Wednesday, April 30, 2014


With rain forecast for the afternoon, I decided to go out for a lowland morning walk on the Colgate Lake Trail in the broad East Kill valley on the south side of the Blackhead Range. Carol and I had gone 2.5 mi. in on this trail to a scenic beaver meadow a few years ago, but had turned back when we encountered lingering rotten snow. I wanted to return to that spot and continue farther up the valley to more meadows, one at the site of an old settlement, and a small waterfall on the East Kill. Carol decided to take a day off from hiking, so this would be a solo ramble.

The expansive fields along the first part of the Colgate Lake Trail offer fine mountain views, especially of the Blackhead Range as seen here.

A close-up of Blackhead Mountain and its south spur, which I had bushwhacked up in rain and snow back in 2007, as recounted here.

The flat crest of the summit called Arizona.

Off to the left, Black Dome and Thomas Cole Mountains.

The Colgate Lake Trail has easy grades, though there was some wet footing, as would be expected in April.

Some unexpected sun illuminated the beaver meadow 2.5 mi. in, with the ridge of the Escarpment in the distance.

Beyond here was new territory for me. A rebuilt bridge led across the East Kill in a neat meadowy spot.

The peaceful flow of the East Kill.

A bit farther along the trail I came to the gorgeous meadow I'd read about, the site of a thriving farm community in the 1800s.  This remote opening has views of the Blackhead Range...

...and the nearby peak of Arizona.

An inviting band of ledges up there, perhaps accessible from the Escarpment Trail.

This spot provided a great profile of the long south ridge of Blackhead.

Blackhead is an impressive peak from this angle.

 The seat I used while enjoying the meadow.

Another 0.1 mi. up the trail, reached by a side path, was the pretty cascade on the East Kill.

I was tempted to continue up to Dutcher Notch, a gap in the Escarpment, but I didn't want to have a long walk out in the rain, so I headed back. On the other side of the East Kill from the meadow were these remains of an old junker.

I took some time to explore more beaver meadows just off the trail. This area reminded me of the Zealand valley in the Whites.

The East Kill meandering through the meadows.

I made another stop at the first meadow along the trail, and relaxed on a convenient log for a while.

Evidence of recent beaver activity along a tributary of the East Kill.

Classic Catskill hardwood forest along the trail.

Light rain was falling by the time I got back to the car. I drove a short distance down the road to check out state-owned Colgate Lake. In the background is the "Catskill 67" peak known as West Stoppel Point, which our friends Mark and Marilyn Klim had just climbed the day before.

A misty view of the Blackhead Range from the open fields surrounding Colgate Lake. What a beautiful area!

Monday, April 28, 2014


The mellow hike up to Burnt Knob (3180 ft.) on the northern part of the Escarpment Trail is one of the nicest outings in the Catskills, with three fine viewpoints, each with a unique perspective on the landscape. We had a beautiful warm, sunny spring day in store for us, and I could think of no better place to spend it.

We started from the trailhead at the end of Big Hollow Road and headed up the north side of the Black Dome Range Trail. After crossing Batavia Kill on a bridge, we crossed a tributary on these neat flat stepstones.

The trail makes a mellow climb up to the Escarpment Trail ridge.

Weathered signs at the junction with the Escarpment Trail.

The Escarpment Trail climbs steeply for a while towards Burnt Knob.

There are several dramatic switchbacks along the edge of the ridge.

A partial view out over the Hudson valley.

Looking south to Acra Point, another 3000-ft. peak on the Escarpment Trail.

The first of the Burnt Knob viewpoints is a fine ledge looking across the head of the Black Dome Valley to the Blackhead Range.

Left to right are Blackhead, Black Dome and Thomas Cole Mountains, all over 3900 ft.

Blackhead Mountain, with the flat-topped peak known as Arizona behind on the L. Snow still visible on the north-facing slope.

A half-mile north along the Escarpment Trail is the next viewpoint, with a wide sweep across the Hudson valley. In the distance we could see Mt. Equinox in Vermont and Mt. Greylock in Massachusetts.

Great ridge walking through the open hardwood forest.

The third viewpoint, on a bump between Burnt Knob and Windham High Peak, has a terrific view to the SW.

Looking across the lower Black Dome Valley to the Lexington Range and more distant peaks, including West Kill Mountain peering over on the left.

Windham High Peak, one of the Catskill 3500, looms close by to the NW.

We spent well over an hour here lounging in the warm spring sun. No hurry - we're on vacation!

Cool ledge along the trail on the way back.

On the return trip I did a short bushwhack traverse over the trailless true summit of Burnt Knob. This is one of the Catskill 100 Highest Peaks that are covered in Alan Via's wonderful guidebook, The Catskill 67.

A little natural meadow on the way across the ridge.

We took another break back at the Blackhead Range view ledge.

On the way down off the ridge I made a short whack down to the beautiful mossy tributary.

Nice hemlock forest on the lower part of the trail.

We'd spent the whole day in the Windham Blackhead Range Wilderness - part of the "forever wild" Forest Preserve.

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.