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Fantastic Hunter Mountain Loop

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  • Fantastic Hunter Mountain Loop

    My eleven-year-old son Spencer, Border Collie Mikey and I just returned from a wonderful overnight near the West Kill. We parked at the end of Spruceton Rd., hiked in and set up our tent in the woods well away from the stream and trail. With all the rain, we were immediately besieged by mosquitos and black flies, so we didn't stint on the Deep Woods Off. We met lots of snails, slugs, a newt, a small garter snake who came out to sun himself, and a beautiful array of moths who beat against our lantern after dark. We had dinner and cooked Jiffy Pop on my Whisperlite stove.
    The next morning we hiked up to Diamond Notch Falls, which were mossy, roaring and glorious as usual. The ice cold water really soothed my aching achilles tendons. I pumped our water bottles full, and with lunch/snacks and plenty of mini-Kit-Kats we set out for the summit of Hunter. We had attemped this route three years earlier, but he pooped out at the Devil's Acre Lean-To. At roughly two miles up a long steep trail, that wasn't bad for an eight-year-old. This time, the promise of climbing the fire tower on the summit inspired him. He and Mikey took off up the Devil's Path like they were shot out of a cannon, practically skipping up that first mile and a half, which, after a deceptively easy start, becomes rocky and fairly steep for a long straight pitch.
    We stopped for lunch at the lean-to. It was warm, but not sweltering. With everybody hydrated and fueled, and the mood buoyant, we set off for the tower, either 1.7 or 1.5 miles away, depending on whether you believe the trail junctions signs or summit map.
    Another 40 minutes took us to the tower and fantastic view in all directions. A cool wind pulled the sweat off our skin. Spenc was a little intimidated by how high those stairs will take you.
    We decided to return via the Spruceton Trail, which is very different from the one we came up. It's a wide, even jeep trail, requiring much less looking down for foot placement, but is steep enough to make you aware of your quads. We met a couple of young women just above the junction with the Colonel's Chair trail who'd been all over the place - up the tower, out beyond Colonel's Chair.. They seemed confident as to where they were, and headed back up to the summit as we marveled at their stamina.
    Mikey was now trudging, the heat and distance taking it's toll. That is, until a wild turkey burst from the undergrowth and took off squawking like a porky roadrunner. He chased it a good half-mile down the trail, with us shouting after him "Mikey stop, save it for the hike!". BTW, he is the epitome of sweet. I'm sure he scared the hell out of it but wouldn't have hurt it had been able to catch up to it.
    We got back around dinner time, soaked our feet again, had a snack and a rest, and broke camp, making sure to honor my life-long leave-no-trace philosophy.