On Sunday, April 26th I decided that I needed to hike after a busy Friday and Saturday filled with track meets. I wanted something challenging so I decided to head for Tannersville to hike the Devil’s Path over Indian Head and Twin. I was able to get out of Livingston Manor a little after 7:30 AM. Sheila was ready to go as we had not hiked in a week. I had decided not to bring snowshoes as I did not think there would be enough snow left to warrant carrying them. I did pout my spikes in my pack to use on any icy or snowy areas that might remain. As I passed Biscuit Brook, Slide and Giant Ledge the parking lots were beginning to fill up and I was reminded that it was a beautiful day and that it was a weekend. When I got to Roust 28, I turned right and passed Route 42 deciding to head north on Route 219 out of Phoenicia. I had not been that way in some time and I like variety. As I passed Fox Hollow Road, I thought about hiking the Fox Hollow Trail to Panther as it would have fewer people and it was not a trail I had done very often. I passed the road and decided to stick with my original plan. Within a short distance, I changed my mind, turned around and took Fox Hollow Road north to the parking lot. There were no cars parked there as we pulled in just before 9:00 AM. I parked and saw the sign which indicated that the summit of Panther was almost five miles away. I was surprised it was that far but decided to do it anyway. As we headed out on the trail at 9:00 AM it was still in the low 40’s but it seemed warmer due to the sun which was shining brightly from a blue sky with plenty of puffy white clouds. The weather forecast was calling for some rain showers at 1:00 PM but I had a rain jacket and decided we would weather the storm if it came. The trail was relatively dry and absolutely devoid of any snow or ice as we walked parallel to the road and passed the register box. The trail was flat for the first .2 miles but began to climb on a woods road just after the register box as the trail turned northwest away from the road. At .5 miles a spur trail branched off to the right to the spring and a lean-to. We continued on the main trail which started to turn southwest as it climbed. The forest was beginning to show a lot of green as we walked on the trail through hardwood forests. At one point I looked up and saw that a large tree had blown down and was across the trail. There was ample room to pass under it and Sheila was walking across the tree at least six feet in the air. I called for her to stay where she was and took some pictures of her before continuing on.
We continued to ascend the trail along the woods road and just before the mile mark started to pass through a large area of blowdowns. Most of this was very old since what was across the trail had been cut some time ago. The area was very large and impressive. I stopped to take some pictures to the east and north as the sun was out and the blowdown made the mountains in those directions visible. I also took off my jacket and hat at this point and got a drink. I promised myself I would hydrate properly to avoid the painful cramps I often get at home! At 1.4 miles the trail began to flatten out some as we hit the ridge. Until this point the grade had averaged 20% and the trail had been very rocky. Around the 1.9 mile mark the trail turned a little more so that we were headed south and just a little to the east. At 2 miles we again began to climb to a false summit at the 3 mile mark there were some limited views here and I took a few pictures to the west. Along the way to the true summit there are at least three of these false summits and after each there is a small descent. These areas are interesting since most contain a small, flat area where there is evidence of campfires and camping. Coming down off these areas usually involves scrambling down some rocks and the traveling next to a rock wall or cliff before hitting open trail again. At about 3100 feet we began to find small patches of snow and ice here and there but I was able to walk over or around these. Sheila, of course, had no problems at all. The trail was rather poorly blazed and I found many of the blazes on trees that ha blown down. There were many trees across the trail, some new and a few old, which also made finding the trail more difficult. I was glad to have Sheila along as she always seems to be able to find the trail. It was taking us longer to hike than I ha planned and I thought about turning around a few times due to the weather forecast. In the end I decided it was more important for me to reach my goal and deal with the rain when and if it came.
