Jan 4, 2012

Red Hill Trail...

After hiking the Overlook Mountain Trail the day before we decided to take it easy for our second day. So, the night before we picked up the Red Hill Trail which is a considerably shorter trail in the region so we can get back to the city at a decent time. After a very satisfying breakfast at Sweet Sue's in Phoenicia we started our drive to the Town of Denning in the Sundown Wild Forest where Red Hill Trail is. Right after leaving NY28 we took the NY42 towards west around the steep cliffs of the Peakamoose Mountain with picturesque views. The road is coming really close to the rocky cliffs decorated with all kinds and shapes of icicles, half frozen little ponds and countless little streams. Take your time to drive slowly, the view is absolutely beautiful.


That nice drive ends right when you see the Rondout Reservoir. You take the Sugarloaf Road from there towards north and start to climb uphill. Try not to miss the sharp and hidden left turn to the Dinch Road which eventually ends up at the parking lot located right at the trailhead at around 2,160 ft. From there the trail is only 1.2 miles to the summit which is at 2,990 ft. We arrived at the parking lot right after a light snow fall. Nobody was around, it was dead silence and the snow covered mountain was looking just beautiful.

The trail is marked with yellow dots on the trees which I think way harder to spot than the red ones I am used to see on the other Catskills trails. Especially when snow has such a strong presence around yellow doesn't pop out that well. Anyway, after registering ourselves in the log book we started the hike crossing two small streams right at the beginning simply stepping on large rocks and jumping over. The trail starts with a moderate ascent leveling quite often. Ice formations created by water streaming slowly over rocks and stone walls are quite amazing. Since snow covers the foot path pretty much it is becoming more important to keep track of the yellow foot trail signs on the trees. Eventually the trail becomes more challenging with two very steep but short stretches where you will need the assistance of the branches and tree trunks coming close to you. A walking stick would help especially for these parts when coming down.


All the way from the beginning you will spot some numbers carved on wooden plates randomly attached to the trees together with the foot trail signs. They start from "1" and going up when you continue to hike on the trail. Since we didn't see or read any info anywhere about them before we had no clue what they could mean. I thought that they were indicating milage in decimals first, some of us said that they must be related with our altitude, some suggested that they were a part of a more complicated system made for rangers only but at the end when we ended up with numer "10" at the summit we realized that they were showing us our progress in a scale from 1 to 10. It could be useful if we knew what they meant at the beginning.


Around one mile in on the trail, pretty close to the summit you will see a sign leading you to a mountain spring. Even if you pass it on your way up you should take the time to follow the separate path to the spring and fill your flask with fresh ice-cold water. Also don't forget to check the sky and the tree tops once in a while on your way up. You have a great chance to observe the bald eagles looking for food in this region. Unfortunately we weren't that lucky.


The 60 foot tall fire tower at the summit was retired in nineties like the other ones in Catskills region. It is renovated and re-opened in 2000 with the effort of a volunteer committee. Since then the volunteers are maintaining the tower and also offering guided tours in summer months. The tower gives you a nice 360 degree view of surrounding mountains from it's top level. To be honest there isn't anything special to see from there but it is a nice little treat after climbing all your way to the summit. I have to warn also that as soon as you pass the tree line when you are climbing the steps up it becomes suddenly really windy and freezing cold in spite of the sun reminding that you are actually at 3,000 ft in the middle of winter. Right next to the tower there are two picnic tables to relax and enjoy the summit and a cabin used by the volunteers during summer months. You use the same trail on your way back to the parking lot. Generally it is a short but very enjoyable trail. Definitely recommended...