Sunday, September 24, 2017

Willow Trail to Tremper Mountain

Date Distance Time Elevation Gain Average Moving Time Year to Date Miles
9/24/2017 10 miles 4 hours 48 minutes

Map: NYNJTC Catskills Map #141
Parking: Willow Post Office on Jessup Road
Directions: From the post office, continue along Jessup Road. Cross over a bridge. The paved road becomes a gravel road. Eventually the yellow blazed trail heads left into the woods. Follow the trail uphill to the intersection of the Warner Creek Trail. Turn left on the Warner Creek Trail and hike to Tremper Mountain fire tower. Return the same way.

The Warner Creek Trail is a challenge to do with only 1 car. We have already hiked to Tremper Mountain via the usual approach, so today we hiked it a different way. It was again a hot and humid day - crazy weather for the end up September. The forecast was for temps in the low 80's. We checked our map before we left and saw that there was no water source. We ended up packing 7 liters of water for 2 people and 1 dog. I think 8 liters would have been better.

We parked at the post office, which is the normal parking area for the Willow Trail. The post office is a shipping container. Tiny. There is about a 1 mile road walk from the post office to the trail. Willow looks like a relaxed town. Some of the houses along the road walk looked really nice and some had good views of mountains. We had no idea where the trail turned left off of the road, but it was actually easier than it looked. We just kept walking and the road turned into a gravel road. We encountered a loose dog from one of the houses. Trek was AWESOME! Trek just hates dogs running up to him. This was a barky but friendly dog who kept following us. Trek was stressed, but we kept walking and Trek just wanted to get away from the persistent dog. We managed to get away with no snapping from Trek. I told him what a wonderful dog he was. So impressed at how he tried so hard to ignore the dog when he was obviously really uncomfortable.

Once we turned left into the woods, the trail started climbing. The Willow Trail is not well maintained. At first it is more of a woods road. Glen and I threw some large branches off the trail. This trail looks like it could use some love. So few people hike this trail, so I'm sure its at the bottom of the list of trails to maintain. The trail isn't used to reach any 3500 mountains, and its not the fastest approach to Tremper Mountain. There also isn't any parking at the beginning of the trail, thus the 1 mile road walk. So, you can see how it isn't a popular trail. My guess is its only used by locals, or folks working on hiking all of the trails in the Catskills. We are thinking about getting involved with trail maintenance. We did a work trip last year, but that was right at the time my hip pain started, so that put an end to a lot of my hiking activities for a while.

The trail got worse. We were so, so hot. I wore long pants today, and was just overheating. I usually wear pants when hiking, because I prefer them for tick protection. I ended up rolling up my pants and instantly felt a little cooler. Then we hit stinging nettles. The trail is very overgrown, so we were walking through the nettles. They started irritating my legs, and I ended up stopping every few steps to scratch my legs. Eventually I got too frustrated and pulled my pant legs back down. I normally like to try to hike up hills at a slow consistent maintainable pace, where I don't need to take rests. Today I had to take several short breaks during the climb. The heat was getting to me, and I didn't want to burn through my water too fast. So I stopped often to let my heartbeat slow down and to offer Trek water. I decided that we could always turn around at the Willow/Warner Creek Trail intersection if I felt we didn't have enough water to safely do the hike.

Once we hit the Warner Creek Trail, we did decide to continue on. My hip was hurting pretty badly by this point. No groin pain, but just pain in my outer hip I guess - higher than my bursa. Maybe I should have gotten the additional bursa injection to see if resolved the additional pain I've had since my groin pain has gotten better. The Warner Creek Trail is much more level than the Willow Trail. I still went slowly in order to prevent overheating. The Warner Creek Trail is also a very lightly used trail, but it was in much better shape than the Willow Trail. I have heard that the Warner Creek Trail is very overgrown, but it was actually fine. We saw NO people on this hike until we reached the fire tower after 5 miles of hiking.

When we arrived, I put Trek on leash and sat down on the grass. Tremper is known for having rattlesnakes. I know snakes like rocks, so I felt better just sitting in the grass. We saw no snakes :) I was so happy to just rest my hip and cool down. Tremper has a fire tower on top, and we got really lucky as there were a couple of fire tower volunteers there who had the top of the fire tower opened. Trek made a lot of friends on the top of the mountain. People were amazed that at 9 years old he's fit enough to do hikes like this. The fire tower volunteers open up the fire tower from 11am - 3pm on weekends for a few months of the year. One of the volunteers was a retired forest ranger, and it was interesting to talk to her about fighting fires in the Catskills. Luckily there aren't many big fires here. Glen and I climbed to the top. I remembered to bring my map and compass up. I oriented my map but didn't spend a lot of time trying to identify mountains. The fire tower volunteers were leaving soon, and I knew it would take me a long time to do a good job figuring out which mountains I was seeing. There were 360 degree views of mountains, and a whole lot of them. So trying to line up those many bumps in the views with the contours in my map would take me some time.

