West Kill via Saint Anne's Peak on Friday September 16, 2016

Balsam, Hunter, Leavitt Peak, North Dome, Sheridan, Sherrill

West Kill via Saint Anne's Peak on Friday September 16, 2016

New postby rkugel » Wed Sep 21, 2016 8:28 am

With Friday September 16, 2016 promising to be a warm sunny day (the high temperature was predicted to hit 70 degrees), I decided to use a vacation day and hike in the Catskills. My choice was to hike to Buck Ridge Lookout on West Kill Mountain. I had previously been to West Kill via the approach from Diamond Notch Falls, so this time I wanted to do the western approach from the trail head of the Devil’s Path on Spruceton Road and via Saint Anne’s Peak. Although this route would be over a mile longer than Diamond Notch, I needed this segment to complete my hike of the entire Devil’s Path.

I left my house (Paterson, NJ) at 5:50 am and arrived at the small parking area at 8:00 am. There were two cars already there – one from Pennsylvania and the other from Washington, D.C. I was quite impressed that someone was willing to drive all the way from Washington D.C. to hike the Catskills. The temperature was a distinctly chilly 39 degrees. Fall was definitely in the air!

I exited my car and thought I was alone until I heard the sound of branches and twigs snapping. I peered into the woods and saw a large black bear (about 300 to 400 lbs.) perhaps 80 feet away slowly lumbering along in search of food. I stood by my car (ready to dive back inside at a micro-second’s notice) while watching the bear. However, the bear was (thankfully) not interested in having me for breakfast. After a couple of minutes, the bear the disappeared into the woods and I was reasonably certain it was safe to get my stuff out of the car and prepare for the hike.

The first 15 to 20 minutes of the hike were a bit nerve-wracking since I was still on “hyper-alert” for the bear. However, the most dangerous creature I spotted during the time was a chipmunk so I was finally able to relax and really start enjoying my walk.

The first 1.5 miles took me through hemlock and deciduous woods on gentle ascending and descending grades in a southerly direction. At 1.5 miles I encountered a trail sign where the trail made a very sharp left turn and began a moderately steep ascent of Saint Anne’s Peak. North Dome clearly loomed in the distance, even with a thick canopy of leaves covering the trees.

I must say the trail sign was definitely in error. It marked the distance to Buck Ridge as 4.7 miles. That distance would only be correct from the trail head at Spruceton Road. A more accurate distance from the sharp left turn would be about 3.25 miles.

I began the slog up Saint Anne’s Peak with the trail now heading north. Near the summit, the trail turned 180 degrees (now facing south again) and the grades relaxed. There were tantalizing glimpses of West Kill to the east, but the dense foliage prevented a clear view.

After the summit, the trail turned east and pitched steeply down into the col between Saint Anne and West Kill. The ledges on this section of the Devil’s Path are “child’s play” compared to the cliffs encountered on the eastern portion of the Devil’s Path, but care still needs to be exercised. The distance between the two peaks is slightly more than 2 miles, which I covered reasonably quickly. The trail gains elevation to West Kill through a series of ledges, versus a sustained steep or moderate grade. All in all, the walk was easy and very relaxing.

As I neared West Kill, the trail was substantially encroached upon with blackberry and huckleberry bushes. With an obvious food source right along the trail and the limited visibility due to the thick undergrowth, I went back into “high alert” for bears. Fortunately, none were seen though the trail was littered with bear scat for a considerable distance, so I knew they were in the area.

After a couple of final scrambles, I ascended into a boreal forest and reached the summit of West Kill. The refreshing smell of pine filled the air. Last time I was there (October 2015) the sign proclaiming the summit was gone. Much to my surprise, a new sign was in place.

I walked past the summit and within minutes arrived at Buck Ridge Lookout at 11:30 am. The view from Buck Ridge is simply too grand for words. To call the view “spectacular” would not do it justice. It must be seen to be appreciated. To the south are Slide, Peekamoose, Cornell, and Wittenberg. Directly ahead is Hunter Mountain with the fire tower and ski slopes clearly visible. The entire ridge of Plateau Mountain can be seen to the right of Hunter. To the north are the peaks of the Blackhead Range.

