On Tuesday, July 22nd I to continue to work on the Shawangunk Ridge Trail. I decided to go to Minnewaska to hike the Jenny Lane Trail to the Rainbow falls Trail and over Litchfield Ledge. I lknew that I could reverse the route to get back or decide to try a loop. Sheila and I left Livingston Manor and drove through Grahamsville on Route 55. We took a shortcut to Route 209 and then took Route 44/55 over the mountain to the Jenny Lane Parking area just before the Minnewaska State Park entrance. We started our hike along the road at about 9:00 AM and I missed the faint paint blaze and blue disk on the other side of the road the first time. We crossed the road and were soon on the trail which is less used than many in the park. Soon we came across a tree hanging in the middle of the trail and I knew we were on the Shawangunk Ridge Trail. We gained a little elevation and passed over some open rocks before coming to an area where the trail is deeply eroded and lined by laurel. I was watching my foot placement as many of the rocks were slippery. Just before a mile I looked ahead to see that some brush blocked the trail and that Sheila was simply sitting on the trail waiting for me. I thought this strange as she normally would just go around the obstruction but she does sometimes wait for me. When I got to her, I decided to walk around the brush to the left as it seemed others had gone that way. I took half a step into the brush and hear the unmistakable “zingggg” of an Eastern timber rattlesnake. I looked down and saw a four foot snake coiled and rattling as loudly as it could. Sheila never moved! I thought about going around. I thought about taking a picture! I finally did the right thing and turned around to hike back to the car! I had not expected to see a rattlesnake on the east side of Route 44/55 although I have seen them by the Peters Kill on the west side. I decided that if there was one there might be more and I did not want to take a chance with the Sheila. If I had been alone, which I seldom am, I might have walked around and continued the hike. I was disappointed that I had to cut the hike short but I feel it was the right choice. I decided that the rest of the SRT near Port Jervis and Minnewaska and wait until after the first snow as I now have seen rattlesnakes recently in both areas. Seeing the snake raised questions in my mind about rattlesnake bites and emergency medical care and I will be investigating the answers.
On Sunday, July 20th I had planned to go with my wife, Cindy, to Mine Kill State Forest near Middleburgh and to hike part of the Long Path in that area. The weather forecast changed from sunny to overcast with a chance of rain. When We decided to change plans Cindy decided she did not want to hike. I wanted to continue to work on the Shawangunk Ridge Trail. I decided to go to Ellenville and park near the beginning of the South Gully Trail on Route 52 and hike south to at least the yellow connector trail. I had in mind about a 6 mile round trip and could always decide to go a little farther. This would connect the northern and southern sections of the trail I had already hiked. Sheila was ready to go even after a day off on Saturday and we left Livingston Manor after church around 11:00 AM. I took the Quickway to Liberty where I picked up Route 52 which I took through Woodbourne and Ellenville. As I drove up the mountain outside Ellenville heading toward Pine Bush, I pulled over just after the South Gully bridge. I turned around and parked on the wide shoulder. Sheila and I were ready to go 11:45 as we tagged the beginning of the South Gully Trail and then crossed the road to pick up the Long Path and SRT heading south. The trail descended from the road and the trail marking immediately disappeared at a T! We turned left on what is marked on the maps as Old Route 52 and soon found the aqua blazes of the Long Path which seemed to alternate with the dark blue blazes of the SRT. The road was wide and grassy at this point as we headed mostly uphill. We continued on the road which became MUCH rockier in places but continued to head uphill on a very slight grade. We crossed several small streams heading generally southwest. At 2.4 miles the trail suddenly turned 180 degrees and headed northeast to avoid descending into a deep ravine. At 2.6 miles we reached a trail junction with the yellow connector trail continuing straight ahead to a parking area on Route 52. This was as far as I “had” to go but not as far as I wanted to go. We turned right to stay on the Long Path and SRT.
