On Monday, July 10th I had planned to hike Table and Peekamoose from the Denning trailhead. A busy evening of ambulance calls left me tired and I slept later than normal. By the time I got up my initial thought was that it was too late to go but I decided to try as there was rain in the forecast for the rest of the week. I got dressed which signaled to Sheila that we were going on a hike! I made sure I included two water bottles as I knew the hike was over 8 miles with plenty of climbing which I had not done in some time. When Sheila and I left Livingston Manor at around 10:20 AM the air temperature was in the high 60’s and the forecast was for highs in the mid 70’s. It was a little humid but I was happy about the moderate temperatures. I drove out DeBruce Road to Rt 47 and turned right to go toward Claryville. I turned left onto the Claryville Road and continued toward the Denning trailhead. The road became dirt at one point but was in generally good shape. The drive was longer than I remembered and we arrived in the parking area at 10:50 AM. There were several cars already parked as I set my electronics and got ready to hike. A pickup truck pulled up and parked and the driver got out to take pictures of the house at the end of the road which has interesting architecture. We left the trailhead at 10:55 AM and headed out the Phoenicia-East Branch Trail which is also the eastern end of the Finger Lakes Trail. It was hard to tell how many people were ahead of us. The trail was drier in most places than I had anticipated with only a few wet spots. Some of the small streams that are usually running were dried up. As we hiked Sheila alerted and I looked up to see a group of young men approaching. The were divided into several sections so I pulled Sheila to the side of the trail and waited until they all had passed. Most said “Hello” which was nice. As we approached the junction with the Table-Peekamoose Trail, we caught up to a solo make hiker some years older than I. I made a little noise to make sure we don’t surprise him as we passed. He continued on the Phoenicia-East Branch Trail and we turned right at 1.2 miles to descend toward the river. The trails are getting more eroded which means the rocks are even more prominent. Soon we were near the river crossing a small stream. The bridge across the Neversink was in good shape and beginning to look a little old. We crossed and put down my pack and got out the camera. I took some pictures of the bridge and of Sheila playing in the river. I grabbed my pack and we walked to the next bridge to cross another small stream. This bridge consist of two logs and a cable as a guide. It is usually very icy in the winter which makes it difficult to cross. Once we were on the other side I took a few shots before continuing on. I could see a tent set up along the river which is not a designated campsite.We passed the beginning of the informal path along the river called the Fisherman’s Path. We passed another designated campsite and at 1.7 miles began our climb by negotiating a very rocky area.
Some parts of the trail looked familiar and other parts did not. I will admit that the climb was longer and harder than I remembered. We had headed south from the river until at 2.25 miles we descended some and the trail turned east. I despise walking downhill when I know there is so much uphill ahead. Along the way we met a man and his Portuguese water dog headed toward us. He pulled his dog over and I put Sheila on her leash to pass them. The dogs seemed to want to meet so we allowed them a quick sniff and then headed in opposite directions. A breeze was blowing most of the time but it still seemed hot ands I was sweating to prove it. I remembered that I need to drink and stopped several times to get a drink and give Sheila one also. I knew there was a spring near the lean-to but I did not know how reliable it might be. At 2.8 miles an informal path led to the right to a viewpoint and we walked out to it. The views were good and unobstructed but the day was hazy. I took pictures anyway and got us a drink before returning to the main path. We had been climbing constantly with a few flatter areas where I could catch my breath before the next ascent. At 3.o miles ether was another short descent and then we were climbing again. At 3.45 miles there was a trail on the left with a sign that said “Spring” so we walked over to the water source. There was a pipe driven into the side of the hill with a trickle of water coming out. I had emptied one water bottle so I filled it from the spring. The water seemed very cold but I toted it with my Steripen before putting the bottle back in the pack. While the Steripen was working, I took a few shots of the spring. Back on the main trail we almost immediately passed the sign for the lean-to on the right. We had been averaging a 20% grade on the climbs but the last .4 miles was 23% and it was tiring me out. I had pretty much ruled out Peekamoose at this point. We finally made it to the top of the climb and walked along the trail toward the point that I considered the summit. The Name Table is a good description of the top of the mountain! As we approached that point, I saw that there were three hikers sitting and enjoying a snack. I put Sheila on her leash and passed them with a greeting. I decided to walk a little farther to see If i could find a lookout to the north. As we walked I began to feel better and decided than Peekamoose was less than a mile away with a minimal drop between the peaks. There was a lot of damage from wind at the top of the mountain in several different places. I did find a path off to the left but was now fixed on the trip to Peekamoose.