The only disappointment was the view opposite Buck Ridge (that looks to the north over Spruceton Valley) is almost completely overgrown. Only a narrow sliver of the valley is visible. I suspect the view will be completely gone in a year or two.

From Buck Ridge Lookout, there is an unmarked trail that heads west (parallel to the Devil’s Path) about 50 feet or so to another lookout. This view is more southerly facing and gives a clearer view of the Burrough’s Range.

I spent well over an hour and a half at Buck Ridge relaxing, daydreaming, enjoying my lunch, and soaking in the views. At 1:15 pm, I finally decided it was time to start back to my car. As I left, the sun must have caught the glass windows of the Mount Tremper fire tower as an intensely bright beacon suddenly appeared on the peak. It looked more like a lighthouse than a fire tower!

The trip back to my car was uneventful, except for a point between West Kill and Saint Anne’s where I heard a large animal crashing through the brush and undergrowth. I “suspect” it was another bear, but I did not actually see anything, so I cannot confirm. I got back to my car at 5:00 pm and called it a day.

All in all, it was a wonderful hike. In spite of the chilly start, the weather warmed up into the 60’s and the skies were blue with just a few puffy clouds. Although this section of the Devil’s Path receives little use, the trail is self-guiding except for two sections. The first section is about three quarters of a mile from the trail head where the trail traverses a rocky section. A few more blazes over this section would be quite helpful. The second section was mentioned earlier and is near the summit of West Kill where the trail is almost completely overgrown with berry bushes. If the trail is not cleared soon, it will eventually disappear.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the hike was the solitude. For the 9 hours I was away from my car, I did not encounter a single person. For those hikers seeking solitude, this is definitely the trail for you!


2016-0916-WestKill-03-Fix.jpg
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
rkugel
 
Posts: 143
Joined: Wed Nov 25, 2009 8:54 am

Re: West Kill via Saint Anne's Peak on Friday September 16, 2016

New postby mike » Wed Sep 21, 2016 10:48 pm

Real nice TR Rich! You picked a real nice day for a hike. I haven't had a chance to hike the entire trail that you did, but have wanted to for quite some time.

Lots of black bears out there right now. The DEC has extended the black bear hunting season. The blackberries are ripe, so you generally find bears where the blackberries are. But, they are generally gentle and not concerned about people. But, you never know.
User avatar
mike
 
Posts: 1426
Joined: Sun Aug 09, 2009 9:20 pm
Location: Ravena, NY

Re: West Kill via Saint Anne's Peak on Friday September 16, 2016

New postby rkugel » Thu Sep 22, 2016 7:27 am

Hi Mike! Great hearing from you! You are not kidding when you say there are a lot more bears out there. I also saw one on top of Plateau a few weeks ago. But I agree with you that the bears are generally docile. I can honestly say that in all the years (actually decades) that I've hiked, I have never had a problem with a bear or felt imminently threatened (knock on wood....). This is not to say that I would ever do something stupid with a bear, since they are unpredictable and potentially dangerous animals.

I will say that the bears in New Jersey are generally less timid than the bears in the Catskills (must be that "Jersey attitude"!!! LOL!!!). While bears in the Catskills will generally run at the first sight (or sound) of a person, bears in New Jersey are much less intimidated by humans. I had a couple of bear encounters in Norvin Green State Forest (West Milford, NJ) over the summer. In spite of me blowing my whistle as loudly as possible, the bears weren't the least bit frightened. Fortunately, I kept my wits about me and the encounters ended "peacefully".

You probably heard about the incident in New Jersey last year where a group of students from Rutgers University was attacked by a bear. Sadly, one of the students lost his life. From what I gathered, the hikers made three catastrophic errors, any one of which was extremely dangerous and life threatening: 1) They approached the bear; 2) They took pictures of the bear (bears frequently mistake a camera lens for a large eye and think you are staring them down and challenging them); 3) They ran when the bear began approaching them.

As time permits, I'll post more trip reports. Thanks for writing!
rkugel
 
Posts: 143
Joined: Wed Nov 25, 2009 8:54 am

Re: West Kill via Saint Anne's Peak on Friday September 16, 2016

New postby mike » Thu Sep 22, 2016 12:16 pm

Hi Rich - Generally we are finding that where ever we have blackberries or acorns, you will find bears. They mainly come at night, but sometimes you can encounter them during the day. Lately, I have been carrying bear spray. Not good to surprise them. Been up close and personal a number of times. Never a good feeling. Maybe with the extended hunting season, we might get a reduction in population.