By the time we hit 3400 feet there was more snow and at 4.3 miles we began the final ascent to the summit of Panther. I finally got to a spot where there was a short but steep ascent covered in ice. I stopped here and donned my spikes and kept them on until I was below that spot on the way back. From this point on the trail was mostly covered in snow and ice and the spikes made walking much easier. At 4.6 miles the trail leveled and we continued to walk toward our goal. I noticed a nice rock ledge that had better views then the summit but decided to stop on the way back. At 12:35 PM we finally reached the rock outcrop designated as the summit of Panther. I took off my pack and took out my camera to take a few shots. There was some haze on the mountains and the sky was now almost completely covered with clouds. I put the camera away and finished off one water bottle. We heard voices at the lookout slightly farther along the trail and headed in that direction. Two men were occupying the viewpoint but I knew the pictures from there would not be much better than the viewpoint further down the mountain that I had seen. We talked for a minute and they sainted were hiking through to the lean-to and I told them I was the only car parked at Fox Hollow. As Sheila and I turned around to start the return hike, two more hikers came up from the direction of Giant Ledge. I said “hello” as they followed us to the summit. We started back down the mountain. I was hoping down would be easier than up as I was definitely tires. We stopped at the lookout and I got some good pictures of the valleys below and large areas of snow that still covered the north and west sides of the mountains and lay in protected areas. The first part of the descent through the icy areas was tricky and took some time. Once we were below these areas, I took off the spikes and we started to make better time. The rocks on the trail were a challenge even on the decent but we were soon passing through the large, open blowdown area and then the trail to the lean-to and the finally the trail register. We were back in the parking lot just before 4:00 PM having covered 9.5 miles in almost seven hours! The vertical gain was just over 3400 feet and I could definitely “feel” the hike in my legs. I thought I might stop at the Alamo in Phoenicia but once I started driving I just wanted to get home! The rain had held off and I was happy to have accomplished my goal even with the change in plans.
The week of April 26th began with a sun on Sunday giving way to have cloud cover. The rain showers that were forecast held off in most areas. The forecast for Monday is for cooler temperatures with a high in the high 40’s and passing showers throughout the afternoon. Sun should move in by Tuesday although the skies may be cloudy at times. Increasing sun will push Tuesday’s temperatures into the mid 50’s. Continuing sun will make the highs on Wednesday somewhere in the mid to high 60’s. Thursday will be cooler and cloudier with highs near 60 but the threat of some showers. Sun returns for Friday and the rest of the weekend with highs in the mid 50’s on Friday rising to the mid 60’s on Sunday. There is some snow on the peaks but most of the other trails are free on snow and ice. Some patches of ice remain at higher elevations making spikes or crampons a good choice for your pack. 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, April 19th I was ready to hike after a long track meet on Saturday. I decided I would go to Ashokan High Point as I expected I would not need to carry my snowshoes as I might on one of the 3500 foot peaks! When I got up at 6:30 AM the temperature was in the mid 30’s but it warmed up quickly as the sun came out. The skies were blue with plenty of sun but the extensive cloud formations from the previous day were missing. I was getting ready to leave at about 8:00 AM when the ambulance pager went off and I responded. I arrived back home at about 9:30 AM, got Sheila and my equipment in the car and headed to Liberty and out Route 55 to Grahamsville. I turned left on the Sundown Road continuing on this road through Sundown and passed the Peekamoose parking area. I pulled into the Ashokan High Point parking area at about 10:30 AM and found it was nearly full! I found a place to park and pout Sheila on her leash as there was another dog running loose. I got my gear ready and we quickly crossed the road to begin our hike. I was warm despite the fact that I had not put on a baselayer and I already had all the zippers on my Mammut Hoody opened up. We set a good pace on the flatter part of the trail and I soon had to stop to remove the Hoody and stow it in my pack. The trail parallels Kanape Brook and we could hear the water as it cascaded over the rocks. There was water in the stream but I had expected it to be much higher than it was. We crossed several small streams and eventually a larger one that required a small foot bridge. At 1.5 miles the trail flattened a little and the started a somewhat steeper climb. We crossed another small bridge and entered a tunnel of pine trees. The ground was covered with small twigs broken from the trees and these formed a sort of carpet on the ground. From this point on the trail became much rockier as more water flowed on the trail eroding the soil between the stones. This trail is marked on some maps as the Kanape Jeep Trail. Along the way we met a couple who had camped out over night at the trail junction but had not hiked to the High Point. At 2.7 miles we reached the turn to the left where the trail begins the 1 mile climb to the High Point. It was 11:45 AM and I stopped to take a quick break for water.
