Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Five-Trail Solo Hike in Harriman

Five-Trail Solo Hike in Harriman

On Sunday-Monday of the Labor Day weekend, Sept. 1-2, went hiking and camping in Harriman State Park. I asked 7 guys at different times whether they'd like to come along, but they either had prior commitments or didn't reply (and one had a funeral). I figured there'd be plenty of other hikers out, which turned out to be not entirely the case.

I got to the parking circle at the end of Johnsontown Rd. in Sloatsburg at 10 o'clock and was surprised there were only 2 cars there; all other times I've been there it's much busier. The other time I did the Blue Disc Trail (with Fr. Jim Mulloy almost exactly 4 years ago--see Blue Dot Special), the hike up Almost Perpendicular was pretty crowded, even with young families. Not so this Sunday morn. Totally deserted.

Maybe it was because of the weather, which was overcast, and in fact it started to rain 5 minutes into my hike; but that lasted only about 10 minutes. The sky remained overcast, tho, until late in the afternoon.

Toting my usual 35 pounds of backpack (gear), I took my time huffing and puffing my way up aptly named Almost Perpendicular (above), and at the top enjoyed the great views from southeast to southwest (below); munched on a breakfast bar and took some water.
The line running across the center of the landscape is Seven Lakes Drive;
Reeves Meadow visitors center and parking lot is just to the right of center.
The Blue Disc runs mostly along the ridge of Pound Mountain from there and is fairly easy hiking; there are a few nice camping spots but no water.

Two miles from Johnsontown Rd. you come to Claudius Smith Den and the crossing with the Tuxedo-Mt. Ivy Trail. The Den is a big, big mass of rock, atop which there are some excellent views to the west and north, and it's a popular spot for hikers. (The name comes from an 18th-century outlaw whose lair was there. He was hanged at Goshen, the county seat, in 1779.)
Where the Blue Disc starts to ascend Claudius Smith Den--note trail blazes on the edge of the large rock in the foreground--a cairn also helps mark the upward trail.
Sure enuf, while I was there more than a dozen guys and gals passed thru, or showed up down below.  I scoped out my route and ate my lunch (tuna sandwich and orange with water) before enjoying the views, then did a little reading while I digested.
My lunch spot behind Claudius Smith; the Tuxedo-Mt. Ivy Trail passes just to the right,
and the White Cross Trail begins about 100' up the TMI from here.

Looking north from Claudius Smith, toward Harriman and Woodbury
Below Claudius Smith, four and a half hikers--one guy's toting an infant in a carrier--have come up the TMI and seem to be debating their next move. As far as I could tell, they didn't ascend the rocks. One guy and I waved to each other.
The Blue Disc Trail is heavily trafficked, even if I didn't meet anyone this particular morning for the 2 miles from the road to Claudius Smith Den. Behind CSD I picked up the White Cross Trail, which starts (or ends) off the TMI a couple of hundred feet behind the BDT. That proved to be more lightly used and in a couple of places was hard to pick out. It descended into boggy ground around the edge of Black Ash Swamp--

and would have been nasty hiking had there been any water where, evidently, there very often is lots of water. The trail skirts around Blauvelt Mountain to cross the Victory Trail about a mile and a half from Claudius Smith.
A bit of the White Cross Trail between Black Ash Swamp on the left and Blauvelt Mt.
on the right as one hikes northward

I turned right onto the Victory, which is an old woods road, wide and easy. A half mile brought me to the Triangle Trail and Lake Skenonto--4 miles and 4 hours, more or less, from my start.

Previous trips to Lake Skenonto have usually found a good number of campers along both the western and the northeast shores of the lake. Not so this time; there was one couple on the northeast.
Looking north from my camp

Far south end of the lake, from my camp


I picked a secluded site near the south end that Fr. Jim and I have used a couple of times--flat and open with a fire ring and easy access to the lake for water. There I pitched my tent, explored the terrain briefly, finished reading the issue of America that I'd begun at lunch, prayed Evening Prayer, and also skimmed thru an issue of Columbia. The sun came out somewhat for a while, and I took a few photos.

A good number of hikers passed by, and a foursome off-trail appeared to have enjoyed the benefits of the lake. Whether any hikers detected my site is hard to say; the tent could be seen from one vantage point on the trail above if one looked in the right direction.

For supper I boiled lake water for my freeze-dried chicken and rice supper (not the tastiest, but acceptable and filling), which was followed by freeze-dried ice cream (OK), and I washed it all down with Crystal Lite.

As the sun lowered, I went up to the trail and met a couple of young ladies who told me they'd started from Bear Mt. Inn on Saturday and stopped overnite at (but not in) Brien Memorial Shelter; that's 8.35 miles of hiking on the Appalachian Trail, including 3 mountains, as I recall. Now they were making for the Dutch Doctor Shelter--already 10 miles on the trail this day if they followed the Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail to the Triangle Trail, with another 1.2 miles to the DDS. They didn't seem to be suffering from all that hiking, God bless them! Nor did they seem to be carrying huge packs like me.

In the distance there was a lot of lightning and thunder, so I was afraid there would be rain overnite. At least there wasn't any wind. But as it happened, not only wasn't there any rain, but some stars even came out, late.

I rose at 7:00, the sky low and gray, not very promising.
This is at 8:12 a.m.
After washing my hands, I celebrated Mass, boiled water for oatmeal and coffee, and started breaking camp. The oatmeal and coffee were topped off with an orange. By now I'd used up almost all the 3 quarts of water I'd lugged in with me; like a good Boy Scout, I was prepared in case I didn't make it to the lake. There wasn't much water to be found at all along the trails, but I had sufficient water to camp anywhere if I was careful with it. As it was, I used my 3 quarts for either drinking or washing, saving about a pint for the 1.8-mile hike out and lightening my backpack considerably.

I intended to pray Readings and Morning Prayer while letting breakfast settle a little, but just as I was rolling up my tent it began to rain.  So I finished packing up, canvased the site (I didn't leave anything, and in fact I brought out a little more trash than I brought in), and headed down the Triangle Trail.

I made the mistake of leaving my map in a pocket in my pack, which was now ensconced, with me, under my poncho in the rain shower.  Had I stayed on the Triangle, that wouldn't have mattered.  But I saw a woods road that looked like it was going more directly toward the White Bar Trail and Dutch Doctor, so I got on it, mostly easy hiking, and my hunch proved to be correct. My downfall, however, came at the White Bar intersection.  I know full well that one can lose one's sense of direction in the woods, and I did. Instead of turning left, just .2 mile from Dutch Doctor, I turned right and hiked on--along a fine trail--for about half a mile before deciding I'd really better sling off the poncho (the rain had stopped quite a bit earlier), take off the pack, and look at the map. Oops!Obviously, whatever ground I'd saved by taking the woods road I'd lost on my wrong turn. 

So I backtracked, more hastily than I'd gone before, and in 20 minutes came to the shelter, which was occupied by a crowd of older teens, one of whom was showing some of the others how to sling a rope over an upper tree branch, presumably for a bear bag. I stopped near the shelter for a granola bar and water, then continued the remaining mile and a half along the White Bar Trail to the car; the trail follows an old road for the most part--probably the extension of Johnsontown Rd.--and is very easy going. I reached the circle about 10:45 and found 10 other cars this time; and I'd met some hikers coming in as I went out.

Thanks be to God for a safe, mostly dry, and pleasant trip (except for the mosquitoes).

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