Thursday, May 26, 2016

Hunter Mountain, New York , (71/115), May 22, 2016

Hunter Mountain (4,040') via Becker Hollow Trail, 5/22/2016

Miles: 4.4 miles (RT)

Elevation gain: 2,200'

Trailhead:  Becker Hollow trailhead is located on Rt. 214, approximately 1.25 miles south of Rt. 23A in West Kill, NY (on the North side of Stony Clove Notch, shortly after Ski Bowl Road [Route 83] in Tannersville). Trailhead parking is on the right. 

This peak is one of two Catskill peaks on the Northeast 111 (a list of 115 peaks I am working on - see previous report on Slide Mountain).  Hunter is also on the Catskill 3500 list.

Hiked with Ed, Jill and Ken. We had planned to hike the Spruceton trail but the Becker Hollow route is shorter, and closer to our lodging in Windham, both appealing to us as we anticipated the 4+ hour drive home that day.

There seems to be a lot of written about the steepness of the Becker Hollow trail. We were looking forward to finding out just how steep this trail is.

We arrived at the trailhead and an empty parking area (one other car was there).  We signed the register, passed through the old stone archway (arch now missing) and started on the trail, which is relatively flat for a short distance.

The old archway.

This trail has blue blazes.

We passed an old foundation, a bridge and a dam - all on the left side.

Small dam.

Skies were overcast and a slight breeze kept the bugs away. 

The path steepens and then remains steep to the summit, though in a few places the trail mellows, but just for very short stretches. 

Unrelenting steep can be tiring, but the distance to the top is just 2.2 miles - short and steep. Every step brought us closer to our destination and the quick ascent gave us that feeling of being high up faster.

We took our time; the steepness is quite manageable even with early-in-the-season legs.  There's a dramatic change of landscape, trees and vegetation right at 3500' sign.  
Surrounding changes right at 3500'. (photo by Ed Koman)

As we rose above 3500' the path becomes steeper still, and rougher with more loose rock.  The landscape fell away to our left as we picked our way up the side of the mountain.  

Eventually, the trail turns right and heads straight up toward the top - the last push to the junction of the Becker Hollow Connector trail (a loop that circles the summit and fire tower area).

The Becker Hollow Connector trail has yellow blazes.

At the junction we went straight, doing the loop clockwise.  What surprised me was how steep the Connector trail is, and it has a few small rocky areas.  Some of the rock was wet but none presented a problem negotiating (there are roots to hang on to).
Where an old fire tower once stood.

We came to the site of the old fire tower and the Hunter Mountain and Spruceton trail junctions but stopped only for a photo by the signs.  

At the trail junctions.

From there to the current fire tower it's flat and wide.  We had lunch on a picnic table at the base of the tower.  And then climbed it to get the 360° view (we had to climb almost to the top to get a really good look).
(Photo by Ed Koman)



No one else was on the summit. We poked around for some kind of summit marker.  I read that there is "4040'" marked on a rock slab but didn't see it. 

Then I saw a cairn - this must be it!  But when I walked over to it I realized it was just the entrance to the outhouse (it's a nice outhouse, though).

When we decided to head back down, it took a few minutes to find where the Connector trail continued. 

Connector trail is to the right of this platform  (where Jill is walking).

We descended the Connector trail and wound up back at the Connector/Becker Hollow junction.

The first part of our descent down the Becker Hollow trail was slow - steep and gravelly.  The steepness relented (at right about that magical 3500' sign) and we were down that trail and back at our car in good time.

I was surprised there were so few people hiking this mountain. Granted, it was a Sunday morning.  We saw no more than six people on the entire trip and came back to a still-empty parking area (still just one other car).

And so we have completed the Catskills portion of the NE 111. On to the Adirondacks.


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Slide Mountain,New York, (70/115) May 21,2016

Slide Mountain (4190') via Phoenicia-East, Curtis Ormsbee, and Wittenberg-Cornell-Slide Trails, 5/21/2016.

Miles: 6.8 miles (loop)

Elevation gain: 1750'

Trailhead:  Trail is located in Phoenicia, NY. Drive to Big Indian and proceed south on County Route 47, past Winnisook Lake (small lake) and Winnisook Club, both on the left. Parking area is one or two miles past the club on the left side of the road. (Porta-john in the parking lot).

A fine description of this hike can also be found at the New York/New Jersey Trail Conference website. This peak is on the Catskill 3500 list.  

Hiked with Ed, Ken and Jill today.  This weekend we planned to bag the two Catskill peaks on the Northeast 111 (a list of 115 peaks I am working on - see Hunter Mountain report). The very popular Slide Mountain is the highest peak in the Catskills, with many opting for an up-and-back on the Wittenberg-Cornell-Slide trail rather than the loop described here (W-C-S is steeper but shorter).  

