Just last week, I got to spend 4 days in one of my favorite places on earth, the Catskill Mountains, NY. A snowy Catskills at that.
I had intentions of spending the 4 days by myself, as I originally thought I didn’t have anyone to join me. I figured I’d hike most of the days, if not all. Not a great idea to go out alone without anyone close nearby to know where you’re going, however, I had the itch. In a late development, however, my great college friend Casey (fellow Hokie!), and my twin brother, Owen decided to come with me. Not only that, my friend Billy (that I met on AMC Mountain Leadership School, mentioned in previous posts) had plans to go ice climbing that same Monday and Tuesday I was in the Catskills. Just like that, my plan went from going alone to being filled with great friends. I knew there’d be less hiking than originally planned (and no climbing, as me, Owen, and Casey didn’t have any gear), but I was grateful for the company. After two days of snowboarding phenomenal powder at Ski Plattekill, great night of swapping stories with amongst eachother, including Billy, his brother and friend, and a day at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, NY, Casey and I hit the trail. We saved the best day for last.
Monday would have been a great day to hike, but we opted for the slopes instead. Tuesday was a snowy day, great to ride the boards as a fresh layer of powder was constantly being replenished. Some of the best conditions I’ve experienced in a while. Wednesday was a wintery-mix mess, a good day to stay inside. Thursday, however, was clear skies, warm sun, and empty trail.
Always seeking a big day, I would have liked to put in some good Catskill miles. However, Casey and I chose a hike we could take slow and enjoy, and Casey could feel out his first time on the snowshoes. I found a section of the Escarpment Trail that offered many views in just 3.5 miles. I later learned that just those 3.5 miles would wear me out and offer a few challenges in steep and deep snow. 3.5 miles was enough, but it was brilliant.
We set off on the famed Escarpment Trail off of Scutt Road near North-South Lake State Campground. I had been on the Escarpment Trail before, but never on this southern section. We hiked “north” (really south) to the Layman Monument. The monument is a tribute to Frank
Layman, a local who lost his life in that very location fighting a forest fire in 1900. This location offers a somewhat open preview of southerly views to come. Continuing on, we passed view after view. With each view, we got a different perspective on Round Top and Kaaterskill High Peak, along with the ravines created by Haines Falls, Santa Cruz Falls, Buttermilk and Wildcat Falls. We continued on, facing deep snow, a few steeps that required a bit of creativity to ascend, to two named locations. First, Sunset Rock, the most open view of the day. However, Sunset Rock would just be a teaser to the grandeur that was our last stop of the
day: Inspiration Point. Each view along the way faced directly south into the opposing mountainside. Inspiration Point however, opens up to a sheer ledge that puts you out over Kaaterskill Clove and the Rip Van Winkle Trail. This view in particular feels vast, featuring Haines Falls now further in the distance, and glimpses of the Hudson River and Valley exactly opposite. At Inspiration Point you experience a feeling of floatation over a vast mountain pass beneath you. Inspiring? Indeed. Casey and I saved our best day for last, but also our best stop on our hike for last. A great way to end the trip. I even got to test out my newest piece of gear: my new Virginia Tech Hokies hat. A non-technical piece of gear, of course.
We retraced our steps back to a yellow blazed, unnamed trail which would takes us back north to the Escarpment Trail in a lollipop of sorts. With that, my 4 day trip to the Catskills was over. It was great to create new traces with friendly faces in one of my favorite places. And after just 3.5 miles? Shot. The powder will really suck the life out of you, even with snowshoes and all.
Below is a photo of Billy ice climbing in Kaaterskill Clove. Not my photo, but I thought it was too cool not to share. To the lower right, a photo of a porcupine we saw while snowboarding, just for fun.