As we were standing at the turn, a hiker and his dog approached from behind us. I got my gear on and we started up the trail. The other hiker was coming up on us rather quickly and I decided I did not want to push as hard as he did. I pulled Sheila off the trail to let them go by us. We talked for a moment and I noticed his English accent and the fact that his female border collie was not very friendly toward Sheila. They passed us and we waited a few minutes and then continued. A little farther up the trail, a small path went off to the right. We followed the path until it became indistinct. I remembered doing this before and not finding any real views. Back on the main trail we continued toward the top. The overall grade averages about 17% with some flatter and some steeper areas. There are no real views along the way until near the very top. There are five different short climbs several of which have stone steps. At one point there is a rock overhang which forms a small shelter. I had passed this many times but this time I noticed I tree seemingly growing out of the very top of the rock. I stopped to take a few pictures before heading for the summit. As we climbed the last ascent I took a few shots of Mombacus and Little Rocky from a rock outcrop on the trail. The skies were hazy and the view was far from clear. As we approached the last climb to the high point, we met a couple coming down the trail toward us. We stopped to talk and they told me they had been to the top and were returning back the way they had come because it was shorter. I asked them if they had been to Little Ashokan but they said they could not find the way. I described it for them in case they wanted to try it in the future since they live in Hastings-on-Hudson. We finished the climb to the High point and found the hiker and his dog at the top. I leashed Sheila and tied her to a tree and the other dog seemed to be satisfied. The other hiker and I talked and I found out he lives in New York city but has hiked some in the Catskills. He said he was surprised to find such nice mountains so close to the city. I described the loop trail back to the base of the High Point. I had decided to do the loop but skip Little Ashokan.
I took a few pictures from the High Point but the views were too hazy to be really nice. We walked over to the next lookout in the opposite direction but the views were much the same. We started out on the trail to begin the loop back. There are several small depressions that collect water and they were frozen over with layer of ice. When we got to the open fields, we turned right and walked toward the “edge” of the hill. I could see the Ashokan Reservoir through the trees and took a few pictures. From previous trips I knew it was useless to try to find a clear view as there are none! We walked back up to the fire rings in the field where I dropped my pack and took out the camera. The Burroughs Range was clearly visible but the sky was a flat blue without many clouds. I took some shots and allowed the other hiker and his dog to get on the trail before us. We headed to the left and followed the trail as it descended the other side of the High Point. After a short distance the blazes on the trail all but disappeared and there was little in the way of a trail to follow. I was glad Sheila was with me as she seemed to be able to pack out the path. We descended some and found the other hiker headed back toward us as he had lost the trail. I continued on and followed Sheila as she ascended a small hill. I found some red blazes and signaled to the other hiker who was still searching for the trail. Sheila and I set a fast pace to stay ahead as we descended the trail. It continued to be poorly marked and hard for me to follow but Sheila had no problem. At 4.7 miles we made a sharp left turn which changed our heading from west to south as we continued to descend. As we walked the border collie was often right on my heels until her owner whistled and she returned to him. We worked our way through some laurel which was encroaching on the trail and the began a steep rocky descent from about the 5.2 mile to 5.7 mile although it seemed much longer. The descent averaged a 24% grade over loose gravel and larger rocks. We kept a fast pace but it was difficult. The last .5 miles of the loop was slightly uphill and was the wettest part of the hike passing through some laurel and a stand of pine trees. As we approached the end of the loop, we turned right onto the main trail and walked back to the trail junction.
