Monday, August 21, 2017

Plattekill Mountain bushwhack, Catskills

Date Distance Time Elevation Gain Average Moving Time Year to Date Miles

Map: NYNJTC Catskills Map 141
Parking: Platte Clove Road parking area for Huckleberry Point. Or roadside parking next to the trailhead.
Directions: We parked in the parking lot off Platte Clove Road, but there is closer parking next to the trailhead (if there is room). We turned right on the road and walked to the trailhead (kiosk). Follow the blue blazed Overlook Trail. Pass a quarry. Join the Devil's Path briefly. Continue on the Overlook Trail where the Devil's Path splits off. Pass the Devil's Kitchen shelter. Cross over a stream. Turn left onto a short spur path to Codfish Point. Return to the trail. Almost opposite the Codfish Point trail, is a herd path to another quarry. Follow this herd path up to the quarry where there is a view with stone chairs. We continued a little ways until the herd path gave out. From there we started our bushwhack to Plattekill Mountain. After reaching the summit, we bushwhacked down, arriving further south on the Overlook Trail. Continue on the Overlook Trail to the Echo Lake Trail. Return back to the parking area, following the Overlook Trail.

We really missed having Trek on this hike. He's the best bushwhack companion. Next weekend he should be back to hiking!

There are falls near the trailhead, but the trail to them is closed and is currently being worked on by volunteers.

We had a nice pleasant hike and stopped by the first quarry. There's a pretty area through open forest that the trail passes through. The trail was muddy again, but at least the hiking was straightforward. This quarry isn't quite as impressive as the one on the Devil's Path.

We stopped by Codfish Point. There are seats with views, where I practiced my map and compass skills again.

We used to bring a GPS on all of our bushwhacks, so we could use it as a backup. It makes me feel so much more comfortable. I didn't bring one today. But we both have phones, and I've been using Strava to track our hikes recently rather than carrying the extra weight of a GPS. Well, somehow my phone didn't charge when we were driving up to the Catskills. My battery was low. And Glen didn't have Strava downloaded. He did manage to download it at the first quarry. I felt a little better. Just a reminder of why map and compass skills are important. Electronics fail!

We decided that we would do a bushwhack up Plattekill Mountain (on the Catskill 67 list) and then continue over the mountain to land up somewhere on the Overlook trail close to the Echo Lake trail. We found a little information on the bushwhack up, but not much on the bushwhack down. We aren't aiming to do the Catskill 67 (too many hikes on private property), but will do some of the ones on public property when they fit in well with one of our hikes.

Once we found the start of the path towards Plattekill Mountain, it was an easy to follow herd path up to a small quarry area. There were again seats at the top with a view the Catskill Bruderhof buildings, Roundtop Mountain, and KHP. We had seen some members of the Bruderhof walking on the roads and hiking today.

The herd path continued a short ways past the chairs. We tried following it to see where it went, but it petered out. We took a bearing and started heading up. The description we found made it look like a piece of cake. Ha! We took a bearing and off we went. We hit a cliff immediately. Not a tall cliff, but still one that needed navigating around. We continued up. It's been a while since we've done a bushwhack. We went through a thin band of conifers near the top. Eventually if we followed my bearing, we'd be heading down.

We walked around the summit area looking for 2 large rocks, which theoretically are the summit. We don't know if we found the right rocks, but hopefully they are. So, I felt I did okay with our navigation up using just the compass.

Going down was another story. We tried to follow the southeast ridge down the mountain. Glen finds staying on ridges straightforward. I don't. We walked mostly on the edge of the ridge. We found the forest thicker going down the mountain. Bugs were annoying us. And we were sweating despite the cool weather. Somehow, we ended up going way too far west. Glen started checking the phone. Then I felt less secure on my navigation skills. UGH. I hate being lost, and almost every bushwhack feels like being lost. We started being on the top of a band of cliffs. On the bright side, we did get a view! We found a rock on the cliffs where we could actually see out. We had a great view of Echo Lake and the communications tower beyond it, and realized we needed to head further east. We changed our bearing to go southeast. Seeing the lake made me feel a little bit better. But we were once again in forest where all views were obscured. We started having to bushwhack through mountain laurel. I used to like mountain laurel. It has pretty flowers. Bushwhacking through thick mountain laurel sucks. I tried using brute force. It kept grabbing onto my legs and not letting me through. My legs and feet felt gouged. The brush was really thick and half the time we couldn't see where we were stepping.We got more and more frustrated with the brush. After a while we decided - let's not try to follow the ridge down. Let's try to get back to the trail the fastest way possible. We started heading further east. We had to navigate down more cliffs, but always found a safe way. Eventually Glen called out "TRAIL!" Happy time!