After resting some and drinking lots of water and having snacks, we headed back the way we came. Going downhill we needed less water and we were cooler. Not cool, but just not overheating. We still stopped and offered Trek water a couple of times on the way down. Next time its this warm we really need to choose a hike with a water source! Both to give Trek a chance to cool down, and to have the ability to filter water if we need to.

The highlight of the return trip! I heard a crashing off to the side of the Willow Trail. I looked over and saw a bear scurrying away. Woohoo! My first bear sighting when hiking! We've seen bears on drives to hikes, but have not once seen a bear when hiking. Today was my first. Unfortunately, Glen was hiking 100 feet in front of me and missed it! He was so jealous! It's so funny, because he used to be really nervous about seeing bears, and now he really, really wants to see one and just missed it.

View on road walk. One of the houses on this street had mountain views from both sides! Sweet!

The paved road turns into a gravel road.

And then the trail enters the woods

The overgrown Willow Trail

Once you hit the intersection with the Warner Creek Trail, the trail is much more level.

Up in the fire tower. Spectacular mountain views all around.

We tried to throw some larger branches off the trail. Trek like to pick them up and run with them. He is NOT a good trail maintenance dog. Ha!

View from the shipping container post office parking lot.

MA Appalachian Trail - Section 1 - Vermont border to Mass 2 

Date Distance Time Elevation Gain Average Moving Time Year to Date Miles
9/23/2017 8.4 miles 3 hours 49 minutes

Map & Guide: Appalachian Trail Guide Massachusetts
Parking: School near Mass 2.
Directions: Hike northbound from Mass 2 to Vermont border. Return southbound to Mass 2.

One of our hiking goals this year was to finish the Massachusetts section of the AT. Today was our final hike. Woohoo! We had planned to do more miles on the AT this year, but work has gotten in the way. We may still try to take a weeklong vacation to try to get some more miles in.

We parked at the school which is just before Mass 2. The AT passes the school. We figured since it was a weekend and we weren't leaving our car overnight that it would be fine. We had warm humid weather again. What happened to fall? From the school, we crossed over Mass 2 and then crossed a bridge over river. We had a short road walk on the other side. The trail then went into someone's driveway before going into the woods. The house there had a hose with water for AT hikers. It's so cool to see people helping out thru hikers! We were lucky and the beginning of this hike followed a stream. It was around 80 degrees and humid, so not ideal hiking weather. Trek ran in and out of the water.

I found the beginning of the hike rather uninteresting. It was a climb, but not too steep luckily. We eventually arrived at a steep section followed by a climb up a boulder field. I enjoyed the boulder field, though of course I had to slow way down, as I don't want to risk spraining an ankle. Glen found it interesting at how well Trek did. After all, he's got 4 feet to think about where he'll place. Trek did slide off some boulders though. We checked his feet after the hike, and they ended up being fine. No torn pads.

Above the boulder field, the hike was pretty. There were pitch pines which reminded me of the gunks. Speaking of the gunks - I need to plan a hike out there soon. That is my favorite fall foliage destination!

We passed by something called the rock garden. I was expecting it to be a bunch of cairns, but it was just a rocky section with the pitch pines. It was pretty. We continued on, the next highlight being Eph's Lookout. But Eph's Lookout is no longer a lookout. The trees have grown in, so there is no view. Only blueberry bushes. We ended at the MA/VT border. There's a large sign welcoming you to the start of the Long Trail in Vermont. The Appalachian Trail follows the Long Trail for a ways. We sat down and took a break, then headed back the way we came to our car.

Back at home we celebrated. This is our 6th state we've completed of the Appalachian Trail - Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and now Massachusetts. It took us 5 years to finish Massachusetts, but we are making progress!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

MA Appalachian Trail - Section 2 - Mass 2 to Mount Prospect Trail

Date Distance Time Elevation Gain Average Moving Time Year to Date Miles
9/17/2017 5.4 miles

Parking: Pattison Road
Directions: Cross street from parking area and hike southbound on AT to Mount Prospect Trail intersection. Return to parking area. Hike northbound on AT to Mass 2. Return to parking area.

We are so close to finishing the MA section of the AT! We both agree that once we reach the Vermont border, we are done with northbound daytrips on the AT. I'm hoping to do the rest of Vermont as backpacking trips.

We got a late start today, which isn't unusual. We didn't get on the trail until 1 pm. Again, the weather was too warm and humid. We started hiking southbound and had a 1,500 foot climb to the Mount Prospect trail intersection. I was dripping sweat within 5 minutes. The climb was pretty tough, but there were switchbacks and the footing was pretty good (not too slippery). We crossed a couple of streams at the very beginning, but after that it was dry. We made sure to stop and offer Trek water on our way up.

