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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Sugarloaf Mountain(Catskills)

Took my nephew Holden down to the Catskills on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon to climb Sugarloaf Mountain.  Sugarloaf is a challenging but excellent hike in the Indian Head
Mountain Range.  The first 2 miles of the trail aren't overly tough, just routine climbing.  There are some interesting rock formations along much of the trail too.  We passed a few people going up this section and even came across this large spider web.
After about 2 miles, there is a tremendous lookout spot near a hairpin turn in the trail.  This is a nice spot to stop and relax, soaking in the majestic view of 3840 foot Plateau Mountain immediately before you.  Mink Hollow drops far below the rocks. 
We ran into a small group of novice hikers here, who were taking pictures at this rocky outcrop.
At the hairpin turn, it does get a bit confusing, because the trail actually begins to lose elevation and cuts back towards the way you just came from.  You must trust the trail though and continue on.  A brook crossing soon follows, which looks very refreshing-even at low water levels-on this warm day.
The bridge over this tributary of the Roaring Kill was broken so we just rock hopped across.
After about 2.5 miles we came to a trail junction.  This is where we picked up the Devils Path and things got much tougher. 
The trail quickly begins to get very rocky and climb steeply.  The last mile to the summit is a 1200 foot ascent.  It's not called the Devils Path for nothing.
This was a fun spot where the trail actually goes through this natural stone tunnel.
Looking back directly over where we had just climbed, with views of Plateau Mountain beyond the tree tops.
The rock formations along this section of the Devil's Path were very interesting.  Holden standing in front of one of them here on the trail.
The climbing was pretty much continuous and rocky, tiring us in the 80 degree heat. 
There were many difficult, rocky sections along the final mile such as this.  You have to actually squeeze through and raise yourself up to continue on.  It was actually less difficult than it sounds.
We were ascending the mountain very rapidly at this point, and any breaks in the trees provided amazing vistas.  Here is a peak through the leaves to the northeast and the Blackhead Range.
After the most difficult stretch of climbing, the trail eventually levels off to a less challenging, but still steep climb through evergreens.
At about 3.5 miles we arrived at a 3500 foot elevation sign, a very prominent marker in the Catskills.
Screened views ack to the north and west as you climb above 3500 feet.
A huge rabbit in the middle of the trail.
A yellow marked trail splits off the main Devils Path trail to the south, where there are absolutely amazing views available.
A large rock provides the lookout spot featuring views of many of the Catskills High Peaks.  The Burroughs Range, Giant Ledge, Panther Mountain and distant est peaks of the Big Indian-Beaverkill Range.
Sugarloaf Mountain's 3800 foot summit is heavily wooded in thick spruce and fur. 
South views near Sugarloaf's 3800 foot summit. 
Ashokan Reservoir is clearly visible far below as well as views all the way to the Shawangunks.
More westerly views from the clearing offer a terrific vista of many of the Catskills highest peaks.
Incredible views.

Descending Sugarloaf is gradual at first through a boreal forest, but quickly begins to drop fast.  A small footpath from the main trail, offers a splendid view at 3405 feet in elevation.

The climb down the steep cliffs of Sugarloaf's east side.
Descending Sugarloaf's east face offers a clear view of nearby Twin Mountain and its terraced geology across Pecoy Notch.
Twin Mountain to the immediate east of Sugarloaf.
Once off the Devils Path and onto the Pecoy Notch trail, the walking becomes easier and a much more level.  A large beaver pond offers tremendous views back at Twin Mountain and Sugarloaf(just out of this picture to the right)
About 1 mile away from the parking area you arrive at a spot known as Dibble's Quarry.  The views out from this spot at 2300 feet in elevation are amazing to the northeast above Platte Cove towards Huckleberry Point.

The stone seats and artwork at this quarry are the gold standard for all stonework quarries in the Catskill Region.
Looking back at Twin Mountain from the quarry.
Looking back at Dibbles Quarry and stone artwork.
We were both pretty exhausted on this warm June day by the time we got back to the parking lot.  We hiked a total of a little over 8.0 miles RT due to getting turned around in one section(we weren't paying attention at the hairpin turn).  A great, full, beautiful late spring day.

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