Hiking the Bluelines: Exploring Catskill Mountain Streams

Diamond Notch Falls-MikeTodaro

Diamond Notch Falls

This is a series of nine hikes sponsored by the Catskill Mountain Club (CMC) and led by Team Danger Girl (TDG), a Catskill Mountain-based hiking group. Join members of TDG for a scientific and exploratory engagement with Catskill mountain streams. Dorcinda Knauth and Dany Davis will lead this series of off trail explorations. Dany is a geologist with 17 years of experience studying Catskill Mountain streams and will lead the scientific part of these explorations. Other environmental scientists may join some of the hikes. The theme of these hikes can be along the lines of the saying “the journey is the destination”. In other words, the purpose of these hikes is not to put peaks in a collection bag, so the summit is not the ultimate destination. Instead, the hikes will focus on landscape interpretation, exploring wild sections of popular mountains by following the paths of streams, collecting data for a regional Catskill streams study, and maybe getting to the top of a mountain on some of the hikes.

There will be two categories of hikes: off trail adventurous explorations and trail-side family friendly engagements with streams. Both categories will include plenty of time sharing observations of the stream channel, ecosystem and riparian environment. We will stop often for discussions on the role of streams in the mountains, collecting some data on the stream’s shape and condition, as well as sharing lessons in landscape interpretation.

The family friendly hikes will focus on hands-on engagement in studying a stream at specific stream locations, walking the stream channel corridor to observe changes (expect to get wet) and encourage hikers to appreciate the role of streams in the Catskill environment. If children join, it would be best for the children to be school age and capable of hiking a couple of miles. These hikes will be limited to 10 participants plus the hike leaders (maximum group size is 12-14 depending on the hike).

The adventurous off trail explorations will be stream corridor bushwhacks up/down wild Catskill mountain terrain with some trail hiking. Science will be a central part of these hikes and there may be more stream data collection than in the family friendly hikes. The hikes are rated “Most Difficult” due to the variability of the headwater stream terrain, hiking in steep boulder streams, plenty of downed trees, and the ever present unknown one encounters when heading up/down a steep mountain drainage. Each of these hikes will have a mountain summit destination in mind; however, the science and exploration is the primary goal. Conditions may preclude getting to the top of the mountain. The hikes will be limited to 6-8 people plus the hike leaders (no more than 8-10 hikers total). Please note: your hike leaders will not have previously hiked some of these routes so obstacles to forward progress are unknown for some of these hikes – that is part of the adventure. Each hiker will need to consider themselves expert in off trail hiking in mountains. Footwear should be capable of hiking in and out of water (no sandals!).

See event listing links below for details. Contact Dany Davis at wddavis2@gmail.com with questions about the hikes and to register.

The proposed hikes and schedule are subject to change:

May 5 8AM – Dark

Bear Hole Brook to Van Wyck Mountain. Rating: Most Difficult. Meeting Place: Bear Hole Brook PA on Ulster County Route 42 (Peekamoose Road). The inaugural Bluelines hike will include stream-whacking up Bear Hole Brook to access the Catskill Divide between Van Wyck and Table Mountains. The return trip will be via the Van Wyck ridge. Be prepared for biting insects, loose rocks and other stream scrambling hazards, thick forest, cliffy bits and Catskill yetis. Total Distance: 6-8 miles depending upon the route.  NOTE: This hike is full.

May 12 7AM – Dark

Hunter Brook or West Kill stream to Hunter Mountain. Most Difficult. Meeting place: Spruceton Trailhead. This hike is likely to be the most challenging and should only be attempted by those capable of hiking in the Catskill’s most rugged terrain. This will involve hiking the Hunter Brook or West Kill stream corridor up the drainage toward the summit of Hunter Mountain. The approach to Hunter’s summit will involve very steep terrain in thick balsam forest (what fun!). If Hunter is summited, the hike may take a trail back down or, if adventure prevails take another stream back down. Be prepared for biting insects, loose rocks and other stream scrambling hazards, thick forest, cliffy bits and Catskill yetis. Total Distance: 7-10 miles depending upon the route.  NOTE: This hike is full.

