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Red Hill for the Fire Tower Finish!

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  • Red Hill for the Fire Tower Finish!

    Red Hill is a very long drive! From Saratoga, I clocked 260 RT miles. From the Red Hill trailhead, I walked 2.8 miles RT. So pretty much, the day was spent in the car.

    But what an exciting ride it was!! Everything up to Woodstock, Shokan and Boiceville was very good highway. Then after a short drive to West Shokan, I headed into the mountains on very narrow, 30 mph roads. At one point on Peekamoose Road, a road sign read "“Road Narrows"”; then "“No Guard Rails"”; then the 2-lane road had stop signs in either direction because the lane that used to be closest to the cliff that fell precipitously down to Peekamoose Brook had collapsed and caved into the brook far below! So I stopped at the stop sign and looked ahead for any traffic coming toward me and then proceeded very cautiously on now a single lane until the road returned to 2 lanes! Everything seemed to be OK on that mountain road until there was traffic coming towards me. Then I moved over as far as I dared and slowly went on. That was close to 20 miles of white knuckle tension before I turned onto a very steep, unmarked but paved road driving the last couple of miles on an “unimproved” road. That’s what I thought I had been driving for the previous 20 miles! I knew I was close when my tires hit dirt, stones and ruts, but that only lasted for a short while. I was at the trailhead in 3 hours. PHEW!

    It was 34 degrees with the morning sun just rising high enough at 10 o’clock to warm the day. I geared up and started off on a barely visible trail due to the amount of fallen leaves. I tried hard to remember when I ever relied on trail markers so much and could only come up with snowshoe hikes in unbroken snow. There were plenty of markers and the trail was a very pleasant walk.

    Soon after the initial rocky, meandering start, the path opened up and followed a gradual, side-hill traverse along an old woods road. Then the route started moderately ascending reaching a signed “"Spring”" and “"Trail”" course change before starting the final upward push to the summit. Even in the unsure conditions and direction of the footpath, I was at the summit in about 40 minutes.

    I spent some time taking photographs as the day was quite beautiful. There is something quite exhilarating about being alone on a wilderness summit. My senses are on high alert and everything around me is being taken in. It is a powerful sensation!

    The cab of the fire tower and caretaker’s cabin were closed for the season, but the views from the top of the tower’'s staircase were spectacular. I’'ve been on a lot of fire towers and this restoration was done remarkably well. I was very impressed with the extensive work to the entire summit area: picnic tables; caretaker’'s cabin, outhouse and the 60-foot tower. Thank you to all the people that made this happen!

    It was a fitting finish to my Fire Tower Challenge. I dedicated this hike to a friend and mentor, Pete Fish. Red Hill was part of Pete’s first assignment as a NYS Forest Ranger. I made a sign, “THIS ONE’S FOR YOU PETE!” and tried to take some photos of me at the tower with the sign in it, but they did not come out very well. At least not as good as I had hoped.

    As I was starting my descent, I heard some voices. I greeted a party of five and after exchanging complimentary photos, I started back down the trail. Within a minute or two I met another couple on their way up and we had a friendly chat discovering that we share some mutual interests and places. I was reminded again that there are no strangers in the mountains …just friends we haven’t met.

    My return to the trailhead was without incident and soon I was on my way home. I had to rely on my directional skills as the GPS function (which worked on the way in) was initially unable to work on the way out. My return drive on Peekamoose Road was more pleasant and I ended up stopping at a very beautiful Buttermilk Falls where I took several additional pics of a great day in the Catskills. Instead of backtracking to the Saugerties connection to the NYS Thruway, I opted to go directly to the Kingston exchange on Route 28 to connect with I-87.

    The fire tower challenge has given me the opportunity to visit many new places with some very special and cherished friends. It has been a pleasure and honor to share these all-season outings with Jessica, Barb, and Karen and I hope that we will continue to enjoy each other’s' company in the wilds of New York State. Sadly, my other dear hiking friend, George Tongue passed away in September, but his love and respect for the woods and his “persevering spirit” will be with me forever.
    Last edited by Pete Hogan; 11-06-2017, 11:23 AM.

  • #2
    Doug H. (Adopter) and his group of volunteers do an amazing job maintaining that tower--definitely a labor of love. He is also a Trailmaster for the 46ers in his "spare time".

    We could use more volunteers like him.

    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
    Last edited by JoeCedar; 11-05-2017, 10:02 PM. Reason: crazy fonts


    • #3
      Congratulations on your finish!
      We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing ~ Satchel Paige


      • #4
        Congrats again on the finish Pete! Nice meeting you (we were the 2nd group/couple).

        Red Hill was my 5th Catskill firetower, and likely my favorite. The clearing and cabin area is very nice indeed, and the trail itself is routed through varied and pleasant surroundings. And, it actually feels like a trail (as opposed to a road)! A bit of a haul for us too, though not quite as far as your drive; we split it up with breakfast at Sweet Sues (Phoenicia) and lunch at Crossroads (Athens). Gorgeous day for a long drive and a short walk.



        • #5
          Thank you JoeCedar, debmonster and FoulHooked for your comments. The condition of the trail and especially the summit had all the markings of a well-managed park. Red Hill was a wonderful example of the dedication and commitment to preserve this historic place. Ed, I did have plans to stop at Oriole 9 in Woodstock on the way home, but I decided to make the more direct connection to the Kingston interchange. It was great to meet you and Kate!


          • #6
            Sounds like a great day. Congrats. I want to hit Red hill, hasn't happened yet. I met Pete Fish once a couple summers ago on a road by the east branch of the Ausable river, not a trail. He was a nice guy and funny.
            Catskills: 39/39, 26W/35W
            ADK: 46/46


            • #7
              Nice write up Pete!

              Stop by next time you are down here!

              I take it you did not stop at the spring. It is possibly the largest 'gusher' of a spring in all of NY state! The amount of water that just pours out of the ground there is amazing!
              Tom Rankin - 5444W "In the depths of Summer, I finally learned that there lay within me an invincible Winter"

              Proud Member #0003 of ADKHP Foundation
              Volunteer Balsam Lake Mountain
              Past President Catskill 3500 Club
              CEO Views And Brews!

              Trail maintainer for the Dry Brook Ridge trail from Mill Brook Road to just past the Lean-to


              • #8
                Thanks Nivek and Tom. Nivek, Pete Fish is remarkable. I once went to a presentation of his on what he carries in his pack. I've never forgotten the lessons of that day-close to 30 years ago. I was also privileged to be in a hiking group with Pete and TFR that climbed Katahdin via the Knife Edge in 2001. I saw Pete recently (August) on the Baxter Mountain trail in Keene. He is truly an extraordinary person. Tom, thanks for the driving directions help. I should have checked the spring out but I was carrying what I needed so I kept moving onward and upward. After several days reflection on the drive and spectacular mountain scenery, I have a much better appreciation of the Peekamoose area and I hope to return one day. It is beautiful country.


                • #9
                  Congrats on your FT finish!

                  I'm with you on the drive. Coming from the Albany area I called it "the longest 100-mile drive of my life" when I posted a Red Hill trip report two winters ago.


                  • #10
                    Thanks for your message. Yes, the drive felt long on the way in, but not on the way back . On Peekamoose Road, I was more relaxed and less concerned about timing so I just enjoyed the magnificent scenery. I even stopped for some great photos at Buttermilk Falls. Spectacular! The way home felt long, but I had a lot of wonderful memories from the day to pass the time away.