The trail immediately began to climb up a ridge and was at times steep. There were open rock faces to climb over and some were a little slippery from the accumulation of pine needles. Within a short distance there was an open rock face with some nice views to the west and north. I stopped to take some pictures despite a slight haze in the distance. I could see some of the Catskill peaks to the north. The ascent continued for another .6 miles gaining 675 feet with an average grade of right around 20% but with some areas nearly 30%. It was a nice climb and several times I thought I was at the top only to find higher ground ahead. I had thought about stopping at 3 miles but decided we would continue to the highest point on the ridge and turn around when the trail started to descend. In two or three more spots there were open views from rock faces and we stopped as I took some more shots. The trail began to level off at 3.25 miles and became completely overgrown by laurel and scrub oak. This neglect for the trail had been my experience on previous hikes and it is a shame. Not many people hike the trail so the vegetation does not get pushed back and since it is not much used it is not well maintained so people don’t hike it! At about 3.4 miles we came across a young man sitting on a rock by the side of the trail. We talked for a few minutes. He said the trail ahead was even more overgrown. I showed him the Avenza app on my cell phone that displays many trail maps in pdf form and also shows your position and will record a GPS track. We walked a little farther to 3.5 miles and the turned around to come back at around 1:30 PM. The young man was gone and we set a quick pace as we had already seen what was to be seen. We passed the hiker after bit as he was sitting in the shade. The return trip went much faster as it was mostly downhill. I had to be careful descending to the woods road as the trail was steep and slippery in spots. We hit the woods road at 2:00 PM about 4.3 miles into the hike. The hike back form that point was uneventful but the rocky portions were annoying. We did meet a pickup truck headed toward us at one point. We were back at the car just before 3:00 PM having covered 6.9 miles in 3 hours and 12 minutes. The total vertical gain was 1594 feet.
The forecast for week of July 20th calls for some sun on Sunday with cloudsTtemperaturesa are expected to rise through Wednesday with thunderstorms a possibility on Monday and Tuesday afternoon. Wednesday will be the warmest day of the week with a high in the mid 80′s with mostly sun for the whole day. Thunderstorms return on Thursday in the afternoon but the temperature will be in the mid-70′s for the rest of the week. Friday and Saturday will be sunny. Remember, the weather forecast is only a prediction and always contains percentages. Be prepared and have a plan for the most likely and least likely forecast! Are you prepared to stay out overnight on a trail? Conditions in the morning can change drastically by afternoon. Conditions at the trailhead do not always reflect the conditions on the peaks! Variable trail and weather conditions are a hallmark of these mountains. BE CAREFUL AND BE PREPARED!
On Friday, July 18th I wanted to continue to work on the Shawangunk Ridge Trail near Wurtsboro. I decided to go to Wurtsboro and park near Haven Road to hike to the VFW in Wurtsboro to connect the northern and southern sections of the trail I had already hiked. Sheila was ready to go even after a long hike the day before and we left Livingston Manor just before 8:30 AM. I turned off the Quickway at the exit for Route 209 and headed south toward Port Jervis. I drove about 2 miles south and turned left on Haven Road. I followed the road as it crossed over the Basha Kill. At the first intersection I turned left and parked in the large lot. We got out of the car and were ready to hike by 9:05 AM. We headed northeast on the old railroad bed which makes up a good part of the SRT in this area. It was warm but not really hot and the humidity was manageable. Continue reading
On Thursday, July 17th I wanted to hike closer to home but still be able to work on a long distance trail. I decided to go to Wurtsboro and work on connecting the portions of the Shawangunk Ridge Trail that I had completed. I decided to hike the section of the SRT from Guymard Turnpike to Hawthorne Lake. My plan was to park on the Guymard Turnpike and to hike the trail to Hawthorne Lake and then return by reversing the route. I was a little apprehensive as the lower end of the hike is near the Leap ridge Trail where I have seen rattlesnakes in years past. Sheila was ready to go after several days on inactivity and we left Livingston Manor just before 8:00 AM. I turned off the Quickway at the exit for Route 209 and headed south toward Port Jervis. I drove about 11 miles south passing Route 211 and turned left on Guymard Turnpike. I followed the road through its twists and turns for about 2 miles to just before it crossed over the railroad tracks making an almost 180 degree turn. I found the small pulloff on the left side of the road and turned around and parked. I was careful to pick the parking spot without the “NO PARKING PROPERTY OF CONRAIL” sign! It was 8:40 AM when Sheila and I left the car and crossed the tracks to start our hike. Continue reading
The week of July 13th started with a warm but completely overcast Sunday morning. At 7:00 AM the temperature was already 68 degrees. The forecast for the next three days is the same: Heavy or strong thunderstorms starting Sunday afternoon continuing through Tuesday evening. The temperatures to reach into the high 70′s but the storms will have heavy rain with a possibility of hail and damaging winds. Sunny weather returns on Wednesday and should continue through Friday. Currently the weekend forecast is calling for showers with a chance of thunderstorms. Remember, the weather forecast is only a prediction and always contains percentages. Be prepared and have a plan for the most likely and least likely forecast! Are you prepared to stay out overnight on a trail? Conditions in the morning can change drastically by afternoon. Conditions at the trailhead do not always reflect the conditions on the peaks! Variable trail and weather conditions are a hallmark of these mountains. BE CAREFUL AND BE PREPARED!
