South Gully to Shawangunk State Forest

SouthGullyShawangunkSFJul2014_14camera32gps_pictalltrailseverytrailcaltopomapmyhikeOn 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.

SouthGullyShawangunkSFJul2014_32The 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.