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Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Starbuck Mountain(Hudson Gorge Wilderness-Adirondacks)

Every time I have driven Route 28 to or from Indian Lake, I have always gazed up at a set of rocky cliffs and wondered what kind of views could be had from them.  After looking it over on a map, I saw that the mountain is 2556 foot Starbuck Mountain, and indeed there are a long set of rock ledges that look tantalizingly close to the road.  State land comes down at an angle, meeting Route 28 almost directly across from Cleveland Road, where a very large red chair sits.  A large, dirt pull off in front of the chair made a convenient place to leave my car and start the hike.  Elevation to start the hike was a little bit over 1700 feet.
I crossed to the north side of Route 28 and headed into the woods, closely following a well trodden path that follows the state land boundary.
I soon came to a crossing of Raquette Brook, but where the path crossed the water, I wouldn't be able to keep my feet dry.  Instead, I went downstream a few yards and rock hopped below a small but pretty cascade.
Once across the brook, I headed back over to the well defined foot path, which was easy to follow and headed in the direction I wanted to go.  Turns out that this path is a rock climbing path to the base of Starbuck's cliffs.
I left the path near the base of the cliffs and headed north towards the draw between Starbuck and Black Mountains.  Once beyond the steepest cliffs, I turned west and headed straight up towards Starbuck,
Within a few moments of steep climbing I emerged at a set of ledges with outstanding views south and east.  Directly across the notch that I had started in, I had an up close view of neighboring Black Mountain. 
To the SE, Route 28 can be seen threading through the green with a large beaver pond directly below.  The impressive peaks surrounding Gore Mountain make up the horizon, with Gore being the high point.
There are basically a couple sets of ledges, one lower and one higher, but all mostly open and easy to explore.
I was actually stunned to see just how expansive this set of open ledges was, stretching far to the west.
The Route 28 corridor soon comes into view as you continue west on the ledges, with views stretching all the way past Indian Lake towards Snowy Mountain and the "Little High Peaks".
The east facing views from the cliffs are actually some of the best I've seen in this entire region, stretching all the way into the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness.
Although similar to prior views, the further west I went, the more of the Siamese Ponds Wilderness peaks to the south came into view.
Directly to the south, Davis Mountain rises impressively above Route 28 with Ruby Mountain poking out just behind it.
After a large stand of spruce pushed me back away from the cliffs, I found one more opening, which provided another west view up Route 28 towards the Little High Peaks.  The large peak to the right is Casey Mountain, another fun climb with spectacular views.
After soaking in the views, I continued on a short distance over to the true summit, which was fully wooded and surrounded by scratchy spruce.  A small cairn marks the high point at 2556 feet.
After hitting the summit, I dropped back down towards the cliffs, enjoying more of the amazing views, before finally descending steeply back down into the notch.  Instead of heading back towards the climbing path, I headed more SE, aiming at a corner of state land, where a large beaver pond resides.  It was actually a pretty nice spot, complete with a view of Black Mountain...
...and Starbuck Mountain, right at the state land boundary.
A nice and easy hike back through open hardwoods got me back to the car feeling good.  A VERY scenic little mountain with a lot to offer.  3.3 miles RT, with just under 1000 feet of ascent.

Monday, September 9, 2019

"Catskill 4 Bagger"(Delaware County-Western Catskills)

