat with a few small climbs. It can be wet along the flatter parts but on this day is was only damp. The trail winds away from the edge of the ridge to hit the middle before it comes back to the edge. There aren't many views until the viewpoints as they are blocked by the trees. By 1:30 PM we had hiked the extra mile to the viewpoints and were 3.3 miles into the hike. We stopped at the first lookout and I was surprised to find almost not haze and some nice billowing white clouds. I was anxious to see how my new Canon SX40 would do under these conditions and I took pictures near and far with some different settings. I use the zoom to get some shots of the Pepacton which clearly showed the water level was low. We got a snack and a drink before turning for 'home'. Sheila had jumped down from the trail to the lookout with no problem but I wounder5ed if she could easily jump back up. I need not have worried as she can jump well over her height from a standing start. The trip back is always a little boring as the hike is an out-and-back. We kept a good pace and arrived back at the trail junction by 2:00 PM. From the junction the hike is all downhill and the lower part of the trail is a woods road. We arrived back at the car at 3:00 PM having covered 6.5 miles and 1600 feet of elevation gain in 3 hours.
On Tuesday, July 31st, I was ready to take on a peak and felt Sheila was ready also. I wanted a peak with a well-defined trail not too far from home so I chose Panther Mountain. I have done Panther so many times that I had not hiked it in some time. I thought this would be a good one for Sheila since it is relatively short with only a few small scrambles along the way. I knew that on a Tuesday we would not see many people but thought that as OK. I was a little apprehensive about how she would react at Giant Ledge but thought I would probably keep her on the leash at that point. We arrived at the parking area on Route 47 at about 9:20 Am and, to my surprise, found several cars already parked. One car had some people around it but I could not tell whether they were starting or finishing. Sheila and I got started pretty quickly by crossing the road and heading out the trail. A few places were damp from the recent rain but the brook was almost dry. I promised myself that I would count the number of small climbs along the way as each one always seems to be the last. I had let Sheila off the leash almost immediately after crossing the road and she was behaving rather nicely. As we started one of the short climbs I looked up to see a large German shepherd coming toward us with his owners calling him to no avail. I was prepared for the worst but when the dogs met they seemed to get along well. This was important since Sheila needs more "socialization"! I talked for several minutes to the owners about other hikes in the Catskills and then we went our separate ways. We finished the sixth short climb and arrived at the turn to Giant Ledge and Panther. I didn't feel like we were hurrying but it took only 20 minutes to walk the .75 miles from the road including the time we stopped to talk.
The trail after the turn was about as dry as the trail up to the turn with only a few damp spots. We did meet two young men coming down the trail in the opposite direction. We passed each other quickly and I did not ask them if they had been all the way to Panther. When we arrived at the lookout toward Slide the leaves on the trees blacked most of the view but I noticed that there was a lot of fog. The last obstacle before the Ledges was the short climb and rock scramble. Sheila and I both made it without a problem. Sheila has some well-muscled legs that allow her to jump some impressive heights from a standing start! At the top of the climb, I put Sheila back on the leash so that I would have control of her at the Ledges. We arrived at the first lookout at about 10:15 AM to find a thick blanket of fog covering everything. I could also see that Panther was enveloped in a cloud or fog. The forecast implied the fog would clear in the morning so I hoped we would get some views from Panther. As we started on the trail down to the col the number of cobwebs I encountered told me we were the first visitors of the day. Sheila was back off her leash and negotiating the way down without a problem. We hit the bottom of the col and began the climb up Panther. Parts of the Panther trail get a little steep at times but there always seems to be a switchback or flatter area. There were a couple of muddy places but most of the trail was dry. We arrived at the summit of Panther at 11:20 AM and found there was still a covering of heavy fog and now views. I took a couple of pictures of Sheila and then visited the lookout just before the summit. There were no views here either so I let Sheila off the leash and started back to the car.
