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Is this what you call winter down here? -- Red Hill -- 1/12/20

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  • Is this what you call winter down here? -- Red Hill -- 1/12/20

    Man, you winter hikers down in the Catskills have it easy! No snow. No ice. 55 or 60 degrees out. Who knew? No worries hiking those mountains in winter. The only thing I was concerned about on Sunday was the UV Index and whether I'd be responsible and wear SPF30 or slather on some old school Coppertone so I could work on my tan. And my biggest gear/clothing decision of the day was choosing what vintage iron-on T-shirt and pair of Jams to wear. If you don't need to fend off frostbite or keep warm in frigid temps why not wear those classic 80's styles on your hike?

    All kidding aside... having lived in the Capital District my entire life I, of course, know this is not your typical winter but Sunday's weather and trail conditions provided an opportunity to poke some fun that I wasn't able to pass up. Typically I spend all of my time in the Adirondacks but I had the occasion to venture down into the Catskills on Sunday and was treated to a spring-like day on Red Hill. The unseasonably warm temps were in the mid-50's to start my day and there wasn't any snow or ice to contend with. That all made for a welcome respite from the winter conditions that have been present in the Adirondacks since mid-November.

    What prompted my visit to the southern part of the state was that I recently discovered a new hiking challenge requiring one Catskill fire tower be climbed in winter. I chose Red Hill since on my first visit there (while working on the Fire Tower Challenge several years ago) the summit was totally socked in. No views were to be had. Didn't even bother to climb the tower that day. So I returned on Sunday to enjoy the mountain in much better weather and finally climb that tower to get the views.

    To begin my hike I parked all the way at the end of Dinch/Coons Road where a sign indicates the fire tower trailhead is 1.4 miles away (though it's actually closer to 1.25 miles). The rain overnight made for a few soft spots in the road just up the hill from the sign. Once confronted with the prospect of spinning the wheels of my low-clearance vehicle into that mess and potentially getting stuck I retreated and parked at the pull-off at the bottom of the hill. No matter. After committing a few hours to the 100-mile drive to get there, and with the day being so beautiful, I was perfectly happy extending my outing a bit so the extra mileage didn't phase me. It's only 5.0 miles round-trip from that spot anyway. But the odd part of starting there was that I ended up with the same mileage during the road walk portion of the hike as I did on the actual hiking trail. I believe that was a first for me. Plus, you climb about 300' up then drop down 375' to get to the trailhead. Reverse that on the way out thus adding some 675' of ele gain to a hike that is typically only 820' if you start at the official trailhead.

    Anyway, the trail up Red Hill is nice. Very easy grade. Lovely open forest. The trail was extremely wet down low but I managed to stay fairly dry during the climb by rock-hopping as best I could. At around 2700' there were some remnants of ice in the trail but it was easily stepped over or around while still remaining in the trail. That petered out at 2800' and was not really an obstacle at all. Would not be surprised if it is all melted by time you are reading this. Red Hill tops out at just under 3000' and the large summit area, which has a park-like quality to it, was mine alone. Odd spot for an outhouse though. But I guess necessary given this mountain looks like a great spot for people to spread out and relax or have a picnic. Just wouldn't want to be downwind of it in the summer while enjoying my lunch.

    I climbed the tower but the cab was closed/locked. No biggie. The views from just a few feet below the cab were quite nice and I snapped the obligatory photos. But it was horribly windy. I'd guess 30+ MPH gusts. I enjoyed the view for ten or fifteen minutes and now can finally say I've seen the view from all thirty towers that are part of the Fire Tower Challenge. I then packed up and began my descent which proved uneventful.

    Including me, there were just nine people on the mountain. Made for a quiet and peaceful hike. Can't say I'll be back to the Cats anytime soon but my foray into the region on Sunday was very enjoyable. Overall, a great day out.

    Some pics from my day...
    link to photo album if you are unable to see them or want a larger view...

    Red Hill fire tower...

    Observer's cabin...

    Summit temp (thermometer is on the side of the cabin)...

    The summit area...

    View looking north. You can pick out Graham, Doubletop, Big Indian, and Fir starting from the left. Slide and Peekamoose are to the right...

    View looking west at Denman and beyond...
    Last edited by Makwa; 01-13-2020, 11:57 AM.

  • #2
    What challenge is this?
    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!


    • Makwa
      Makwa commented
      Editing a comment
      It's called the Fire & Ice Challenge. It's a new one... started last winter by a person up in Halfmoon, NY. I just discovered it last week. The start date was 12/21/18. You've probably already finished it without knowing. I just have one more mountain left to finish.

      See details here...

      EDIT: almost forgot... WINTER ONLY challenge.
      Last edited by Makwa; 01-13-2020, 07:26 PM.

    • Hear the Footsteps
      Hear the Footsteps commented
      Editing a comment
      Makwa. Isn't this challenge missing a real Ice related activity?
      Last edited by Hear the Footsteps; 01-15-2020, 02:21 PM.

    • Makwa
      Makwa commented
      Editing a comment
      I guess it all depends on when/where you hike. I've been on my fair share of icy trails the last two winters but I suppose the challenge could be completed without ever encountering any.

      You could add ice skating, ice climbing, ice fishing, or something like that to the requirements but then it wouldn't be a hiking challenge. Maybe everybody should have to listen to Pat Benatar's "Fire & Ice" before submitting paperwork.

  • #3
    That outhouse is as well kept as the bathroom in my house!