We continued along the trail until we hit the intersection of the Echo Lake trail. If we hadn't just been frustrated with our bushwhack, we would have continued down to Echo Lake. It seems like it would be a nice place to camp if you were able to get it to yourself. We stopped at the intersection and took a break. We compared wounds from the mountain laurel. I sat and drank water.

We headed back to our car on the Overlook trail. Have I mentioned that the portion of the Overlook trail between Echo Lake and Codfish Point is beautiful? It's EASY! It's flat. There aren't many rocks. It's not overly muddy. The ground is dirt and soft. You can just get in a rhythm and hike. I was hungry by then, but didn't want to eat, because I knew we'd be picking up real food for dinner. This wasn't a particularly good idea, because I was left with little energy to finish the easy portion. I hiked along at a relaxed pace, way behind Glen.

We decided bushwhacks aren't particularly fun for us, but we do get a sense of accomplishment when we complete them. Blood, sweat, and tears.

First quarry stop

A couple of chairs with a view this is from Codfish Point

Practicing my map and compass skills again. Round Top in the middle and KHP on the right. The Bruderhof buildings in front. I didn't want to try to figure out all of the mountains further in the distance.

Approximate Plattekill summit

Approximate Plattekill summit

Taking a break at the Echo Lake trail.

Indian Head Mountain, Catskills

Date Distance Time Elevation Gain Average Moving Time Year to Date Miles

Map: NYNJTC Catskills Map 141
Parking: Prediger Road
Directions: Red blazed Devil's Path. Turn right on blue blazed Jimmy Dolan Notch trail. Turn left on to red blazed Devil's Path. Join Overlook trail briefly. Turn left onto Devil's Path where it splits from the Overlook trail. Turn right on the Devil's Path where it intersects with the Jimmy Dolan Notch trail.

Our dogs are hacking less, but we decided to leave Trek home one more weekend to be safe. We had great weather, so we headed up to the Catskills to continue working on completing the Devil's Path. We decided to do a loop trail which goes over Indian Head Mountain. We took a look at a couple of websites and studied our map to determine if we should do the loop clockwise or counter clockwise. To use, it looked like counterclockwise was preferable, so that's the route we took.

Like last week, it had rained the day before we went hiking. So the trail were wet, wet, wet. I was covered in mud in no time. The temperature was nice today, but we were dripping sweat in no time due to the humidity. When we reached the intersection of the Jimmy Dolan Notch trail and the Devil's Path, we continued straight a ways, to see the view from the notch. There's a small herdpath that goes that way.

We had plenty of rock scrambling on the Devil's Path, but all of it was within the realm of what we feel comfortable doing. This section would have been hard for Trek, but I'm sure we could have found a way. These hikes on the Devil's Path make me think that there is no way I'd want to do a winter's round of the 3500 footers. Just imagine those rock scrambles covered in a layer of ice. Yikes!

View from the notch.

Typical Devil's Path terrain. Rocks!

Near the summit, the trail flattens out.

Approximate summit

Or was it this?

Taking a break to use our map to locate the mountains we can see.

A nicer view

My map reading skills need work. I couldn't figure out how that body of water tied to my map. We could find the communications tower on the map, but it took a long time for us to figure out that was behind it was the Hudson River and it was off the edge of our map. The small rivers we were looking for couldn't be seen from our view, and are actually in front of the tower. No wonder the river didn't look like the rivers in our map! Ha!

I like this photo because it shows scale much better than many of our photos. This descent was actually not too difficult. The roots were really strong and easy to hold onto as you lower yourself down the cliff.

Twin Mountain, Catskills

Date Distance Time Elevation Gain Average Moving Time Year to Date Miles
8/13/2017 5.2 miles 4.5 hours

Map: NYNJTC Catskills Map 141
Parking: Roaring Kill Road
Directions: Follow yellow blazed Roaring Kill Trail. Left on blue blazed Pecoy Notch Trail. Left on Devil's Path. Hike to Twin Mountain. Return using the same route.

