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Hiking / Camping

Catskills Hike : Panther Mountain

Last weekend I went with Kay and a few friends to hike up to Giant Ledge and the summit of Panther.  Panther Mountain, located in the Catskill Mountains of New York, stretches to approximately 3,720 feet high. There are two paths to the top of the mountain, one from the northern side and one from the south. We took the latter route.

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After reaching the top of Panther we continued about a half mile past the summit, turned back around, and camped overnight between Panther’s summit and Giant Ledge. It was a beautiful hike being that it was fall in the Catskills. While it was the peak time for the color change at the bottom of the mountain, it was clearly past peak at the top. The good news is that it gave us better views from the scenic overlooks. Early in the morning on our second day, and on our way down the mountain, it even snowed a bit.

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Several features of the mountain have led geologists to believe that the mountain formed over an ancient meteorite crater. You can even see the circular shape of where the meteorite hit based on looking at the terrain from above. Check out the circular formation of the mountain in the picture below from Google Maps.

Panther Terrain

You can check out an album of pictures here.

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The Osage Orange Tree of Bear Mountain

doodletown80When I moved to New York in 2006 I was very interested in finding cool and unique places to go, the kind that I constantly found out west. While living in California I hiked in the San Jacinto Mountains finding new types of vegetation I had never seen before. I found Ghost Towns with remnants from the Gold Rush. I found “seas” that were dying (the Salton Sea) and desert canyons whose multiple colors defied the typical brownish red most people think of. So when I moved back to New York, a place I grew up and typically viewed as boring, my hope to was explore new and fascinating places.

Through some research I discovered a ghost town in Bear Mountain called Doodletown. I’ve written about it here. It was abandoned in the 1960s with only foundations and plaques remaining. There are also a few mines, one of which was Thomas Edison’s. During one of my hikes there I discovered some strange fruit fallen from a tree which really grabbed my interest. Researching online I discovered it is called the Osage Orange. There is a bit of disinformation out there on the fruit, so I went to a few reliable sources and found some interesting facts about it. It’s a rather disgusting looking fruit, which to me looks like worms or brains on the outside, but people loved using the plant as hedges, or fences, back in the day due to its density and thorns. Native Americans cherished the wood from the tree so much they made bows out of it. Meriwether Lewis claims to have traveled hundreds of miles to get ahold of it. When dried the wood has an extremely high BTU content, and it’s used for handles, bows, fences, etc. He supposedly sent Thomas Jefferson some seeds, who in turn gifted some to George Washington. The oldest tree standing on Washington’s River Farm today is an Osage Orange Tree and to this day it is the largest Osage Orange tree in the country. More recently, when President Roosevelt started his Great Plains Shelterbelt WPA project in the 1930s, this was one of the trees used to create weather and soil barriers.

Here’s a snipbit from the Smithsonian’s website:

“In March 1804, while Lewis was in St. Louis attending the Louisiana Territory transfer ceremonies, he sent Jefferson a shipment of botanical specimens, including live Osage apple cuttings. Though they did not survive, some samples Lewis collected in 1807 did, and as Susan H. Munger writes in Common to This Country: Botanical Discoveries of Lewis and Clark, “trees growing in Philadelphia and at the University of Virginia are said to be direct descendants of the cuttings sent back by Lewis.”

The Osage orange, which Lewis obtained from Pierre Chouteau, a former Indian agent, was probably the expedition’s most significant botanical discovery. The plant’s long thorns created a virtually impenetrable hedge, and later in the 19th century, many thousands of miles of these trees would be planted as frontier fencing. The fragrant tree held its popularity as a barrier until it was eclipsed by barbed wire in the 1880s.”

Source: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/osage-oranges-take-a-bough-105043145/#HTFWTqYW34oeQdlv.99

One reason I’m excited to even write about it is how rare it is to see one in this part of the country nowadays.  It’s native to Texas, Oklahoma, and parts of Louisiana today. Apparently it’s so uncommon that when Superstorm Sandy took down the centuries old one in Druid Hill Park in Baltimore, one publication wrote a whole article about it.

I did find one government website with locations of the tree here in New York. It does list Rockland County, where Bear Mountain is located in. So while this tree may not be very common in the Northeast, it does still thrive in a few parts, and there is one in a ghost town called Doodletown.

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The Devil’s Path West

Last weekend I went with two buddies to finish The Devil’s Path in the Catskills. We hiked up West Kill, Southwest Hunter, and Hunter Mountains. We starting around 9:30am on Saturday and returned back to the car around 11am on Sunday. It was pretty strenuous, but nowhere near as bad as the eastern portion of it. You can check out an album of pictures here.

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Cold Spring Hike

Yesterday Kay and I went on a short hike in Cold Spring after checking out a neat Farmer’s Market that was going on in town. We followed the Cornish and Brook Trails (Blue and Red) and saw some really cool foundations along the way. The trail follows an old road through the former estate of Edward G. Cornish, chairman of the board of the National Lead Company. You can see some pictures I took here.