At 4.15 miles we began the steep descent into the col between the two peaks which lasted for about a quarter mile. We had been traveling southeast of east for some time but at this point the trailed turned south on the way to Peekamoose. There was a short, flat spot at the bottom and then we started to climb again. The climb up Peekamoose was about as steep as the descent from table but it lasted only about a quarter mile until the trail began to level. Soon we were at the large rock that I have always taken to be the summit but I wanted to walk passed that point until the trail began to descend. In a few minutes I was satisfied that we had hit the high point and turned around. I noticed a path that appeared to go to viewpoint on the east side of the trail. We walked out to it and there were some nice views but, again, it was hazy. I took some pictures and then we walked back to the big rock. Sheila immediately climbed to the top of the rock so I took some shots of her. She got down and posed in front of the rock so I took some more pictures. It was 2:00 PM and we had already hiked 4.7 miles when we turned around to start back. The descent of Peekamoose went quickly but the ascent to Table took a little longer. The walk across the almost flat top of Table in only ,3 miles but it seemed to take forever until we reached the descent. Just as we began to descend at 5.55 miles I saw a path to the left and decided to follow it. It led to another nice viewpoint to the west and I decided to take a few pictures despite the haze. When I was finished, we walked back to the main trail and started the steep descent which did not go as quickly as I had hoped. Walking downhill on steep terrain with rocks and loose gravel requires some care and I slipped a few times. I check the time and aimed at keeping 2 mph as my speed. After an hour I checked my watch and found we had only gone 1.8 miles! We continued to descend and at 6.25 miles and 6.95 miles we hit some small ascents. These should not have been a problem but I was pretty tired at this point. As we continued down, Sheila and I both began to hear voices ahead. It took a little time but we soon could see the three people we had met at the summit of Table working their way down the trail. We were moving faster and soon caught up to them and they let us pass through. I slowed a little and asked where they were from and they said Eldred and Callicoon. I expressed my surprise because the answer is most often New Jersey or New York City!
One of the women quickened her pace and stayed with me as we separated from her friends. We began to talk and she told me that she and the other woman were training to hike Kilimanjaro, a 19341 foot peak in Kenya, in October. We talked about her trip and topics related to hiking at higher altitudes. Soon I noticed we had passed through the rocky area of the descent and were nearing the river. She decided to wait for her companions and we parted company. I was very grateful for the company as it made the final part of the descent pass by much faster. Sheila had been good the whole way off her leash apparently accepting the other woman as part of her pack. I continued to walk toward the river passing some campsites and the beginning of the Fisherman’s Path. I noticed that my lower back was starting to hurt and I wasn’t sure if I had twisted it during a slip or whether this was just a more challenging hike than I had done in some time. We crossed both bridges with Sheila taking time to cool off in the water and get a drink. The short ascent to the Phoenicia-East Branch trail left my back hurting a little more. We turned left at the top of the ascent to begin the final 1.3 mile trek back to the car. While this part of the trail is downhill most of the way there area a few small uphill that I did not appreciate. Sheila decided to jump into one more stream and came out with her legs and belly covered in black mud! I explained to her that this had not been a good idea and stopped at a small stream to try to wash off some of the mud. At about 4:40 PM I could finally see the gate at the end of the trail ahead and new it would only be a few more minutes until we were done. Sitting by the gate and in the parking lot were the boys I had met much earlier n the hike. They told me they were from a wilderness camp and were waiting for their bus. There wasn’t much i could do but I wondered if the bus would find them. There is no cell service at the trailhead and it is very isolated. We walked back to the car arriving at 4:55 PM after hiking almost exactly 6 hours and covering 9.4 miles with a 2745 foot elevation gain! I felt every one of those miles and was disappointed that our moving speed was 1.8 mph. This was definitely the most difficult hike I had done in some time but also the most satisfying.