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.