North Bearpen Mountain

Saturday, August 20, 2016

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As I reviewed the NY/NJ Trail Conference’s “Catskill Trails” map #145, I noted that there are a couple of different approaches to the Delaware County high point, which lies on the northwest shoulder of Bearpen Mountain, and lists as approximately 3520′ in elevation.

Both route options are on snowmobile trails, but after having read the various trip reports on Peakbagger.com (the tool that I’m using to pursue my New York county high point project), I chose to go with the approach via Ski Run Road, which lies about 2 and half miles south of the quiet but quaint village of Prattsville. The image2sun was shining and the skies were blue as could be as I pulled in at the trail head shortly before 12:00 noon.

Before heading into the woods, I stared long and hard at the mountain in the distance – my destination – and thought about how far away it seemed. It’s funny; as a runner, 3 or 4 miles seems like such a short distance to me. But as the mountain returned my stare with a stare of its own, my thinking in that moment was that 4 miles was a long way.

And so, perhaps a bit intimidated but certainly not afraid,  I set out on Ski Run Road, a fairly well maintained woods road that I’m sure a 4-wheel drive vehicle could navigate successfully, but which my low-profile Nissan Maxima had no chance on. The forest was quiet, and for the first half mile or so, the road was reasonably flat.

From that point forward, it became a long, steady rise. There were no especially steep sections, but the grade was steep image4enough that I deemed a fast hike would be more enjoyable than a slow, gut-wrenching run.  And besides, I wanted to take pictures along the way, so an easy-going hike made the most sense to me.

I saw several interesting things as as traversed the edge of the mountain, with the valley on my left-hand side the whole way. One of the more common sights was mushrooms. Several
different varieties, in fact, and in one case, I found them growing straight up out of the strewn rocks that comprised the road bed.

I eventually came to a grassy clearing, a point at which there appeared to be several roads/trails to choose from. With a minor bit of examination (and a little bit of help from my AllTrails phone app), it was apparent that the way to go from here was to the left.

And so I did, but not before spying an interesting sign at img_0991the trail junction warning adventurers to beware of heavy construction vehicles as they advanced forward. Ha! Clearly this sign was for fast-moving snowmobiles, warning them about snow plows or some other sort of grooming machines. But seeing the sign from a hiker’s point of view made me giggle, as it was impossible to imagine a tragic encounter with a Sno-Cat, even in winter..

Anyway, now on the ridge line, the trail flattened considerably, and as I hiked the final mile or so to the North Bearpen summit, there were a number of wet areas in the road that I needed to walk around. Being that it had been dry weather for most of the past two weeks, it seemed to me that these sections were usually a lot swampier, especially in the late Spring.

image7Carefully watching my progress on the AllTrails app, I arrived at what seemed the best point to begin the last section of the hike, a brief off-trail bushwhack of perhaps 100 meters to reach the 3520′ mark.  It was a fairly simple task, with no serious bramble bushes or thick underbrush to impede my path.

Arriving at the summit, I took a snapshot of my AllTrails app, a photo of the forest (note: there are no views whatsoever from here), and a snapshot of my compass app, which showed me at an elevation of 3525′.

On the trip back down the mountain, I finally came across other hikers, a couple who were on their way up to the formal summit of Bearpen Mountain (which I chose to skip for today). Continuing on, I walked at first, but as I passed back through the clearing and onto the steeper downhill section, I opted to run.

To my delight, I found myself running the rest of the way back to the car, perhaps 2 and a half miles. Although it was a woods road and not a single-track trail, it still provided an able challenge to footing, and it felt good to use my “trail legs” for the first time in what seemed like a long time.

Back at the car now, I noted the round trip time of 2 hrs, 4 mins, which covered 7.4 miles in all. But I had just one more bit of navigation to attend to, and that was to find the Cave Mountain Brewing Company in Windham to celebrate the achievement with some delicious craft beer. Here’s to the next adventure!

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About Todd Jennings

I am a runner, a father, a philosopher, and a writer. I am also a seeker. Among the things that I seek are beauty and truth. From an external perspective, I've found both of those things when I run in the woods or on the quiet trails of the mountain tops . With each new run, more truth and beauty reveals itself to me. And so I keep running....
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