When I let Sheila off the leash I could tell she was highly energized. She decided to run up and own the trail ignoring my commands to come. This "game" she plays is annoying and could present a danger is some situations. In this case, I ignored her for a few minutes after which she came to me and I put her back on the leash. As we worked our way down Panther I hoped that the fog would clear by the time we were back at Giant Ledge. We did meet one woman hiking up Panther dressed as if she might be trail running. I often think that my dress for hiking and large day pack are overkill but I have needed much of what I carry to provide first aid to other hikers. The trip back to the Ledges went quickly and I was pleased to find that the fog was clearing. I stopped in two different spots to get some pictures. The scene was interesting as the fog was still hanging on the peaks but much of the view was clear. From the ledges we headed down toward the turn to Route 47. On the way we met a young couple with camping gear headed for Giant Ledge. We made the turn and headed down toward the car making good time on the return trip. Our final encounter was with a group of four people. Sheila was being friendly and one man in the group correctly pegged her as a yellow lab-husky mix. We were back at the car at 1:40 PM having covered 6.3 miles in 4 hours and 15 minutes including numerous stops. The pictures I took this time with my new Canon SX40 were considerably better. I think the use of the landscape setting made a big difference as well as better lighting conditions. The camera has some other nice features so I think I will end up keeping it.
On Friday, June 27th, I decided to get Sheila out again since the weather forecast was spectacular. We had not been to Trout Pond in some time and I thought this would be a good choice. I also knew that the recent rains might have increased the flow at Russell Brook Falls. I had a number of jobs to take care of in the morning so that Sheila and I did not get parked on Morton Hill Road until 12:30 PM. We started down the road under very sunny skies. I took some time to walk off the road to my favorite viewpoint across from the upper falls and found very little water in the brook. I took some pictures before we walked down to the lower parking area where there were three or four cars parked. A group of three or four guys were wrestling a large cooler into the back of a pickup. We said "Hi" and Sheila and I continued then down the road to the falls. I almost decided to bypass the falls because of the low water level but changed my mind. Sheila and I jumped over a new downed tree and slid down the path to the stream bed. I took off my pack and hitched Sheila to a tree. After a few pictures, I retrieved Sheila and allowed her to frolic in the cold, running water. We continued our hike by returning to the main woods road and walking up to the outlet end of Trout Pond. We arrived at 1:10 PM after hiking 1.6 miles. I took a few pictures of the pond with my new Canon SX40 camera. My Kodak 980 has served me well but I was looking for an upgrade. I had to choose between the Canon SX40 and the Nikon P510. The day was very bright which makes taking pictures on AUTO a little difficult at times. I never really learned all the settings on my Kodak but I think I may be motivated to learn them on the Canon. After taking some pictures, I let Sheila off the leash and we continued to the inlet end and the lean-tos. I stopped here to take a few more pictures and noticed the lake was very low.
From the inlet end of the lake, we headed up the trail toward Cherry Ridge. The temperature had risen into the mid 80's and it was very humid. We worked our way up to the highest point on the trail and started down toward Mud Pond. Sheila was still behaving well off the leash with only a few deviations off the trail to follow interesting game trails. She does have the unnerving quality of stopping a staring intently up the trail. My mind always runs to other people or a bear but she is usually staring at a sign and or moving fern.We made the turn on the woods road back to the falls and climbed a small hill before starting the long descent. Along the way we did encounter a couple coming toward us. Sheila "woofed" only once and actually let them pet her before we separated. At the large fire ring and campsite near the bottom of the hill there were tents and tarps set up but no one seemed to be "home". We continued out the road to the lower parking area where we met the same group of young men still wrestling with the cooler. This time the cooler was full of beer and they we headed back to their campsite. Sheila and I walked back up the road to the car arriving at 2:45 PM. We had covered 5.6 miles in 2 hours and 20 minutes. When I looked at the pictures I had taken, I was disappointed in the quality which was not as good as from my Kodak. I hoped that the bright day was at least partly to blame.
