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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

South Mountain & Ashokan High Point(Catskills)

My buddy Jim Hopson and I had plans to hike 3080 foot Ashokan High Point in the Catskills Tuesday, but after carefully looking over maps, we thought we had a chance at some views along ledges on neighboring 2190 foot South Mountain to the north as well.  So we spotted a car at the Kanape Brook trailhead along County Route 42(the conventional route to AHP) and then drove a second car to South Hollow Road and parked along a shoulder of the road at the start of state land.  Elevation to start was a little over 1100 feet.  We walked up the road past the last house and entered the woods, soon crossing fast flowing South Hollow Brook.
 We headed up through a mostly open hardwood forest, with patchy sections of deep snow and thick mountain laurel.
 Although the mountain laurel was fairly thick in spots, we skirted it the best we could and enjoyed a very nice bushwhack.
 After climbing up above 2000 feet, we began to spot broken views at the edge of the woods.  We headed in that direction and were pleasantly surprised to find wide open rock ledges.
 From the rock ledges were sensational views to the south and west.
South Mountain's rock ledges provide an interesting view towards Little Rocky(L) and all the way over towards Peekamoose and Table on the right.
We continued our bushwhack up through open hardwoods to the wooded summit of South Mountain, before descending south and east onto a land bridge towards Ashokan High Point.  We hugged a series of ledges again with more tremendous views back towards the Burroughs Range.
The Burroughs Range with South Mountain to the right in the foreground.
The drop was nice and easy to a low point of about 1800 feet. We soon found a ledge with a view Ashokan High Point's ridgeline, of our next goal.
Continuing south, we steadily climbed up the snowy slopes towards AHP.  The drop off to the east, towards the Ashokan Reservoir, was quite steep through the woods.
Eventually we began seeing red trail markers, meaning the bushwhack part of the day was over.  Moments later we arrived in a large clearing just below AHP's summit.  From here there were more views towards the Burroughs Range(although not quite as good as the previous ones)
A fire pit sits in the middle of the clearing and makes a nice spot to stop and rest.  These fields are covered in blueberries during the summer.
Arriving at the summit of 3080 foot Ashokan High Point.  My 58/102 Catskill High Peak.
The small opening at the summit of AHP provides a good, but only partial view .
We dropped off the ledges on AHP's summit, beginning a .3 mile bushwhack, 400 foot drop east to Little High Point.  There is a good herd path when there is no snow on the ground, but we broke trail through the snow today.  The col in between AHP and Little High Point provides a screened view down towards the Reservoir.
The path becomes a little more easy to follow on the climb up to Little High Point through low bushes. 
The summit area and open ledges on Little High Point are fantastic and provide great, nearly 180 degree views tot he south, east and west.
A nice shot of Jim pausing to look back at Ashokan High Point, hovering above us just .3 mile away.
Rock ledges with views out over the Hudson Valley.
Wide open fields towards Little High Point's summit.
Jim soaking in the views.  The open ledges are mostly south facing, meaning there was almost no snow in this area.
We found some good Ashokan Reservoir views from a shoulder of Little High Point.
We bushwhacked the north side of Little High Point searching for more Reservoir views, but to no avail.  Defeated, we headed back towards AHP, which was a steep 400 foot climb in .3 of a mile.
Standing right below the summit rocks on AHP.
We followed the marked trail down off of AHP, which heads steeply to the south and then swings sharply to the west.
Looking back towards AHP's ridge line standing prominently beyond the shadows.
Jim crossing a small foot bridge over Kanape Brook.
Kanape Brook running high through the winter woods.
The hike out was uneventful and followed an old road through the dark valley of Kanape Brook.
Runoff on nearby slopes from snowmelt.
Kanape Brook widens and runs swiftly along as the trail nears its terminus.
We arrived back at the spotted car in the DEC parking lot feeling extremely satisfied.  Hiked about 10 miles RT, with over 3000 feet elevation gain for the day.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Geiser Preserve on Perigo Hill(Rensselaer Plateau)

Took Bella out for a walk after work at the 95 acre Geiser Preserve in the quiet woods of Taborton, a small hamlet high in the hills of the Rensselaer Plateau.  The preserve is a Rensselaer Land Trust property highlighted by 1873 foot Perigo Hill.  To find it, take Route 66 east out of Troy towards Glass Lake, then bear left onto County Route 42.  Just after passing through the center of Taborton, turn left on Lindeman Road and follow it to the end.  Park in the small snowplow turnaround spot.
Continuing past the snowplow turnaround on the old section of Lindeman Road, which was covered ins several inches of crusty snow and ice.
Passing by tone walls along the old road.  This portion of the hike passes through private property, so be sure to stay on the road.
Frozen precip, followed by thawing and then refreezing, led to some sections of the road that were a glare of ice.

After about 1.25 miles, I arrived at a fork.  Turned left here on the Old Eastern Turnpike.
The Old Eastern Turnpike soon leads to the foot of Perigo Hill, at about 1680 foot elevation.
After only a quarter mile, a marked trail leaves the Old Eastern Turnpike to the right, heading uphill.  We soon passed by a vernal pond, covered in a sheet of ice.
Frozen vernal pond.
The trail climbs about 200 feet in half a mile through a wide open forest.
Nearing the summit, there were screened views through the bare winter trees.
After about 2 miles I arrived at the wooded 1873 foot summit.  The trail ends at a summit sign.
Retracing my steps back down off Perigo Hill with more screened views.
Hiked about 4 miles RT.  Bella was happy as always to be out, playing in the snow.

On the way home, I stopped off at Little Bowman Pond in the middle of Taborton.  The high elevation pond is completely frozen over, as expected.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Bear Hill Nature Preserve(Shawangunks)

Visited the 50 acre Bear Hill Nature Preserve in Cragsmoor on a frigid morning, with temperatures hovering near zero.  The preserve is an unknown jewel tucked away among the much more well known view points in the Shawangunks.  To find the preserve, take Route 52 to Cragsmoor Road, which you will follow for 1.4 miles, and then turn left onto Dellenbaugh Road and follow it for about half a mile to the parking lot on the left.
The trail is not marked but easy to follow beyond the parking lot.  In the summer season there is a nominal fee to hike here.
It is a short .8 mile hike one way to the open rock viewpoints on Bear Hill.  There are fantastic views south and west from the wide open ledges.
 Southwest facing views.
South views towards the Shawangunk Ridge.
West views.
This is a really fun area to explore, with scenic vistas all around, but it can be dangerous if you are not careful.  The drop offs are very steep.
 A look down at the caves below the summit.  This is a very steep drop off here so good footing is essential. I had read that there is an unmarked foot path down to the caves, but the combination of drifted snow and ice made an easy decision to skip this.
I continued on past the view points through the woods to the 1970 foot summit area, which was covered in thick mountain laurel.  There didn't appear to be a trail of any kind, and the snow was fairly deep in this area.
Retraced my steps back to the car, for a total of about 1.75 miles RT.
I took Ulster County Route 7 back to New Paltz, thoroughly enjoying the incredible views.  The drive below the Gunks is always memorable, with their prominent cliffs rising above the valley below.
 Incredible view of the clifftops.