We stayed at the Copper Kettle Cottages in Windham, a good 50 minutes from the trailhead. Rain was forecast and we awoke to cloudy skies (luckily, just a few sprinkles landed on the trail that afternoon).

At 9:30 there were just a few cars in the parking area. 

Yellow blazed Phoenicia-East Branch trail.

The water crossing right at the beginning worried me as I'd heard it could be tricky in high water.  When we got there it was just a puddle but you could see by the rocks and previous water line that heavy rains could cause a problem.

Easily rock-hopped.

The path starts out wide and easy.

The ascent is gradual and soon the path popped us out on an old road. Logs block you from going left; go right.

We walked just a few minutes on this road before we came to a trail junction.  Left is the shorter, steeper Wittenberg-Cornell-Slide trail.  We went straight.  The trail was muddy in spots and bugs started in on us.

We followed the blue blazed Curtis Ormsbee trail.

At the trail junction we went left onto the Curtis Ormsbee trail, passing a monument.

We were wowed by the beauty and fine character of this trail  - with its varied terrain and alternating steeps and sweet, wide flats.  We managed to lose the bugs as we ascended.

Easy trail up the rocks (shown here on the left).
After the rocks/caves area we found ourselves on a sweet, flat trail that gently meandered through woods of wildflowers.

Keep an eye out for a small path to the right.  It goes to a slab that's an overlook, somewhat overgrown but if you walk to the left of the slab the views are better.

View from the overlook.

Eventually we came to the junction of the main trail: the Wittenberg-Cornell-Slide trail.

Wittenberg-Cornell-Slide and Curtis Ormsbee trail junction.

W-C-S trail has a red blaze.

We took a right and headed up the wide, gradual path to the summit.    

Just one footing from an old fire tower. We didn't see any others.

Just below the summit is a plaque honoring John Burroughs who helped to promote the Catskills through his writings.

On our return, we took the Wittenberg-Cornell-Slide trail down to complete our loop - a straight shot back to the Phoenicia-East trail and then to the car.  This trail offers glimpses of view as you leave the summit, with one or two nice overlooks, then drops down into the woods, rocky but with decent footing.  There's a "3500" sign at that elevation on this trail but we missed it. 

We were back at the car (and the now-full parking area) in no time, looking for a place to have a beer.  We wound up going to Cave Mountain Brewing Company in Windham.

This is a beautiful hike when the wildflowers are in bloom. The alternating flats give "early season legs" a chance to recover before ascending again.  The loop is definitely worth the extra miles.  

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Mt. Waternomee (New Hampshire) Plane Crash Site, May 7, 2016

Mt. Waternomee Plane Crash Site via Walker Brook Road and Herd Path,  5/7/2016.

Distance: 6 miles (RT)

Elevation Gain: 1,600'

Trailhead:  This is an unofficial trail which begins off of Walker Brook Road, Woodstock, NH.  I-93 N to Route 112 (exit 32, Kancamagus Highway), go left.  In 3 miles take another left onto Route 118. Walker Brook Road is less than a mile on right. Small parking area.

Hiked with Sandy, Joe, Becky and Mark today.  Our original hiking plans were scrapped when we awoke to thick, low clouds. There'd be no views today where we'd hoped to go, so we decided instead to check out the Mt. Waternomee B-18 bomber plane crash site.

There are several good reports and websites that recount the events on the night of January 14, 1942, when the plane's crew struggled in bad weather (resulting in a serious miscalculation of location).  The website Logging in Lincoln provides a good description, along with some great old photos of the crash.

It is amazing how much is still fairly intact over 70 years later.

Walker Brook Road has a street sign.

Walk through the gate.

And down this road for about 1.3 miles.

When you reach this circle, look to your right for the path.

A cairn marks the beginning of the path.

Small signs like this one lead you to the water crossing.

"Not yet"...

The Walker Brook was swollen from the rains.

Trail steepens.

Overgrown clear cut.

There are small cairns here and there to guide you, though the path is quite established.

We ascended into the low clouds and a mist blanketed the wreckage site.  Pieces of fuselage, landing gear and the engine are strewn about, a must-see for history buffs. 

With mild temps, no wind or bugs, we took our time exploring the area. 

Landing gear
Much of the wreckage is identifiable even though there was an explosion shortly after the crash, and ordinance teams later detonated a second bomb, which further damaged what was left of the plane.

In honor of those who flew that day.

As we headed down the trail toward the car I remembered trip reports describing an impressive waterfall, seen through the trees. 

It's to the left (right when you are headed toward the crash site).  You can hear it before you see it.

Airmen Falls.
Had we not been pressed for time we would've walked down to it.