On Saturday, July 21st, I was ready to take on a peak and felt Sheila was ready also. Cindy decided to stay home. I wanted a peak with a well-defined trail not too far from home so I chose Slide Mountain. I have done Slide so many times that I had not hiked it in some time. I thought this would be a good one for Sheila particularly since she needs to get used to other hikers and Slide always has other hikers. The temperature was not expected to rise above the mid 70's and I knew it would be even cooler on the mountain which was a good thing since I knew I was a little out of shape. We arrived at 10:30 AM to find a few cars in the loot and a group of four young hikers getting ready to head out. I got ready and we were off just ahead of the other group. This may have been a bad idea sine it led me to "race" the race the others by trying to stay ahead of a group of younger people. The Neversink was completely dry when we crossed as was the next small stream. Most of the rocks down low on the first part of the trail were damp from some rain and condensation which made them slippery. Sheila was pulling well which actually helps in most cases as long as she takes it easy over the slippery rocks. She is responding well to verbal commands and a slight tug on the leash. The first .4 miles up to the woods road turn went by in about 12 minutes since Sheila was setting a rapid pace. I thought about heading up the Steps Trail but I had not called ahead for permission for that day so I turned right to head up the main trail. I could here the other group behind so we continued our "race". The rocks on the Slide trail are always a bother except in winter but they did not seem as bad this time. I was beginning to feel the combination of Sheila's pace and the steepness of the trail as we continued toward the 3500 foot sign. This combined with my lack of hiking in July had me breathing hard. We cam upon a hiker sitting on a rock and I said "Hello" as we passed. I did not see him again.
As we continued up, two hikers passed us coming down and I began to see another group ahead of us. With one group "pushing" and another "pulling" we made good time. As we approached the group ahead I took a firm grip on the leash as they had a dog with them. The dog was not on a leash but seemed unperturbed by Sheila. Sheila behaved herself quite nicely as she and the other dog became acquainted. These hikers were from Huntington on Long Island and we chatted briefly before Sheila and I continued up the trail. Now with two groups behind we had even more reason to keep the pace. Several more hikers passed us on the way down as we continued through the 3500 foot level and arrived at "The Beach" at 1.7 miles into the hike at 11:30 AM. At this point the trail levels slightly and makes a turn to the left. The trail is covered with white quartz pebbles and sand left over from a time when the Catskills were submerged in an ocean. I saw two more hikers up ahead that were traveling at about the same pace as us since our distance neither grew nor diminished. At 2.0 miles we were at the junction with the Curtis-Ormsbee Trail where the other two hikers were consulting their map. I got the feeling that they had not hiked Slide before but was impressed that they had a map. We passed them and continued on our way. The trail here is almost flat and has a nice surface of white pebbles and pine needles. I could hear some hikers coming down the trail making some noise. Two men and a boy showed up and Sheila object some to the noise the young man was making.
I decided to pass by the lookout toward Giant Ledge and Slide and push on to the top. BY the number of cars in the lot and the people we had passed and the hikers coming down the mountain, I judged that the summit would be almost empty. We passed by the highest point on Slide and continued to the rock outcropping to find only two hikers. It was 11:55 AM and we had covered 2.7 miles. I gave Sheila a drink and made sure I hydrated also although I wasn't very thirsty. I tried to take a few pictures of the Ashokan Reservoir, Cornell and Wittenberg but the leaves on the trees and the haze effectively prevented any good shots. I decided not to go down to the spring as the descent through the rocks was going to be difficult with Sheila on a leash! I did get some nice cloud pictures before packing up and heading back down. On the way we stopped at the lookout over Giant Ledge and got a better few of Cornell and Wittenberg. There was still some haze but I got some good shots. A hiker from Ithaca stopped while we were that and we chatted for a while. Sheila and I started down and the other hiker continued on to the peak. On the way down we met the two hikers who had stopped at The Curtis-Ormsbee Trail and the the group of four younger hikers from earlier in the parking lot. We stopped to talk to the latter and Sheila seemed to hit it off with the two girls in the group. Farther down we met the group with the dog and were passed by the two young men who had been relaxing at the summit. We met several more small groups on our way down the mountain. By 1:10 PM we had made it back to the Phoenicia-East Branch Trail where we turned right. When we got to the Neversink at the parking area, we stopped and I took pictures of the completely dry riverbed. We were back at the car by 1:40 PM having covered 5.4 miles in 3 hours.
