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Rusk, Vly and Bearpen (or: A whack, a path and some roads)

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  • Rusk, Vly and Bearpen (or: A whack, a path and some roads)

    I gave myself off Friday and Monday over this last holiday weekend and had perfect timing both days for some solo excursions and planned a couple of daytrips to the cats.
    Leading up to Friday I did my research and decided to pull the trigger on my first real bushwhack, Rusk. Having done the hunter mtn loop a few months ago I was familiar with the parking area on spruceton rd and the marked trails in this area, and following from the online majority consensus for attacks on rusk I left the marked trail at the hairpin and set my bearing for just east of the summit. I initially saw a cairn or two at obvious paths close to the streams down low but I purposely tried to avoid these, and until the summit herdpath I truly whacked it to the top. I kept checking my compass regularly and swayed from side to side for blowdown and other nasty stuff, and came up through a neat little bog-ish/meadow area just downhill of the summit ledges. I got my scramble on by attacking the little ledges straight on rather than finding a work around and popped out on a herdpath just prior to the cannister. I was very proud of myself on this solo adventure, as this was for sure my first real trail-less peak bushwhack, and as is my routine i had pre-programmed my expected route into my gps watch for backup emergency use, but luckily i did not bring it up the whole day. Seems like most everyone online complains that Rusk has no views, however I saw something somewhere online from someone who said head west on the ridge. And that person was not wrong, what a lunch spot I found on this narrow ledge, maybe a few hundred yards WNW of the summit?, although I popped out onto the rocks almost too quickly to find them only a few feet wide at most with some of the branches even over-hanging the drop-off. Great views of spruceton valley and beyond, and then down to the west also. Beautiful colors, on a beautiful day. I like to hike with my family, but I also really like my share of solo adventures to push my comfort zones as well as to get some healing on with times of complete solitude if possible, and this one really fit the bill perfectly. While I could see civilization down below in the valley in the form of houses and a road, sitting on that ledge I could hear and sense nothing but nature (ok, I unfortunately heard a chainsaw down in the valley at one point.) It was extremely comforting though, and I will make sure to visit this ledge again. I regretfully had to get going after a long long lunch, and after finding the cannister again i bombed back down the slope to the hairpin. I haven't had issues with leg cramping since my winter excursions, but even though Rusk is a shorter hike the ascent i chose to go straight up and it was burning my calves pretty good, and coming back down my hamstrings were starting to sing. My gps track showed it was something like 1400 ft up (and down) in less than a mile from around the hairpin turn area of the marked trail, so there is that.
    I always seem to crave good pizza after a good hike, so I stopped at Donatello's pizza in arkville for a second lunch, I highly recommend a slice of their meatlover's as well as the plain cheese, i swear it could be the best thin crust I have ever had. Just don't bring toys in their bathroom. And I definitely recommend Union Grove's Maple spirit.
    On Monday I chose to experience vly and bearpen mtns, and seeing how this didn't look like a complete bushwhack in unknown territory like Rusk I decided to bring along my crazy akita mix for some exercise and to get her shiny-new hunter orange hiking jacket dirty. I parked along the road prior to the snowplow turn-around, with two other vehicles parked in the area already. I knew I was going to be starting up an old road, however I didn't expect it to be that steep I guess. We passed a couple of hikers who were coming down the hill, and having made short time to the hunter's cabin me and rory turned right onto the herdpath (which was easily followed the whole way) and worked our way up to the socked-in summit to sign into the cannister. (ANYONE GOING TO VLY SOON: probably bring a baggie to swap out for the cannister note-pad, it was pretty ratty I think, my feed-bag freezer ziplock that day had a rip also so i didn't bother to swap it out). I didn't bother to look for view points up there since at the time I couldn't believe how much cooler it was being in the clouds even with extra layers layered on my sweat. We quickly headed back down and man those leaves and rocks were slick, I almost inadvertently butt-dropped rory a bunch of times with all my slips and slides, but we made it back to the cabin in one piece each. Met 3 more hikers there at the cabin who had just come down from bearpen and were contemplating vly, I reported the short time it took me and rory but was honest about the slipping and sliding experienced on the way back down, and the ladies decided they didn't want any of that on Monday and they made their way back down towards their car. I checked my watch to make sure we were good on time and headed up the snowmobile trail. As with the initial road starting up the hill from the snowplow turnaround, I was really surprised at how steep the snowmobile trail was in spots. I easily found the danger sign and herdpath short-cut-off halfway up and was happy to be off a road and back onto a trail. We made our way through the puddles when back onto the snowmobile trail up higher and found the top clearing in short time, but like Vly a short time before, bearpen was also heavily socked in. We still scouted out the different view points on top so I know where to head to up there next time if its not in the clouds again. After some vittles me and rory jogged back down to the cabin and then turned downhill to the parking area, with the total time for truck-to-truck just under 3.5hrs. Im sure this time would have been much longer if the clouds would have lifted, but on Monday there wasn't much to see beyond the trees or rocks 10 yards in front of me on either Vly or Bearpen. The drive back down to Fleishmanns was very nice and colorful though with much of the trees on figurative fire in those valleys just under the clouds, and again on my way home I just had to stop at Donatello's for a meatlovers and a cheese slice, and rory definitely approves of their thin crust.

  • #2
    Nice, the rest of the wacks are just as fun, and with a little planning, easy to do. And every peak has a view, somewhere, just ask.


    • bikerhiker
      bikerhiker commented
      Editing a comment
      That's great to hear. Even though it was the shortest peak I have done so far, I felt Rusk was very rewarding, so i definitely cant wait to get to some of the other bushwhacks. I definitely plan to spend a lot of weekends in the catskills this fall and winter, both of the bushwhack and trailed variety, and it sounds like the views are even easier to come by with the leaves fallen down and the snow piled up.