Preface: I apologize if the photographs are sideways 🙁 I’ve been making a conscious effort to take photographs with my iPhone the “right way up” but for some reason when I upload them, it still turns them sideways. I was super excited about these photographs because I knew I took them all in the “right” direction. I do edit the photographs in WordPress but it still shifts them on any other computer than mine. I’m frustrated too and will have to spend more than five minutes looking into this. If you know the solution – please share!
A couple of weeks ago Paula and I traveled back down to the Catskills to hike two more peaks toward our Catskill 35: Southwest Hunter and Rusk Mountain. They were described to me as two semi-easy bushwhacks and I quickly glanced over the trip reports she sent to me, but to be honest, I didn’t think much into these because I’ve hiked trail-less peaks in the Adirondacks… that turned out to be NOTHING what we experienced that Saturday.
We started on the trail at 7:30AM and it was still cool enough for a long sleeve, but I had secretly wished I was in shorts. The trail was super easy to follow and the waterfalls along the way were worth the stop to admire. At the junction, we followed markers toward Hunter Mountain and began our climb. The trail was wet in some places, but not as bad as I had anticipated; one could easily hop from rock to rock to avoid a wet boot. We ran into a small group of hikers coming down with large packs – they had spent the night in the leanto and forewarned us about the ice and the need for microspikes. Check! We had those! Side note: they had an Australian cattle dog and I officially want one. Looking into the breed, they like work and I’d love to have a hiking/running partner. May have to look into a rescue soon…
Microspikes were definitely needed and we probably wore them for a good three miles (total) of the trip. The two of us were chatting along and eventually we reached a section in the trail where it looked like it wandered off to the right. We checked the map and both agreed that that spot could be the turnoff for Southwest Hunter. It was an easy bushwhack because that section of the mountain was cooler than the East side and there was a packed ice trail for us to follow. Within thirty minutes, we found the canister!
After a quick snack, we made our way back down the mountain, running into another couple who were about half-way done with their 35. We chatted a bit and took mental notes on a couple peaks we have yet to summit, and made our way down to the waterfalls. By this time, the temperature was probably in the mid sixties and there were crowds of people enjoying the views of the falls. We kept moving on, only to stop about a half mile later to eat lunch by the water. This was a fairly easy hike for me, a little over 7 miles in 5 hours (including lunch).
Now, for the interesting hike of the day: Rusk! We moved our car down to the other lot and headed up the other trail toward Hunter (I took this trail last time with Jen) at 12:38PM. Paula stated that once the trail takes a sharp hairpin turn to the right, we’d go left. We reached this junction at .60 12:53PM and let me tell you, the “trail” up was non-existent. We literally just had to wander up into the woods until we reached the top, then hike toward the left to reach the summit. No other way to describe it – the woods with no leaves looked identical when spanning 360, luckily we could see Hunter off in the distance for reference. We used my compass to hike W-SW for the majority of the way. It was tricky and a little scary to be honest – I felt like my footing was never secure and I felt like I was just zig zagging up the mountain. The good news was that I kept finding little scrapes on rocks which gave us the clue that others had hiked there once with microspikes (at this point, there was NO snow whatsoever).
The climb was STEEP, relentless really, to the point where we’d take 20 steps and then stop to catch our breath. At one point, we noticed the climb evening out and Paula asked me to run up ahead to confirm it was flat… kinda I said. Ha! The ground did even out and that’s when we started heading to the left (S). Eventually, the forest opened up and we could make out a faint heard path. We followed it for a good ten minutes, past this cool gnarly tree, and then all of a sudden I saw the canister glittering in the sun. We had made it! (2:27PM) We gave each other a hug, took some photographs, signed into the canister and then I plopped myself down to take my boot off and let my feet stretch. Going up something that steep really made my feet ache. Also important to note, previous hiking trips estimated the distance to the summit to be 1.85 miles. My watched said 1.83! We didn’t zig zag too bad.
On the way down, we followed the heard path until it got to the point that our instincts were telling us to head East, but the trail didn’t end. We turned regardless and started the long trek down. It was even more difficult blazing a trail going down: our feet slipped and slid all over the place, not fully trusting each step. Occasionally the leaves sunk multiple inches, almost post-holing. Nothing, absolutely nothing looked familiar to me and I began to worry a tad bit. I could still see Hunter Mountain off in the distance but I didn’t see any signs of outside life. Except for a random deflated blue balloon… I wonder where that traveled from? I started to beat myself up for taking everything out of my pack – no extra layer of clothing, no emergency bivvy. My watch was at 3.6 miles: we should have been back to the car at that point. And then, Paula recognized a downed tree. When I looked up, like the canister at the summit, there was the marked trail! I shouted back to her and could have dropped to my knees to kiss the ground! Realistically I knew we weren’t going to spend the night in the woods but golly, I wasn’t prepared for this kind of bushwhack mentally.
We crossed the small stream and as we stepped foot onto the marked trail, it started to rain/sprinkle. Despite how flat the trail was, my feet ached and I couldn’t go any faster. It was a long half mile back to the car. We finished 4.2 miles at 4:35PM. I was thankful I wasn’t in shorts because despite it being a warm spring day, my legs would have been all scratched up. 14/39