Monday, July 19, 2010

Slide Mountain and Giant Ledge, Catskill Forest Preserve, NY

ABOUT THE PARK: Slide Mountain Wilderness - New York State DEC

TRAIL MAP: NY/NJ Trail Conference Southern Catskills Trails Map 143

DIRECTIONS: NY State Thruway I-87 to exit 19 (Kingston). West on Route 28 for about 30 miles, left on County Road 47. At the hairpin turn make note of the parking area for Giant Ledge on the right if you want to hike that afterwards. About 2 miles beyond the hairpin turn, the Slide Mountain Parking area is on the left. Porta potties are in both lots. The drive was about 2 1/2 hours from Central New Jersey.

Slide Mountain (highest peak in the Catskills at 4,180 feet): 6.8 miles
Giant Ledge: 3.2 miles

HIKE DIRECTIONS: For the Slide Mountain hike, followed the NY/NJ Trail Conference directions which I highly recommend. It is longer than the direct route but much more interesting and pretty. The direct route, which the rest of the world takes (so you will run into more people), is pretty boring. It's OK for the return trip but going out, I would go as follows:

Start on the yellow trail from the parking lot:

At .7 miles at the intersection which says to take the red trail to Slide Mountain, keep straight on the yellow trail. (You will be coming back on the red trail - that is the more heavily traveled, more boring trail.)

At the next intersection at 1.5 miles, turn left on the blue trail: (This is the reverse side of the sign, not what you see in the direction you would be heading.)

At the beginning of the trail you will see a monument to the left which commemorates Bill Curtis and Allen Ormsbee, hikers who died on Mount Washington, NH in an ice storm in 1900. The blue trail is named after them.

There will be some rock scrambles but nothing overly difficult.

And you will go through fragrant and cool spruce-fir forests.

Just before the 3,500 foot elevation sign, there will be a scenic overlook to the left.

A little farther up the trail on the right are more views but they seem to be more obstructed by foliage in the summer:

Just after 3 miles there is a fork in the trail. Keep left; the right trail goes to a camping spot. Shortly thereafter at the intersection, turn right on the red trail. This intersection was not clearly marked like the others and I did not notice any red markers all the way to the summit although I did see some on the return trip going the other way.

At about 4 miles you will come to a scenic overlook on the left. I found this to be the best place for views along the entire route. Views at the summit at not that good.

A short distance ahead is an old fire tower footing which is supposed to be the summit although it looks like there are some higher areas around it.

A little farther ahead is a huge rock with views at the top. Follow the trail around to the right of the large rock to find the plaque in memory of John Burroughs.

Here is a picture of John Burroughs at that rock in 1900 compared to my picture in 2010:

I continued on out the red trail for a bit and caught a glimpse of Ashokan Reservoir through the trees:

After that point I turned around and headed back as the trail starts to decline very steeply and I was afraid my dog would not be able to get back up. So going back it's the red trail all the way to the yellow trail, right on the yellow trail back to the parking lot. We then hopped in the car and drove the two miles over to the Giant Ledge parking area. The trail starts on the other side of the road to the right of the porta potty.

You simply follow the signs up, yellow trail to left on blue trail. It's a long, steep, rocky climb up but very worth it for the views.

Once you get to the views at the top, the trail flattens out and you can go on about another 1/4 of a mile to various view points to the right before turning around and heading back.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Taconic State Park/Mount Washington State Forest (NY, CT and MA)

Taconic State Park, NY - NY/NJ Trail Conference Description
Mount Washington State Forest, MA - Massachusetts DCR

NY/NJ Trail Conference South Taconic Trails Map
Mount Washington State Forest Map - Massachusetts DCR

Most of this hike is in Mount Washington State Forest.

