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Monday, February 6, 2017

Cradle Rock Ridge, Mill Brook Ridge, Woodpecker Ridge(Catskills)

Headed down to the Southwest Catskills to hike three more of the Catskill Hundred Highest Peaks on what was forecast to be a very nice winter day.  Met up with my bud Jim and we left a car along Beaverkill Road at the southern foot of Woodpecker Ridge, then proceeded to drive back to Cross Mountain Road to park a second car.  We got all geared up, opting to don microspikes instead of snowshoes and headed off beyond the gated road to Alder Lake.  Elevation of around 2200 feet at the start of the hike.
 A short distance down the road we arrived at the site of the former Coykendall Mansion.  The state razed the mansion back in 2008 and left only the stone remains behind.
 A look at the former fireplace inside the mansion that likely served to take the chill off cold, winter days like this.
 Gorgeous and solidly frozen Alder Lake spreads out just below the former estate.
 We crossed the dam on the west side of the lake and skirted the south side of the lake on a marked trail.  About half a mile into the hike, we left the trail and began our bushwhack south up the slopes of Cradle Rock Ridge.  As we gained elevation we began to notice screened views towards Mill Brook Ridge's western bump back over Alder Lake to the north.
 Looking northwest towards Cross Mountain Road's meandering route north.
 After about 1.5 miles we arrived at 3160 foot Cradle Rock Ridge's wooded summit.  Bluebird skies and about three inches of fresh snow greeted our arrival at the top.
 A view southeast at the summit area under sunny skies.
 We enjoyed the summit for a few minutes before dropping down the north side of the mountain about 600 feet, soon arriving at wintry Alder Creek.  We easily rock hopped across the creek and soon picked up a yellow marked DEC trail again.
 Followed the yellow marked trail east past the first of three larger beaver meadows.
 At the far northwest end of the second Beaver Meadow is a Lean To, where we chose to stop and enjoy lunch.
 Can't think of a much prettier or secluded spot for a lean to than this area.
 After enjoying lunch, we continued northeast on the trail, passing below the steep rock ledges of Mill Brook Ridge's cliffs.
 The climb up towards Mill Brook Ridge is steady, gaining nearly 900 feet in less than a mile.  As we gained elevation, particularly on this ridge, the snow got deeper(about 8 inches), but nothing to really slow us down.
 After passing over the 3480 foot nondescript summit of Mill Brook Ridge, we dropped off the northeast side of the peak and into its col with Woodpecker Ridge.  Caught some nice peek a boo views north towards the Mill Brook Valley.
 A few minutes east of the col, we arrived at a small rock ledge and clearing, affording nice views.
 Seems that trees have grown up in recent years, somewhat obscuring the vista that once was.  I had to climb on top of the large rock to gain a better look southwest over Beecher Lake with Cradle Rock Ridge to the right and Woodpecker Ridge to the left.
 We left the trail just after the view point, heading south towards Woodpecker Ridge.  Enjoyed screened winter views to the west along much of the way as we side hilled our way due south. 
 Woodpecker Ridge has two distinct 3460 foot peaks, separated by a mere .1 of a mile.  The east side of the first summit bump on Woodpecker Ridge provides a glimpse through the bare trees towards Balsalm Lake's 3700 foot mountain and its fire tower.
 Between the two summit bumps is a large, flat clearing scattered with yellow birch.
 As we arrived at the second 3460 wooded summit we paused to take a look at our clocks and realized it was already 4:45pm and still had over two miles to go back to the car.  We picked up our pace, dropping steadily south and then west down towards Beaver Kill Road.  The late afternoon setting sun made a faithful companion all the way back.
Arrived at the road just after sunset, and then hiked west about half a mile back to the car.  10 miles total and 2200 feet elevation gain.  63 out of 102 Catskill high peaks complete(28/67).

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