On Monday, August 25th I wanted to go back to Albany County to finish the Long Path section from Switz Kill to East Berne. I planned to park where I had ended the last hike on Willsie Road. I had looked at the maps and knew that we could hike back on the roads to make a loop rather than and out and back. The weather forecast was good with no rain in sight and temperatures in the high 70’s. I left Livingston Manor just after 7:30 AM. I got Sheila in the car and we headed up the Beaverkill Road to the Barkaboom Road. At the end of the road I turned right on BWS 10 and took it to Route 28 in Margaretville. We turned right and then left to follow Route 30 through Margaretville, Roxbury, Grand Gorge and North Blenheim. In Middleburgh I turned right to head east on Route 145 to Cotton Hill Road just outside of town. I turned left on Cotton Hill Road and drove 8.3 miles to Route 443, the Helderburg Trail. I made a left and drove 1.3 miles to Switz Kill Road (CR-1) where I turned right and followed it 4.6 miles to Willise Road where I turned left. I knew that I had to drive about 2.5 miles to where the trail crossed the road and that I had been there only the day before. Once I was in the vicinity I looked for the trail on both sides and could not find it! I drove back and forth at least three times before I got out my GPS and pinpointed the location. There was room to park two or three cars on the grassy shoulder and I thought that a prominent blaze or sign might be helpful! We were ready to hike at 9:30 AM. We started hiking northeast through some hardwoods and then entered a pine forest that seemed to have been planted. To our left I could see a beaver meadow but there were no paths down to it so we kept moving. The trail description mentioned stepping stones and pontoon bridges but there were none and none were needed.
At .6 miles the trail turned left and crossed a bridge between the wetlands on our left and a beaver pond on the right. We stopped and I took some pictures before continuing on the trail. At .9 miles we reached Cole Hill Road where there was room to park several cars by a signboard. The day was already hotter than I had expected so I changed into a short-sleeved shirt before turning right on Cole Hill Road. For the next .3 miles we walked uphill and southeast until the road leveled off. Ahead and to the right I could see a spectacular view of Mt. Pisgah, Richmond, Ashland Pinnacle and Huntersfield. We stopped and I took some shots including some I though I could put together into a panorama. Once I had finished my photography we walked the rest of the way to Woodstock Road and turned left at 1.8 miles. The initial part of the road was uphill but then there was a short downhill and some level ground. On the right was a large private campgrounds with some “campers” that looked more like permanent residences. A little further down the road was Woodstock Lake which had a prominent “Private” sign at the entrance. I stopped to take a few pictures and the we continued to walk to where Woodstock Road turned right. We continued straight ahead on a paved road that led to the Albany Region Doppler RADAR tower for the National Weather Service. I took a few pictures and then we started to descend from Stafford Hill. The road was eroded in most places with exposed bedrock. near the bottom was a high rock ledge on the left. We began to enter a wet area which could have been a problem if there had been more rain. We turned due north at 3.8 miles and continued to descend. At 4.3 miles we turned right onto a gravel road which led us out into a field. It was easy to follow the road across the field to Joslyn Schoolhouse Road.
We turned left on the road and then turned off it to the right. It seemed that the trail might follow an ATV track along the edge of a field but the blazes led us into the woods and through a pine plantation. This began the most annoying part of the hike as we had to side hill on some very dry and slippery ground. Near the bottom of the hill the ground became wet and muddy but we were easily able to pass. We began to follow a stone wall and crossed over it several times heading to the north. At 4.9 miles we crossed Fox Creek on a somehow shabby bridge. At this point we were at the edge of a field and it wasn’t clear where the trial was situated. We walked on the left side of the field and up the hill towards Route 443 but I could find no blazes. I found a neatly kept trail but it led to someone’s backyard so we went back to the field and walked parallel to the road until I could find a place to break through. Standing on the edge of the road I could see blazes to my right indicating that we should have walked along the edge of the field to an open spot. I looked across the road and saw blazes heading up into the field to begin the last section to the northern reaches of Thacher. After getting a drink and a snack, we turned left to walk the roads back to the car. The walk along Route 443 was about 2.5 miles and was slightly downhill. I knew this wasn’t good as we would have to go uphill to the car. We passed several farms and walked through part of East Berne. There were some pleasant views and the traffic was surprisingly light. A runner came up behind us and startled us both. We said “Hello” and “goodbye” in one breath. Being out on the open road exposed us to the sun but so allowed us to experience a nice breeze. At 7.6 miles we turned left on Cole Hill Road and I could see a long stretch of flat and straight road. In the distance I could see that the road climbed steeply. The walk to the base of the hill was only .7 miles but it seemed longer. We stopped and I gave Sheila a long drink before starting up the hill. Actually the distance was only .5 miles and the vertical gain was a little over 300 feet. At the top of the hill we turned right onto Willsie Road to walk the .7 miles back to the car. On the way we passed one house with columns out front a a beautiful stone façadgrounds were extensive and well-kept. We were back at the car at 1:10 PM having hiked 9.6 miles in 3 hours and 35 minutes with an elevation gain of 1180 feet.