The hike up was pretty unexciting. It was fine, just nothing remarkable. We did stop and take a break at the intersection with the Mount Prospect trail. This is where we ended our hike yesterday. We weren't able to practice our navigation skills yesterday (due to a loose dog), but today we had the viewpoint all to ourselves. I sat down and oriented the map. Williamstown is on the right hand side of the view. Our map didn't show the mountains that were way off in the distance, so we could only practice by trying to identify landmarks in the foreground. I can't say we did very well matching up what we saw with the map. Our map showed Mount Hope Farm, and we saw a farm, but it didn't match up. I went online and did some research, and it looks like Mount Hope Farm is no longer a farm - it was a historical place which has since been split up. That would explain our confusion with our map reading. The farm we saw was not the farm we saw on our map.

After our map research, we headed back down to our car. I dropped off my trekking poles in the car, because I knew I wanted to keep Trek on leash for the next section. We decided to go another 1 mile northbound to MA 2. That's basically the last parking area we can park in MA to finish up our MA section hike. We did some road walking in a suburban neighborhood to the highway. We also scoped out potential parking areas for our next trip. There is a school there - and we figure it would be okay to park there on a weekend for a day hike. MA 2 is not as big a road as I was thinking it would be (it has sidewalks), so we could also park down that road at a community center (with permission) or a grocery store if necessary. We crossed over MA 2 and went partway over a pedestrian bridge and then turned around. On our way back, we saw a thru hiker sitting in the schoolyard. We waved, and he called us over to talk. He was looking for lodging for the night. We spent a few minutes talking to him (he's a southbounder), and continued back to our car.

Trying to work on our map & compass skills

Love how trail towns cater to hikers. How cool is this?

Bridge after Route 2 crossing

View from bridge next to Route 2

Saturday, September 16, 2017

MA Appalachian Trail - Section 2 - Mount Prospect Trail to Mount Greylock

Date Distance Time Elevation Gain Average Moving Time Year to Date Miles
9/16/2017 7.9 miles 3 hours 51 minutes

Parking: Notch Road (Wilbur Clearing), north of Mount Greylock

Directions: Short road walk to AT. Hike south on AT to Mount Greylock summit. Hike north on AT. We added variation by taking some blue blazed trails back to the parking lot. Hike north 1/2 mile to Mount Prospect Trail & overlook. Hike south on AT and again took some blue blazed trail back to the parking lot.

One of our 2017 goals is to complete the Massachusetts section of the Appalachian Trail. We are getting close. This is the furthest north we can realistically hike on the AT from our home, without taking a vacation. It was a long drive up, but we entertained ourselves by listening to episodes of a podcast - Cascade Hiker. The podcast makes me want to move to Washington state (despite Glen hating hiking in rain).

We could have started today's hike from the summit of Mount Greylock, but we prefer to do our harder hiking in the beginning of the hike. So we parked further down the mountain and hiked up it. It was a warm humid day, so we were dripping sweat in no time. I didn't get to use my hiking poles today. The Mount Greylock area is busy, so its best to keep Trek on leash. The hike up wasn't too bad, except for the lack of poles & the humidity. Just a note - there was very little water on this hike. Trek drank the whole liter that he carried. When we got to Mount Greylock, the war memorial was open, so we got to go up it for the first time. The previous two times we've been here, it's been closed. We took turns climbing up the tower. You can see mountains in all directions - mountains in NY, MA, VT, and NH. Wow!

Hiking downhill was slow of course - even more so due to my lack of poles. The rocks were wet, so I slipped a few times. Partway down, we decided to take a side trail down in order to form a loop. The side trail was less well maintained. We also had to stop and study the map a few times. The side trail split multiple times - and all of the trails were blazed blue. It was a little confusing, but we did end up going the right way. After getting to the parking lot, we decided to hike north for 1/2 mile to the Prospect Trail, where there is a lookout. There were 2 people with loose dogs at the lookout, so we didn't stay long. They were hammocking, and I'm not sure if they had leashes for their dogs. We sat for a minute, and then decided to move on (Trek hates other dogs running up to him). We turned around and returned to our car.

We stopped by the food coop in Great Barrington, and got home quite late. It's hard to get many miles in with such a long drive, but we should still be able to finish the MA section in 2-3 more hikes.

Faded sign for Mount Williams summit

View from Mount Williams summit

We got confused at the summit. We weren't sure where the trail went. We tried one way and ended up in a stealth campsite. When we found the sharp U-turn on the trail, we didn't remember which way we came. Luckily others must have had this same issue - and we found and "S" on the blaze to indicate south.

