Sunday, April 27, 2014


The beautiful Catskill Mountain Forest Preserve in New York is our favorite place for our annual spring vacation. Here the mountains are usually mostly snow and ice-free by late April. After making the long drive down on a fine sunny day, and unloading the car at our rented condo in the town of Hunter,  we drove a few miles to the Pecoy Notch Trail for a late afternoon hike. The plan was to hike a mile to scenic Dibble's Quarry and possibly another mile to Pecoy Notch, the gap between Twin Mountain and Sugarloaf Mountain, and then perhaps scramble up the Devils' Path to an outlook on either side of the notch.

It was great to be back in the Catskills with their cool DEC trail signs.

There is a trail register at just about every trailhead, something you rarely see in the White Mountains.

Even the littlest Catskill streams are attractive.

There's no finer place in the spring than the open hardwood forests of the Cats.

A neat sandstone boulder beside the trail.

Dibble's Quarry, where bluestone was excavated many years ago. Twin Mountain looms to the southeast.

Kaaterskill High Peak is prominent to the north.

Over the years visitors have crafted some neat rock chairs at the quarry.

Thrones fit for a queen and king.

A half-mile above the quarry the trail passes by an old beaver pond with a view of Sugarloaf Mountain.

Carol headed back to hang out and read at the quarry, while I continued up towards Pecoy Notch.

Junction with the Devil's Path in Pecoy Notch. The Sugarloaf side was all in shadow, so I decided to head partway up the sunny Twin Mountain side on a section of trail new to me. We had met a couple coming down who had gone partway up Twin and said there was a lot of ice. I didn't have my Microspikes with me so I knew I might get turned back.

It was late, and probably a crazy idea, but ever since seeing them from a ledge on the side of Sugarloaf in 2005, I had always wanted to bushwhack to the intriguing, wild-looking cliffs on the SW face of Twin, seen in the photo below.

As advertised, the Devil's Path heading up Twin soon became very steep and rocky, with a couple of good hand-and-foot scrambles.

An open spot had a fine view of the Blackhead Range to the north.

The trail passes by this unique boulder.

I negotiated a couple of icy pitches, but turned back at this one as the ice was too slick to get across to the drier footing above.

I descended a short way and considered whether a whack across to the cliffs was feasible. Much of the terrain I'd seen on the way up looked impossibly rugged, but after some probing I found a route that was passable with a slow, cautious advance. Partway along I passed under this neat ice cliff, getting dripped on in the process.

After what seemed like a long time I saw some open crags ahead.

Sugarloaf loomed to the west, across Pecoy Notch.

I carefully worked my way down and out to a spectacular ledge perch, poised above the great talus slope at the foot of the cliffs.

I had an impressive look at the jutting crags above me.

The view here was striking, gazing down a long, scooped valley guarded by the southern spurs of Twin and Sugarloaf. No trails anywhere out there. Sitting here for a precious few minutes in the slanting evening sun, with the wind whipping the crags and a raven sailing by, croaking, I felt like I had discovered one of the wildest haunts in the Catskills.

The Ashokan High Point Range (L) and Burroughs Range (R) in the distance, with Slide Mountain, King of the Catskills, on the far right.

More jutting crags looking to the east.

 The spot even had a view north to the Blackheads.

Working my way across the steep slope back to the Devil's Path.

Back on the trail. Yikes! What a pitch!

Beautiful woods on the way out along the Pecoy Notch Trail. A great start to our week in the Catskills.


  1. Wonderful story and pictures! Yeh, the Catskills are a place for me (from my childhood). Thanks!

    1. Thanks, Catharus. The Catskills were my childhood mountains also, during Boy Scout days.