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Balsam Mtn Loop with side-out to Eagle Mtn, 10/21/2018

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  • Balsam Mtn Loop with side-out to Eagle Mtn, 10/21/2018

    On sunday I had another morning to myself so i headed to the catskills again, and brought along rory to hopefully burn off some of her energy. I was considering doing my first sunrise hike as a pre-dawn ascent to balsam's viewpoint but after considering the weather and also with bringing rory on a trail I hadn't been to yet I decided to start out from the parking area at first light instead. I guess I didn't realize it was pretty much dark in the woods at 7 still so I might have well have tried it an hour earlier for the sunrise.
    Left the parking area around 7 with a plan for clockwise loop of Balsam plus side-out to Eagle, 2 other cars in lot and I think I was first signed into register for that day.
    Found the uphill reroute after the bridge with no problem in the semi-dark and started sweating on the uphill to the junction for Belleayre and shed my outermost layer probably a little too late at the resting rock.
    it was shortly after or shortly before this that I saw a yellow balloon either stuck on or hung on a tree. Kind of freaky and i left it in place, not sure how it got there but maybe there was an important reason it was there...I have no clue.
    Got up to the belleayre/balsam split and almost immediately after this I was very glad I had just switched back to mid-high WP's and gaiters for the season with this hike, as I easily went deeper than my ankles in mid-trail mud.
    Very neat ledgey area on the way up to false summit/ridge, and experienced a first for the season: expelled snot-rockets due to cold weather hiking. Around these rocks rory's sniffer was going crazy and i was wondering if a bear or deer was hunkered down out of the cold and wind, but didn't come upon or see any large animals along the trail. After the ledges started experiencing constant snow on the ground and increasing in depth on way up to summit area. Really beautiful trail area through what im guessing was Balsam firs.
    The lookout did not disappoint, really nice seating area looking out along Rt 28, luckily the cloud level let me get the views while still slicing off the top of the tallest mountains. I stayed long enough to put another layer back on to keep the wind out.
    Found the Balsam obelisk with no problem on the summit herdpath before 9am.
    Got down to the 4-way in short time and started right towards Haynes and Eagle. Met a solo hiker who had spent night out who had not anticipated it to be so cold, I was going to give him a ride later on from rider hollow to his car at Mill Brook but he apparently already had gotten a ride or was running to keep warm as I did not catch up to him.
    Was pleasantly surprised to see the 2 mile side trip to Haynes and Eagle was more like a pleasant stroll in the woods than a grueling climb.
    Found the herdpath to Eagle "summit" area and visited the summit cairn around 1030am. Spent a little time walking around the top looking for views but was unsuccessful and headed back to the marked trail and back towards Haynes. Another heavy dusting up in this area with pleasant snow falling.
    Heading back down I inadvertently separated lots of moss from wet angled rocks, causing me to slow my pace a bit in this section.
    Passed another solo hiker between Eagle and Haynes, and then a couple of hikers taking a break at the 4 way. At this point I don't think there was snow on the ground anymore.
    Heading back down towards rider hollow from the junction I started hitting the multiple stream and creek crossings, and when I crossed the big one down low I again was very glad I had switched to mid-highs and gaiters for this hike.
    Briefly met two overnighters at the lean-to who were packing up, they were wearing balaclavas and looked prepared for the seemingly early cold weather. I had realized on Balsam's summit ridge I didn't bring a bandana as for the first time of the year instead of wiping sweat I would have been using it to keep wind off and warmth on my face.
    Crossed the neat re-purposed tower bridge and then the other slickery wood bridge and back to sign out and parking area around 1230.
    Another first for the season was that I brought along my spikes just in case but as Nivek mentioned in his report in this area, I didn't need them on sunday. was just a heavy dusting on the summits and some possible ice in spots but nothing to stop and strap on spikes about.
    Yet another first for the hiking season was that I brought along a warm beverage in my silver bullet thermos, and that was definitely nice to have on sunday.
    Pizza report: I was disappointed to find out that Donatello's Pizzaria in arkville isn't open on sundays around 1 so I had to settle for Bun and Cone's pizza down the road, definitely not Donatello's.
    It was a very enjoyable hike on these trails with the ledgey rock areas as well as the woods walking and creek crossings, and even though the snow and cold seems a month early to me, and it sounds kinda crazy, but I think im ready for and looking towards the winter hiking season already.

  • #2
    From Bellayre to Big Indian is IMO, one of the great Catskill ridge walks; few views, quiet, easy on the knees, solitude, mature forests,lots of wild life if you are lucky.