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.