On Saturday, July 12th I wanted to hike closer to home than New Jersey, The northern Catskills or Cortland. All these locations would help me work on some long distance trail but where too far from home. I decided to go to Wurtsboro and work on connecting the portions of the Shawangunk Ridge Trail that I had completed. I decided to connect the Basha Kill with the Graham Fire Tower hike we had done. My plan was to park on Route 61 (Otisville Road) near the Basha Kill and to hike the trail to the cutoff to the Graham Fire Tower. Sheila was ready to go despite the long hike from the day before and we left Livingston Manor just before 8:30 AM. I turned off the Quickway at the exit for Route 209 and headed south toward Port Jervis. I could immediately see some of the damage from the recent storms as several large tree lay by the side of the road or in yards. I drove about 6 miles south and turned left on Route 61. Just before the bridge over the Basha Kill I parked in a small lot on the right side of the road. I got out of the car to try to determine where the trail was located. Continue reading
On Friday, July 11th I was really ready to hike again after several days of heavy thunderstorms that made getting outside impossible! I wanted to continue my quest to complete some section of the long distance trails like the Long Path, FLT and AT. I decided to drive to northern New Jersey and park on Glenwood Road to hike “south” on the AT toward Unionville. The AT actually heads west from Glenwood Road and passes through the Wallkill National Wildlife Refuge before getting to Unionville. Cindy and I had parked on Glenwood Road and hiked north so I knew exactly where I was parking. I got my gear ready to go and got Sheila in the car so that we could leave Livingston Manor right around 8:00 AM. I took Route 17 south and east to the exit for Florida. In only a little while the turn for Pulaski highway came up on the right so I turned and followed the signs to Pine Island. From Pine Island I headed south on Route 517 and then made a right on Route 565. Continue reading
The week of July 6th started with a warm and sunny Sunday with temperatures ion the low 80′s and a slight breeze. The temperatures on Monday and Tuesday are forecast to reach into the high 80′s even in the northern Catskills. Thunderstorms are forecast to move into the Catskills on Monday with after noon storms possible on both Monday and Tuesday. A morning storm may hand around for Wednesday. A chance of a shower is in the forecast for Thursday while Friday looks like the clearest day of the weak. Temperatures will be in the mid to high 70′s from Wednesday on. Saturday shows cloudy skies. Remember, the weather forecast is only a prediction and always contains percentages. Be prepared and have a plan for the most likely and least likely forecast! Are you prepared to stay out overnight on a trail? Conditions in the morning can change drastically by afternoon. Conditions at the trailhead do not always reflect the conditions on the peaks! Variable trail and weather conditions are a hallmark of these mountains. BE CAREFUL AND BE PREPARED!
On Sunday, July 6th I wanted to finish the AT in New York by returning to the Dover Oak and hiking east to Hoyt Road in Connecticut. This is about a ten mile section so I wanted to either do a car spot with another person or have someone help me spot me car at Hoyt Road. Fortunately, my son Kurt was available but not until 1:00 PM. I still thought we would have enough time to do the hike. This also allowed me to attend church before leaving for his house in Wappinger’s Falls. I had though about doing this hike last week but after hiking three days in a row some thunderstorms moved in on Wednesday and hung around through Friday. I had a family commitment on Saturday so Sunday as the first day that was open. I left Livingston Manor at about 11:15 AM and headed down route 17 to I84. I took the Newburgh-Beacon bridge and ended up at Kurt’s house just before 1:00 PM. He was almost ready to go and we headed toward Connecticut by picking up Route 21 east and then Route 55 east. Continue reading