Catskills 2014

TR: Big Indian, Fir, and Doubletop in the mist

On my annual visit back home my brother and I always try to get in a bit of hiking in my old stomping grounds, the Catskills. I used to do quite a bit of backpacking there in my youth, but not nowadays. My brother gets more chances, and is currently up to 30 of the 35 peaks, with mainly the bushwhacks left to do. Bushwhacking solo can be a bit risky (it’s hard to use the Buddy System when you’re alone), so he’s been using my visits as a means of bagging these last few peaks. And I’m happy to help!

Anyway, this year we decided to hike to the summits of Big Indian, Fir, and Doubletop (if we had time).

We arrived at the Seagar Trailhead at dawn and got ready to hike. It had been raining the night before, not a whole lot but everything was wet and the sky promised more to come. Still, the weather report said that it should dry out a bit later on, so we put on our gaiters and started hiking. When you’re properly prepared, even a wet day in the woods is better than a dry day sitting around at home.

We checked out the Shandaken Creek Leanto along the way. A bit mossy on the roof (not surprising as it is located in the shady forest near a creek) but I liked the extra logs that extended part way across the opening by the fireplace. Good for keeping the breeze out. And the piped spring across the creek was a great addition.

At the appropriate point we turned aside to whack uphill to Big Indian. Along the way we discovered what appeared to be a mighty roadway coming from the Biscuit Brook Trail. Wow! It was as worn by foot traffic as the main Seagar Trail. Calling Big Indian a trail-less bushwhack peak might be a mistake.

But the hike to Fir Mountain renewed our faith in Catskill Bushwhacking. It was truly trackless forest. Only near the summit did the herd paths become obvious. And then we had the pleasure of retracing our steps. I’m not sure why, but I expected the “land bridge” between Fir and Big Indian to be more, well, bridge-like. I wanted/needed/expected to discover a narrow, treacherous path with deadly Catskill-esque dropoffs on either side. No such luck. And that’s what I get for being a fool with an overactive imagination.

Video of Catskill Bushwhacking between Big Indian and Fir Mountain

It was still early afternoon when we got back to the main trail, and we decided to give Doubletop a try. But not until we changed into dry socks. Our feet were soaked. Good thing we both were wearing waterproof shoes! Ha! There’s a joke for you! My feet looked like they’d been soaking in the bathtub for an hour, my toes all wrinkled and pink. The dry socks helped, and by that time the underbrush had dried out as the weather changed for the better. We ate some lunch, then hiked on down to the saddle and up the final 700 feet or so to the wrong summit of Doubletop.

We hiked on over to the true summit and signed the register. Easy hiking through the firs. Our only regret was that we never found the view point that was supposed to be on the southern summit, even though we wandered around quite a bit. Oh well. It would have really made our day to get one truly good view, but it was not to be. We listened to our tired feet instead of searching further.

Video of Catskill Bushwhacking through the Balsam Firs on Doubletop Mountain

And we had a long hike ahead of us to get back to the trailhead.

We got back to the van and relaxed for a while, cooling and drying our hot soggy feet. We knew our legs were going to be stiff later on, after sitting still too long while driving home. But if that’s the price you pay for a great day of hiking, well, so be it.

On the drive out we saw a brand-fresh baby deer being led across Dry Brook Road by its mother. It was barely old enough to walk! We stopped the van and waited while it crossed over to the meadow. What a beautiful sight. And a great end to a great day.


Interactive Topographic Map on this Caltopo Page

The rest of my pictures can be found on my Flickr Page


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