Sunday, August 06, 2006

Hiking the Burroughs Range

This is supposed to be the toughest day-hike in the Catskills. It hits three peaks (Wittenburg(3790ft), Cornell(3870) and Slide(4180). It's part of the Devil's Path. It's a 9.7 mile hike.

KD and I planned this over the week and hit it last Sunday. KD found it here. It's a great site, with trail descriptions, topo maps and altitude profiles.

Here's a quick summary.

Start : 11:30
Wittenburg : 1:55
Leave Wittenburg : 2:25
Cornell : 3:00
Base of Slide :3:45
Top of Slide :4:35
End of Hike :6:00

We actually left Jersey City at 8:15 am (a minor miracle in and of itself) , got to the end-point of the hike (The Slide Mt parking lot) at 10:30 and dropped one car off there. We got to the Woodland Valley parking lot 11:00 ish. The distance is about 22 miles between these two points. We started hiking around 11:15 am, but went on a completely different trail :-)

Soon, we found the Burroughs Range Trail. It's behind the camp sites, crossing a little bridge across a creek. We started at 11:30 AM.

The first section to the top of Mt. Wittenberg was largely uneventful. It climbed steadily all the way through to the top. We reached the top at 1:55.

A brief digression is apropos here, I think..

In a past life, long time ago, I lived in Bombay for 9 months. When you live there, you can't but notice how much life revolves around the local trains. Brilliant network. Mostly trustworthy. Always crowded. The geography of Bombay makes these trains an indispensable part of travel. Bombayites(who are the very salt of the earth, mind you. A more nice, polite, hospitable folk you will be hard-pressed to find.) are used to this 'running-for-the-train' thing since wee toddlerhood. Now, what this means is that even if they are, say, walking in a park, they tend to walk like they are trying to catch a train.

Now, I am from Madras. We tend to amble where others trot, trot where others gallop and by and large prefer to rest in the shade of a tree rather than go anywhere. In other words, we display a marked lack of hurry. Must be the heat.The upshot of all this is that when one hikes with KD, one must be prepared to walk really really fast. And if one is from Madras, one must be really be prepared to be pushed hard. And pushed hard I was :-)

So, when one looks at the times posted here, one must correct for BSG (Bombay(Brihanmumbai, if you will) Standard Gait).

The view from Mt. Wittenburg is pretty nice. The ledge drops off almost vertically. There are nice views of the Ashokan reservoir. From the edge, I could see buzzards wheeling below. For some random reason, I really like seeing these birds from above.

After a break of about 30 minutes, we headed towards Mt. Cornell. Getting to Cornell involved some small-time rock-climbing to clear ledges. We got to Cornell at 3:00 PM.

Cornell didn't offer much a view, except for a view of Slide. From Cornell, you can see the trail drop down to a ridge which goes straight to Slide which looms like a wall. It gives a nice preview of what lies ahead :-) The ridge is at about 3000 ft and then, in half-a-mile, climbs to the top of Slide (at 4180 ft).

We got to the base at 3:45 PM. The last section had a combination of rock-climbing (or rock-scrambling, if you are me :-) ), ladders, and steep trails. After all, we did have to climb 1000 ft in under half-mile. The last 10 minutes just about killed me. Showed me up. Brought me to a near standstill. Massacred me etc.

In any case, we reached the top of Slide at 4:35 PM.

There's a big rock-ledge with a plaque honoring John Burroughs after whom this trail is named. We met a couple there who told us that there was a much better lookout point just 30 yards from where we were down the trail.

So, KD and I set off, found nothing and before we knew it, we were on the trail that leads down from Slide. We think they just wanted to be rid of us.

The hike down was pretty straightforward and we were down by 6:00 PM. We had covered 9.5 miles in 6.5 hours with a half-hour break. Not too bad. Correcting for BSG, as always.

It was a good, hard hike. I much recommend it. The weather stayed good. The temperature was in the high-seventies, with not-too-bad humidity.

I would very much like to do an overnighter here maybe even a multi-nighter doing the entire Devil's Path. Let's see how that pans out.

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