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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Graham Mountain(Catskills)

Got out to take advantage of a mild late winter day and headed down to the Western Catskills to hike 3868 foot Graham Mountain, the 7th highest peak in the Catskills.  One must get permission prior to hiking this mountain because it is on private property.  I called the caretaker the day before to arrange for the hike and if you plan to hike it too, ask you to kindly do the same.  Parked along Mill Brook Road, at the Dry Brook Ridge trail head and was surprised to see only one other car in the lot when I arrived.  The elevation of 2584 feet at the trail head is the highest of any starting point in the Catskills.
Crossing the road to the south, blue blazes mark the beginning of the trail on a jeep road that begins climbing immediately.
Bright, sunny skies greeted me as I signed in at the trail register and continued on my way.
The trail follows the jeep road and although you are climbing almost 800 feet in just over 2 miles, elevation gain is barely noticeable along this part of the trail.  Soon, I had to contend with very icy conditions in spots.
 I had to put the micro spikes on and really take my time as the ice got worse and worse.  It was rather strange because some sections were completely iced over, and only a few feet away there was absolutely no ice at all.
 After 2.17 miles the trail arrives at a junction.  The Graham Mountain trail leaves to the left here.  Be vigilant if taking this trail because it is unmarked.  This is the view looking back down the trail, with Graham Mtn trail leaving on the right side of the photo.
 Although unmarked and unmaintained, the trail is pretty straight forward and easy to follow.
As was the case earlier, the trail traded dry spots for icy conditions almost the entire way.  As I continued the ascent up the mountain, sunny skies quickly disappeared and were replaced by clouds and even a few sprinkles.
 The first mile after the trail junction actually loses about 200 feet, but the second mile gains 600 feet and climbs at a moderate clip.  This second mile featured some tricky, icy conditions, especially along the steeper sections.
 After a brief steep climb, a nice view can be found only a few feet off the trail.  I climbed upon a large rock to capture this photo to the north.
 A bit further along the trail and just below the summit area is a small path that leads to a great view to the northwest.
 After 4.15 miles I arrived at the 3868 foot summit of Graham Mountain.  The ruins of an old tower installation can be found here.
 A view to the northwest from the summit clearing of a nearby unnamed ridge just north of Balsam Lake Mountain.
 Peaking into the door of the summit structure.
 I wandered around the summit area, discovering several faint paths that lead in different directions.  Most didn't lead anywhere, but there is a path that leads southwest to a nice view point.
 The southwest views towards the Beaver Kill Range.
 Looking back towards the summit structure, through stunted, gnarled trees.
 After exploring the summit area for a while I finally turned back, retracing my steps off the mountain.  I came across drifted, spotty areas of snow on north facing slopes.
 While descending the mountain I spotted these two chipmunks hanging out.
The descent off the mountain was quiet and uneventful under overcast skies.
Got back to the car after completing a great 8.3 miles RT.
The hike had worked up my appetite so I drove a few miles west along Mill Brook Road and stopped at the pull off for Mill Brook Lean To for my lunch break.
 The trail is quick and easy, meandering .3 miles to the Lean To.  Stumbled across this frozen water hole, which was built beside the stream.
 The trail crosses a babbling tributary of Mill Brook and can be easily rock hopped across.
 The Mill Brook Lean To made the perfect lunch spot.
 After enjoying my lunch in complete and peaceful solitude I drove on a bit further west along the road to the Grant Mills Covered Bridge.
 Originally built in 1902 and restored in 1992, this bridge is a beauty.  I crossed the bridge on creaky boards, which can be enough to make anyone a little nervous.
 A small window in the bridge provides a great view of the Mill Brook downstream.
What a fantastic day in the Great Western Catskills.

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