At the trail junction I turned left to walk a few hundred feet out to an area that is used for camping. I took a few pictures and got a drink waiting for the other hiker to make the turn and head down the main trail. We returned to the main trail and kept a good pace back to the car. On the way back we met two men walking up the trail with a black, shaggy dog who seemed very friendly. They asked if I worked for the state since I had on green pants and a “radio” (GPS unit). I said “no” and we continued our separate ways. When the trail started to parallel the brook again, Sheila rushed down to the water, jump in, jumped out and dashed madly up and won the trail. She repeated this at least five times looking very happy and satisfied with herself. In the last half mile of the trail we met another couple headed up the trail. I gathered they were out for a short walk as it was getting late and they had no gear. I stopped at the register box and found that Alan Via and Ralph Ryndak had been on the trail the same day. I was sorry I had not seen them and can only assume they did the loop and were ahead of us. We walked across the bridge and back to the car to find and almost empty lot. It was 3:25 PM and we had spent almost 5 hours hiking the 9.1 mile loop with about 30 minutes of stopped time. The vertical gain was 2470 feet. The temperature at the car was 61 degrees which surprised me as it seemed much warmer.
The week of April 19th began with a beautiful, sunny day on Sunday. Temperatures started in the high 30’s but quickly rose to the low 60’s as the sun shone brightly. The forecast for Monday through Thursday is for occasional showers during the day and high temeperatures dropping from the mid 50’s on Tuesday to the low 40’s on Thursday. The showers may end by Friday but the high temperature will be in the low 40’s. ON Saturday there will be more sub but the temperature may not reach 50 with continued lows at night below freezing. This forecast makes it hard to predict the trail conditions anywhere. There is still enough snow to make snowshoes a good idea for hiking on the peaks but most of the other trails are free on snow and ice. Trails that are packed hard in the morning may soften with increasing temperatures throughout the day. Crampons or spikes may be required in spots as the trail thaw and then refreeze. Many of the trails have many postholes from hikers too ignorant or inconsiderate to wear snowshoes! 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!
The week of April 12th began with a beautiful, sunny day on Sunday . Temperatures started in the mid 20’s but quickly roSe to the mid 60’s as the sun shone brightly. The forecast for Monday through Thursday is for more bright and sunny days with highs in the low 60’s or high 50’s. The low temperatures at night will barely bet down to freezing. The forecast for Friday calls for cloudy skies and a passing shower. Saturday will see more rain in the morning with clouds in the afternoon with a high of 59 degrees. This forecast makes it hard to predict the trail conditions anywhere. There is still enough snow to make snowshoes a good idea for hiking on the peaks and even on many of the other trails in the area. Trails that are packed hard in the morning may soften with increasing temperatures throughout the day. Crampons or spikes may be required in spots as the trail thaw and then refreeze. Many of the trails have many postholes from hikers too ignorant or inconsiderate to wear snowshoes! 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!
The week of April 5th began with snow showers overnight and into the morning resulting in some accumulation and icy surfaces. The snow continued until afternoon when the sun came out and temperatures roseé.Monday was a beautiful day with plenty of sun and temperatures rising into the high 50’s. train showers moved in beginning in the early evenings and are forecast to continue throughout the night. Showers will stay around throughout the day on Tuesday with heavier rain in the late afternoon. The showers will continue throughout Wednesday as the temperatures drop to only 40 degrees. Thursday appears to be a repeat of Wednesday. On Friday the rain will persist but the temperatures will rise to 60 degrees or above. Showers will also be around on Saturday but the temperature should be in the mid 50’s. This forecast makes it hard to predict the trail conditions anywhere. There is still enough snow to make snowshoes a good idea for hiking on the peaks and even on many of the other trails in the area. Trails that are packed hard in the morning may soften with increasing temperatures throughout the day. Crampons or spikes may be required in spots as the trail thaw and then refreeze. 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!