What You Missed
On Sunday, March 21st I wanted to hike a 3500 as my last official hike of Winter 2010. After church, Sheba and I jumped in the car and headed for Westkill. I was ready for conditions to be different than the day before in Northern New Jersey but the complete contrast was striking! The Spruceton Road was clear and there appeared to be only a little snow in the valley. A quick glance at the peaks didn't seem to indicate too much snow there either. I followed a parade of VERY slow moving cars along the road. I wondered why these hikers were moving so slowly to the trailhead especially since it was late in the day. These cars turned off the road BEFORE the trailhead at a local maple syrup producer who was boiling that day. My next surprise was that the main parking area on Spruceton, the one most use for Hunter, was NOT plowed. There were cars parked on the road which made me think that the other lots would also be unplowed. I was wrong on this account as both of the others lots were clear and had only one car each. Maybe hikers should be careful NOT to park on the roads as it makes them narrow and may prevent plows from getting into the lots! I parked at the trailhead at 12:35 PM and immediately got to hiking. There was at least 18 inches along the first part of the trail to the falls! I stopped at the falls to take a few pictures but then got going. I was glad I did.
There was a trail on the other side of the bridge but it was hard for me to tell how old it was. The air temperature was warmer than I though it would be and was probably around 40. I noticed that the trail did not exactly follow the markers but I decided to stay on the packed trail. This decision was made when I stepped off the packed trail and immediately sank above my knees. The higher we climbed the deeper the snow got. This was obvious since the trail markers kept getting lower and lower. In addition, the trail was less distinct and I kept having to push my way through tree branches. It finally dawned on me that I was walking through the tree TOPS and tripping over branches! Westkill always fools me since I think of it as an easy up and back and it is never that easy. Under these conditions it was even more challenging. I did meet three hikers coming down and stopped to talk to them for a minute. At least one was from New Jersey and said he had considered leaving the snowshoes home. He was glad he brought them. We continued in our own directions. I felt a little pressured since I knew that it was getting later all the time and my progress was slowed. In several areas the climbing was difficult in the snow loosened by the warm temperatures. In two places there was some precarious sidehilling that threatened to send me down the slope. Through all of this Sheba confidently trotted ahead leading the way!
As we hiked along I began to wonder at what point I would call it quits if I had to. I had chosen Westkill for the views from the Buck Ridge Lookouts but the weather was becoming cloudier all the time. I realized that I had plenty of insulation packed but did NOT have a storm shell. When I passed the cave just below the 3500 foot mark I noticed that there was a snow wall in front and some pine boughs lining it. After ascending several places that I though were the last climb, we finally did reach the last part up to the lookouts. As we hit the lookouts the sun started to peek out of the clouds. The longer we were there the sunnier it got. The valleys and other mountains were just beautiful. It was obvious there was still significant snow on all the peaks. We arrived at just a little after 2:30 PM meaning it had taken 2 hours for the ascent! I took pictures from both sides of the lookout and then headed for the true summit. From the summit, we turned around and hurried down. I was able to "ski" a good part of the way and remained upright most of the time. The way down was definitely faster than up. We were back at the parking area by 4:30 PM having taken a little over 1.5 hours to get down. The whole 6.2 mile hike had taken about 4 hours which I felt was fine for the conditions.
On Saturday, March 20th Cindy and I decided that after finishing Windbeam Mountain we would try another hike and headed to Otter Hole in Norvin Green State Forest to hike the Wyanokie Torne. Since the Torne is a short hike, I planned on doing a somewhat circular root and go out to Osio Rock. We arrived at about 1:10 PM to find the main parking area at Otterhole filled with cars. We went back to the smaller lot and immediately got our gear and walked down the road to the trail across the road. After crossing the road we followed the trail to the right. The ascent was moderately steep but VERY short! In 15 minutes, .5 miles and less than 300 feet of elevation gain we were on the Torne. There were some nice views and a group at the top. We wondered around but really didn't see where the trail had gone. Someone in the group pointed out a shortcut back to the trail and we were off. As we started to descend some better views appeared and we could see Osio Rock just across from us. The path looked a little steep both down and up!
The descent down the Torne was interesting with several steep areas over open rock faces. Soon we were at the trail junction with the trail I intended to take back. This trail avoids going back over the Torne. At this point we met a local woman who told us about the extensive flooding in the area. All of us then headed for Osio Rock. The first part of the trail was pretty flat but it became progressively steeper as we approached the Osio Rock. There were some interesting views along the way that let us see the descent we had just made from the Torne. Several large erratics also dotted the landscape. We made the final ascent up to Osio Rock and were rewarded with some of the best views of the whole day. The local woman pointed out the various lakes and reservoirs and named them all for us. The New York City skyline was visible but was very hazy. This is a place I definitely want to revisit on a clearer day! The 1.3 miles on this route had taken about an hour as Cindy began to get tired. After taking pictures, we turned around and headed back to the trail junction and took the trail back to the car. This trail had some interesting rock formations and was easier than climbing the Torne again. It only took us half an hour to get back to the car. We were there by 2;35 PM having finished the 2.2 mile hike in 1.75 hours. I was ready for another hill but Cindy cast the deciding vote to go home.
On Saturday, March 20th Cindy and I decided to hike some of the NJ1K peaks in northern New Jersey. We headed for the area of the Wanaque Reservoir first to hike Windbeam Mountain. The trip reports seemed to indicate a nice view and some good vertical gain. We parked on West Brook Road and walked back up the road to the junction with Stonetown Road. The trail was just across the road and was easy to find. The temperatures were in the 60's and it was getting warmer although there was a little breeze. By the time we had walked for 10 minutes, I stopped and removed ALL my long sleeves and replayed them with short sleeves. I also stowed my light jacket in my packed and hiked the rest of the day like this. I'll admit it was pleasure not having to hassle with multiple layers and snowshoes! The initial climb was moderate but within 20 minutes we were on Little Windbeam with some nice views. We walked down the other side and started a long but gentle climb up to Windbeam.
As we hiked along to Windbeam, there were a few views but most were blocked by trees. In several places other paths or roads crossed the trail but were not marked on the map. Several times we spotted vultures riding the updrafts and also saw several raptors. In another 40 minutes we were on a wide woods road that seemed to appear from nowhere to run across the flat plateau summit of Windbeam. We walked along this for a while looking for the highest spot and some kind of viewpoint. The road eventually seemed to descend off the summit while the trail continued more to the east. At this point we turned around and walked along the edge of the plateau trying to get a view. Since none presented, we walked back to the trail and followed the same path back to the car. The total elevation gain was about 800 feet. We completed the 2.8 mile hike in 2 hours.
On Sunday, March 14th Cindy and I decided to try to get out in between rain and snow storms. We had quite a bit of rain on Saturday and Saturday and more was forecast for later on Sunday. We decided to stay local so that, if it did rain, we could get back quickly. Cindy suggested Frick Pond. I agree since I thought there would still be enough snow to snowshoe. As we drove up the DeBruce Road I questioned my decision as most of the snow hand melted under the warm temperatures and the rain. When we arrived at Frick Pond my doubts were put to rest as there was still plenty of snow. We started up the Flynn Trail from the parking area at about 10:00 AM. The snow was very wet and heavy and the going was hard in places. There was quite a bit of blowdown on the trail including several large tress in places. The Flynn Trail is a LONG but fairly gentle climb and I am always fooled by just how long it is. After about 1.5 miles of slogging along we were at the trail junction with the Big Rock Trail. I had planned to continue on the Flynn Trail to Hodge Pond but Cindy was too tired. We turned left on Big Rock and headed back. Just a few minutes after turning, the sky grew darker and it started to rain lightly!
We continued down the Big Rock Trail toward Times Square. There was at least a foot of snow at the top and this continued until we were almost at the trail junction. Going down Big Rock is easier than going up but it is still a trek in snowshoes on heavy, wet snow. At Times Square we continued straight ahead to go around the back of Frick Pond. This part of the trail had a lot of standing water and was hard to negotiate until we started through the trees and over the boardwalks. The small feeder streams that run into Frick Pond were all high and swollen with rain and melted snow. We stopped at the bridge across the outlet and took some pictures despite the overcast sky. From here it was back on the Quick Lake Trail to the parking area. This part of the trail resembled a stream as it so often does. We had to walk up on the banks and take a few short bushwhacks to avoid the large areas of open water. We were back at the car at around 1:00 PM having covered the 4 mile trip in about 2.5 hours.
On Monday, March 8th I got home from school rather early and asked Cindy if she wanted to go snowshoeing. She agreed and since we had a short time, we again headed for Round Top, the hill behind our church. We were surprised at how much snow had disappeared with the warm temperatures throughout the week! The hill up to the trail was almost completely clear and we almost turned back. Once we turned into the woods it was obvious that the more protected areas still had some snow! The air temperatures were warm so we were both dressed lightly. The snow was heavy and wet which made the going a little tough. We worked our way up to the very top of the hill and then decided to descend down to the trail that parallels the Quickway. I like descending on snowshoes. Cindy doesn't like it as much. Once we hit the path we continued in a loop until I found the woods road and we took that back toward town. Once we hit the look out over Exit 96, we turned uphill to complete the loop. Any tracks that we had made previously were gone but Sheba seemed to know where to go! We completed the loop and I decided I wanted a little more. Cindy decided to go home. Sheba and I turned around and reversed the loop to add another 45 minutes and a few more miles.
On Sunday, March 7th I wanted to take a short hike with some views since the weather was clear for the second day in a row! From my experience the previous day at Ashokan High Point, I knew there would be enough snow to use snowshoes almost anywhere on or near the peaks. I decided to head for Giant Ledge since the reports of snow from the last storm seemed to indicate they got quite a bit. I got a late start after church and got to the parking area at about 1:00 PM. As I drove along Route 47 passed Frost Valley, the Slide mountain PA and Winnisook Lake, it was obvious that the reports from the last storm were accurate. In fact, just before the Slide PA, the snow on the right side of the road was vertically cut! This indicated that the snow was so deep that it could not be plowed. The "snowblower" was sitting in the Slide PA on the front of a large dump truck. The Panther PA had a few cars and was plowed with a bit of ice. I carried my snowshoes across the road before putting them on. Today I was trying out another new pair of shoes, Tubbs Mountaineers, which I got for more than half off on SAC! They have the same bindings as the Tubbs Flex Alp but have an aluminum frame. As I went to sign the register I noted that I had to bend down since there was still a lot of snow. There was some blowdown on the trail to the bridge. I immediately began to notice postholes from barebooters and wondered how new they were!
