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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Lone Mountain & Rocky Mountain(Catskills)

Lone and Rocky Mountains are infamously well known as the two toughest bushwhack peaks of the Catskill 3500's, and I had been putting them off for as long as I could.  When my buddy, Jim Hopson, offered to bag these two peaks with me, however, I didn't hesitate.  We had a beautiful, sunny day with low humidity in the forecast, so we met at the Denning Trailhead at 9am ready to go.  Just reaching the Denning Trailhead can be quite an adventure, as this parking area sits in one of the most remote sections in all of the Catskills.
 Got going on a wide old carriage road through conifers with private property on both sides.  Be sure to stay on the trail through this section.
A beautiful, sunny day under nearly perfect conditions with great company.
 This hike is known for its many bridge crossings, with this being the first.  A well built bridge over a small stream.
 After just over a mile, we arrived at a trail junction.  Straight leads ahead towards Slide Mountain.  We turned right here towards the East Branch of the Neversink River.
 Crossing over the rocky East Branch of the Neversink River.
A beautifully built foot bridge over the East Branch.
 Just past the first bridge over the East Branch is a second bridge over the East Branch, this one just two long logs cut with a plastic coated wire for balancing.
 Just after the second crossing, we left the DEC trail and began following the Fisherman's Path along the East Branch.  Here we are passing through a deep, beautiful evergreen forest.
 We soon came to a tiny brook crossing and then a second, more substantial creek.  This is Donovan Brook, and just after crossing this brook is where we left the path to begin climbing.
 Climbing up the slopes of Lone Mountain.  Passing a large boulder just below 3000 feet.  Most of the hike was through hardwoods with only a couple of small sections through evergreens.
 As we got into higher elevations, we ran into large fern glades.
There was a pretty easy to follow herd path through the ferns, which faded in and out all the way to summit.
Nearing the summit, we found a small opening in the trees with a small view north towards Slide Mountain.
 Arriving at the 3721 foot summit of Lone Mountain, with just under 1600 feet elevation gain in roughly 4.5 miles.
 A well defined herd path leads away from the summit canister to a fantastic view from a rock ledge.  This is a GREAT view east towards Ashokan High Point and Little Rocky Mountain.
 Jim enjoying the views.
 The clouds casting their shadows onto the nearby peaks.
Ashokan High Point.
Peaking around the corner from the ledge, we spotted a nice view of Peekamoose Mountain to the south.
After enjoying lunch at the rock ledge, we left the summit area and dropped down steeply towards the col between Lone and Rocky. 
 Fortunately, there are herd paths that lead mostly past the worst of the thick forest and blowdown.
 Jim meandering through the "jail bars" as he calls them.
 Bushwhacking through the col, which drops down to about 3200 feet.
 A welcome break in the thick bushwhack.
 After about 7 miles, we arrived at Rocky Mountain's 3508 foot summit.  Our second of the day and my 29th Catskil High Peak!
Rocky Mountain's small summit area.
 Signing in at the canister!
We found several paths that lead away from the summit to view points.  A steep drop off from these east facing cliffs provide views of substantial blowdown.
 Blowdown near the summit.
 A view over Blaslam Cap's shoulder(L) and Ashokan High Point(R).
 Great views.
 A small hole in the eastern rock fortress at Rocky's summit.
 A view off the ledges of the rocky ledges.
Rocky's taller neighbors Friday, Dink and Cornell Mountains.  That's Cornell sticking out in the back.
 A fantastic view of nearby Balsalm Cap Mountain.
After enjoying the views near Rocky's summit, we began 'whacking back down the northwest side of the mountain..
 Dropping down through a mixed forest.
 We eventually found a drainage off the northwest flank of the mountain and followed the dried up stream bed down steeply.
 The small unnamed brook flowing off the mountain, where it meets up with the East Branch of the Neversink River.
 The crystal clear mountain water of the East Branch.
The hike back basically led us west for 3 miles along the pristine East Branch.  Eventually we picked up the Fisherman's Path again, which got better and better the closer we got to the parking area.  We passed several gorgeous swimming/ fishing holes along this stretch.
 We arrived back at the parking area after about 12 miles RT of mostly bushwhacking, with just a couple of miles of trail hiking.  I now have 29 hiked of the 35 Catskill High Peaks as well as 2 of the 4 winter peaks to become a 3500 club member. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Mount Holyoke(Central Massachusetts)

Had a busy morning running errands today, so I didn't have any free time until noon or so.  I did a quick check of the radar and looked like a lot of uncertainty to the west(both south and north), so I chose to head east towards the Pioneer Valley of Central Massachusetts to hike popular Mount Holyoke.  Although not the highest mountain(summit elevation is only 942 feet), Mount Holyoke is an extremely popular peak due to a paved road which leads to the top, many open picnic areas, a summit hotel and multiple trail approaches that all provide outstanding views.  I got started from the parking area just north of the park along Route 47(Hockanum Road).  The trail starts just past a wooden gate and kiosk. 
 Followed a blue blazed trail south under sunny skies and a canopy of hardwoods.
 There are unmarked paths and old roads that wander throughout the woods, but most all head up.  After about .2 of a mile I came to an intersection where the yellow marked Taylor Notch Trail heads straight and the blue blazed Conglomerate Rock Trail heads right.  An unmarked trail heads left(east), so of course the adventurous side of me opted to head out on the unmarked trail.  This trail ascends slowly then steadily up to a rocky old quarry. 
 The trail peters in and out and is completely gone at times, so I just decided to head straight up through the steep woods.
 A final push through hardwoods to the Metacomet-Monadnock trail, which crosses the entire summit ridge.
 Once on the M-M trail, I made good time heading west along an area known as the Seven Sisterson the easy to follow white marked trail.
 The trail climbs up and over a small, unnamed 897 foot peak and then down and back up to a nice view to the west. The Connecticut River is the most prominent feature.
 Another view opens up a bit further along the trail, with an outstanding look at the Mount Holyoke summit area.
 Looking over the southeast shoulder of Mt Holyoke from the same vantage point.
 Continuing on the M-M trail, I soon dropped down into an area known as Taylor's Notch(elevation 650 feet), where the trail crosses over the paved vehicle access road.
 A large rock pile.
 The final .2 mile up to the summit provide filtered views from the steep slopes near the trail.
 Emerging at a large, open clearing just below the summit with picnic tables and benches.  This area is a nice spot to catch your breath and soak in the incredible views.
 Continuing the final 100 yards to the summit, I passed this nice framed view.
 Arriving at the summit, complete with the summit house.  The views from here are jaw dropping.
 The summit house itself was closed, but you can walk onto the large wrap around porch to enjoy the incredible vista.  A small picture and map show you what features(mountains, river, villages)you are looking at.
 A great view down to a speed boat on the Connecticut River.
 Looking southeast over the summit parking lot.
 The true summit.
 An amazing vista with views all the way into Vermont to the north and Mount Greylock to the west.
 Summit elevation is 942 feet.
 I explored the summit area and found this southeast view just above the treeline.
 A memorial to fallen soldiers who were unfortunate plane crash victims.
 Heading back to the first view point, I stopped to relax and enjoy one last view over the Pioneer Valley.
 A bend in the Connecticut River.
 I followed the M-M trail back off the summit down to the auto road, and then turned left onto the yellow marked Taylor Notch Trail.  This trail descends steadily about 700 feet in .7 miles back to the parking area.
Hiked about 3 miles RT.  No matter which route you take to the top, you are sure to enjoy the phenomenal views from the summit.