Ascent of Blackhead on 2010-10-24

Climber: Debbie Melita

Others in Party:Valerie Accardi
Ted Wallace
Ronnie Cusmano
Bill Winterbottom
Date:Sunday, October 24, 2010
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Location:USA-New York
    Elevation:3940 ft / 1200 m

Ascent Trip Report

My friends and co-workers are used to hearing me talk about multiple days spent hiking and backpacking long miles in the woods (my boss likes to snidely ask on Mondays, “So what did you climb this weekend?” without really waiting for a reply). But when I told them that I was going on a 24-mile day hike, they thought that was even too much for me. Someone asked me if I was running a marathon. When I mentioned it to other hikers, their response usually included the phrase “death march.” I wasn’t worried. In fact, I was really, really looking forward to it. I’d done enough backpack trips with days of over 20 miles, so a hike with a day pack was going to be a treat.

Our small group, consisting of Poison Ivy (who organized the whole thing), Zer0-G, niceguyted (both working on their grids), SSmonte283 and myself, met at the North/South Lake campground on Saturday night so that we could get up (very) early to hike the next day. Before we knew it, the alarm went off at 4:15am. We broke down camp and were on the road an hour later. We dropped off 2 cars at the Scutt Rd. PA (our end point), then procured a much-needed injection from the coffee gods at Stewart’s near CR-25. Fueled by caffeine and egg sandwiches, we headed north to set up a bail-out car at the end of Big Hollow Road (in case anyone got injured, but also in case anyone wanted to take a side trip and go get pizza and beer for lunch) and then down to start at the Peck Rd. PA, since the trail from Route 23 was totally flooded and impassable (thanks for the advance scouting, Ted). Okay, okay, so this meant that the day would total “only” 23.6 miles. So I rounded up for the sake of a catchy title.

Start time 6:35am. The moon was still out and almost full, so we barely needed our headlamps as we climbed along the Elm Ridge trail up to the junction. By the time we turned onto the Escarpment Trail, the lights and outer layers had been put away. It was an absolutely beautiful morning: perfect hiking weather, though a bit overcast at first. We reached Windham High Peak just over an hour later and stopped for a quick snack and to see what we could see. We found ourselves above the clouds and the valley below was covered in mist so thick it looked like foam waves.

We continued along the ups and downs over Burnt Knob and Acra Point, stopping to enjoy the views as the day grew warmer and the sun teased us by almost making an appearance at times. Just past 10am, we hit the Batavia Kill trail junction and began the hike up to Blackhead. Such a great climb! Nice viewpoints, fun rock scrambles, and a big sunny rock on top – a perfect place for a snack and a short rest. By the time we started our descent down the south side, the sun had come out for good. Hello, T-shirt and shorts time! (Well, the entire day had been “shorts time” for Poison Ivy, who opted not to bring any pants. Ted seemed quite interested in this “no pants” hiking technique).

The woods stroll went on as we eased our way south. We checked our water level at Dutcher Notch (the approximate halfway point) around noon, but everyone had enough left so no need to refill. Onward and upward, we stopped for lunch at Milt’s View where Poison Ivy enjoyed a quick nap, and a mile later SSmonte took some time to explore the plane crash site near Stoppel Point, where we caught up to Zer0-G, who was taking a few zzzzzs. From there, it was through a lovely wooded section with a luscious pine duff floor, then a series of spectacular viewpoints from various ledges and lookouts. When we hit the large open rock surface of North Point, we relaxed for a while, enjoyed the view of the lake below and most of us took another short nap. This was turning into the Siesta Hike. Lots of walking, snacking and just enough snoozing.

We dropped down and passed under Bad Man’s Cave, then became captivated by walls of intriguing lichen-covered rocks. Soon after, the picnic area near the lake taunted me with its promises of summer barbeques, but I kept going. The large, open grassy area of the old Catskill Mountain House site immediately made me think it would be a nice place for a nap (are you sensing a theme here?), but with just 4 1/2 miles to go, I resisted the temptation and moved on.

Back into the woods, there were still lots more ups and downs (Who said it was all downhill after Stoppel Point? Hah!) To quote Ted paraphrasing Ronnie, “it was downhill the rest of the way, except where it was uphill.” But the scenery was so beautiful, with the sun reflecting golden light off of the trees in the valley below, that walking this long route was still a real pleasure. We passed the Layman Monument and could hear the sound of nearby Kaaterskill Falls. SSmonte pointed out that one could bushwhack down, but wisely chose to wait for some other time when he hadn’t just hiked 23 miles.

The trail meandered through the woods for what seemed like a very long 3/4 of a mile, but it was probably just me suffering from Senioritis of the Trail (“we’re done, right?”). We reached the finish at 5:50pm, where we celebrated with some sparkling cider and clean underwear (how every hike should end).

Now, time for a nap!

See my photos at:

Here’s the link to Ted’s tracklog:
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail
Ascent Part of Trip: Escarpment Trail in a Day Hike

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Windham High Peak2010-10-24 

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