If you haven’t seen Part 1 of the post already, please check it out. This one would make a lot more sense if you do.
So, I woke up at sunrise. I felt great. All the hydration and sleep had done a great deal to help me feel better.
After heating up some oatmeal for breakfast, I packed up and headed up through the cliffs again. The going wasn’t particularly though because there was very little vegetation in this area. After about an hour or so, I reached the summit of Friday Mountain, marked as #4 on the map I showed you.
I’ve mentioned before that all the peaks in the Catskills with elevation over 3500 ft that are not accessible through any trails, have a canister at the top where you can sign your name. Now that I was at the summit, I started looking for the canister. This proved to be a difficult task. I must have crisscrossed the top of the mountain several times in search of the canister. It took me over an hour to find it. Just as I was getting close to giving up, I spotted it on one of the trees, almost at the very edge of the cliff on the eastern side of the mountain.
I signed my name in the book. It felt like an achievement, but I knew the day was just starting. I didn’t have any time to waste, so I took a compass bearing from the map towards my next location, the unnamed peak (#5) next to Cornel Mountain.
Unfortunately, there isn’t anything interesting to report from the next stretch of the trip. The whole distance from Friday Mountain to Cornel Mountain was covered in thick spruce. It was simply a matter of putting my head down, arms in front of my face, and forcing my way through the tangled branches blocking my way. The whole time I kept thinking about those beautiful forests that I see Ray Mears always walk through on his shows. How come none of them were in these mountains? This is not the type of forest where you can take a stroll with a billy can in one hand and an axe in the other. Often i would stop and just keep looking around in the hope of finding an area that was a bit less dense so I can actually move through it. More often than not, it was simply time wasted, and I would just have to push my way through some more tangled trees.
There was one spot where the trees opened up for a few feet, and I was able to see a few plants other than spruce and fir.
Then, more pushing through the trees. It was almost impossible to keep a good bearing. Quite often the bearing would take me into areas where it would simply be impossible to get through. I would have to circle around and then try to find my way back on the bearing. Luckily, the fact that I was following along a ridge line helped a lot with that. Whenever I deviated from the bearing, I simply looked for the highest point on the ridge, and once there would re-establish the bearing.
It wasn’t easy to determine when I was at the top of the peak for which I was aiming. The gradient wasn’t that steep, and the vegetation prevented me from seeing more than fifteen feet in front of me. Judging by the tracks recorded by the GPS receiver, I had missed it slightly to the east. Either way, when I though I was on top of the peak, I took a bearing towards Cornel Mountain and headed in that direction.
Earlier during the day, when I reached the top of Friday Mountain, I knew I was going to be short on water. I had only a liter left. This was a result of me drinking more water than expected the previous day because I wasn’t feeling well. This meant that I had to carefully ration my water for the trip between Friday and Cornel Mountain. Needless to say, I was running very short when I took my bearing towards Cornel.
After some traveling through the same type of thick tree cover, I reached a cliff side. It was too tall to attempt climbing. My only option was to try to see if there was an easier way up to the side of the cliff. I started moving towards the west. Soon, I saw what looked to be a way up.
I started climbing up, and soon it became to appear that this was some type of path. I figured it was the result of other people trying to get up and down the cliffs, and this being the only way to pass through them, creating a funneling effect. I quickly however realized that this was actually the trail which lead up to Cornel Mountain. By moving west, it seems that I had intersected the trail right under the summit of Cornel. Here is me realizing that I am actually on the trail and out of the bush:
After a bit more climbing up the trail, I started to see open sky. It was a very exciting feeling to finally be able to move around without trees constantly hitting you in the face.
As a reward for making it to the top of Cornel Mountain, and through the hardest part of the trip, I finished the rest of my water. Now I headed down the trail in search of a water source that was marked on the map. There were a few plants worth photographing along the way.
My big worry at this point was that the water source would be dry. It in not uncommon, and judging by the low level of the Neversink river, it was a likely scenario. My concerns were confirmed when I ran into two people on the trail going in the opposite direction, who told me that all the water sources till after Slide Mountain were dry.
At this point I started searching for any water I could find. I followed rock outcrops, looking for areas of pooled water. I was lucky to find one such puddle.