This past Spring we found a very large bog on North Mtn. Now called Bog #408. When Dr Kudish and I went there, there were bears sleeping in the bog. It was slightly damp and cool. Also well protected. Just never know where they might show up.
User avatar
mike
 
Posts: 1426
Joined: Sun Aug 09, 2009 9:20 pm
Location: Ravena, NY

Re: West Kill via Saint Anne's Peak on Friday September 16, 2016

New postby kennykb » Wed Oct 05, 2016 7:52 pm

Hey Rich! Good to see that you're out hiking again! I'm thinking that I might be willing to try my foot on a peak one of these weeks. A few weeks ago, I scrambled the Middleburgh Cliff and then managed a ten-or-so mile in-and-out, to Cotton Hill and back, so I think it's finally holding up. Like Mike, it took me a year.

Anyway, if either of you guys is up for something and can stand a slowpoke, give me a call.
I'm not lost. I know exactly where I am. I'm right here.
User avatar
kennykb
 
Posts: 241
Joined: Tue Apr 24, 2012 11:19 pm
Location: Niskayuna, NY

Re: West Kill via Saint Anne's Peak on Friday September 16, 2016

New postby rkugel » Thu Oct 06, 2016 8:12 am

Hi Kevin! Great hearing from you! I'm not sure what Mike's schedule looks like, but I would love to meet up with you guys again for a hike. And please have no worries about being a slowpoke. You cannot possibly be slower than I am. I hike at the speed of an advancing glacier, which is one of the reasons why I usually hike alone. I always feel like I am a burden to the rest of the group. My work schedule has been crazy but I've been finding little windows of time to go hiking. I'm hoping to post more trip reports in the coming weeks.

Keep in touch and best always!
Rich
rkugel
 
Posts: 143
Joined: Wed Nov 25, 2009 8:54 am

Re: West Kill via Saint Anne's Peak on Friday September 16, 2016

New postby Birdman » Thu Oct 06, 2016 2:49 pm

I live in Saugerties but grew up in Bloomingdale. Spent a bunch of my time as a teen hiking Norvin Green. I used to hike from my home to Wanaque Reservoir, the iron mines, Etc. My scout leader had property up there in West Milford near where the kid was killed by the black bear. Anyway thanks for sharing your experience. Regards.
Birdman
 
Posts: 133
Joined: Thu Jul 08, 2010 11:23 pm

Re: West Kill via Saint Anne's Peak on Friday September 16, 2016

New postby mike » Thu Oct 06, 2016 7:39 pm

I'm thinking about hiking the Blackhead to Arizona traverse this weekend. It is a great Fall hike. The leaves appear to be peaking on the range. We would start at the blackhead PA and hike to another car below Dutcher's Notch.

Going slow is a-okay with me. Stop and shoot pics to good too. Let me know if someone would like to do this Sunday or Monday.
User avatar
mike
 
Posts: 1426
Joined: Sun Aug 09, 2009 9:20 pm
Location: Ravena, NY

Re: West Kill via Saint Anne's Peak on Friday September 16, 2016

New postby kennykb » Thu Oct 06, 2016 11:58 pm

I'f you're talking about Sunday or Monday, I'll get back to you tomorrow or Saturday. I may be taking some neighbor kids to Overlook, but I'm surely interested if that falls through.
User avatar
kennykb
 
Posts: 241
Joined: Tue Apr 24, 2012 11:19 pm
Location: Niskayuna, NY

Re: West Kill via Saint Anne's Peak on Friday September 16, 2016

New postby kennykb » Fri Oct 07, 2016 1:31 pm

kennykb wrote:I'f you're talking about Sunday or Monday, I'll get back to you tomorrow or Saturday. I may be taking some neighbor kids to Overlook, but I'm surely interested if that falls through.


Looks as if the Overlook trip is on, so no Blackhead for me this weekend. Have fun!
User avatar
kennykb
 
Posts: 241
Joined: Tue Apr 24, 2012 11:19 pm
Location: Niskayuna, NY

Next

Return to Hunter - Westkill Wilderness Area

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron