Jun 4, 2009 at 9:23 am #1236801
Just a quick trip report from the few days before Memorial Day weekend. Traveled up to the Catskills for ~20-mile overnighter. Parked at the end of Mink Hollow Road just a few miles west of Woodstock, NY.
Trip started with a steady climb up the rocky and wet Mink Hollow Trail to the ridgeline. Headed east on the Devil's Path and over the next seven miles learned how the trail got it's name. Steep, rocky climbs up and down Surgarloaf, Twin, and Indian Head Mountains in combination with mid-80s heat and scant water totally drained my energy. Several lengths of trail required pack removal and tossing of trekking poles to scramble over, through, or down.
The hard work paid off though with great views from each of the peaks.
And some wildflowers and friendly fauna.
After Indian Head, I headed south on the Overlook Trail. Had planned on camping at Echo Lake but after relaxing and rehydrating for a few minutes at the lean-to just south of the trail intersection, I decided to make that home for the night. Enjoyed a nice fire and good company from another hiker who had bussed in from NYC that day. Used my WM Caribou as a quilt for the first time and enjoyed the freedom and venitlation that setup provided on a rather warm night.
Much smoother hike out on day two past Overlook Mountain and down the dirt access road. Had to road walk about 4-5 miles back to my car but that seems to be the norm if you try to put together a decent loop up there. Nice weather and scenery helped those mile fly by.
Overall, a nice trip and much more challenging than I had expected. The Devil's Path runs ~25 miles in total length and would be a great weekend trip (or tough DIAD) for anyone that could setup a shuttle.Jun 4, 2009 at 9:47 am #1505809
Looks like a nice trip. It's encouraging to me you met a hiker who bussed in from NYC, since that's what I'll be having to do soon.
The more I research, the more I'm finding, as you found, is that you're going to have to do some road-walking. Guess I'll have to buy some reflective tape to put on my pack.
One thing I haven't been able to find any info about yet . . . are you supposed to camp in the lean-tos? Are there generally designated camp areas? Or can you camp where ever you want, within regulations (100 feet from the trail, 200 feet from water etc, previously impacted site if possible).
I'm used to picking my own site (following LNT ethics, of course) here out West. It'll be kind of aggravating if I have to start sharing shelters with other camping like I'm in some European hostel.Jun 4, 2009 at 10:02 am #1505813
>>The more I research, the more I'm finding, as you found, is that you're going to have to do some road-walking.
Not necessarily. You can hire a cab to pick you up where the bus drops you off. Similarly, you can get the cab to pick you up where/when you want to end your hike.
Or, you can take the bus to New Paltz and rent a car from Sensible Car Rental for dirt cheap.
Or, you can car pool with me because the bus sucks. ;)
>>are you supposed to camp in the lean-tos? Are there generally designated camp areas? Or can you camp where ever you want, within regulations
Yes, yes, & yes.Jun 4, 2009 at 10:06 am #1505814
@rezniemLocale: San Francisco
Reminded me of my time last summer in the Catskills, and I love it there, though I don't miss the absolutely grueling (straight-up!) trails…..
Re: camping. The regulations are hard to figure out but you can generally camp where you want to, though they suggest using the same sites as others have in certain locations (on top of Giant Ledge, for instance.)
It's not as difficult as you'd imagine to get solitude/your own camping spot in the Catskills. Make sure to find a nice swimming hole near the end of your hike….tons of great ones in the area if you don't mind cold water!Jun 4, 2009 at 10:18 am #1505817
This is directly from NY-NJ Trail conference map concerning camping in the Catskills:
"Camping is permitted on state land below 3,500 feet in elevation. Except at lean-tos and campsite specifically designated by the DEC, you must camp at least 150 feet from roads, trails, and water sources."
From my fairly limited time in the Catskills, camping does seem to be an issue. Most of the peaks (like the three I passed on the Devil's Path) are over 3,500 feet so you can't camp there. I passed several other areas below 3,500 feet that would have made nice camps (and look to have previously been used as camps) but those were all posted with "no camping" signs. And getting 150 feet off trail in the remaining areas would require serious bushwacking and even then, finding a flat, non-rocky spot would be tough.
Maybe I just haven't been in the right places, but even though the regs make it sound like you can just pick a spot, it's not that easy. They seem to force you to camp where they want you to without actually spelling it out. That being said, I've been on a few trips up there over the last year and have rarely ran into anyone else on the trails or camping so I wouldn't let any of this discourage you from making the trip – it's still well worth it.Jun 4, 2009 at 5:24 pm #1505979
Nice pics, Brad. It's been a while since I've been on the Devil's Path, and I was going to go back there last month until family circumstances aborted that trip. Bummer. It looks very nice.
If that's Devil's Kitchen Lean-to that you stayed at, there's actually a wonderful area to tent several hundred feet into the woods behind the shelter. Some folks set up rock benches and a fire ring, which takes away from the "wilderness" character, but it's a big flat open spot free from any undergrowth, so you can pitch a tent/tarp anywhere. Which, like you said, is not too common around there.Jun 6, 2009 at 1:26 pm #1506382
@tomclarkLocale: East Coast
Nice report. I was talking with a buddy that was looking for a trail to hike on, and we realized that there aren't many longer trails (>10 miles) in the Catskills, glad that you enjoyed the Devils Path. I recall that as you mention, water seems to be another limitation up there.Jun 6, 2009 at 8:24 pm #1506418
@joegeibLocale: Delaware & Lehigh Valleys
How about the Escarpment Trail thru the Cats?Jun 7, 2009 at 3:58 am #1506447
@tomclarkLocale: East Coast
I'll pass it along. Thanks.Jun 8, 2009 at 12:34 pm #1506728
>Some folks set up rock benches and a fire ring, which takes away from the "wilderness" character,
I wonder about the mindset of people who 'improve' non-designated campsite like that. I'm sure one could argue that a built and maintained trail has already made the wilderness into not-wilderness, but it's especially annoying that somebody built a campsite so near a shelter. If they wanted amenities like benches and a fire ring, why not just stay at the shelter?
It sounds like I'm gonna have to change my tarp, currently a 2 person Oware to something with a smaller footprint.Jun 11, 2009 at 5:30 am #1507445
James, that is a good point. I usually disagree with people making "improved" campsite directly on the trail because they get a lot of use and can have a negative impact on the plant life nearby. The one by Devil's Kitchen lean-to is far enough into the woods that you wouldn't know it was there unless you knew about it beforehand (so I'm guilty of letting the cat out of the backpack on this one). I'm not sure how many people use the site, but… well, I just assume that most casual hikers won't notice it.Jun 11, 2009 at 9:32 am #1507488
I'll keep it in mind if I make it up there. Still beats a shelter.
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