On Tuesday, July 17th, I was ready to finally get back on the trails. It had been almost two weeks without any significant hiking. In that span of time I had helped construct a horse fence and battled a summer cold. The horse fence required digging 142 post holes, planting the posts and then running two strands of wire. Cindy also wanted to get out so we decided to head to Frick Pond with Sheila. I miss hiking with Sheba but her left hip is just too weak to let her get out for much more than a hike from the house. Sheila is still a handful but is getting better with her "trail manners". We arrived at the Frick Pond parking area around noon and headed across the road and up the Flynn Trail. I immediately discovered that the mosquitoes and other biting insects were out. I asked Cindy if she wanted some repellent but she declined and we walked on. The trip up the Flynn Trail was pretty but uneventful. We let Sheila off the leash and periodically called her back and she responded well. She really didn't stray too far from us but was constantly following small animal trails. We hit the junction with the Big Rock Trail at about 12:35 PM after hiking 1.7 miles. Here, we decided to go down the Big Rock Trail and then hike the Logger's Loop. Going down the Big Rock Trail is much easier than combing up it as it is steeper than the Flynn Trail. We were at Times Square by 1:00 PM and a total hike of 2.9 miles. The Logger's Loop is a right turn and we were soon gaining some elevation again on this trail. We walked a little over a mile to Iron Wheel Junction and made it by 1:30 PM. At this point, we decided to head back on the Quick Lake Trail so we turned left. Up to this point all of the small streams along the way had been bone dry and even the trails were dry. The small stream that is usually flowing on the Quick Lake Trail had only a little water in it and Sheila was able to get a drink and cool down. As we continued toward Frick Pond, it was obvious that the dip in the cool water had revitalized Sheila. We crossed the bridge at the outlet to Frick Pond and I resisted taking the same picture for the hundredth time. By 2:10 PM we were back at the car having covered 5.5 miles in 2 hours and 10 minutes.
On Friday, July 6th, Cindy and I decided again to take a walk when the temperature reached the 90's. I was tired of our usual hikes at Frick Pond or Cables Lake so we decided to head to Berry Brook Road to hike to Huggins Lake. We arrived at about 1:00 PM, parked and got right on the trail. Sheila was excited since she had been here only once before and that was during the winter. We headed off at a quick pace and were soon climbing the hill on a wide woods road. Although the hill is not steep, it does gain a respectable 650 feet over about 1,2 miles. Somewhere on the ascent we decided to let Sheila off the leash. We were happy that Sheila responded to her fee Dom by staying on the trail and relatively close to us. She came back when I called and I was sure to praise her and provide a reward. After reaching the top of the hill we began the gentle descent towards the lake. From the high trail, we could see the lake below peeking through the trees. We made the left turn and headed down the last steep descent to the lake. I decided to put Sheila back on the leash since I did not want her playing in the mud near the lake. Once we got down to the water, there was little mud to worry about and we headed over to the dam. There wasn't much haze and the views of the lake were pretty. I led Sheila down to the deeper water near the dam and she immediately plunged in and started to swim! I want to take her to a lake where I can get in with her and let her swim a little more! Sheila came out of the water and I took a few pictures before heading back. At this point Sheila went "crazy" running around and around! I guess the cooling effect of the water suited her! I kept her on her leash to the top of the steep hill but let her off when we made the sharp right turn. She ran up the trail and back many times between Cindy and myself but stayed close and came when called with a little persuasion. Once we hit the top of the hill the walk back was pretty easy. On the way down Sheila went off trail after a chipmunk so I hooked her up again. I was glad that I had her on the leash when a group of partridge decided to take to flight. Sheila seemed very "interested" in these birds as the golden lab in her took over. We continued our walk back to the car finishing a little less than 4 miles in a little less than 1.5 hours
