Search This Blog

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Southwest Hunter Mountain/ Rusk Mountain(Catskills)

Headed down to the Catskills to nab a couple 3500+ foot high peaks with fellow hiker James Hopson today.  We opted to hike Southwest Hunter Mountain(aka Leavitt's Peak) and Rusk on what was forecast to be a very nice early spring day.  We arrived at the trail head at the end of Spruceton Road at 8:30am and got geared up and ready to go.  James has a lot of bushwhacking experience so I was strongly looking forward to learning from him.  We set off on Spruceton Road east along the beautiful West Kill creek.  Although temps were cold in the mid 20's, once we got moving it was hardly noticeable.
At the trail junction of the Diamon Notch Trail and the Devils Path, we proceeded straight ahead on the Devils Path east, gaining altitude quickly.  Views of Southwest Hunter Mountain can be easily seen through the bare March trees.
Unfortunately James and I got deep into discussion and walked right past Geiger's Point, a nice vista from an overlook just 25 feet off the trail.  We didn't let this slow us down, however, and soon picked up the rock cairn and herd path for SW Hunter at 2.8 miles from the car.  This section of trail was much more wintry, with ice and snow in the shade of conifers.
The herd path follows an old railroad bed and provides glimpses of nearby Hunter Mountain's hulking ridge line.
A careful eye can pick out Hunter Mountain's fire tower at the summit.
We soon turned south and into the woods, beginning the true bushwhack portion of the hike.  These rocky caves were found just a short distance from the summit.
 We soon arrived at a plateau and picked up a herd path leading to the summit canister.  This is my 23rd Catskill high peak!
The 3750 foot summit area of SW Hunter Mountain(Leavitt's Peak).
Our next goal was to bushwhack down the steep northwest slopes of the mountain towards the Diamond Notch Trail, way down by the West Kill.  This was my first true bushwhacking experience and it was fun.  We had to find our way through thick witch hobble and find chutes on the way down.
Descending through a stand of conifers.
We soon began to level off, dropping nearly 1500 feet and before we knew it picked up the Diamond Notch Trail.  We then followed this back across the creek and towards Spruceton Road again.  After a little over a mile of road walking, we then turned north at the DEC parking lot for Spruceton Trail, and followed this trail for roughly a third of a mile, crossing a bridge over Hunter Brook.
 Soon after crossing the brook, we entered the woods to the northwest, leaving the trail behind.  As we gazed up the steep slopes, we realized that we'd have to hike directly uphill, ascending nearly 1600 feet in less than a mile.
 The grade was very steep and relentless as we climbed out of Ox Hollow, with views to nearby peaks opening up around us through the bare trees.
 As the pitch of the ascent finally began to subside, we left the wide open hardwood forest, entering a large conifer forest.  The last thing between us and the summit was a "rock fortress", which easily climbed around and followed the herd path to the canister.
 Signing the summit canister for peak #24!
Rusk Mountain, elevation 3680 feet.
 After enjoying our summit pics, we then headed west for .3 of a mile through thick conifers and blowdown before arriving at gorgeous clifftop views.  Jim had spotted these from the valley below and we were rewarded with an incredible vista.
Spruceton Valley way down below.
 The Lexington Range unfolding directly to our west.  Evergreen, Pine Island and the Lexington Range beyond.
Here is a shot of me enjoying the view towards West Kill Mountain.
 A great shot of West Kill Mountain to the south across the valley.
After enjoying the clifftop views, we finally descended the steep slopes of Rusk heading generally southeast.
 Arriving back at the Spruceton Trail, it was an easy walk back to the car under gorgeous sunny skies.
Hiked 7.8 miles RT, with an elevation gain of around 3400 feet, bushwhacking two peaks.  A great day in the woods thanks to Jim.  I hope to hike with him again soon and have more fun bagging peaks.

No comments:

Post a Comment