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Monday, September 15, 2014

Blackhead Mountain Range(Catskills)

Had a day off and fantastic late summer/ early autumn weather so headed back down to the Catskills to hike the Blackhead Range.  The Blackhead Range is comprised of three of the top five highest summits in the entire Catskills and forms a virtual wall in the northern Catskills.  From east to west is the Blackhead Mtn at 3940 feet, Black Dome at 3980 feet and Thomas Cole, also at 3940 feet.  Hiked in from Big Hollow Road along the banks of the nearly dried up Batavia Kill.  Headed up the yellow blazed Batavia Kill Trail which crosses over the stream twice in the first .6 of a mile to the trail junction of the red blazed Black Dome trail.
An interesting tree along the Black Dome Trail.
The trail climbs steadily up Black Dome Mountain and has several swtichbacks.
As you near the saddle between Blackhead and Black Dome called Lockwood Gap, there are some viewpoints north towards Windham High Peak and Burnt Knob.
Passing the 3500 foot point.
A stiff climb leads to a small clearing with amazing views to the south and east.

Early autumn colors framing a view out towards Blackhead Mountain.

Perfect, cool weather for the steep climb.
This section of trail reminded me of the Devil's Path, climbing up amongst the rocks and roots.
North facing views just off the trail near this huge rock.
Blackhead Mountain's steep slopes unfold before you.
Looking like fall along the trail.

A clearing provides a spectacular view to Blackhead Mountain and points north and east.
What a view!
A view to the north towards Acra Point and far beyond.
Panorama of Blackhead Mountain to the east.

From the clearing on the east facing spot are breathtaking views of Blackheads slopes and Stoppel Point as well as Colgate Lake.
Many of the Catskills highest peaks are visible to the south, with the Devils Path peaks the most prominent.
Kalli enjoying the view from a small rock ledge.
A magnificent place to soak in the view.

The nearby peaks of Windham High Peak, Burnt Knob and Acra Point to the north.
The trail continues past the view points towards the top of Black Dome through a dense balsam fir and red spruce forest.
Walking along Black Dome's balsam ridgeline.
A view south from a large rock near Black Dome's summit.  This is the highest point in the Blackhead Range at 3980 feet.  Hunter Mountain's ski slopes are visible.
Continuing beyond Black Dome's summit another .8 of a mile, brings you to Thomas Cole Mountain's summit.  This is a nice trail through a balsam and spruce forest.
Great walking along a level section of trail.
A steep climb back up Thomas Cole's slopes.
The sun filtering down through the forest.
Climbing up towards Thomas Cole's summit.
A nice stretch of trail on Thomas Cole Mountain.
A rock cairn marks a spot close to Thomas Cole's 3940 foot summit.  There is no clear summit area along the trail, nor are there any views.
Red and green.
After attaining Thomas Cole Mountain's summit, we retraced our steps along the Black Dome Trail, first down Thomas Cole, back up Black Dome and then eventually back towards Lockwood Gap. Fall colors beginning to creep onto Blackhead's hardwoods.
Another fabulous view to the south and east over Colgate Lake in the late afternoon sun.
3500 foot mark.  The climb up Blackhead's west facing slope is mostly open.
We saw a couple of snakes in these rocks, as the climb is steady and steep.

Steep sections along Blackhead's open trail.
A panorama to the west, looking at Black Dome Mountain and the late afternoon sun.
A view from a rock clearing from Blackhead Mountain's west facing slopes.  Many Catskill peaks are visible from here.
 Clear September skies near the summit.
 A large rock just feet from Blackhead Mountain's 3940 foot summit provides a chance to look at my guidebook.
 The trail down from Blackhead's summit begins to climb very steadily down almost immediately.
 Tough going down Blackhead.
 Steep.  Tough climbing, but fun.
 Climbing straight down Blackhead's very steep north slopes provides commanding views out over the Hudson River Valley.
 Incredible views over the Hudson Valley to the east as far as the eye can see.

A beautiful climb down.
 Yet another in a series of extremely steep sections.
 The late afternoon sun setting through the woods, as evening begins to set in.
 Stopped by to rest at the Batavia Kill Lean To.
Hiked a total of about 7.5 miles RT.  A great day with great company, and fantastic weather!  Very tired when we got back to the car, but it was all worth it.

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