On Thursday, July 5th, I decided to take a hike when the temperature reached 92 degrees at around 2:00 PM. I was surprised when Cindy agreed to head to Walnut Mountain to continue my investigation of the trails there. We got Sheila in the car and headed to the park arriving at about 2:30 PM to find that a girls' camp was using the park. The girls were from Camp Hedvah where I had taught computer usage at least 10 years before. When I approached the chaperones, they recognized me and we had a short chat. It was clear that the girls were only using the park facilities and were not hiking so Cindy and I got on the trails right away. We took the A1 loop trail up the hill and started around the mountain in an anticlockwise direction. When we got to the blue bike trail up the mountain on the west side, we took it and walked up to the next loop trail. We took a left and soon ended up in a familiar spot at a trail that accesses the highest loop around the summit. We turned right and circled the summit to the east side and then turned right on the A4 trail. There are several foundations in this area and one that is quite large. The A4 took us back down the mountain where we turned right to complete a loop. At the A1 we turned right and headed back down to the parking area where we turned left and walked out the north end of the lot. From here we found the A3 trail and started to hike along it. This trail has several "features" used during the Civil War re-enactment that is held at the park each July. After a few confusing moments we were able to follow the A3 trail to the A2 where we turned left and walked to the top of a short but steep hill. We turned left and walked back to the A1 where we made a right and started the loop once again. This time we continued to follow the A1 around the mountain, down through a field, across a rock quarry and to the road near the soccer fields. By this time we had covered 4 miles in just over 1.5 hours and decided to head home. The temperature had risen a few degrees but it was good to get out.
On Monday, July 2nd I decided to get in a longer hike but one without to many climbs as I still have Sheila on a leash. In addition, almost two weeks without a serious hike had left me a little out of shape. I decided to head for Bear Spring Wildlife Management Area between Downsville and Walton since it has many option for shorter or longer hikes and can be challenging without major climbs. I have hiked almost all the trails in this area multiple times but I had an idea for a new loop and wanted to try it out. The weather report was for bright, sunny skies and there was no mention of rain. As we left Livingston Manor, the sun was already baking the landscape. My plan was to park at he main parking area at the top of Bear Spring Mountain and hike to Russ Gray Pond as I thought I had not been there before! We parked at about 11:15 AM and I began to survey the map at the kiosk. I realized I had been to the pond and that another plan was needed. I decided that we would hike down West Trout Brook road and then take the trail that goes over Fork Mountain and is part of the Finger lakes Trail. From here I intended to descend to Middle Pond on East Trout Brook Road. From there we could walk up the road to Launt Pond and back to the car or walk back up to the east ridge and then back to the car. We could also hike from Middle Pond up to the East ridge and then back to the car. These variations provided some thought as we hiked along. The first mile of the hike along West Trout Brook Road went quickly and we turned left into the woods onto the trail along the middle ridge. I noticed the sign for the FLT and thought about connecting some of the sections I had hiked. The first thing I noticed was that the grass along the trail was not mowed and very high. The trails are designed for horses and I guess they don't mind the tall grass.
The walk along the ridge has no views but the day was so beautiful that enjoyed walking along with Sheila who usually pushes the pace. The trail meanders up and down for about 2.4 miles and much of this is in the sun. At 2.3 miles we stopped and I walked out to a flat rock outcropping to take pictures of one of the clear cuts that dot the landscape. The green vegetation contrasted with blue skies and puffy white clouds was stunning. We continued on along the trail until about 3.4 miles where a trail turns to the left and descends to Middle Pond. Descends to the right word here as we dropped 650 feet in a little less than a mile. This is not a great change when compared to the trails in the Catskills but is one of the steepest trails at bear Spring. We crossed the road at 1:00 PM after hiking 4.4 miles. We were standing on the small bridge that crosses the dam on Middle Pond. The beavers had effectively blocked the outlet so that very little water was going over the spillway. I took several pictures of the pond with the blue sky in the background. I let Sheila get in the water which was deeper than I thought! Sheila decided that she wanted to swim and did the dog paddle like she was made for it. Sheila got out and dried herself off. I decided to continue up the trail to the east ridge using the McCoy Hill Cutoff. At about 4.9 miles after climbing to a trail junction, we stopped and I took some more pictures of another clear cut. We took the left trail which is the cutoff and began to climb. A little further up we stopped again as there was a nice view down the valley between the two ridges. We continued on the trail which proved why it is called McCoy Hill. The 1.35 miles from Middle Pond to the east ridge gains 720 feet. The trail ends in a field at the junction with the trail along the east ridge around 5.7 miles into the hike.
Walking along the east ridge trail feels a lot like the trail on the central ridge. The trail is a wide road which was very grass but at least the grass was shorter. At about 6.0 miles a trail cuts back down to a small parking area on East Trout Brook Road just south of Launt Pond. As we continued to walk Sheila kept her nose to the ground proving she is a scent not sight "hound". In doing so she missed a deer and some turkeys as they made way for us. At 6.6 miles another shorter and steeper trail headed back down to the road. We continued to walk and I was getting a little bored. We stopped several times around 7.3 miles so that I could take some more pictures down the valley along Route 206. I was dismayed to find another clear cut area on the ridge on the other side of Route 206 in an area where the fall colors were so brilliant last year! After the photography session, we walked out toward Route 206 to about 7.8 miles and then turned left to head back to the car. The trail climbs a short hill and then descends to East Trout Brook Road. From the road the trail ascends back to the parking area passing through woods and then a field. We were back at the car at 2:50 PM having covered 8.9 miles in 3.5 hours.
On Friday, June 29th, I decided to head back to Walnut Mountain park near Liberty to try out some more trails. I wanted to park at the West Lake Street parking area to investigate this access to the park. Sheila and I arrived at the parking area at noon and got going immediately. There were no markers for any trails and no signs to indicate where they began. After a short false start I found that the road that left the back end of the park was actually the start of the orange A2 trail that ended up at the main parking area. The trail was actually marked on my GPS as the Liberty Park Road. It was shaded under the trees and a very pleasant walk for about .5 miles. The trail emptied out on an open field just below the baseball diamond. We walked around the bottom of the field and then up to the main parking area. From the parking area we turned left on the road that runs by the soccer field. About halfway down the road the A1 trail started up the hill, passed through what looked like a quarry and then climbed a hill through a field. We came to a trail junction where we had been the day before. I decided to continue straight ahead on the A1 trail and reverse the loop from the previous day. The walk was pleasant and we were soon wrapping around the mountain. We made the big right hand turn that took us from traveling north to east. At 1.9 miles we were at the spot where the A2 trail starts as a mowed path through a field. We continued on the A1 trail to complete the loop around the lower part of the mountain. As we descended toward the main parking area on the A1 trail, we turned right on the A4 trail to continue on the loop.
At 1:00 PM and 2.4 miles into the hike, we were at the junction of the A4 and A1. We continued straight ahead on the A4. At the junction of A4 and A5 we headed to the right on the A5 as we had done the previous day. On this day I decided to skip the side trip to the summit. We continued around the summit as we had the day before and I chose to take the "high road" this time as it skirted the small cliffs near the summit. When we were back at the paths to the summit, we continued on around but took the right branch this time which took us back down to the A4. Once on the A4, we walked back to the A1, turned left on the A1 and walked to the junction with the A2 trail. We turned right on the A2 trail and headed north along a wide path mowed in the field. There were no markings here and even though I was equipped with a map the trails were confusing. At about 3.65 miles I missed a turn and walked about on some bike trails for a few minutes. I found the A2 trail as it turned east but the only blazes were well after the turn. After walking a short distance down a hill, the blazes disappeared and I we walked on a well defined path only to find that it ended in someone's back yard! We retraced our steps and continued on the A2 as it descended passing by some dry stream beds and a swampy area. The bugs in this area were a little more vicious than elsewhere. After the swamp, the trail entered some field as we headed back toward the parking area. This part of the trail was wet in places and was completely unmaintained! The grass was very long and there were no trail markers. We followed a path through the grass that led back to the picnic area at the parking area. As we came out on to the grass, we encountered a young woodchuck away from its hole. At first the chuck flattened itself on the grass but the sight of Sheila sent it scurrying...up the closest tree. It got up about three feet and fell to the ground. It immediately climbed the next tree and got up about five feet where it stopped. We surveyed each other for a few moments and then the dog and I headed back to the car. I had NEVER seen a woodchuck climb a tree before. It was 1:45 PM and we had hiked about 4.4 miles in 1 hour and 40 minutes. Several possible practice routes for cross country came to mind.