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The Wolfpack Returns

catskills_hike_wreck028A few years ago The Wolfpack attempted a 6 peak hike in the Catskills, which we found the plane wreckage of a WWII B-25 Mitchell Bomber. Due to the intensity of the hike and lack of trail on the latter half, we skipped the last two peaks of Balsam and Friday mountains, found the plane crash, and hiked back to our vehicle. Well this summer we’re returning to conquer those last to peaks.

Because the mountains don’t have trails and are very steep, we’re doing a day hike (no overnight) so we can carry lighter backpacks. Below you can see the full hike, and how we returned on day two. The red line is the path we took without trails. Notice how steep the mountain is! It also makes it hard to find flat land to set up tents.

We’re planning on a July 20th hike. We’ll be discussing the paths to take (and by take I mean create) in the upcoming weeks. I gotta admit, this does not look fun but I’m excited for the challenge and to knock these two off the list.

 

Catskill’s Hike – Panther Pictures Posted

Pictures are posted from my hike up Panther Mountain in the Catskills. I’ll try to get a journal entry written

soon.

http://www.theliberaltraveler.com/photography/?album=5&gallery=87

The Devil’s Path Pictures

Pictures from The Devil’s Path in the Catskills are up. I’ll try to get a blog entry about it up soon.

Atop Twin Mountain.

 

My Favorite Hike

Sitting in the very square cubical which was her office, my college counselor Corie and I would talk about anything but school. She was the one who prodded me to drive up the West Coast to Vancouver, and now she was doing it again. But this time it was to head Eastward and Up. We got talking about hiking and camping, and while I told her I had no gear to my name, she offered to lend me hers. She suggested an area called the San Jacinto Mountains.

The mountain range is about 90 miles east of Los Angeles and boasts a peak of 10,834 feet. Since most of my prior hiking experience was from the Boy Scouts at least six years earlier, I was happy to get back in the game, and so the next weekend I hopped in my car and went my merry way.

Coming from Los Angeles, commuters should take I -10 towards Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park, getting off at Route 243. I made my way down to the Park Headquarters in Idyllwild, just to familiarize myself with the area, possibly obtain a map, and figure out which trail to take. It turns out you need a permit to enter the Park, so I’m lucky I stopped in. (Not that anyone really checks.) I then drove back up the road to a designated parking area, and entered to woods via Deer Springs Trail. Starting out at 5600ft in elevation, my first goal was to make it to the first unofficial junction 2.3 miles ahead at 6900ft. There I could split off to Strawberry Junction or Suicide Rock.

The hike up Deer Springs Trail is absolutely beautiful. Coming from a person who has only hiked on the east coast, it was spectacular to see the different kind of vegetation and landscape the west has to offer. From smoothed rocks to Coulter Pine Trees. From dry brown dirt to Western Fence Lizards. It was familiar, but with its own twist. Aside from the picture above, here are some of my favorite memories:

Eventually I made it to that first junction, grabbing a shot of Suicide Rock and deciding to continue on Deer Springs Trail to Strawberry Junction. Here is where my memory gets a little shady. I do recall spending the rest of the afternoon hiking, but I’m not sure if I made it to Strawberry Junction. (Being that SJ was only another 1.8 miles, I’d like to think I made it.) What happened was I felt a slight pain in my right ankle in the late afternoon / early evening. I stopped to rest in a fairly open area (SJ?) and decided that since the view was so great and the ground was so level to set up camp for the night.

After setting up shop and finding some firewood, I cooked dinner and enjoyed a beautiful view of the stars as the evening continued. When I was ready for bed (probably around 9pm) I promptly put out the fire and hit the sack. After what felt like only a few hours I awoke to the sun beaming brightly on my tent door. Or so I thought. Apparently I didn’t put the fire out good enough and some wind must have kicked ash up and relit it. As a Eagle Scout who takes very good care of his fires I was highly embarrassed. Using most of my remaining bottled water, as well as some urine (which is 95% water), I put it out again. I stomped and buried the ash and piled the rocks on. There was no way this sucker was going to reignite.

Several hours later I woke up to a slimmer of sunlight shining on he tent. I thought it was odd though the moment I saw it flicker. I opened my tent to see the campfire lit itself once again. Granted it could not have expanded much because of the rocks placed atop it, it was still disconcerting. I stomped it out, saving my last remaining drops of water for the hike down, and watched the sunrise as my body awoke.

By the time I was ready to head down, I felt like the fire had no chances of relighting. It had been about 8-10 hours time, put out twice, and closely monitored that morning. I have never encountered such a feisty fire before.

The hike back was just as rewarding as going up (if not more so being that it was easier). Heading down gives you scenic views overlooking the land below. Sprawling hills, huge white rocks, and treetops covered the land for as far as the eye could see. My ankle still did hurt while hiking back, but at least the descent went much quicker than the ascent.

This hike happened several years ago and yet I still cannot get it out of my head. I constantly find myself looking back at these photos and recalling the fond memories of this trip. A picture may be worth a thousand words but a memory like this will last a lifetime. The uniqueness of the terrain and interesting plant life keep drawing me to come back. If you ever get a chance to climb this mountain range I highly recommend it.