The bridge was piled high with snow and we crossed carefully. The snow actually made climbing some of the rocky areas easier but walking with "things" attached to your feet does slow progress some. The air temperatures was in the high 30's but a wind made it feel a little cooler. Soon we were at the trail junction and we turned left to head toward Giant Ledge. Several times the broken trail left the marked trail but then would wind back to meet it. As I was climbing one small up I met a lone hiker coming down. He reported the views were great and there were very few people on the Ledges. He WAS wearing snowshoes but he would be the LAST person I saw who was properly equipped. A little further along we met a man and woman coming toward us. They were not wearing snowshoes but chose Stabilicers instead! As they passed I could see them sinking into the snow as it softened! I didn't say anything to them except "Hello" but really wanted to ask why they would come to the Catskills to destroy the packed rails others had taken so much effort to construct! We stopped at the lookout toward Slide so that I could take some pictures and then continued up to the last climb to the Ledges. Ahead a young man came almost running down the descent. He had no pack or other equipment and, yes, no snowshoes. He seemed very fond of Sheba but, again, I really wanted to know why he was so inconsiderate. The climb was made more difficult by the number of postholes left by the others but soon we were at the top.
It really was a beautiful day with clear skies colored a bright blue. There was some haze or clouds in the distance but otherwise the sky was cloudless. We stopped at the first viewpoint and I took pictures. I took a few wide angle shots and then narrowed in on the Burroughs Range, Panther and some of the more distant hills. The day was so nice I would have headed to Panther except for the late start. We headed over to another viewpoint and I took more photos before we turned around to retrace our steps. After carefully negotiating the steeper descent, the rest of the down went quickly. I stopped to take some pictures of Sheba sitting by the signboard at the trail junction. The snow was so deep that the actual sign was right next to her! We continued down and were almost out when I noticed three more men headed toward us. None had packs and none had snowshoes. In fact, two looked like they were wearing old sneakers or skater shoes. They were sinking into the soft snow and destroying the trail. I made a comment to them about the holes they were making. Their response seemed to indicate that they thought I was concerned for them! We were back the parking area a little after 3:00 PM covering the 3.5 miles in just over 2 hours.
On Sunday, February 28th a group from Morgan Outdoors was going to snowshoe along the Beaverkill near the state campsites. Cindy and I decided that this was a little too short and flat and opted to head to Trout Pond to sample the snow conditions and the falls of Russell Brook. The roads were in good condition and even the Morton Hill Road was well maintained. When we arrived at the junction with the Russell Brook road, we found it was not plowed and neither was the parking area. I parked as far off the road as possible and we got ready to hike. The snow had consolidated a little and snowmobiles had packed a firm track. We made good time down the road to the parking area. Several snowmobiles passed us but slowed as we approached. At the parking are one machine seemed to be having mechanical problems as the riders inspected the engine. We continued across the bridge and Sheba and I headed through deep snow to the edge of Russell Brook and on up to the falls. The trail along the ledge to the falls was narrow and had a lot of snow. I took a few pictures from the ledge but then dropped down the snow covered bank into the stream bed. From here I had an unobstructed view of the falls and I took many pictures. Sheba and I returned to the main trail, met Cindy and we all started up the gentle grade to Trout Pond.
The skies were overcast as we arrived at the pond but we stopped at the outlet to take a few pictures before continuing on up the trail around the lake. At the head end we met a few snowmobilers resting by their machines, We stopped to talk for a while before continuing on and crossing the pond inlet. We decided that the complete loop around the pond and over Cherry ridge might be too difficult since the snow was deep and unbroken. Going back the way we came seemed too easy so we decided to head to the upper lean-to and then bushwhack the rest of the way around the entire pond, The snow was deep up to the lean-to as it had drifted off the pond. I kept sinking in while breaking the trail but it didn't take too long before we were at the lean-to and I turned into the woods to head south around the pond and back toward the outlet. The distance was not far but we had to walk through deep snow, sidehill quite a bit, and pick our way around thick bushed and over blowdown. About halfway back we had to ascend some to get around a steeper area. At last we were at the out let and ready to cross the dam. It was hidden under snow and it was hard to see where it was safe to step. I went first and had no problem crossing. As we stood again at the outlet the sky was blue and I took more pictures. Within minutes clouds rolled in and a snow squall swept down the lake from north to south. It wasn't too intense and did not last very long but it was sudden. Back on the packed snowmobile trail, we picked up the pace and were back at the car by 2:30 PM covering the 4 mile trip in about 2.5 hours. We went back to Livingston Manor and went to the Flower Power bakery to meet the group from Beaverkill. They were a little late but this gave us time to sample the delicious baked goods at this small establishment.
On Saturday, February 27th we had a funeral and family gathering in the morning. Karl and I decided to head to Frick Pond to do a quick snowshoe in the afternoon. We were anxious to get out of Livingston Manor after the big snowstorm had limited our hiking to the hills near town! We headed out of town late and drove along the DeBruce Road to Fish Hatchery Road. My intent was to park at the Frick Pond lot and do some loop hike there. When we got to the Beach Mountain road to the Frick Pond PA, we found it was unplowed! The road crews had been busy elsewhere and no one lives on this road. We decided to go to Mongaup Pond as we were close and the road did seem to be plowed. The plowing stopped right at the gatehouse leaving little parking. There were already several cars present but I pulled off the road and we got our gear ready. The weather that was somewhat sunny was becoming more overcast with a few flakes in the air. We started out along the western side of the lake and followed what I thought was a snowmobile trail. I quickly realized my mistake and found that we were following a group of snowshoers who had broken the trail ahead of us. Both Sheba and Maggie, our two dogs, were having a great time until they went off the trail and sank in the deep snow. We continued to follow the narrow, broken track fro about a mile. At this point the track started up the snowmobile trail toward Frick and Hodge Ponds. Karl and I did not have enough time to make this loop so we continued on around the pond.
Mongaup Pond is bigger than I thought and breaking brand new trail through the snow was exhausting. I was sinking in at least 18 inches and more where the snow had drifted in from the lake. Snow squalls were now brewing and would hit hard for a few minutes and then let up. At one point we turned right along a road and found ourselves on a peninsula that juts out into the pond. We continued on and I took some pictures from the shore. A heavy snow squall was making its way across the lake and we decided to head back the way we came after breaking trail around the loop road on the peninsula. As we continued our hike a lone cross country skier was headed toward us. We stopped to talk briefly and she seemed a little confused about her route. We wished her well and continued back to our trail and then to the previously broken trail. It was amazing how easy walking on the broken track seemed after trying to break trail through fresh snow. We covered the 3 miles in about 1 hour 50 minutes. As we left, the other were still present and we did not see any hikers coming up the road to complete their loop.
On Friday, February 26th school was closed for the third day in a row! When I tried to open the door in the morning, I had to force it open and then shovel some of the snow away. A lot more snow had fallen overnight AND the winds had caused drifting. I spent several hours shoveling around the house and clearing the walks at the church. I convinced Cindy to snowshoe with me and we again headed for Round Top. The snow was MUCH deeper starting in the field just across the road near the church. The dogs jumped the snow bank and all but disappeared in the new fallen snow. From that point on both of them followed in our snowshoe track. We made our way up the cemetery hill and into the woods. The track from the day before was gone with only a slight indentation to show the way. I took much the same route but the going was much slower. There was almost two feet of new snow as we approached the top of the hill. At some points I though my pole had collapsed but it was just that the snow was that deep. By the time we reached the top of the hill, Cindy was done so we turned around and retraced our path the way we had come. The mileage and time was short but it was long on effort.
On Thursday, February 25th school was AGAIN closed as ANOTHER 12 inches of snow fell overnight. I shoveled our sidewalks and parking area and then decided to hike. I would have loved to go somewhere like Frick Pond but thought that it would be irresponsible. My son Karl was up from Virginia and we decided to again hike up Round Top. The snow was still falling during our hike alternating from very light to heavier as we hiked up the hill at the cemetery. It was hard to see what town looked like as the snow obscured the view so we quickly turned into the woods trail and started the climb. I had not brought my pack or camera and so could concentrate on the effort and the pleasure of the exercise from snowshoeing. I hit a more direct line up the hill and we kept a good pace as we talked. I was surprised when I found we were at the top of the hill. We continued straight ahead to descend the first hill and then found the woods road that leads over the next hill. We climbed this one and then turned around to reverse our path. When we got back to the clearing with the pine tree, we turned down the hill and "skied" toward the Quickway. We had not intended to go out the cliff that overlooks the road but decided to do so anyway. I was surprised at how much snow was on the road and how little traffic was present. We climbed back up to the trail and followed my path from the day before back home.
On Wednesday, February 24th school was closed due to approximately 12 inches of snow that fell overnight. In the morning snow was still lightly falling with more predicted! I decided to go across the street and hike the hill we call Round Top. The field across from my driveway easily had 12 inches of snow. As I climbed the steep hill behind our church views of the town and surrounding hills appeared. EVERYTHING was covered with a thick blanket of heavy snow. I took many pictures from the top of the Orchard Street Cemetery before ducking into the trail in the woods. Sheba was with me and was bounding through the snow. It was "warm" with temperatures in the mid 30's. I chose just to wear a light OR Revel shell. The shell is made of Pertex and is not lined. It also has pit zips and a hood. I did not want to get pelted with snow bombs from the trees without some defense. I took what has become my regular short route which has several challenging sections and ends up in a clearly by a large pine tree. From here I "skied" downhill to the path that parallels The Quickway. After a short walk on this path, I dropped down to a ledge that overlooks the road and took some more pictures. From here it was back up the hill to a woods road. I found another woods road that I do not remember taking before and followed it to a filed overlooking the Exit 96 exit. I continued to follow the road a little farther before cutting up the hill again to intersect my route from earlier. More snow is forecast for Thursday. I can't wait!
On Sunday, February 21st Cindy and I were both feeling the effects of the long hike in the deep snow the day before. We decided to join a group snowshoe from Morgan Outdoors at Crystal Lake. I knew this lake was off County Route 93 near Tennanah Lake so I looked it up on Google Maps. I was surprised to see that it was a small wild forest area. I knew right where the turn was on the way to Fremont Center. Cindy and I decided to get there early since we were not sure how much snow there would be. We turned off the main road onto Tennanah Lake Road and did not have to drive a mile until the sign appeared on the left. We road into the lake seemed to be plowed so we drove into what appeared to be a small turnaround. From this point on the road was not plowed and we were not sure we should go any farther so we parked the car and got out to put on our snowshoes. We intended to hike a little and then meet the group. A jeep appeared from the direction of the lake and the occupants told us the group was running late and that they would meet at the road. Cindy and I walked up to the lake on the road. There was plenty of snow and the small lake was very pretty. We took pictures and then started back to the car.
Once at the car we continued on down to the road. As we neared the end of the access road, cars from the group began to pull up. I helped some of the people new to snowshoeing get their equipment on and then we were off. The plan was to spend about two hours hiking and then go to Cafe Devine in Callicoon. I was more interested in the hike but thought coffee afterward might be fun. We hiked up the road and passed our car on the way to the lake. We crossed the small dam at the outlet and immediately ran into some drifts. Once through these we proceeded to follow a path around the lake which leads to some campsites. There had been snowshoers here before so we followed there path until it ended near the lake. Most of the group wanted to continue around the lake so we bushwhacked around the upper inlet until we reached the far end of the lake. We stopped to take pictures and then continued. The snow all but disappeared under the trees but we were soon on the other side of the lake on another path and the depth increased again. As we neared the outlet end, I decided to ascend a small ridge. Sheba and I quickly went up the ridge and then I decided not to return on the same route. I started down, sidehilled some and then made a rapid descent back to the main path. I met Cindy at the parking area by the lake and the whole group walked back to the cars. My GPS showed a total of 2.9 miles in about and hours and a half. We decided to go to Cafe Devine and I was glad we did. The cafe has good coffee and I had a great curried chicken salad sandwich. Before eating, we visited the organic food store attached to the cafe and picked up some unusual and expensive items.
On Saturday, February 20th I knew I wanted to snowshoe where there would be enough snow to make the snowshoes worthwhile. I talked it over with Cindy and we decided on North South Lake although I was not sure how much snow we would find. We got a late start after completing some jobs around the house. The day was overcast with a lot of cloud cover but some light. Snow was predicted for later in the day. Cindy does NOT like Route 47 passed Frost Valley so we went to Roscoe and took Route 206 to Route 30 near the Pepacton Reservoir. From here we turned right and headed toward Margaretville and Route 28. As we approached Margaretville, though about the rest of the drive to North South Lake and asked Cindy If she would like to change plans and try hiking Dry Brook Ridge. I had never been on this trail in the winter. The hills around us seemed to have trees covered in snow and rime ice. I though this might make for some nice photographs. Cindy agreed that she liked this idea and we parked at the Hill Road parking area at about 11:00 AM. As started up the trail there was just enough snow to make the snowshoes "work". We noticed that a group in bare boots had gotten there before us even though there was no car in the parking area. The day was warm with temperatures in the high twenties and I started to heat up right away. Soon the barebooter's track stopped indicating they had turned around. The snow was getting deeper the higher we went. I took an opportunity to remove my wool midlayer leaving only a wool baselayer and my Mammut Ultimate Hoody.
As we climbed, not only did the snow on the ground get deeper but the condition of the snow on the trees changed also. At first, the trees had no ice on them and just an occasional deposit of snow. Ice crystals began to form on the trees and were longer and more numerous the higher we went. Near the top of the ridge the crystals covered most of the branches and were very long. We stopped several times to rest and take pictures. The depth of the unbroken snow and the long climb was tiring for both of us. We had forgotten that, despite the signs claiming that the trail junction was 1.7 miles it was actually more like 2.3 miles. Finally, we reached the trail junction and turned right toward the lookouts. Immediately the snow got even deeper with a harder crust on top which made the going even more difficult. The lookouts were about a mile away and the weather conditions were worsening. After the first short climb on the ridge, Cindy told me to go ahead and try for the lookouts, She said she would continue for awhile and the turn around. I wasn't sure this was a good idea but decided to try it. Sheba and I sprinted ahead trying to make the best time we could to the viewpoints and back.
As we hiked along the ridge, the snow continued to get deeper going from 10 inches, to a foot to 18 inches or more with even deeper drifts. The short, but steep climbs that went quickly during the other seasons, became very difficult. Most of these climbs had almost two feet of unbroken snow which covered the rock outcrops and hid deep crevices. I struggled up two of these and almost stopped several times. I didn't know if I could make the third but Sheba was there to encourage me. At several point along the ridge the trail comes close to the edge with a sheer drop on the one side. The snow seemed to "tilt" toward those drops and shift as I walked over it. I could also see at points that fog had rolled into the valley but I was, at this point, determined to make the lookouts. Finally, after a mile of breaking trail through deep snow, the short side trail to "Overlook Rock" appeared and we walked out to the viewpoints. The entire valley was filled with fog. I took a few pictures of the lookout and the trees surrounding it before turning around to head back.
The trip back was far from easy since the ridge is mostly flat and required a slog through the snow again. At least this time, the trail was broken out a bit. The best parts were the short descents which I "skied" down as quickly as possible. I was watching for Cindy Along the way but I could tell that I was the only one that had passed that way until we were almost back at the trail junction. I could see were she had turned around and headed back. We stepped up the pace and Sheba soon spotted Cindy just before the trail junction. I was glad we were back together and we turned to head back down to the car. We were all tired but most of the return trip is downhill. We used the downhill sections to relax and then slogged across the flatter sections. At one point we were able to see that others on snowshoes had been up the trail. These tracks continued until one of the crossing woods roads which the other hikers had used to get to the main trail. Farther down the hill a new snowmobile track crossed the trail on another woods road. The lower we got the quicker we went in an effort to get back to the car We arrived at the parking area around 3:30 PM having taken 4 and a half hours to cover 6.7 miles.
On Tuesday, February 16th I had planned to meet friends somewhere to go for a snowshoeing expedition. The snow started falling on Monday night and became serious on Tuesday morning. Although the roads were passable there was no sense in chancing a mishap simply to meet and snowshoe. Cindy, Sheba and I went up on Round Top behind our church and snowshoed for about two hours. I didn't even take the pack so I didn't have to worry about the camera. The snow was thin near the bottom but there was plenty on top. We have a series of routes that we sue and, although, the hill isn't very high, there are some challenging parts. There was no trail broken and we actually took a new variation on and old route and found some new ledges. We went out to the "second' hill at which time the snow almost turned to a freezing rain. I found that my Mammut Ultimate Hoody IS DWR but will start to soak through as the snow falls and melts. The wet never got through to me but we decided to simply follow our path back. As we followed our tracks, we found that they were beginning to fill in as the snow fell. We had a great time on a short but challenging hike.
On Monday, February 15th I wanted to go to hike the Hunter loop and perhaps through in SW Hunter also. I had been wanting to do this for some time but each time I tried either the roads were bad or another hiking opportunity presented itself. An early morning ambulance call delayed my departure and I was surprised to find almost two inches of snow on the roads. When I got home, the snow had abated and I decided to go to Hunter anyway. The weather forecast was for temperatures in the high twenties and partly sunny skies. The roads on the drive were actually pretty clear and the temperature kept fluctuating depending on elevation but never went below 25 degrees. We arrived at the Spruceton Road parking area at about 10:00 AM and got right on the trail. There were two other cars in the parking lot. The register showed a group of three headed for Rusk and two other people going to Hunter. I was wearing a Terramar Thermawool baselayer, an Icebreaker 220 midlayer and my Marmot Sharpoint jacket on top. The snow on the trail was minimal and packed so snowshoes were not really necessary but I had a feeling I would need them up top and wearing them was easier than carrying them. As we started out I was cold but knew I would warm up along the way.
As we walked on the trail there was evidence of several hikers all with snowshoes. We crossed the new bridge and headed for the big turn. At the turn it was clear that the one group had headed to Rusk from that direction. As we continued up the trail, I began to get warmer and warmer. I opened the pitzips on the jacket and unzipped the front of the jacket and the two others layers. The sun was out and there were nice views of Westkill to the right but a few too many trees to take pictures. I thought I might wait until the trail junction to change clothes but this part of the trail is always longer than I think. We stooped and I took off the midlayer completely and switched to light gloves. I was still pretty sweaty but at least I began to feel cooler as we continued. Soon we were at the trail junction and ready to start the climb up Hunter. After Sugarloaf on Friday, the wide trail seemed easy although the climb is long. It was clear one or two hikers had been there before us on snowshoes but, at times their tracks would disappear and then reappear. I was surprised that there was little ice on the trail even as we neared the spring. The spring was snowed in and almost covered so I did not stop but continued on up to the area of the lean-to. Just before the right turn to the lean-to I stopped at the lookout but decided to check out the lean-to first.
The trail to the lean-to is interesting and a little longer than I thought. It descends through a rock crevice to a clearing and faces out toward the valley. The spring is readily accessible and there is a lookout just a short distance in front of the lean-to. The crew that worked on this project deserves and ENORMOUS amount of CREDIT. Of course, the lean-to is well constructed but the trail and the placement are wonderful. I am not a "camper" but I told my wife we must make this our first overnight trip. I dumped my pack and poles in the lean-to and took off my jacket to air it out. The Thermawool baselayer kept me warm enough despite a slight breeze. The Thermawool is VERY warm for its weight and wicks moisture like mad! The views from the lookout on this day were spectacular. The sky was blue with a few clouds and the colors of the snow and trees added just the right contrasts. Standing at the viewpoint you can look across to Westkill and down the Spruceton Valley for what seems like forever. I took quite a few shots before returning to the lean-to to collect my clothing and equipment and get back on the trail. We worked our way back up through the rock crevice and back to the main trail. I decided not to stop to take pictures of Rusk as I wanted to get moving. We made good time passed the 3500 foot sign and were soon at the trail junction with the Colonel's Chair trail. From here toward the summit it seemed like a thoroughfare with multiple snowshoe tracks. I guessed that the Hunter Ski Area must be renting them for the trek to the tower. Soon I heard voices and two young ladies passed me with Salomon snowshoes and no poles. Sheba and I continued to the tower under ever brightening skies.
When we arrived at the tower, there were no other visitors so I dump my pack and snowshoes at the cabin and took out the camera. The trees were completely covered in a white mix of snow and icy with only some green poking through. The sky was a bright blue and I took pictures of the trees, tower and cabin before heading up the tower. The tower steps were remarkably ice free although the foot of the steps sat in a "pool" of ice. I climb to just below the cab and noticed an increase in wind above the tree line but nothing to fierce. The surrounding hills and valley were beautiful and I took quite a few pictures in all directions. As I was taking my last picture the camera shut off as the batteries ran out and I heard voices coming from the Spruceton trail. I descended the tour to find three women; two from Germany and an American friend. They had all come from the Hunter Ski Area. We talked for some time and then I out on my gear and headed out on the trail toward the Devil's Path. I wanted to make a loop back to Spruceton with a visit to the falls and possibly to SW Hunter. The snow was much deeper on this side of the mountain with at least two feet piled along side the trail. From the Becker Hollow trail junction most of the rocks and roots were completely covered by snow making the descent easy and fast. As we neared the Devil's Path, I heard voices and looked up to see four men coming toward us. Doug Hamilton and Dave Moore from the TriValley school district had two other friends with them. We stopped to talk briefly and I found they were doing the same trip I was but in the opposite direction. When they told me they had broken out the herd path to SW Hunter, I knew I would be trying that peak.
After we separated, Sheba and I made good time down to the Devil's Path and the lean-to. We passed the lean-to and I began to look for the herd path. I ALWAYS look for the herd path MUCH too early and spend time wandering aimlessly until I recall the last time I did the same thing. This time it didn't take me long to get back to the main trail, climb a little further and find where the other hikers had gone in. As more people take the path, it becomes more and more distinct. I had no trouble following the path using past experience and the worn in snowshoes tracks. The distance was a little longer than I remembered but soon we were climbing up to the top and the canister. The climb with snowshoes was actually easier than without and we were soon at the top of the climb and at the canister. I signed in, took a few pictures of Sheba and then we started back down. The walk out was even faster than in and we were soon back on the Devil's Path. The trail dips and then ascends briefly to a viewpoint over the valley. On this day the view point didn't offer much since the sun was so bright. We continued on and soon the trail started to descend and get very rocky as the snow thinned. Doug had warned me that I might want to take off the snowshoes. I had left my bungee cords at home so I waited until using the snowshoes became nearly impossible. I found that the top compression straps on my pack were also a great place to hang snowshoes! The snow was still slippery on the rocks and I was careful on the descent until we reached the falls. The falls were almost completely frozen and getting down into the stream bed looked like it would take more effort than I had left in me. I took some pictures, put on the snowshoes and started for the car. We hit the road where I took the snowshoes off or good as we walked back to the car. We were done at about 2:30 PM covering the 10.3 miles in 5 and a half hours. This was a good time since it included a lot of time to stop for pictures and conversation.
On Saturday, February 13th I knew that Tom and Laurie Rankin were slated to be on Balsam Lake Mountain. I asked Cindy if she wanted to go and she said yes. It would be nice to visit Tom and Laurie and get warm before starting back down the mountain! The Beaverkill Road to the Balsam Lake Mountain parking area was a mess so we took our time and arrived in the parking area at about 10:20 AM. We found Forest Ranger Dave Meade talking to some other hikers who were getting ready to head our. Cindy and I geared up and got on the trail. There was enough snow in most places to warrant the snowshoes especially on the first part of the trail where the snow has drifted out of the field. Once in the more protected area of the woods the snow grew a little thin. Let's face it the Catskills need more snow! We kept a good pace to the trail junction and decided to go up the steeper trail and down the shallower backside of the mountain. Cindy felt more comfortable since she is still learning how to maneuver in snowshoes while descending steeper areas.
After we made the turn and started up the mountain, the going got tougher. The snow began to get a little deeper and there were a few icy areas. I stopped to wait for Cindy a few times and I was still warm. However, my feet were feeling the cold. I had used my insulated boots the day before and they were still wet so I decided to wear my Asolo TPS 520 boots. I had worn them before to snowshoe in the winter and remembered them being warm enough. What I forgot was that I had only used them on short trips near the house. As the elevation increased and the temperature dropped my feet began to get COLD. I was hoping that Laurie and Tom were at the cabin and had a fire going Soon we were at the trail to the lean-to and shortly thereafter we passed the 3500 foot sign. With added vigor we climbed the steps passing the spring and reaching the top of the climb. There was quite a bit more snow at the top and the trees were coated in a mix of ice and snow. I was happy to see a set of snowshoe tracks down to the spring. We stopped along the trail to the tower to take a few pictures.
When we reached the tower clearing, we stopped to take a few pictures and then headed for the cabin. Tom had a nice fire going and we entered after removing our snowshoes. They had only been there a couple of hours but the temperature was already a warm 37 degrees. I removed my jacket, gaiters and shoes. As I sat near the fire talking to Tom my feet warmed up and my top began to "steam". Soon I was warm enough to walk to the tower and try to take some photographs. As I stepped out side and walked to the tower, I realized how handy snowshoes can be as I sank into the snow. The tower had some ice on it down low and more above. As I began to climb the wind became much stronger. I stopped just short of the cab and took some pictures. The snow and ice on the trees was pretty and I got some good shots. I didn't stay aloft long and was soon back in the clearing where I snapped some more pictures. Back at the cabin Cindy was about ready to get started, so I got my pack ready and we said goodbye to the Rankins and the warmth of the cabin. Outside it seemed colder than ever so we quickly got on our snowshoes and started down the backside of the mountain to complete the loop.
Tom and Laurie told us there were some drifts on the trail and we soon encountered some that had been partly broken down. We also met three hikers making their way up from the Millbrook trailhead. The descent went very quickly as we slide and skied our way down to the trail junction. As we turned right to return to the car we ran into completely unbroken snow. It was not too deep and we made good time traveling along the trail toward the trail junction. As we reached the junction we saw the hikers from earlier in the day at the parking area descending toward us. They were still some distance away and moving slowly down the steep slope so we continued on to the car. The tracks from earlier were completely drifted over. We arrived back at the parking area just short of 2:00 PM having covered the 4.3 mile distance in 3 and a half hours.
On Friday, February 12th I began a five day weekend and decided to go back to conquer Sugarloaf. This time I planned to park at the Roaring Kill PA and hike up to Pecoy Notch to the Devil's Path and then up Sugarloaf. I hoped this approach would be possible after being turned back by the ice the week before. Sheba and I arrived at Elka Point Road just about 10:15 AM and found it was not plowed. I thought this was strange since Coldfeet and Rockysummit told me they had parked a car in the parking area the week before. This part of the road had obviously not been plowed for some time so I pulled over to the side and parked. Sheba was ready to go so I put on my equipment including snowshoes and started out. The skies were clear and blue with the sun just beginning to come out strong. The temperatures were in the high teens but there was no wind. The snowshoes made the walk to the Roaring Kill PA easier but may not have been essential. When we arrived at the lot, it was completely plowed and the road was cleared. This solved my mystery. The town plows the road from the Dale Lane end since there are people that live on that end. They also do a nice job of clearing the parking area so be sure you come from that direction unless you want the extra mile of walking to warm up.
The snowshoe from where I parked to the Roaring Kill parking area was a nice warm up and the air temperatures were in the low 30's with some bright sun. We got on the trail and I signed the register and started the hike in earnest. The snow wasn't too deep and the trail was partly packed. Soon we were at the "quarry" where people have built chairs and tables. The views of the Catskill Community with KHP and Roundtop behind were very nice. After I took pictures, we walked to the beaver pond and were able to get through this wet area with no problem. The sun angle wasn't good for pictures but I snapped some anyway. As we continued on the hike, the snow got deeper and the warm temperatures made it less consolidated and form. For some distance I was sinking in pretty deep and the going got rough. Soon we were ascending the trail up the mountain which seemed MUCH STEEPER than I remembered. There were many places where I would take a few steps up and then slide backwards as the snow gave way. I felt like I was fighting for every foot I gained. I was also thinking about going back DOWN this mess since I knew the ice on the other side took away that option. I can truly say that if Sheba had not been along to encourage me, I would have given up several times. It took 2 hours and 40 minutes to get to the summit!
Once we were on the summit I decided to walk down the other side a little and see what views were available from the lookout. This proved to be a good idea since these views were VERY good and made up a little for the fight to the summit. After taking pictures and eating and drinking we turned around to face the slide down the mountain. The return trip was every bit as "exciting" as I thought it would be. In places I was able to "ski" on my snowshoes but in others I had to carefully find solid foot placements just to stay on the trail and NOT fall off the mountain. It was nerve wracking at times but my thought was always that we were getting closer to being down. By the time we hit the parking area, I was tired. Two other people were in the lot. They had snowshoed the unplowed road and had walk a little on the lower trail. Sheba and I were back at the car by 3:15 PM having taken 5 hours for grueling 8.2 mile hike!
On Sunday, February 7th Cindy and I planned to meet a group from Morgan Outdoor to snowshoe at Frick Pond. We arrived at about 1:00 PM with the group slated to get there at about 1:30 PM. The air temperature was just below 20 degrees but a stiff wind made it feel colder. We did not bring Sheba this time. The cold weather seems to affect her more as she gets older and two cold days in a row are too much. Cindy and I got on our gear and started to snowshoe toward the register box. Once there we made a loop back to the car. Just as we were ready to start another loop Lisa pulled into the parking area with one other person. Eight people who had planned to come had cancelled. Perhaps they were afraid of low temperatures or had other plans but they missed a beautiful day. There was quiet a bit of snow, at least enough to cover the ground and making snowshoes worthwhile. I was cool standing still at the car but once we got started and adjusted our snowshoes I warmed up and had a great trip. We hiked out the Quick Lake Trail to Frick Pond and crossed the bridge over the outlet. There was a howling wind blowing across the pond and I decided that I had taken pictures of the pond in the winter many times before. I left the camera in the pack and had a good time NOT taking pictures for once.When we reached the other side of the pond, I suggested that we head up the Quick Lake Trail to Iron Wheel Junction. From there we could take the Logger's Loop back to Times Square. Parts of this trail have a lot of blowdown and we worked our way around it flowing a track from some cross country skiers. At Iron Wheel we turned right onto the Logger's Loop which was well packed by snowmobiles. As we walked we heard some machine coming and stepped off the trail as they slowed down to go by. This was our only encounter on our hike. Soon we were descending the hill back to Times Square. Instead of continuing straight ahead back to the pond we turned right and took the loop trail along the west side of Frick Pond. This is a beautiful but short route that passed through some hemlock groves and over some wooden walkways. When we arrived at the Frick outlet again, we turned right and headed back to the car. It was a very enjoyable but energetic two hours.
On Saturday, February 6th I decided to visit one more falls before returning home. As I reached the turn for DeBruce Road on the Frost Valley Road, I continued straight ahead to the Claryville Road where I turned right toward Curry. Once I got to Route 52 I turned left and went through Grahamsville to the Rondout Reservoir. I turned left on 55A and then right when the road goes over the reservoir. I watched for Yagerville Road and made the left to head up the hill. I knew the next right would be a dead end road that would lead me down to Angel Falls. The road was plowed and in good condition and I parked at the end. Cindy and I had visited these falls for the first time in the summer and they seemed quite beautiful. I wanted to see how they looked in winter. Sheba and I walked down the road to the upper falls. I was able to take some pictures from the road and the nigh bank around the falls but negotiating my way down the bank to the stream looked to be too dangerous.
We left the upper falls and walked back on the road to a spot that looked like we could get down the bank safely. From here we walked down the hill toward the stream and the lower falls. I was a little off the most direct path and ended up downstream. This gave me an opportunity to discover the extent of the foundation of the ruins. I still haven't found anyone who can tell me exactly what stood at the falls but it was big! We walked over to the stream and I took some pictures from the stream bed back upstream toward the falls. After working my way up the bank, we visited the rocks that look over the falls. These were slippery so I was careful and took a few more pictures. I was satisfied at this point and it was getting late so we headed back to the car and home.
On Saturday, February 6th I headed for Kaaterskill Falls after coming out of Platte Clove. I found that Clum Hill Road was plowed and easy to follow as a shortcut to 23A on the other side of Tannersville. I made the right on 23A, drove through Haines Falls and parked at the pull off for Kaaterskill Falls. There were several other cars already parked. Two young men were just getting ready to depart and it seemed they might be ready to do some ice climbing by the looks of their equipment. Sheba and I walked down the road to Bastion Falls. These falls were completely frozen over with thick white ice. The only water I could see was that flowing from the base of the falls and passing under the road bridge. I took a few pictures and then put on my Stabilicers to begin the hike to Kaaterskill Falls. The initial part of the trail was covered in thick ice that looked to dangerous even with Stabilicers. Sheba and I went off trail and found a less icy route a little higher up. Once we were able to rejoin the trail where it levels off some the conditions improved and we were able to carefully walk on the trail. There were a few ice flows which we could avoid or walk across carefully. On the way up I noticed an area of impressive ice hanging off a cliff. I made note to take pictures on the way back but We continued toward the falls.
When we got to the falls, I immediately saw that they were frozen. The lower falls were almost completely frozen solid. In fact, a group of ice climbers had already started to climb this ice. I knew a few more climbers would be along soon. They had their ropes anchored by screws at the top of the lower falls and had all the equipment needed to SAFELY climb the ice. The upper falls were frozen but there was still water coming off them. I took MANY pictures of the falls and the climbers before starting back to the car. I toyed with the idea of trying to get up to the basin between the falls but did not have full crampons with me. I also though about driving up to park on Laurel Avenue and come down to the upper falls but I had the idea I could still visit Angel Falls near the Rondout Reservoir if I hurried.
On Saturday, February 6th I decided to look for some frozen water falls after our adventure on Sugarloaf ended early. From Mink Hollow I drove back to Platte Clove Road, made a right and headed for the Platte Clove Preserve. I had been to two waterfalls in the clove during the summer but wanted to revisit them in the winter. I parked at the pullout for the preserve, got my gear together and started the hike down the trail into the clove. I carried my Stabilicers with me for a short distance and then decided they would supply more traction if I put them in my feet! The path underneath the trees was icy as was the trail down to the base of Platte Clove Falls. The falls and the stream below were almost completely frozen. This is what I had been looking for in Pennsylvania the previous week! Only a small open space showed water actually flowing over the falls. The ice looked thick on the stream so I ventured out onto it carefully to get the best, unobstructed shots. I took many pictures before deciding to go to the upper falls near the footbridge.
The last time I was in Platte Clove, I simply climbed the steep bank next to Platte Clove Falls and to the shortest route to the upper falls. The snow was deep and there was a lot of ice so I decided to play it safe. I retraced my steps to the Platte Clove nature found a path down to the stream. This was not easy since the banks were icy and the snow on top made things that much more interesting. I finally worked my way down to the stream and again braved the ice to work my way into the best position for pictures. I took my shots and then went back to the car. It was still early so Sheba and I headed for Kaaterskill falls.
On Saturday, February 6th I planned to get together with Coldfeet and Rockysummit to hike Sugarloaf. They were meeting in Haines Falls and were going to spot a car at the Roaring Kill PA. I decided to drive directly to Mink Hollow and meet them there. The plans were a little tentative but I arrived at 9:00 AM after getting a late start for no reason. The air temperature was about 15 degrees but there was no wind. I waited until 9:15 AM and thought perhaps I had misunderstood the meeting time or place and started to get my equipment ready. As soon as I started to get my gear together, their car pulled up and we introduced ourselves and got ready to go. There was so little snow at the parking area that we debated what to wear on our feet and finally decided it was easier to wear the snowshoes than to carry them. The "trail" from Mink Hollow up to the Devil's Path and the lean-to is not an official trail and, therefore, is not marked. We didn't have much trouble following it but did have some trouble trying to find the best snow and stay out of the eroded areas. Soon we were at the Devil's Path and turned left for the climb up Sugarloaf. The amount of snow increased and the hiking became or difficult as the pitch increased. There were also a few icy spots but we managed to make pretty good time.
We stopped to take a few pictures of the trail and Plateau to the west and then it was back to the climb. The first interesting section is where the trail passed through a short "tunnel" and then emerges on a rock shelf. Just after the shelf is a short but narrow ledge that leads to another rock shelf and the rest of the trail. In all other seasons this is no problem but the snow and icy made this "exciting". We negotiated this section and then continued up. Soon the snow became thinner and the ice became THICKER. We cam upon an ice flow that covered the entire trail in 8 to 12 inches of ice. I went up with my MSR Lightning Ascent snowshoes but the going was definitely dicey. When I looked back, I realized Sheba was NOT following. My dog is much smarter than I am and she refuse the attempt the sheer ice. I had two choices at that point. I could finish the climb up the ice and see if I could get her to try another route or I could go back down and we could look for another path together. I decided on the latter but when I turned around I realized my predicament. Coming up the ice was difficult. Going back down proved to be nearly impossible! At some point I got the idea that the only thing I could do was it down and inch myself down the ice flow. As I sat I found out how slippery that ice was and how quickly bad can go to worse. I began a RAPID DESCENT down the ice and decided to aim for a nearby tree to arrest my slide. As I approached the tree, I realized that one leg would be on one side of the tree and the other leg would be on the other side! I quickly decided on an alternate plan and slid by the tree into some soft snow. I came to rest rather gently and immediately began to take inventory of body parts and equipment. Remarkably all the body parts were intact and all the equipment was nearby. As I began to pick myself up, Sheba arrived to give encouragement.
I was pretty convinced at this point that Sheba and I would turn back but Rockysummit somehow persuaded me to venture up to the next ascent to see the extent of the ice. Coldfeet was a little further behind putting on crampons. Sheba and I worked our way on a bushwhack back up to the flatter part of the trail. We met Rockysummit and went on to the next climb. This nearly vertical ascent was a series of rock ledges enshrouded in ice! I made my decision at this point. I did not have crampons and could not have gotten Sheba up those ledges even if I could have gotten up. I was also concerned about more ice further up and the descent down the other side. As we all gathered at this point, I told my companions that Sheba and I were going to turn around. The other two decided to go on and we wished each other good luck and parted company. Sheba and I were not home free as we worked our way back down passed the ice flows and that narrow ledge. Once at the lean-to it was a simple matter of walking down our path from early in the day to the car. I don't like to give up without summiting but I was sure I had made the right decision. The round trip had taken less than two hours so we were still ready for more. I contemplated going to Roaring Kill and hiking from there but decided to wait and see what the others had found on that side. After thinking a little more, I decided to go in search of some frozen falls and headed off to Platte Clove.
On Sunday, January 31st the weather turned milder than the day before with a lot of sun. I planned to go to Little Pond state campsite at 1:30 PM to snowshoe with a group from Morgan Outdoor. Sitting around home after church I got bored and decided to head up to Little Pond to get in a little extra time and scout out the conditions. I parked at the base of the access road so as not to block the gate and quickly put on my snowshoes. I was disappointed that there was only a few inches of snow on the road and hoped that would increase as Sheba and I headed up the hill. It was a beautiful day but still cold. The walk up to the main gate and then to the pond went very quickly. The snow never did get very deep except in the drifts near the pond. I took some pictures of the deserted building and of picnic tables turned up for the winter. We walked out to the new bridge over the outlet and I took more pictures of the pond and the surrounding hills. I decided we had enough time to make it around the pond and back down to meet the group so we started around the pond in a counterclockwise direction. The snow was minimal and the snowshoes were really unnecessary except for traction. As we reached the inlet of the pond, we passed the trail junction to the viewpoint. I wondered if anyone in the group would want to try for the viewpoint. We kept a good pace around the pond and were back down to Barkaboom Road by 1:20 PM. No one had arrived yet so we did a few laps of a nearby clearing until cars started to arrive.
As cars started to arrive I helped novices put on and adjust their snowshoes. Several other dogs were on the hike. Sheba was pretty good with the other canines since she was outside and able to roam. Soon we were headed up the hill to the campgrounds traveling in several small groups based on ability. We headed around the pond anticlockwise until we got to the upper end. Here, two women and myself decided to hike up to the lookout over the pond. The trail was barely covered with snow but wearing the snowshoes was easier than carrying them. Up we went and both women were surprised at the beauty of the small evergreen forest. Soon we were approaching the saddle between mountains that gives a nice view over Little Pond and the valleys below. TouchMeNot Mountain is also very evident. We stayed for a few minutes to get some pictures and then started back down to the trail around the pond. When we arrived at the main trail, I asked if it would be OK if I went ahead as they were more tired and taking their time. They had no problem with this idea so I excused myself and Sheba and I headed for the car. It was a nice hike with a good group of people.
On Saturday, January 30th when Cindy and I arrived at the George Childs Picnic area there was only one other car parked in the small area that had been cleared by the side of the road. The parking lot was full of snow. This was a far cry from the summer when the lot was almost full despite a downpour. At that time the park was full of families, photographers and artists painting the falls. We got out of the car and walked the trail to the uppermost falls, Factory Falls. There was a good flow of water and we stopped to take pictures. It was odd that the roar of the water was really the only sound to be heard!
We walked the trail to the upper part of Fulmer Falls, the next one down the stream. It was still cold and there was ice on the walk and the railings near the falls. We took some shots from this viewpoint and then headed back down the trail to the base of the falls. The trail turns into boardwalks and stairs which, in the summer, were very convenient but now were covered in slippery ice. At the base of the stairs I ventured out onto the tongue of land that push into the stream and offers a good view of the falls. I didn't go far since the ice was thick and falling in the cold water was unappealing! I took my pictures and then carefully headed back to the "safety" of the walkways.
We continued on the boardwalk and stairs to the last falls, Deer Leap. The trail leads to a broad open area at the base of the falls. This is a narrow falls that drops about 20 feet from a narrow gap. A bridge lies directly over the falls and adds or subtracts something depending on your view. We continued over the bridge at the base of the falls and up the other side. I was intending to walk up the trail to the top of Fulmer Falls since there is a nice lookout from the other side. The trail was too icy for this and the lookout does require one to hold onto a tree and lean out for the best vies. We decided to take the bridge below Fulmer back to the other side and walk up to the car. We did try to visit Dingman's Falls after this but the road was NOT plowed!
On Saturday, January 30th Cindy and I drove from Shohola Falls over some back roads to Raymondskill Falls. We parked in the small lower lot and put on our Stabilicers for the trip down the trail to the falls. As it turned out most of the trail was in good shape but several icy patches made the traction worthwhile. The volume of the falls was high and not much of the water was frozen. As at Shohola, there was a lot of frozen spray on the rocks, trees and railings near the falls. We took some pictures and then headed back up the trail to the upper part of the falls.
The trail to the upper falls was mostly clear of snow and ice but there were a few tricky spots. The damage to the hemlocks from the wooly agelid was evident even in winter. There was less frozen spray at the top of the falls. I was able to walk out onto rocks over the falls and was able to get some shots down the spray covered rocks and trails below. After taking some pictures, we retreated to the car and headed for the George Childs Picnic Area on Silver Lake Road. This area has three different falls we wanted to visit.
On Saturday, January 30th I had planned to hike with a group from the Millbrook trailhead to Graham and Balsam Lake Mountain. Although I had hiked these peaks from Beaverkill the previous weekend. I was looking forward to hiking with the group. The weather forecast was for air temperatures at or below zero with winds in the double digits range. This would bring the windchill in the early morning down to near 20 below. Unfortunately, the forecast was correct and plans changed. Sitting around the house was making me crazy so I convinced my wife that we should go to the Delaware Water Gap to photograph some waterfalls. I knew that the wind was dying down and that Pennsylvania would be warmer. It turned out I was right but that only meant the air temperatures broke into the double digits! I had been to the waterfalls in August and wondered how they would look with a greater volume and how the cold temperatures would have changed them. I remembered most of the locations and twists and turns and so we headed to Port Jervis then to Milford to find Shohola Falls and begin the adventure.
When we arrived at the parking area, it was COLD with a stiff wind blowing across the reservoir. We took our cameras and walked over to the trail to the falls. The first thing we noticed was that the water was high and everything was coated with ice. I remembered that the trails were "interesting" in the summer when wet and knew I would have to be careful. I had hoped the falls would be frozen but the high volume of water prevented that. However, the spray coming off the falls had coated many of the trees and rocks making a beautiful scene. We took some pictures from the trail where it was safe and then I worked my way down to the trail that overlooked the falls. I didn't go too far since the trail was covered in ice and I only had Stabilicers. After taking some pictures, I went back up to where Cindy had waited and we went back to the car.
We drove across the road bridge to the other side of the falls and parked. I had not visited this side in the summer and was anxious to see what the view looked like. It was still cold and the wind was making it even colder. We walked down through the field and took some pictures of the reservoir before walking to the relative shelter of the trail in the trees. The trail descended to the stone parapet just above the falls. This lookout did provide a different view of the falls. From this angle it was even more obvious how high the water was. There was also a direct shot across to the ice covered rocks and trees on the other side of the falls. I took a lot of pictures before working my way up the trail and walking along the stream on the high bank. The trail didn't afford much of a view so I returned to Cindy and we went back to the car for a trip to Raymondskill.
On Saturday, January 23rd I was ready to hike somewhere after a layoff of almost two weeks due to a pesky cold. I still had some symptoms but could not wait until they were completely gone! At one point a week ago, I had thought about hiking Graham and that idea came back to me. Graham can be a long hike but it is not too steep and I thought maybe the snow, at least near the top, might be good. I planned to pack my snowshoes since I thought there wouldn't be too much snow left at the trailhead based on the conditions in town. As I drove up the Beaverkill Road, it seemed that there was plenty of snow on the ground and I hoped this would be true at the trailhead. When we arrived at the parking area I was surprised to see it completely plowed and equally surprised to see no other cars. The day was bright and beautiful with the temperatures just hitting the twenties when I parked. One looked showed there was enough snow on the trail to warrant snowshoes. By 10:45 AM we were on the trail. I had two light wool layers and my Mammut Ultimate Hoody. The Mammut Champ pants are quickly becoming my favorite winter pants and I backed them up with Icebreaker 200 leggings. The trail showed evidence of snowshoe and ski use but also showed that some inconsiderate postholers had been at work! The snow was frozen and pretty hard but I figured this would change as the temperatures warmed. I, of course, was overdressed for snowshoeing and made it only to the first trail junction until I had to remove the hoody and change into a lighter hat and gloves.
At the trail junction, we continued straight ahead since I intended to climb Graham first and then see whether we felt like doing Balsa, Lake on the way back. Passed the junction there was still well broken trail but the postholes disappeared. The sun was even brighter and the air temperature warmer. I hadn't hiked this way in some time and was surprised at how much uphill it was. Without the leaves on the trees it was also possible to see the surrounding hills and get a good look down into the Gulf of Mexico. When we arrived at the second trail junction, there were relatively fresh snowshoe tracks going up Balsam Lake but I wasn't sure how fresh. We continued on until the herd path to Graham appeared on the right, Actually, the herd path seemed just as prominent as the main trail as it was well broken out by snowshoe traffic. We followed this track and I was amazed at how much snow there was and how the snow "smoothed" out the trail. Normally the herd path to Graham is full of rocks and roots and wet spots but the rocks and roots were well buried under the snow and the wet spots were all frozen! We continued to follow the broken track as it wound its way back and forth and up and down and eastward toward the summit of Graham. We were keeping a pretty good pace but I could feel the effects of being ill. Soon we started the climb up Graham which starts gently at first and really never gets very steep. The sun was bright and I could see some nice views on both side but all were through the trees
As we neared the top of the mountain Sheba "alerted" and cam back to me. I looked up to see two people coming down the mountain toward us. It took only a moment for the man to yell "Hi, Ralph!" It took me just a moment more to yell "Hello, Ralph!" It was Ralph Ryndak (Hermit) and Maddy (Maddy). It was their snowshoe tracks I had been seeing. They had started from Millbrook a little before Sheba and I had parked at the Beaverkill parking area. Ralph introduced me to Maddy and we talked for a little while. They assured me the view from both mountains was great and then we continued in our own directions. The rest of the way up to the summit went quickly as we passed by the lookout on the left to get to the summit. The summit was bathed in sun and the views were beautiful in all directions. We got a drink and ate some lunch. I took pictures of the building at the top and quite a few pictures of the hills and valley covered in snow. The bright blue sky was a nice backdrop. It was so clear that the fire tower on Balsam Lake was easy to spot. We didn't stay too long before heading back down the mountain. On the way back we stepped off the trail to go to the viewpoint where others had also been. The views from here were also very good and I took several shots before getting back on the trail. My muscles had been tired climbing but the trip down was easy. In many places the snow had softened enough so that I could sit back on the shoes and slide down the trail.
Soon we were back on the main trail and at the trail junction up to Balsam Lake. I had debated what to do here all the way down Graham and decided to give it a try despite my tired legs. We made the right turn and were soon climbing up to the tower. My legs felt a little tired but the trail on this side of the mountain is rather gentle compared to other side although it is longer. As we gained elevation, it was clear that this WAS the north side as there was less evidence that there had been much melting of the snow due to exposure to direct sunlight. There were many places where the trees were still covered with snow forming a "spruce tunnel". I took some pictures and also snapped some photos of the tower framed by the trees as we approached the summit. When we arrived, there were two pairs of hikers present. A father and son from Margaretville who had hiked up from Millbrook and another pair from the Beaverkill trailhead. There were also two dogs, one of which seemed a little "aggressive". I told Sheba to stay by the picnic table and I went up the tower. The views were VERY good in all directions and, even though I had taken many photographs from the tower before, I took quite a few pictures. The pair who parked at Beaverkill were from Catskill and asked me how to get back to Route 28. They had come over Cross Mountain Road which I had thought was impassable in the winter. After I gave them directions, I came down the tower and Sheba and I headed back to the car. The trip down went quickly as I was a able to slide most of the way with only a few dicey spots near the top. Once on the main trail we picked a fast pace and were back at the car my 3:30 PM. The 8.5 mile trip had taken us a little over four and a half hours with a generous amount of stopping time for pictures and conversations.
On Sunday, January 10th I decided to go back to Big Pond and finish the loop hike that we had started but aborted the day before. The temperature seemed warm, although it was only in the high teens, and the wind had died down some. We arrived at Big Pond at about 12:15 PM and were ready to hike almost immediately. I was afraid that the warmer temperatures and the wind might have removed the frozen snow from the trees but one look at the hills around Big Pond convinced me that it was still there and still beautiful. The fisherman were back on the lake but I decided to get hiking immediately and forgo any photography until we entered territory that we had not covered the day before. My plan was to do a loop from Big Pond up Cabot Mountain and down to Little Pond and then back up Touchmenot to the trail junction and back to the car. I knew this was about 7 miles and that the time was short! The hike up to the trail junction went quickly since the trail was broken and we knew where we were going. The hike that had taken 75 minutes the day before took only 35 minutes this day. Once at the junction, we made the right and started down the other side toward the next trail junction to climb Cabot Mountain. Our paced slowed some since the trail at this point was unbroken and there was no evidence that anyone had been on it since the last snowfall. The descent on this side of the mountain also has some interesting rock scrambles with narrow passages that are hard to execute on snowshoes!
We arrived at the trail junction to Cabot Mountain which was posted as the "Beaverkill Overlook .5 miles". As we stared off in this direction the trail was poorly marked and not very well defined. This trail does not get much traffic and gets pretty overgrown in places. The first part of the trail is pretty flat and skirts Cabot Mountain. The snow grew deeper as we approached the base of the mountain and began to climb. The first part gains elevation but does so rather slowly. Soon we were on a steeper part with rocks and roots and twists and turns. The snow was so deep that I had to make sure one shoe was set and then paw with the other to clear the snow and get a grip before transferring my weight. Along the way there were several places where I had to step up on rocks. Finally, we were near the top where things get really steep and there are SW rock scrambles to work through. Sheba led the way but I began to think of the trip back. At one point Thought we were finally at the top but there were still a few scrambles and a steep section to go. The trail was nearly unmarked in several spots but we eventually made it to the flat part on top and the overlook. The views were worth the work. I just wasn't sure about the trip back down. I took many pictures before we headed back the way we had come,
The .5 or so miles from the junction to the top had taken about 45 minutes of hard work. The first part of the trip back was fun since I just pulled up the tips of my snowshoes and "skied" down the trail. Once we reached the steeper sections the real "fun" began. Negotiating the narrow scrambles was difficult only to be dumped onto a steep area. I found that not only can you "ski" on snowshoes but you can "jump" off rocks. The same trip that took 45 minutes up lasted only 18 minutes on the way back to the trail junction. At this point Sheba went straight ahead in the direction we had come from. I decided to turn right and go to Little Pond despite the fact that it was growing late. One the way back I would wonder if I should have listened to Sheba! The trail to Little Pond leads through an open field in the saddle between the hills and I though the view from this lookout might be nice. I was right and we walked to the center of the field where I took my pack off and got out the camera. The mountains and valleys near and far were beautiful with all the elevations above 2500 feet encased in frozen snow. The sky was also a deep blue with many interesting cloud formations. I took many pictures and then decided to move on as the sun sunk lower in the sky. I remember that the trail used to lead through another open field but when I got there it was completely grown over. It had been a long time since I had taken this route.
The walk down to Little Pond was quick despite the deep snow and the poor trail blazing. At one point there was a beaver meadow or swamp off to the left where I stopped to take a few more shots. Back on the main trail we soon arrived at Little Pond and made the left to walk along the near side of the pond to the main parking area. At one point we stopped and I took some photographs of the pond before continuing on. Once we arrived at the main parking area I had to make a choice of whether to walk down the access road to the main road and then back to the car or to continue on the trails. The trail are shorter but the road is easier. I couldn't tale long to decide as the time was growing short. I decided to try the trail up to Touchmenot Mountain which would intersect my trail from earlier in the day. As I started out on the trail I took a step and my entire right leg cramped! I had been sweating profusely despite the air temperature and the venting. The problem was that I had taken only a few sips of water. I massaged my leg until the worst cramping stopped and then drank an entire bottle of water. I waited only a short time and started out. The cramping started again so I stopped to stretch it out and massage it. After a few of these incidents, the cramping stopped. The leg still hurt and I kept anticipating another bout. The trail was even steeper than I remembered and it seemed like it would never end. Each time I though we might be at the top, there was another scramble or section of uphill. Finally we reached the flat part at the top and actually started to descend. I had expected to intersect my trail from the morning by now but had not. I consulted my GPS and found it as less than .2 miles ahead. This was a good thing since it was beginning to get dark.
When we intersected our packed trail, I was very happy and Sheba seemed pleased also as she increased the pace. We hit the trail junction at 4:00 PM and made it back to the car without stopping by 4:30 PM. I though we could do this faster but my legs were both hurting. We had covered 7 difficult miles in just over 4 hours. I was pleased we had made it before dark but the adventure had one more twist. I stowed my gear, put Sheba in the back and started to get into the car. My right leg cramped again and my left was also not happy. My car is a standard which made things even more interesting. After some more massaging and another bottle of water I started out. There was a beautiful sunset and I was trying to think about where I could get some shots. My legs had different ideas. I was almost back to town when the cramping started again. I stopped the car, stretched and massaged until I could get back into the seat and finish the trip. Three days later my legs were still sore! This is the second or third time I have had cramping from dehydration. I am a slow learner.
On Saturday, January 9th the temperature was in the single digits early in the morning. I had tentative plans to hike KHP with a small group but Cindy did not want to go so far away from home. We decided to wait until the temperatures warmed and pick someplace closer to home. By mid morning the air temperatures was about 12 degrees and we decided to head to Graham Mountain. As we drove up the Beaverkill Road we approached the turnoff for the Barkaboom Road and decided we had driven far enough. I made the turn and headed for Big Pond. When we parked at the pond, the temperature was about 6 degrees with a 20 mph wind! Just how cold it was became immediately apparent as I stepped out of the car to take some pictures. By the time I had snapped several shots without gloves, my hands lacked any felling. Standing on the lee side of the car made putting on the snowshoes bearable. The pond was a beautiful site since the hill tops were covered with frozen snow and ice. Despite the temperatures, there were a few ice fisherman out on the pond setting up their tip ups and shelters! We walked up the road a hundred feet and then turned left onto the trail and started on the trail.
The trail, which is part of the Finger Lakes System, ascends rather steeply at first before leveling off some. The snow was 10 to 12 inches deep and completely unbroken with no evidence that anybody had been there since the last snowfall. This trail is not heavily used and is hard to follow in the winter in some places. In addition, most of the trail markers are old, some were missing and others were covered by snow. More than one time I had to retreat from where I was headed when Cindy pointed out a marker in a different direction or Sheba indicated the trail went another way. The trail soon began to get steeper and, in some places, we almost had to sidehill. We stopped occasionally to give Cindy a breather before continuing. I took advantage of this time to take pictures of the ice and snow on the trees. In the woods the wind was not so bad and I began to heat up as we walked along. After about an hour we reached the flatter part near the top of the mountain. In another 15 minutes we were at the trail junction. I turned right toward Cabot Mountain and started off. Cindy let me know that she was still OK for flat or down but that up was out of the question. We decided to turn around and go back to the car.
I like going down on snowshoes since it is possible, with practice, to pull the tips of the shoes up and almost ski down the trail. This requires balance, care and good pole placement. Cindy does not have as much experience so her descent was marked by slip, slide and fall. The snow cushioned most of the spills but the trip back was not elegant. We did make it back by about 12:30 PM. The wind had died down and the temperature had gone up some. The sun was out and almost felt warm. We had covered a little over two miles in 2 hours and 15 minutes. This does seem slow but breaking trail in fresh powder is time consuming and energy draining.
On Saturday, January 2nd Cindy and I though we might get in some snowshoeing despite temperatures in the high single digits and winds gusting to over 20 mph. This put the windchill at below 0 but we have the clothing and wanted the exercise. We didn't want to go to far and wanted the option to later the route if it was too cold. We also worry about Sheba being out for too long in the bitter cold. Due to all these factors we chose Frick Pond and arrived in the parking area around 12:30 PM. The road to Mongaup Pond had been plowed but the fresh snow on the Beech Mountain extension had not been touched. We would again be the FIRST to hike in the area. Once we parked we hurried to get ready since we were both cold standing still. I decided to give up my Mammut Ultimate Hoody for the day and try my new Arc'teryx Gamma SV Hooded Jacket. This jacket had more lining and would, therefore, seem to be warmer. It was and I didn't get overheated despite the lack of pit zips. My only other complaint about the jacket is that the hood is "helmet compatible". This means that without a helmet it is too big and floppy and is in the way! The jacket does fit well, seems well constructed and has two "high" pockets that are out of the way of pack straps and climbing harnesses.
We left the parking area and headed for the Flynn Trail. I wanted to reverse the route we had done previously by climbing the 1.7 miles on the Flynn Trail to the junction with the Big Rock Trail. At this junction we had several options. The Flynn Trail had quite a bit of new fallen snow and even more drifting. Our tracks from two days before were obliterated in most places. It was a long slog through the snow but we were soon at the trail junction. Cindy wanted to cut down the Big Rock Trail which was alright with me since I thought the steeper downhill might be fun. It was and soon we were at Times Square. My choice was to take the Logger's Loop to lengthen the hike but Cindy was a little more tired and cold so we went straight and around the back of Frick Pond. We did not stop to take pictures along the way as it was very cold and the blowing snow was not conducive to taking pictures. We hiked back to the parking area hitting a few spots of open water which made the snow start to stick to the shoes. We finished the 4 mile walk in around 2 hours. Cindy wore my Atlas 12 snowshoes and found them far superior to her Elektra 10s. I will be looking for a pair of the 12s for her in the near future.
On Thursday, December 31st Cindy and I saw Krista and Brad off at about 12:00 PM. They had planned to leave earlier but a short storm dropped between 2 and 3 inches of new snow in just a few hours. By noon the snow had stopped and the road crews were out. Cindy and I decided to go snowshoe at Frick Pond and headed out DeBruce Road. DeBruce had quite a bit of snow and Mongaup Pond Road was untouched but we made it to the parking area easily. When we got out of the car, the air was very still with a temperature in the high 20's. We put on our snowshoes and started out on the Quick Lake Trail to Frick Pond. The new snow covered the ground and we were the first people to see it! At Frick Pond we stopped for a few pictures and then continued on around the pond. The walk through the pines and over the boardwalks was peaceful and beautiful. Once at Times Square we stopped for a moment as I took off my light jacket. I was already warm from the exertion and I felt my two wool shirts would be warm enough since there was no wind. We decided to take the challenge of the climb up the Big Rock Trail to the Flynn Trail Junction. This trail rises about 650 feet in a little more than a mile. The trail had been packed by snowmobiles which makes snowshoeing a little easier. Once on the Flynn Trail we turned right and walked the 1.7 miles DOWN to the parking area. All in all a nice hike of 4 miles in almost exactly two hours.
On Wednesday, December 30th I had plans to hike Packsaddle and Pine Island with a group but another early morning ambulance call changed those plans. When I got back, I decided to do Peekamoose and, maybe, Table since they are relatively close and have some good views. I left Manor with only Sheba in the car and got to the main parking area at 9:00 AM. Another car arrived and we talked for a minute. They were debating whether or not to wear snowshoes which I had taken as a given. I STRONGLY suggested that they wear snowshoes having read several posts in the forums about postholers ruining the trails due to being unprepared or inconsiderate or both. When I left at 9:15 AM, they were still debating the issue and I hoped they would make the right choice. From the trailhead to the register there was so little snow that I thought I might strap the shoes to my pack until I remembered the bungees were in the car! When I signed in at the register, another hiker had made a rather lengthy and pointed comment about those who choose not to wear snowshoes. I thought it was a little harsh but that was before the snow began to get deeper. There was a few inches of packed snow from the register to the turnoff from the woods road onto the trail. To this point we were making good time.
After the turn onto the trail the snow got a little deeper but it seemed this was mostly due to drifting. There were places where the drifts were over a foot deep but other spots where there was almost no snow! Soon we hit the first of the rock scrambles which I negotiated without removing the snowshoes. The snow got a little deeper the higher we went and another rock scramble was accomplished without a problem. Sheba always goes up first and then waits for me to see if I will make it OK. The blue markers along the trail were few a far between and looked pretty old. Since the trail was completely unbroken, I had to look carefully to see where it went. Fortunately, Sheba does not have that problem! The farther along the trail we went the more annoying the postholers" became. It was not only the occasional hole but the narrow track set my these barebooters. Snowshoes set a wider track so my shoes would keep turning in when I tried to follow the main trail! After one more rock scramble, we arrived at Reconnoiter Rock. I stopped to take some pictures of the area including some of Sheba posing near the rock. We got a drink and a snack and then headed on up the mountain. I had only seen the two hikers behind me once when I thought they would catch and pass me. I wondered now where they had gone!
As soon as we got back on the trail, the snow began to get MUCH deeper. Drifts of snow two feet deep were common and it was obvious that there was 8 to 12 inches of new snow on top. This began just as we started to climb and it slowed me down considerably. I had Sheba walk in my tracks as this made it easier for her although she seemed perfectly willing to lead the way! We climbed some steeper areas and walk through some rocky places until we were at the lookout. Here we stopped and I took quiet a few pictures. The sky was blue with a few clouds but the scene was panoramic! I didn't want to cool off too much since by this time I was wearing only a Mammut Warm Zip Top and my Mammut Ultimate Hoody over that. Surprisingly this was enough as long as I kept moving. What I seem to forget is that after the lookout there is still quite a distance to go to the summit both horizontally and vertically. Some of the more difficult areas are on the last push to the summit. We made good time across the little plateau before the summit and then attacked the last climb to the summit. A few places here are steep and I had to dig in with the snowshoe crampons to prevent sliding backwards. A few other spots are rocky and require some maneuvers with snowshoes. It wasn't too long until we were up and headed across the flat area toward the final climb. Once up the last part it was a short distance until we came to the large boulder that marks the summit.
I had not checked my watch on the way up and wanted to see now how long it had taken. I thought some where between 2 and 2.5 hours was likely. My watch said 12:45 PM which meant that it had taken 3.5 hours! I knew that going down would be much quicker but I was tired of breaking trail by myself. In addition, the trip to Table, although short, offers no real views. I would save Table for another day. After a few pictures on the summit, Sheba and I turned around and started down. We only got a few steps when the first of the other two hikers arrived. His partner was nowhere to be seen. I was happy to see he had chosen to wear the snowshoes but was surprised that he did not have poles. I am not sure I have ever seen this before in the mountains. We talked briefly and then headed in our own directions. As we began to descend, the other hiker showed up. He also had snowshoes but no poles. We talked briefly and I wondered to myself why these two "decided" to separate. I slipped and slid down some of the steepest parts near the top until we were on the plateau. The rest of the hike down went pretty smoothly slowed only by the rock scrambles and some areas with almost now snow. I was able to keep the shoes on for the whole hike.
Soon we turned from the trail onto the woods road and continued to set a quick pace. I signed out at the register noting that the "old" pages had been picked up by a ranger. The two other hikers were from Burlington, VT. From the register it was a quick trip to the car. We were back at the car by 3:45 PM having taken 5.5 hours to cover the 7.6 miles. My new GPS showed that we had "rested" for a total of almost and hour. I think some of this time was the slow going on the ascent. As I pulled out of the parking area, I deiced to drive up the road to take some pictures of Buttermilk Falls. I parked the car at the side of the road and walked back to the bridge. The falls was encased in ice and I took some rather nice pictures. I then walked the path toward the stream to get a better view. After snapping a few more shots, I headed back to the car and started for home.
On Monday, December 28th Karl and I decided we wanted to snowshoe. I had intended to head for Hunter since the reports of snow were good. An early morning ambulance call altered those plans and we decided to test the conditions closer to home at Long Pond. I thought we might try hiking up to the pond and then passed the lean-to. From here we could connect to Basily Road. Cross the beaver pond and continue on Basily to Flugertown Road and back to the car. I was not concerned about the distance but was a little worried about crossing the beaver pond and the stream immediately after it. We parked in a VERY icy parking lot at 12:30 PM and started up the hill immediately. There was enough snow to wear the snowshoes but they were more for traction as the snow was packed and not very deep. The first part of the trail is ALL uphill but it is not very steep or very long. We hiked along and talked until we got to the turnoff for Long Pond. We walked down to the pond and I took some pictures. The ice was thin near the edge where the plants grow but the ice across the rest of the pond look solid.
We continued on the main trail until the junction and turned right to head toward the lean-to. There aren't nay views along the way but the woods were quite with little wind and everything was peaceful. We decided to continue passed the lean-to and on around in the "big loop". It took a little longer than I though but we soon hot the road/snow mobile trail. Someone had been there recently with a pickup which chewed the road up some but we were able to avoid most of the mud. We made a couple of lefts until we were on Basily Road and headed back toward Flugertown Road. As we approached the beaver pond, I hoped the water would be low enough for us to cross. I need not have worried since there was a nice, new footbridge across the stream. We stopped to take some pictures and then continued on. The gate on the private bridge over the next stream was open and we took the opportunity. I don't like crossing private land without asking but it was only a few hundred feet and... Soon we were on the road and headed back toward the car. The road is not maintained for some distance so we kept the snowshoes on until we reached the maintained part of the road. Here we took the shoes off and carried them less than a mile to the car. It was just passed 3:30 PM and we had covered the 6 miles in just over 3 hours.
On Sunday, December 27th Brad and I decided to hike after church. I was afraid that the warm weather would have turned many of the Catskill trails to "mush". We decided to head south to the Bear Mountain area and hike the Dunderberg Mountains. The drawback to this hike is the drive of more than one hour. As we drove down the Quickway, I kept thinking of other places to hike that were closer but stuck to the original plan. I wanted some good views on this beautiful day and had not hiked this route in some time. I was hoping we would have enough time to hike from the parking area near Jones Point up to Bald Mountain and back across the ridge in a clockwise direction. We parked at about 1:00 PM and got hiking immediately. We noticed immediately that there was NO SNOW and that the temperatures were in the low to mod 40's. I had told Brad the story of the spiral railway and to look for features related to it. As we hiked the flat area at the bottom, we could see a cascade of water off the ridge. We took some pictures and left our cameras out to take pictures of the first stone tunnel at the base of the ridge. After this, we began the climb up to the ridge where we turned left to head out toward the Timp.
We hiked along the trail at the edge of the ridge and I told Brad that the best areas for taking pictures were more toward the top of the ridge. We followed the trail as it followed the edge of the ridge giving us good views of the river below and the power plants including Indian Point. The trail cuts back severely several times on its way up the ridge. We stopped occasionally to take a few pictures and at one stop I took off my jacket since the temperatures were rising toward the 40's! One viewpoint gave us a great view of the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant and the Hudson River to the south. Although it was hazy, we could also see the Manhattan skyline in the distance! As we worked our way up the trail, the second tunnel came into view blasted into the side of the mountain. The water was low enough to investigate some. It appears the tunnel does not go far into the mountain and then stops. We took pictures and the got back on the trail which follows the built up railroad bridge until it crosses a stream and begins to ascend again. After working over and through some rocks we descended into an area just before the climb to the Timp. I suggested we skip the Timp and head to Bald Mountain to save time. Brad agreed and we made a quick right and then another to head that way.
We walked a small ridge and then descended into a little valley just before the start of the climb up Bald Mountain. This is one of the prettiest places on the hike and my favorite. The small stream was swollen but we found a place to hop across. The climb up Bald Mountain is not very steep nor is it long. At the top it levels off and then makes a final ascent to a broad rock ledge that offers some great views. The skies were clear this day and the views magnificent. We could see the Perkins Tower on Bear Mountain so clearly it seemed you could reach our and touch it, Below Bear Mountain the bridge stretches across the Hudson. The views up the river to the north went on forever. Immediately below Bald Mountain is Iona Island which now serves as a bird sanctuary. The building on the island were built to store munitions. After taking many photographs it was time to get back on the trail. At this point I was a little concerned about finishing before dark so we stepped up the pace as we hiked across the Dunderberg Ridge itself and what is marked on the map as Dunderberg Mountain.
The trail rolls as it crosses the ridge and there are some views from the higher spots. None of these views are better than the ones from Bald Mountain so we did not stop. As you approach the eastern end of the ridge several roads cross the trail. These seem to connect to the trail on the other side of the ridge but we decided to stay with the known route. We walked through the area that was burned by a forest fire and was the most probable site of the boarding house or hotel that the abandoned railroad was supposed to serve. The trail started to descend from the ridge and I knew we would be OK for time. We stopped at one viewpoint to take pictures of Peekskill Bay and even were able to photograph a Conrail train passing over a small bridge. The trail was very wet and almost indistinguishable from a creek bed at times. After the descent we walk along the built up railroad bed which was blasted from the side of the hill. The trail then started its descent along the graded bed of the inclined railway. The large stones that formed the base of the bed are angular and hard to walk on. We were soon near the point where the trail comes up from below. At this point we turned right, descended the ridge and walked to the car. It was about 4:30 PM and we had finished the 7 mile hike in around 3.5 hours.
On Thursday, December 24th Karl and I decided we wanted to snowshoe. After conducting some business in the morning, we had a few hours before a family gathering so we headed to Frick Pond with the intention of doing the bigger loop to Hodge Pond and then back. The temperatures were just below freezing when we started but there was almost no wind. When we parked, Sheba and Maggie were out of the car like shots and ready to hike. We felt a little cool when we started out as we had passed on the "long johns" but we knew this would change as we got started. Snowshoeing is extremely aerobic and generates a lot of body heat! We along the Quick Lake Trail to Frick Pond and stopped to take a few shots before crossing the bridge to go around the pond. At the trail junction on the other side we stayed on the Quick Lake Trail and started for Iron Wheel Junction. Snowshoes were a plus for traction but were not really necessary. The further we got into the hike the deeper the snow became but we saw no evidence of snowmobile tracks anywhere.
We had to walk around the blowdown on the trail but soon were at Iron Wheel. I had removed my Arc'teryx jacket and was hiking in my Patagonia R1 Flask Pullover and Mammut All-year baselayer. These were more than warm enough! Here we turned left to continue on the Quick Lake Trail toward Junkyard Junction and the Flynn Trail. Snowshoes add between a pound and two pounds to each foot but the motion is more of a shuffle than a step. This part of the trail is always longer than I remember and more uphill. Having Karl and the dogs along made this section seem much shorter. The snow depth increased to between 9 inches and a foot but we were able to stay on top most of the time. At Junkyard Junction we turned right and headed toward Hodge Pond on the Flynn Trail. This section had the most snow and there was no evidence that anyone had been there before us. We arrived at the pond and turned right to circle toward the outlet. The pond was pretty well frozen over so we crossed the ice at the outlet and stopped at the pond to take some pictures. The sun was shining brightly and the temperature was coming up. It was also getting late so we set out on the Flynn Trail back to the parking area at a fast pace. From the Big rock Trail junction to the car was about 1.7 miles which we covered in under 45 minutes. The whole 6 mile hike took us less than 3 hours which we considered good for a snowshoe outing.