On Thursday, June 28th, I was ready to get out on a hike! June is always a "bad" month for hiking as it is the end of track season with numerous championship meets. This year I accompanied three boys from the Liberty track team to the state meet at Cicero-North Syracuse High School. We had a great time and saw some excellent performances. This June was even crazier as our daughter was married on June 23rd. The wedding and reception were wonderful and everyone had a good time. To preserve these memories we used the best wedding photographer I know, Kevin Ferguson. Kevin took some amazing shots and was able to load some of the best onto a tablet so that we could view them at the reception. I can't say enough about his professionalism and his attention to detail. Since the school where I coach cross country and track has declared we can no longer run on the roads, I decided to go to Walnut Mountain to investigate the trail system. Walnut Mountain is a Town of Liberty park that has baseball and soccer furls, picnic areas and a maze of hiking and mountain biking trails. The mountain biking trail are being actively developed by the local club and range from wide and open to extremely technical. There is a 2100 foot mountain in the center of the park and the elevation gain from the parking areas to the summit is 400 to 500 feet. I had not been to the area in some time and was not expecting much from the trails. I did not pick up a trail map at the park office as I wanted to explore for myself. Sheila and I were at the parking area off Route 55 by 10:00 AM and were on the trail soon after. The trails are marked A1 to A5 and are color coded. We started out on the red A1 trail which begins a long but gentle ascent of the mountain. As we walked this trail, I found the markers few and far between but the trail was very clear. This trail was more of a woods road and after walking for a short time it was clear that it would encircle the lower part of the mountain.
At .4 miles a wide trail to the right had been mowed through a field and headed north. I decided I would leave that trail for later and continued on the red trail. We ere walking west to WNW until at about .5 miles the trail made a 90 degree turn to head almost due south. The trail had been nearly flat after the initial climb. At a little over .6 miles a blue trail cut off to the right and seemed to climb the mountain. Again, I decided to make the loop first and then decide on my next move. At about .8 miles the trail began a somewhat steeper ascent until 1 mile where the A1 trail split. The right fork headed down into a field while the left continued around the mountain. We turned left and continued on a slight ascent to 1.1 miles where the A1 trail met the green A4 trail. I choose to continue straight ahead rather than turning left so that we could complete the loop. The trail started a long downhill at this point and at about1.35 miles the A4 trail split with a branch to the left hat started up the mountain. We continued straight ahead until at 1.5 miles we completed the loop and were back on the A1 trail. I decided to take a left and start the loop again. I intended to check out the blue trail that turn right of the A1 on the west side of the mountain. At 10:45 Am and 1.85 miles into the hike we turned left on the blue trail which did not seem to have an "official" designation. The trail started up the mountain and was a little steeper than the previous ones. After a short climb heading north, the trail met the A4 trail and we turned right and headed almost due south. I got the feeling that this trail would make another loop around the summit but at a higher elevation than the A1.
At 2.25 miles the A4 continued straight ahead but the A5 trail turned left and headed toward the summit. We turned left and made the short climb to find that the A5 bypassed the true summit. Some paths branched to the left off the trail and we followed one of these to the summit only to find a large patch of prickers and no view whatsoever. Rather than follow the narrow path through the jungle, I decided to backtrack to the trail. Once back on the trail we turned left to continue on the loop around the top. The trail markings became even more indistinct but we stayed left at a junction where the right fork seemed to head back down to the A4 trail. There were no markings on the left branch but the trail was very clear. At one point the trail split with the "low road" being a little less rocky than the high road that passed close to some cliffs. Soon we were back at the point where we had turned up the path to the summit. We walked back to the A5 trail and continued around the top for the second time. This time we took the right branch which followed a switchback down to the A4 trail where we turned left and were soon back at the A1 trail. This time we turned right and headed back down to the parking area. We arrived back at 11:30 AM having covered 3.7 miles in 1 hour and 20 minutes. The hike gave me some idea of the possibilities for cross country practice at the park.