Met up with my good buddy Jim to do a grab bag of western Catskill peaks, using DEP land to access each of them.  The pastoral feel of these Catskills is hard to find elsewhere, with only certain parts of Vermont coming close to the vibe that these give me.  As I've mentioned before in other posts, this particular area is my favorite to visit, so I was quite excited to get out exploring.  Heading down into Bovina to meet up with Jim, I passed by this particular farm setting and had to stop.  The cool late summer morning mist burning off as another day gets going in Delaware County.
Jim is wealth of knowledge on these Catskill peaks and has done many of them, including from different routes, so I eagerly seek out his input on all of these hikes.  Our first peak of the day was to be 2624 foot Mill Mountain, where DEP access doesn't go quite to the summit, but within a contour away.  We parked on the shoulder of County Route 6(New Kingston Road) and began our ascent, climbing over 600 feet in half a mile.  As always, handsome stone walls greeted us as we entered the open hardwood forest.
The slopes of Mill Mountain are steep, but always manageable.
Our high point for public access was just below the summit and clearly marked.  The woods here were quite open, and filled with ferns.
It's amazing what you may see when wandering the woods.  This tree has certainly been through its share of tough times.
Nearing the road, we passed through a meadow full of goldenrods and an east facing view towards 2900 foot Burnt Hill, just beyond the nearby, smaller peak.
A quick glance at the DEP access map for Mill Mountain.
Next stop was a very short distance north to another DEP access spot along New Road. This parcel heads up through wide open agricultural land and continues right up to the very top of the 2568 foot mountain.  While there is no formal name for the peak, we referred to it as SSW Warren Mountain. 
We made our our up through the open meadows, views increasing as we ascended.  After a bit of climbing, we noticed a berm and small pond just a few yards away, so we had to check it out.  This was an absolutely beautiful spot, with the calm water hemmed in by goldenrods and long distant views of Mill Mountain to the south, as well as "Coulter Brook Mountain".
We circled the pond, with different phenomenal views every step we took.  This was the west view towards the surrounding farmland and other Catskill 200 hundred highest peaks.
While autumn may be knocking on the door, summer's wildflowers are still holding on strong.
The woods above the farm fields were a treat, complete with stone walls, sedge grass and ferns.
Ascending through a gorgeous fern glade.
Higher up the mountain the ferns took on an autumn appearance, golden brown, but still beautiful.
After a very pleasant ascent, we ran into the summit cone, which was a sea of prickers, some over our heads.  Not the most pleasant last 2/10 of a mile.
We didn't linger long at the summit, quickly making our way back down into the open hardwoods below.  Early fall foliage only enhanced the experience.
We really enjoyed the nice and easy descent back down through the gorgeous farmland.  Tough to beat this.
Near the bottom of the fields, I came across an apple tree...loaded with green apples!  It just keeps getting better!
Here is a snapshot of the DEP map for SSW Warren.
Our last stop for the day was just a little further northwest to dirt Scutt Mountain Road, a high elevation seasonal access road.  There is a wealth of DEP land on both sides of this road, offering up plenty of recreational opportunities.
Our starting point for this next hike was over 2100 feet, as we set off into the open meadows to the south of the road, heading to 2646 foot "Scutt Mountain".
One of the benefits of climbing up through open fields are extensive views.  From high up in the meadows, we caught this nice look south towards 3365 foot Mount Pisgah.
NE views towards "NE Scutt Mountain", whcih would end up being our last peak for the day.
Enjoying the east view towards part of the Warren Range.
One last look at Mount Pisgah, with its ski slopes and 911 tower at the top.
Once again upon leaving the open fields, we entered more beautiful hardwoods, graced with old stone walls.
A steep push up got us near the summit, which much to our dismay, was again loaded with prickers.  We fought our way up to the high point before dropping back down into the open woods below the top.
Early fall foliage on the descent.
After crossing back over Scutt Mountain Road, we began to climb up "NE Scutt Mountain", a 2490 foot peak that sits(fittingly enough) just NE of Scutt Mountain.  The woods on this peak were very hiker friendly, offering up little resistance.
Near the summit of this peak, we came upon a large cliff band, a staple of many of the higher, eastern peaks of the Catskills, but seemingly out of place here.  We hit the wooded summit, which sits just beyond this cliff band, before heading back down.
As mentioned earlier, Jim has an extensive knowledge on these peaks, and having previously done this mountain, he knew of an excellent view point to the west from an open field towards Scutt Mountain and Bramley Mountain.  The view did not disappoint!  This is why I truly love these peaks!
As we made our way back towards the cars on Scutt Mountain Road, we soaked in the early fall colors, that seemed to be sprouting up all around us.
The reds really seem to be a step ahead at these elevations!
Strolling through open meadows, with fall foliage beginning to emerge....this is what it's all about.
Our DEP access to the last two peaks for the day, "Scutt Mountain" and "NE Scutt Mountain".
 Totals for the day between all 4 mountains, was 7 miles RT and 2200 feet of ascent.  As September rolls on and we close in on autumn, the days are bittersweet.  Today, however, was just plain sweet.