On Monday, February 26th, I had some time to hike on what was forecast to be a beautiful, sunny day with highs near 50 degrees. I have about a two week break from track practice as we transition from indoor track to spring track which gives me most of the day to hike and make up for a very poor showing in February! I decided to wait until later in the day to get started as the morning was foggy with an overcast sky.I got my gear together and got dressed to leave the house at just before 11:00 AM so that I could begin a hike from Hill Road near Margaretville to the Penguin Rocks lookout on Dry Brook Ridge. It was already in the high 30’s and I knew it would get warmer as I hiked. I also did not expect much snow along the route due to the recent warm weather and rain. I decided I did not need tights underneath my Colombia Titanium Omniheat pants. On top I had a light synthetic baselayer with a my Mammut crew neck shirt on top. As always I had my Mammut Hoody as my top layer. I wore a hat and gloves as I could always take them off if I was too warm but could not put them on if I did not have them with me! I knew I would not need snowshoes but I put my Microspikes in my pack just in case I needed some traction. I decided not to wear gaiters or insulated boots. I put on my Keen Glarus hiking boots which are all leather and reasonably war,. All the while I was getting ready, Sheila was hovering around me making sure I did not forget her. When I left the house, the skies were still overcast and there was a little breeze which out a bite in the air. I wanted to avoid the back roads as much as possible as they are in poor shape so I headed toward Roscoe on State Rout 17. I got off at the Roscoe exit and headed north toward Downsville on Route 206. The road was in good shape and I was soon at the Pepacton Reservoir. Here I turned right onto Route 30 which was also in good shape. At the Shavertown Bridge I turned right on BWS 8 and followed it until it became BWS 9. Where the road changed to BWS 10 at the intersection with Barkaboom Road, I turned left. I followed BWS 10 until it changed to Southside Road just outside Margaretville. I continued on Southside Road to Huckleberry Brook Road where I turned right. Shortly after the turn I turned left on Hill Road and 1.3 miles to the parking pulloff on the right. The temperature was 40 degrees when I parked and there was a breeze blowing. The skies were now blue with some bright sun. There was also no snow in sight on the road or in the woods. We crossed the road and began our hike at 11:40 AM. The first part of the hike is a nice wide trail that ascends through a red pine plantation. The ascent continues for about 1.9 miles when the trail levels off after gaining 1130 feet. I began to warm up immediately because of the climb and also found I was a little winded from the lack of hiking. As we walked, there were several blowdowns across the trail from near the bottom until the trail leveled. Two were very large and probably require the trail to be rerouted around them while the others could be removed. It was also obvious that there had been a lot of rain on the trail as there were huge piles of pine needles in several spots. The trail had drained nicely and was almost dry. The sun through the pines was beautiful and it seemed very warm. I stopped to take some pictures of the red pines in an area where there was a dusting of snow on the ground. I also took this opportunity to open the zippers on my hoody and took down the hood. After passing through the pines, we entered a predominantly hardwood forest before passing again through some pines. Sheila seemed to delight in racing away from me through the snow and then careening headlong back toward me. There were a lot of animal tracks along the trail and some crossing it and Sheila was busy investigating these tracks. After 1.9 miles, the trail leveled off and turned almost 90 degrees from northeast to southeast. There was a few inches of hardened snow on the ground although most of the trail was pretty clear. We walked across a flat area dipping down a little to the junction with the blue Dry Brook Ridge Trail at 2.3 miles. We stopped and I got a much needed drink and a bar. I also took some pictures of the snow on the trail.
As we turned right on this trail, I noticed the sign that said the Hill Road parking was 1.7 miles away. I had to laugh! I expect distances to vary some but .5 miles is a pretty big gap. The trail along the ridge follows the edge until about 2.7 miles where it veers away and heads a little to the east and northeast. Initially the trail ascends a small bump and then descends the other side before leveling off for a while. The level area of the trail was very wet with standing water and I had to negotiate my way around this area. This would continue to be a problem for most of the rest of the way to the lookouts. The first small ascent was very icy across almost all the trail and I almost put on my spikes but was able to get some traction in the snow at the side of the trail. The two or three other short ascents along the way were exposed to the sun and almost bare of snow. We were soon climbing the last of three short ascents to the area of the lookout. The total elevation gain from the trail junction to the lookouts is 285 feet. From 2.95 miles to the lookout the trail gain is just under 200 feet in elevation and begins to follow the edge of the escarpment turning almost due south. The snow actually all but disappeared as we continued along the trail. When we arrived at the viewpoint at 1:35 PM, the wind was blowing slightly making it seem a little colder than the air temperature. The open rocks that make up the viewpoint were completely bare so I dropped my packed and walked out onto the viewpoint. The sky was blue not very interesting with only a very few puffy clouds. The Pepacton Reservoir was clearly visible and the view showed the low volume of water. Without much snow or any leaves on the trees, the scene was rather bleak. I did take some pictures including a few of Sheila posed on the rocks. I got a drink and then started the walk back to the car which was all flat or downhill. The trip back to the trail junction went more quickly than I had expected but avoiding the small ponds along the way was annoying. I made it down the small, icy hill just before the trail junction without a problem. We didn’t bother to stop again at the trail junction but simply turned left to head back down the trail to the parking area. The trip down always seems to go quickly but on this day it seemed longer than usual. We arrived back at the car at 3:15 PM. We had hiked 6.5 miles in 3 hours and 40 minutes with an elevation gain of 1635 feet. The trip down was only about 15 minutes shorter than the trip up. I decided to use the same route home that I had used on the way out so good. I had planned to stop to take some pictures of the reservoir but I was just too tired to do that and drove straight home.