We had to leave both dogs at home, because they just started having signs of kennel cough (lots of hacking). It feels wrong to hike without Trek. When we arrived in the Catskills, everything looked wet. It had rained the day before, and the trails were soupy mud. We had just recently done the Pecoy Notch Trail in order to hike up Sugarloaf. We had considered adding on Twin Mountain to that hike (it's just another 1.4 miles, why not?), but after today, we're glad we didn't. We had hiked Twin Mountain before, but from the Jimmy Dolan Notch trail. We needed to complete a small (.7 mile) section of the Devil's Path between other sections we've hiked before (we are working on hiking all of the trails in the Catskills).

We got lucky and had the Dibble's Quarry to ourselves. We sat down and had a water and a snack break. The quarry is so fun! Even as an adult! I swear, I would like to have 2 new outdoor chairs in our yard - why can't I have chairs like this!  I took out my map and practiced my map and compass skills, trying to identify the mountains around us. I definitely don't practice those skills enough, and really need to every time I come out here.

Moving on to the Devil's Path, things got more challenging of course. We had one spot where we got stuck! I tried a couple of times, but my fear prevented me from climbing up. I asked Glen to try - he's taller than me. So I figured if he could find a way up, I'd try to copy the path he took. He tried to figure out a way, but couldn't do it either. UGH. The rocks were wet. I'm wondering if I would be able to do it when the rocks were dry. We spent 15 minutes trying to come up with a way. I felt pretty defeated. I decided there has to be a way around it at least. I ended up find a safer way up around 20 feet to the right of the trail. Glen still felt our alternate route was sketchy, and wasn't sure he wanted to descend that way. Climbing up is much easier than climbing down. Besides the fact that we couldn't get up the trail, I don't know what we would have done with Trek. We almost decided to make a loop out of our hike in order to avoid that spot. But, that would add in extra hours plus road walking.

The rest of the climb up Twin was fine. We were definitely glad we didn't add it on to our prior Sugarloaf hike. On the way down, I looked for another alternate way. I found another way even further to the right where we both felt comfortable descending and whacking our way back to the trail. Phew! Maybe Trek could have gone this way too (with some human assistance). I really wanted to sit at that spot on the trail and just wait for someone to climb up it, so that I could see where they placed their hands and feet! We don't really feel like we need to repeat this route. Well. Maybe if its a really, really dry day.

Arriving at the quarry

There are several stone chairs in what feels like a living room

Practicing compass skills from my chair

Typical Devil's Path trail

Some rock scrambling required, but this was an okay spot

This is where we got stuck. It's around a 50 foot tall cliff. We could get partway up and then couldn't figure out how to get higher. So frustrating.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Sugarloaf Mountain, Catskills

Date Distance Time Elevation Gain Average Moving Time Year to Date Miles
7/29/2017 4 hours 45 minutes

Map: NYNJ Trail Conference, Catskills, Trail Map 141
Parking: Roaring Kill Road
Directions: Yellow blazed Roaring Kill trail. Left on blue blazed Pecoy Notch trail. Right on red blazed Devil's Path. Summit Sugarloaf. Right on blue blazed Mink Hollow trail. Left on yellow blazed Roaring Kill trail.

I was a little apprehensive about this hike, as it was listed as extremely difficult. We had hiked Sugarloaf before, so I'm not sure why I was worried. My hip was sore but good enough to hike. The trail came across the really fun rock quarry section which has several rock chairs. I didn't take photos, because the area was crowded with visitors. It seems like lots of people hike just to the quarry and then turn around. I can see how it would be a popular place for taking children, because its fun! We continued on, and then there were fewer people. Hiking on the Devil's Path was fine. There is rock scrambling, but nothing that is too hard in the summer (this hike is really, really hard in the winter due to ice). We came across views both before and after the summit. The summit itself doesn't have a view.

At the intersection of the Devil's Path and the Mink Hollow Trail, we met a backpacker who was giving up on his hike, and asked us to help him get to someplace with cell service. He hiked out to the parking area with us, but ended up not needing a ride, because he was able to get reception in the parking area.

This hike helped us finish 3 trails on the Catskills All Trails challenge, which we are starting to work on again. No goals on when we'll complete it, but just plugging away at it. We are running out of AT hikes within driving distance, so I think we'll be focusing on Catskill hikes more now.

Rock chairs before the main quarry

The trail passes a beaver pond

One of the steeper sections, where you grab onto the tree roots to help climb up.

Oops - backpacks sometimes get in the way

Viewpoint after the summit which is not as open as the viewpoint before the summit

This hike has a couple of places where dogs need assistance. Harnesses are really helpful.