Monday, April 16, 2012

3 CATSKILL 35 HIGH PEAKS! (The "Catskill Marathon 5000" Hike)

Left home at 4:30AM to get to the Peck Rd TH for a hike up Windham High Peak at 6:30AM. I had a plan to solo hike at least two, maybe 3 mountains today. I took Rt 32 South from Albany and avoided the tolls, not a bad drive.

I arrived at the Peck Rd trailhead at 6:30 as planned, and made the quick hike up to Elm Ridge Lean-To.



As I approached the lean-to a random dog came through, someone must have been camping nearby I suppose.  In this area I was excited to see a wildflower I had never seen in the wild before Dutchman's Breeches, a very interesting flower. 
The trail up was very easy and it passed through some relatively rare parcels of old growth pine forest.
video
The trail continued up the ridge with nice views of the Blackhead Range across the valley. I saw a whitetail deer cross right in front of me along this section. The day, even at this early hour was starting to warm up and I was moving quickly, I was glad I decided to shave my beard and hair the night before! I made it to the overlooks near the summit in less than 1 hour. The views to the south were of the Blackhead Range...
Nearby there was a view north, and as this being the northernmost peak of the Catskill 35, it was all flatland...
The summit had a USGS Survey Marker...
And just past the summit was a nice view to the Northeast of the Hudson River Valley towards Albany...
I stopped for a snack/drink and a stretch and enjoyed the mist in the valley below...
The trip down went quickly and I noticed signs of spring all along the way, things were turning green...

I returned to the car at around 8:45AM taking less than 2 hours (minus breaks) to hike the 6.6 mile RT, I was definitely on schedule for the day!

The next leg of my journey took me to Notch Lake TH in Stony Clove Notch near Hunter, NY. I was headed for SW Hunter (Leavitt) Peak. The day was getting really warm, and I decided to hike with my shirt off. I took the Devil's Path up from the parking area and it was STEEP!...

I was pleasantly distracted by the Purple Trilliums along the way...
The trail started to switchback, which made the climbing a little easier as I went along. After a little over 2 miles I gained the ridge and continued past the trail junction to Hunter Mtn. I went past the Devils Acre Lean-To...
A little farther on I came to the junction with the SW Hunter herdpath. This unmarked trail was easy to follow all the way to the Catskill 3500 Canister on the summit...
There weren't any views but the Balsam forest was nice. I signed into the Canister and headed back...
There were some views through the trees on the way back along the herdpath...
Almost back to the Lean-To this little garter snake ran across my path...
I met the first and only hikers I would see all day at the junction with the Hunter trail and joined them in the hike back to Notch Lake TH. The descent went fast as we chatted about hiking stuff, etc. I arrived at the car about 12:45, another 6.6 mile under my belt.

I ate lunch, gassed up the car and headed to my 3rd, and final!, hike of the day, a bushwack of Halcott Mtn. Although the RT mileage on this is only 3.7 miles or so, the steepness and my previous hikes during the day, plus the lack of a trail made this a tougher hike.
I found the parking area on Rt 42 near Halcott Falls, headed up to see the falls...
I headed up through the woods but couldn't manage to find any decent herdpaths, so I just eventually made a beeline for the summit. Along the way I saw another wildflower similar to Dutchman's Breeches that I had never seen wild before, it was Wild Bleeding Heart...
The hike was pretty strenuous and steep as I neared the top. Near some steep ledges I encountered a bear den but nobody was home, a good thing! Shortly after I made it to the viewless summit and signed into the Canister...
I took a different route down, which was a little easier, but my legs still got a bit scratched up in the prickers. There was a bit of a path down lower and I followed it most of the way to the road. I saw a couple huge pines along the way...

I hit the road just south of the parking area and headed to the car. Even though I still had a couple hours of daylight left I decided that I'd done enough for one day and headed home to have dinner at a decent hour, a tough but rewarding day in the woods. An impressive total of 16.7 miles and 5000ft elevation gain in under 8 hours. Hopefully this will help me prepare for some of the long 12-18 mile hikes I plan to do in the Adirondack High Peaks soon.

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