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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Overlook Mountain

Headed down to Woodstock in the Catskills to hike Overlook Mountain, a 5.0 mile RT trail with outstanding 360 degree views from a fire tower and the ruins from a historical hotel near the top of the mountain.  There is a large parking area at the top of the saddle between Overlook Mountain and Mount Guardian, which even on a bitter cold winter day, was surprisingly empty.
The trail is actually an old carriage road that used to carry passengers to the old Mountain House.  It is very steep nearly the entire way up with very little areas of level ground, so the climb was definitely tough.  There are many interesting large rock formations along the trail and near the summit.
Even with frigid winter temperatures in the low teens, the January sun felt nice as I worked my way up the trail.
After about 1.9 miles the remains of the Overlook Mountain House come into view.
The steps that lead to where the main entrance would have been.
The Mountain House has a long and seemingly cursed history dating back to when it was first built in 1871.  Just four years after it opened, it burned completely to the ground but was rebuilt in 1878.  Unfortunately it burned again in 1924, but under new ownership was being rebuilt by 1928. The concrete foundations and walls that we see today are as far as the construction got.  Several theories have been floated around as to what ultimately lead to its failure to be finished.

Several yards away from the hotel stands a smaller structure called the "1928 House" which housed the hotel's owner Morris Newgold and his family.
Another foundation and chimney a short distance away in the woods may have been living quarters for staff.
The interior rooms of the hotel are hauntingly interesting.
For further information on the Overlook Mountain House, here is a fascinating link:
A short distance after the hotel ruins, there is a trail junction where a left trail brings you to Echo Lake and a right brings you up to the summit and fire tower.
Along the trail to the the summit, the fire tower can be seen through breaks in the trees.
The final leg of the trail offers screened views down to the Hudson Valley.
An old Ranger's cabin can be found near the fire tower, although today it has been turned into a museum that is open seasonally and staffed by volunteers.
The clearing at the summit has picnic tables and a 60 foot fire tower.  As I approached the tower though, dark clouds were rolling in.
At an elevation of 3,140 feet and at the southern terminus of the magnificent eastern escarpment of the Catskills that face the Hudson River, the summit is truly a special place.
Trees at the summit are much shorter and suffer from stunted growth due to the harsh winters at this elevation.
Views north provide a glimpse into the northeastern Catskills and Plattekill Mountain rising to the left.
The views to the west of the neighboring mountains is spectacular.
Southerly views extend all the way to the Ashokan Reservoir and to the Shawagunks beyond.
Snow flurries can be seen falling just south of the area as the sun still shined beyond the clouds.
From the fire tower, the hotel ruins and trail can clearly be seen.
Many of the Catskill's highest peaks can be seen rising in the west.
Indian Head, Twin and Sugarloaf Mountains with Spruce Top rising behind.
A view down the steep slopes of Lewis Hollow.
Just beyond the trees on the southeastern slopes are sweeping views of the Hudson Valley.
Looking straight down from the fire tower at the picnic areas.
Views south just above the treeline.
A zoomed in view of Kingston and the Hudson River in the near distance.
A short walk off of the main trail provides spectacularly steep views down to the valley from Eagle Cliff.  Footing can be tricky here so this is a potentially dangerous area if you're not careful.
The long walk down the trail saw a mix of flurries and sun.  The woods near the trailhead were aglow with a gentle sunset.

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