I managed to filter almost a liter of water out of it using my Sawyer Squeeze Filter. This here is a prime example of why I favor filters over other water purification methods. There was everything from mud to amphibians living in this little puddle. There is no way I would have drank the water without filtering, no matter if it was drenched in chemicals or boiled into mud stew.
With the water I was able to gather, I continued down the trail. I finally hit the marker indicating that I was at 3500 feet. This allowed me to pinpoint my exact location on the map.
A little bit further down, I reached the marked water source. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was not literally dry. While it was not flowing, there was more than enough water for me to fill up for the next portion of the trip.
Now, my original plan was to camp in this area for the night. This is location #7 on the first map I showed you. However, I had made faster progress than I expected. It was about 2PM, and it was way too early to set up camp. Now that I had water, I ate some food, and decided to hit the trail again.
The climb up to Slide Mountain was not particularly easy. It was very steep, and in some places required more rock climbing than I was happy to do while alone.
By now, my legs were burnt out. I felt fine, and I didn’t feel tired, but even the smallest amount of pushing uphill, got my legs burning. At one point I fell down, and my face landed in a raspberry bush. As punishment, they were promptly eaten.
Eventually, around 4PM, I reached the summit of Slide Mountain. There is a plaque there commemorating John Burroughs.
I had the rest of my chocolate for an added energy boost, and some powdered drink mix.
Even though this is what I believe the highest mountain in the Catskills, the peak is still heavily forested, so you can’t see much. However, a short distance off, there is a standing dead tree, and if you climb on top of it, you can get a decent shot of the surrounding area.
After reaching slide mountain, the way from there was easy. I moved relatively quickly, stopping only to take a few pictures.
The above picture seems to be some carpenter ants digging out a home into a tree. If you look carefully near the opening, you can see one of them.
Around 6PM I reached the Yellow trail, which would eventually take me out of the forest. There was another plaque on the trail crossing.
It seemed like a good place to set up camp for the night. However, I was again running low on water. I would have enough for the evening, but not for the next day. On the map, there seemed to be a small creek in the opposite direction on the train from where I was going to go the next day. It appeared to be about half an hour away, so I decided to go see if I can get some water before setting camp. Unfortunately, this water source was dry as well. I decided to follow the creek bed into the lower elevation to see if maybe I could find some small pools. Not far off, I found one.
Since I didn’t need water immediately, I dug out the area, and left it for the night to allow more water to gather. I then set up my shelter.
I made a small fire to cook my food. Now, you usually see me cooking directly on a bed of coals when I use a fire. There are different types of fire and different ways to use them depending on what resources you have and what you are trying to do. In this instance, I had a lot of birch, which while burning easily, doesn’t make the best coals. I also had no intention of sitting by a fire the whole evening. I just needed something small to cook with. Suspending the pot over a small fire was the easiest way to get that done.
By keeping the fire small, I cooked my food without too much mess, and with just a few handfuls of sticks. By keeping the flame small, only the bottom of the pot accumulated any sooth, making it easier to clean.
After dinner I went to sleep. I was starting to not feel well again. I figured another good night’s rest would take care of it.
In the morning I made breakfast. I wasn’t feeling well at all. All my stomach problems were back. I ate none the less, and packed up.
Before heading out I filled up some water. The hole I had dug up worked great.
Near that area I spotted some more chaga. I’m sure that if I was looking for some, I would never find it, but on this trip it was everywhere.
It was very humid that morning. It seemed like it was about to rain.
Here is a picture I wanted to share with you because it was the first running water I had seen since Friday.
There was a toad taking opportunity of the water.
There were a few mushrooms to be seen as well.
It was a very uneventful day. The trail was easy, I had enough water; it was just a matter of making my way out. Shortly before reaching the road, I spotted a berry bush. It made for a good snack.
After that, it was only a short distance before I was out of the woods and back in my car.
Overall it was a great trip. I am sure I would have enjoyed it more if I was feeling better. The first two days were very difficult, both in terms of navigating certain stretches, and certainly in terms of physically making my way through the bush. I stuck more or less to the planned route. The only deviations were to leave the bearing and follow the creek bed to the airplane crash site on day one, as well as leaving the bearing to make my way up Friday Mountain. I also moved faster than I expected, making it much further down the trail than on the second day. Here you can see my tracks as recorder by the GPS receiver.
You can also see the elevation profile.
That’s about it for the trip report. Maybe I’ll do some other posts going over the gear I had with me, and what things worked and what didn’t.