If you’d like to see a few more pictures you can check out my album here.

Here is a copy of the trail map:

The Devil’s Path

Hiking the New York Catskills during October is great. The weather is moderate with some easygoing wind, the leaves are changing colors, and if you go high enough you may even catch some snow.

A week after my New Hampshire Road Trip with Copilot I’ll be going on a hike with the Wolfpack along The Devil’s Path. Since we only have a weekend to do it, we’ll just being doing four of the six peaks: Indian Head, Twin, Sugarloaf, and Plateau. These will be my twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth peaks of the Catskill 3500′s.

To paraphrase from Wikpedia:

The Devil’s Path is a hiking trail in the Catskill Mountains of New York, often described as the toughest hiking trail in the Eastern United States. It draws hikers from not just the region but far outside, due to the challenging climbs straight up, and down the steep gaps between the four peaks of the range, which often require hikers to use hands as well as feet to pull themselves almost straight up cliffs and through rocky chutes. These climbs, however, lead to many spectacular views of the Catskill range.

The plan is to hike the four eastern peaks that weekend, which I believe to be roughly 9 miles. We will leave around 7am Saturday morning and return Sunday evening. So far four people (including myself) are going. It should be a difficult but yet fun hike.

I finally got around to organizing my hikes within the Garmin BaseCamp App on the computer. You plug the GPS into the computer via USB and it uploads all the data from the GPS. Afterwards, I took a look over at the eastern part of The Devil’s Path. Check out the four pictures below.

Picture 1 = Google Maps
Picture 2 = Catskill’s Print Map
Pictures 3, 4 = Garmin BaseCamp Maps

Hawaii Trip – Entry 2 : Maui

The second island on our trip was Maui. Upon doing my research of this island the two main attractions are “The Road to Hana” and the historic town of Lahaina. On the morning of our first day here, Copilot and I woke up a little later than we’d have liked to. It might have been because it was following our first night sleeping at sea, and we had to become accustomed to the slight rocking of the ship. (This was only a problem our first night, and our last.) We had breakfast aboard the ship, to which we saw this beautiful rainbow (pictured left) appear during our meal.

After breakfast we departed for the “The Road to Hana”. The Hana Highway, as it’s known to locals, is a roughly 60 mile windy road that has dozens of one-lane bridges along the way. There are stops for waterfalls, gardens, beaches, vendors selling local foods such as pineapples, coconuts, and banana bread, and even cave tours. The cave tour we did, which was listed on the popular Road to Hana (R2H) CD, was not all that spectacular. I’ve done others here in the Upper 48 that were much more exciting.

Amongst the most memorable of our stops were:

- The Garden of Eden around Mile Marker 10. This is a botanical garden and arboretum containing some pretty exotic plants.

- The Black Sand Beach at Waianapanapa State Park. Mile Marker 32. This is a great place to stop for a break and have a picnic.

- The Seven Sacred Pools (O’heo Gulch) hike. This was around Mile Marker 42. It requires a four mile hike (Round Trip) and was moderately steep. At the time I went it was pretty muddy and wet. Anyone going should allocate about 2 hours for this journey. The last 1/4 mile at the top is totally worth it though. First you start walking along a boardwalk surrounded by bamboo trees that are thick and only a few inches apart. As the wind swept through they clanked together making a very mystical sound. As you approach the waterfall you can hear it and feel the mist in the air. The following pictures will not do it justice:

I really wanted to drive around the whole island and do what was Beyond Hana, so at Hertz I upgraded to a Jeep which allowed me to continue on the unpaved portion of the drive. By “allow” I mean gave me the capability, because it technically voided my contract by driving on the unpaved roads. But one of the ladies behind the counter “encouraged” me to see what was beyond Hana, without actually telling me to drive beyond it of course. In my opinion the 15 miles before and after Hana were the best of the trip.

A -  (covered by F) : Kahului
B – Garden of Eden
C – Black Sand Beach
D – Hana
E – The Sacred Pools
F – Kahului

I would have liked to see Charles Lindbergh’s grave, which is along the route beyond Hana, but didn’t get the opportunity. Maybe next time. ;) Although Maui may look small based on the map above, that trip took about 12 hours. According to Wikipedia : “the highway is very winding and narrow and passes over 59 bridges, 46 of which are only one lane wide. There are approximately 620 curves along Route 360 from just east of Kahului to Hāna.” Not to mention we drove an additional 62 miles beyond Hana back to Kahului via the southern route, with a huge chunk of it that was not paved.

The second day in Maui was Copilot’s day. After an exhaustingly long day of road tripping we laid low and stayed on the ship. We went tanning by the pool, and ate all three meals on board. It was a very low-key and relaxing day, something I think we both needed, especially Copilot. In my next entry I’ll talk about our trip to The Big Island, which involved a helicopter tour of a volcano in Hilo and a raft and snorkel excursion in Kona (as well as coffee and shopping for Copilot of course!)