Trek wants a new backpack for Christmas. His backpack has holes in it. We tried patching it, but the patch came off recently.

Approaching the newly renovated war memorial.

Inside the top of the memorial. Signs show which mountain ranges you can see from each direction.

View from inside the tower

View from inside the tower

Handsome dog waiting while Glen and I take turns climbing up the tower.

We took this side trail.

The side trail split at an old fireplace. Which way to go? Both trails were blue.

Going this way. 

Sign near the parking area.

We decided to hike north from the parking area to the Mt. Prospect view.

Short break at Mount Prospect view before heading back to our car.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Hunter Mountain, Catskills

Date Distance Time Elevation Gain Average Moving Time Year to Date Miles
9/10/2017 9.1 miles

Map: NYNJTC Catskills Map #141

Parking: Route 214

Directions: Head to the left of the lake. Take red blazed Devil's Path. Turn right onto yellow blazed Hunter Mountain trail. Turn right onto blue blazed Becker Mountain trail. Turn left on yellow blazed trail. Arrive at summit. Explore fire tower. Head behind cabin and turn left of blue blazed? trail. At 4 way intersection, turn right onto yellow blazed spur trail to view. Return back to 4 way intersection. Turn right onto yellow blazed Hunter Mountain trail. Turn right onto Devil's Path. Pass Devil's Acre shelter. Arrive at herd path to Southwest Hunter Mountain, but didn't take it. Turned around. Followed Devil's Path back to Route 214.

I woke up 30 minutes earlier today than yesterday, knowing I wanted to get an early start. But, I was tired. I woke up with a tired body. Even though I got up early, we got out of the house later than yesterday. I just wasn't moving very fast. We had another challenging hike lined up for today. If it wasn't such a beautiful day, I would have been tempted to just spend it in bed. My legs still felt like mush. And even my arms were tired. This was our last hike we needed to finish the Devil's Path.

We started the hike and again, it just started climbing. It didn't feel as hard as yesterday's, but my body was tired. The beginning again was a steep climb uphill. It felt like there were more switchbacks than yesterday, and the occasional level section between steeper climbs. We turned onto the Hunter Mountain trail, which is a lovely hike. We hadn't studied our previous hikes enough, so we couldn't remember if we needed to do the small trail loop around Hunter Mountain. So we did it, just in case we hadn't before. We started steeply down the Belcher Trail. It's steep and slippery. We were glad when we turned left off of it and started climbing again. It was a pointless down & then up. We arrived at Hunter Mountain, which is one of my favorite summit areas. I just remember visiting it in winter on a 20 degree day with rime ice on all of the trees at the summit - a stunning site. There was another dog & 5 other people on the summit, so we kept Trek on leash. I was happy to sit down at the picnic table and give my legs a rest. We then each took turns climbing the fire tower. Climbing fire towers isn't my favorite thing, but its the only way to get a view. It's quite a view too! I forgot to bring my map & compass up. Oops. It would have been a perfect place to practice.

After resting, we continued on. We took a small side trail to an overlook. The woman with the dog who we had seen at the summit, warned us that we should put Trek on leash due to snakes at the overlook. We did put him on leash. It took us a while to find them, but there were indeed 2 snakes. One on the left side of the overlook (with a snakeskin next to it), and one on the right side of the overlook. They both watched us. Ugh. We tried to identify them. They didn't rattle. Glen googled and decided they didn't look like copperheads. They weren't black rat snakes. So, not sure what they were. They had a pattern on their backs, but based on their head shape, I didn't think they were copperheads. I still felt very uncomfortable there being watched by snakes. So, I didn't practice my map & compass skills there like I planned. We left.

We headed back the way we came. Glen was really happy. Hiking does that to you. The trail was easy and beautiful. We had a small section we had to finish on the Devil's Path up to the herdpath to Southwest Hunter Mountain, so we did that as well. We didn't have time to do the bushwhack up that mountain, and my legs were shot anyways. We found the trail up, and then promptly turned around. We did see a group of kids heading out for a backpack. Lucky them! We started heading down the steep section of the Devil's Path back to our car. This part again was slow and frustrating. My legs were so tired so I had to go very slow in order to be safe. I also developed groin pain on the way down - just a feeling like something in my hip was catching, which was very uncomfortable. It wasn't as slippery as yesterday, but I still managed to fall once or twice. Even though I enjoyed the hike, I was really happy to arrive back at the car and just get off my feet and stop irritating my hip. Back at home, this time I foam rolled and worked on releasing the tightness in my calves. Yeah!

View from the fire tower

Easy trail

Love the moss near the summit

Looking down from the fire tower at Trek and Glen

View from the fire tower

Close view from the fire tower. This is why Catskill summits smell like Christmas!

Cairn indicating herd path to Southwest Hunter