Just a few quick notes from an easy day hike up Twin Mountain, but it was the first time I’ve taken the Pecoy Notch Trail, and there are some interesting sights to report….
May 1, 2018 — there’s only one peak to be climbed for the Catskills Grid in May, namely Twin Mountain. And it’s going to be a beautiful day with a forecast high of 72 F and clear skies. Those difficult winter months, with so many climbs to be completed regardless of conditions, unremitting gray clouds and dim light, all that deep snow and treacherous ice — these memories are fading….
After parking at the Roaring Kill trailhead, I amble off along the trail, which is rocky in many places, and wet in other areas, due to some rain yesterday and poor drainage. So it’ll be slow-going today.
After a mile or so, a surprise: piles of thin rock slabs, that fine-grained sandstone known as bluestone. In some places tumbling down the hill, but artistic hands have also been at work: around the next turn in the trail, the bluestone’s been stacked into walls, columns, a fire pit, and four or five large gracious seats which look like thrones and which offer wide sweeping views of the mountain valley carved out by the Schoharie Creek down below. According to the map, this spot is known as Dibble’s Quarry, and no doubt these slabs of bluestone were used as building materials throughout the Hudson Valley back in the day.
Taking a moment to sit on one of the thrones, I admire Kaaterskill High Peak and Little Roundtop across the valley, their upper slopes dusted with snow from yesterday’s precipitation. A surprise to see snow lingering on the first day of May.
I study the rocky bands along Kaaterskill’s northwestern edge and pick out Hurricane Ledge just above them. A couple of winters ago, Alan and I had scrambled up through those rocks with great difficulty, on account of snow and ice and darkness. But now as I scan the mountain, it’s clear that following the trail just a few more yards to the south would’ve gotten us access to an easy slope all the way up to the top. I’ll have to try that, next time.
A moment later, a broad-shouldered hawk flies up from the woods. I saw one of these from the summit of Twin Mountain just the week before. Perhaps the same one.
Onwards from Dibble’s Quarry, the trail crosses an unnamed stream that flows down from just below the summit of Sugarloaf. Such a wet mountain! The water pours around large boulders. I step across carefully, mindful of slick rocks.
A short distance later, the trail passes a couple of ponds, an uncommon sight in the rugged Catskills, where the water tends to flow into fast-moving streams. In the first pond, a chorus of frogs is croaking away enthusiastically. I peer across the glassy water with binoculars, finding dark gray shapes with bulbous eyes spread across the surface, each with its own small territory. They’re green frogs, I think judging from the croaks, but I also hear a couple of spring peepers calling out from the near shore, and then there’s an answer from the far shore. Eastern newts swim about in the shallow water by my feet, including bright orange red efts (the juvenile stage) and older individuals who’ve turned green-brown with yellow undersides.
About two miles in, the trail approaches the saddle between Sugarloaf and Twin, which is called Pecoy Notch, and at around 2,700 feet in elevation, here’s the first patch of snow: pretty small and easy to step around, but there’s still close to 1,000 feet to go to reach Twin’s summit.
By the time I get up and over a scramble at around 3,100 feet, snow is starting to cover the trail. Not wearing shoes, my feet start to sting, and I need to take a few time-outs standing on rocks or beds of moss to let them warm up again.
Looking over my shoulder, Sugarloaf loooms to the west, its broad rocky slope dropping into Pecoy Notch at a steep angle.
Looking to the north, the Blackhead range, also snow-capped. But not for long.
Almost to the top of Twin, here’s the overhang cave. Definitely a good spot to hang out if it’s raining, but today I’d rather sit in the sun.
The summit ledge for Twin is clear of snow. I admire the views and wait for raptors and other birds to appear, but none do. It’s quiet up here, except for the chilly wind blowing in from the northwest. I look for Bearpen, Vly, and Halcott — which I’d seen the last time up here (I think) — but now I can no longer discern them. White wisps are starting to accumulate around the edges of the sky, which is otherwise clear and blue.
Eventually I descend back down the mountain, spending a little more time with the frogs on the way back, and then pausing once again in Dibble’s Quarry, which is now occupied by a group of hikers (and briefly by a pair of downy woodpeckers swooping through the trees). It’s starting to cloud over by the time I make it back to the car.
That’s it for May….with 19 peaks, June will be a busy month.