At first I thought my GPS was malfunctioning since it took me north through Taconic State Park to head back south instead of from south to north through Salisbury, CT, which is the direct route Google Maps gives. I headed south through Salisbury, CT on the way home and now I know why the northern route was better. Heading south towards Salisbury, CT you will be on 7 miles of rutted gravel road hoping another vehicle is not coming towards you because it would be a very tight squeeze. There are even warning signs to proceed at your own risk. It wasn't all that bad since I did not run into other cars, but the northern route would actually be faster and easier so I would recommend going that way. The GPS coordinates that took me on the northern route to the Mt. Frissel trailhead parking lot:

From the New York State Thruway I-87, take the Saw Mill Parkway north to I-684 north. I-684 north turns into 22 north. Stay on 22 north all the way to Copake Falls, NY, (50 some miles) then turn right on 344 through Taconic State Park, right on West Street, right on East Street at the Mount Washington Forest Headquarters entrance, two miles farther to the Mt Frissel trailhead parking on the right. (I believe as East Street crosses the state line into CT it becomes Mt Washington Road.) If full, the AMC lot is 100 feet farther on the left. The drive was just under 3 hours from Central New Jersey.

HIKE DISTANCE: 11 mile loop. It seems that most people parking at the Mt. Frissell trailhead were doing an out and back to Brace Mountain which would be about 5 miles total.

With the exception of one short section around Alander Mountain, the trails are very well defined, well blazed and intersections are clearly marked. Made for very enjoyable hiking!

Start at the red-blazed Mr. Frissell trail in the smaller parking lot. On this 2.2 mile trail you will hike in 3 states, cross the summits of Round Mountain and Mt. Frissell (CT high point with actual summit in MA) with great views and pass by the 1898 tri-state marker which indicates where CT, NY and MA come together. There will be some steep rock scrambles while ascending the summits. I found this trail to be the most difficult of the hike so you get that out of the way early on.

The orange-blazed Mount Frissell Trail ends at the white-blazed South Taconic Trail where there are more great views to the south and west.

Turn right heading north on the white-blazed South Taconic Trail. For about the next 2 miles the trail will be a pleasant and easy woods road through pretty, quite, shaded forest with minor ups and downs. When you reach the intersection with the Alander Brook Trail, keep right on the South Taconic Trail where it will begin to go uphill steeply on Alander Mountain. There are no rock scrambles but it is a long uphill climb to the fantastic 360 degree views at the top.

Views of Mount Frissell and Brace Mountain to south:

Views of the Catskills to the west:

Old fire tower foundation:

Very shortly after passing the fire tower foundation, watch for the cairn with a very faint blue blaze below it. This is where the trail gets tricky briefly. Turn right at the cairn where the trail will be overgrown, the blazes very faded if you can see them at all, and you will think you are on the wrong trail.

It's not for very long and you will come out at an intersection with a cabin straight ahead. All the trails are blue-blazed here and you do not want the loop trails or they will take you back around to where you came from. Keep straight passing the cabin on your right and you will be on the blue-blazed Alander Mountain Trail which goes to the Mount Washington State Park headquarters.

The Alander Mountain Tail blazes will become blue rectangles that will be angled to point in the direction you need to go.

This trail will take you on woods roads through pleasant, thick, dark hemlock forests.

Up to this point, all of the brook crossings were dry due to the lack of rainfall but you will start to hear Ashley Hill Brook as it parallels the Alander Mountain trail in the valley below and a sturdy log bridge takes you to the other side when the trail crosses over.

Farther up the trail there is another smaller brook crossing.

Keep straight through a mowed field...

...which brings you to the Alander Mountain Trail trailhead at the Mount Washington State Forest headquarters. (This view is looking back in the direction I came from.)

Veer right through the parking lot continuing on towards the headquarters building. On the far side of the building is a spigot far drinking water. Great tasting water - my dog and I really appreciated the refill!

Exiting Mount Washington State Forest headquarters, turn right on East Street which is paved until beyond the bridge where it becomes gravel. You will be on this road for a little over two miles until you arrive back at the parking area on the right. The road becomes shaded and it is a very pleasant and easy walk through the Massachusetts countryside.

This was the only litter I found were these small rip-off pieces that can easily fall out of pockets so I am not even considering them litter. Even along East Street, a gravel road where you would expect to find it, amazingly, no litter.