June 2 8AM – Dark

Biscuit Brook to Fir Mountain. Rating: Difficult. Meeting place: Biscuit Brook trailhead. This will involve hiking the Biscuit Brook trail to the NYS land/Frost Valley land boundary and then following the stream corridor to the col between Big Indian and Fir Mountains. If Fir Mountain is summited the return trip will be by herdpath and trail back to the Biscuit Brook trailhead, or if adventure prevails the unnamed stream between Fir and Spruce Mountains. There will be ongoing research in this watershed by Colorado State University so we may get some fresh insights into Catskill stream geomorphology! Be prepared for biting insects, stinging nettles, loose boulders and other stream scrambling hazards, thick forest, cliffy bits and Catskill yetis. Total Distance: 8-10 miles depending upon the route.  NOTE: This hike is full.

June 23 10AM – 4PM

Family friendly exploration hike TBD. Rating: Moderate. Meeting place: TBD Stay tuned, we are considering either a hike to the Vernooy Kill or taking break from the Catskills and exploring a stream on the Northern Shawangunk Ridge.

July 7 8AM – 7PM

Applied Fluvial Geomorphology in the Stony Clove Watershed. Rating: Easy-Moderate. Meeting place: Phoenicia municipal parking on NYS Rt 214. This is not a hike. Join Dany Davis and other scientists for a tour of a stream research watershed in the Catskill Mountains. The tour will include driving to several locations in the Stony Clove watershed to check out ongoing research activities and visit some stream restoration projects. Plan for some short to moderately long walks to a range of locations on both state and private land. This is an opportunity for exploring the research and applications of stream geomorphology in a Catskill watershed. The tour will be limited to 15 participants and will require carpooling.

July 21 10AM – 4PM

Family friendly exploration of Kanape Brook with a possible visit to the summit of Ashokan High Point. Rating: Moderate. Meeting Place: Kanape Brook PA in the Town of Olive. The hike will include stopping at specific locations along the brook to observe channel and riparian forest conditions. Data collection will be part of the activities for a local study, and participants will be shown techniques for participation. Be prepared for biting insects, stinging nettles, loose rocks and other stream scrambling hazards, and very excitable stream scientists! Total Distance: ~3 miles for the stream (out and back) or 7-8 if including Ashokan High Point.

August 4 10AM – 4PM

Family friendly exploration of Rochester Hollow Creek. Rating: Moderate. Meeting place: Rochester Hollow PA in the Town of Shandaken. This will involve meeting at the Rochester Hollow parking area and taking the trail up the valley for approximately 1.5 miles and then returning back to the parking area by way of the stream. The hike will include stopping at specific locations to observe stream channel and riparian forest conditions. Data collection will be part of the activities for a local study, and participants will be shown techniques for participation. Be prepared for biting insects, stinging nettles, Loose rocks and other stream scrambling hazards, and very excitable stream scientists! Total Distance: ~ 3 miles.

September 15 8AM – 7PM

An exploration of Woodland Creek’s headwaters TBD. Rating: Most Difficult. Meeting Place: Woodland Valley Campground PA. The plan will be to bushwhack across the base of the Wittenberg along NYS land to the headwater reaches of Woodland Creek. From there, the assembled group will pick a route up any of the several branches of Woodland Creek, potentially ascending Slide, Cornell or Wittenberg; or just turning around and heading back to the PA. Be prepared for biting insects, stinging nettles, loose rocks and other stream scrambling hazards, thick forest, cliffy bits and Catskill yetis. Total Distance: ~7-12 miles.

October 13 9AM – 6PM

Cascade Brook to Panther Mountain/Giant Ledge. Rating: Difficult. Meeting Place: Giant Ledge PA. The hike will include walking down CR47 to Cascade Brook (~1 mile) to reach the stream route up Panther Mountain then walking along the left descending side of the stream to stay on NYS land for the first 0.5 miles. After that, the hike stays in the stream drainage until it disappears in the talus below Panther’s summit. The route up Panther will be along a SW-trending ridge to the summit view point. From there the return hike is via trail to Giant Ledge and back to the PA. Be prepared for biting insects, loose rocks and other stream scrambling hazards, thick forest, cliffy bits and Catskill yetis. Total Distance: ~7 miles.

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