Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Trip Report: Doodletown Ruins and West Mountain Ridge 10/13/12 – 1-/14/12

So, I went for another trip this past weekend. When I was planning it last week, I wanted to come up with something more interesting to report to you guys than the usual outings. I knew that there was an abandoned town somewhere in the Bear Mountain region in Harriman State Park, so I figured it might be fun to plan a trip around it. The goal was to pass through the town on the first day of the trip, then continue up to the top of the Timp Mountain and then from there on to the ridge of West Mountain, which I would then follow out the next day.

I started out early in the day. It was a cold morning. When I left my apartment, the car was covered in frost; when I reached the trail head two hours later, the temperature had only climbed to 36F (2C). In cold weather you should start out being cold because once you start walking, you will warm up quickly. It is still very unpleasant though.

My trip began on what is referred to as the 1777 trail. This trail is the path (as closely as can be ascertained) that the British Army followed through the mountains in 1777 in order to attack Fort Montgomery on the Hudson River.

After some initial confusion created by my outdated map of the area, I found the trail and started following it. The going was easy, stopping only to take the occasional picture.




Soon I reached Doodletown. In 1777 the British army also passed through the town, making use of the town roads before having to continue through the woods. At the time this was a Dutch settlement, so I am not sure what the interaction with the British was like. Here is a map of what Doodletown used to look like:


Doodletown is spread out throughout the valley, the houses being connected by three roads that converge at the church house (the “You Are Here” arrow on the map). I only followed the road going south towards the mountains, the same one followed by the British in 1777.

The town was founded in 1760 as a Dutch mining and logging settlement. It was eventually completely abandoned in the 1960s. The town never reached more than 300 inhabitants. Not much is left these days. While all the areas of buildings are clearly marked, in most places it is only the foundations that are left standing.



Two of the town’s cemeteries are still clearly visible, and in fact parts of them are still visited by relatives.





Following the town road was easy going. Soon I had reached the end of the road and was back on the trails. I did spot a few fruits and berries which seem to be the result of cultivation in those areas.



I would love to know what the above fruit actually is. There were quite a few of them on the ground near the edge of the town.

I continued on the trail heading south toward Timp Mountain. At one point I noticed a few deer run through some bushes near the trail. I started following them from a distance. Eventually I managed to get within 20 feet of one of them, who didn’t seem to care that I was that close. I took some pictures.



From there on the elevation started to increase more rapidly. At one point I decided to get some rest, and found a spot in the woods where I could have a snack-some granola banana bread. I was sweating from the climb, so when I stopped, I had to put both of my fleece layers to stay warm. It is amazing how well ordinary fleece works to keep you warm and to remove moisture. Because the fleece fibers do not absorb any water, the heat from your body just pushes the moisture right through them, leaving both you and the material dry.


By this point the temperature had climber to 42F (6C). Before I shed some layers and started up the mountain again, I looked around and found a woodpecker hole.


Not long after, actually faster than I expected, I reached the top of the mountain, where I stopped again and had lunch.


There were a few vultures circling around the whole time.


From here the plan was to go down into the valley and then climb up to the top of West Mountain where I would set up camp for the night. I was actually able to see my destination on West Mountain from my current location. I have pointed it out with an arrow in the picture below.

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So, I got on with it and headed into the valley. That is when I encountered a serious problem. My left knee started giving out again. It is the same knee that was giving me the problem during my last trip. For some reason it is fine when I am going uphill, but once I start going down, it starts to hurt. It slowed me down significantly, but eventually I managed to make my way down into the valley.

I knew there would be no water once I was on the West Mountain ridge, so I took the opportunity to fill up with water in the valley from some runoff. For this trip I was using a 1.5L Evernew water bladder. The threads fit much better with the Sawyer filter than the Platypus bladder I had on the last trip.


From there I just kept going until I reached the top of West Mountain. From there I could see the top of Timp Mountain from where I had just come.

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I found a suitable location to set up camp and got to work. I brought the GoLite Shangri-La 3 again. While I wasn’t terribly happy with it the last time, I figured I would play around with it some more and see if I could make it serve my purposes. Again, I don’t want to make it sound like it is a bad shelter, I have just been spoiled by first using a tarp for a number of years and then the Shangri-La 5. I’m glad I gave it another shot, because this time I figured out how to set it exactly the way I like. I was very happy with it. The only thing that’s left now is to see how it handles heavy snow load.


When everything was set up, I had some time to relax. In the picture I am sitting in my version of the bush chair. It’s just a piece of plastic for the seat (I carry an insulated piece of closed cell foam in winter), and the backpack as a back rest. You can prop it against a tree or a rock. It is even easier to do with a full pack. Of course, your pack needs to have a frame. Set up time, less than two minutes, without any materials required.


A bit later I cooked some dinner and sat by the fire until the coals died down. I was using mostly oak for the fire, so it gave me good coals that lasted till sunset.


The night was cold, but not colder than expected. Temperatures dropped down into the 30s F, but not below freezing. Together with a hat and a neck gaiter, my clothing and sleeping bag kept me nice and warm.

I got up at dawn. I cooked breakfast using the Kovea Spider stove. I have been waiting for an opportunity to start cold weather testing. Here the stove performed well with an inverted canister, although it has to be monitored because from time to time you can get too much fuel in the line, causing flare-ups. In the picture I am wearing both my fleece layers (Carhartt medium weight top, and a North Face Polartec 200 weight top). On top of that I have my Arcteryx Beta SV rain jacket which here I am using for wind protection. It is Gorte Tex, so it breaths well enough for this purpose. I also have a pair of gloves, a hat and a neck gaiter.


I’ve been playing around with using ashes to clean my pot, especially now that I am using fattier foods. I think I have got it down pretty well. I just use a lot of ashes to make a paste with which I scrub the pot. It works, but uses up water.

I packed up my gear and started along the West Mountain ridge, heading north towards my starting location. There are numerous great views from the ridge.




It was drizzling a bit, and the temperature was in the 40s F. The weather forecast called for rain all day, so I brought both my rain jacket and rain pants, but it never got worse than a light drizzle. A much more serious problem was my knee again. Even though the ridge sloped down only slightly, my knee was killing me. I knew it would be a huge issue when I started coming down the mountain. So, I stopped for a bit and made myself a walking staff. I quickly decorated it the way we used to do in the old country.


I hobbled along for a while. Eventually I stopped to each lunch, right before doing the final stretch down the mountain.


After that it was a slow climb down to the starting point of my trip. I did manage to get another picture of a vulture from a rock outcrop along the way.


Soon after I was back at the car. The trip was easy and relaxing. Aside from the problems with my knee, there were no major obstacles. I could take my time and experiment around with my gear. Here is the GPS recording of the trip.



Like I said, a fun relaxing trip. I was very happy with some of the new gear items I have been using. The REI Flash 62 pack has been great. It is lightweight, and offers great load distribution for a lightweight pack. It has been able to accommodate all my gear very well without causing any strain on my body. I am also happy with the Shandri-La3. While skeptical at first, it is turning out to be a great shelter. Similarly, I am very happy with my clothing. Last year I was trying out some more traditional wool clothing in similar temperatures, and ended up being quite uncomfortable due to moisture management issues. With the new set up, I was very comfortable all weekend. 

1 comment:

  1. Not sure if they grow where you are but the "fruit" you were wondering about looks like what we call a Bodark Apple or an Osage Orange. I don't believe they are all that eatable. Horses and such will eat them. They are also known as Horse Apples. I'm in north TX do I don't know if those same trees grow in your area.

    Love the blog and check it weekly.