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2020-08-22 Balsam Lake Mountain

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  • 2020-08-22 Balsam Lake Mountain

    This time, I am in the Castkills. Two of the five remain. This trip would be an interesting one, filled with a few discoveries and revelations. Who would know this mountain would have me thinking a new strategy. Normally, I will stay in a motel the night before and hike a mountain, either going back to the motel for the night, or leaving for home directly. This time to save money, I opted for an early start from Brooklyn. I had a four day weekend. My last in a series of four day weekends my boss approved for vacation. I find that four day weekends offer me a better chance to hike and recover better, than a week. I recover over two weeks rather than a few days.
    All I have to do is prep my pack and lunch, grab and go the next morning. I got to sleep early. The catch to saving a couple of hundred dollars was I had to rise around 3am. It would be a three and a half hour drive to Balsam. The dreaded get up early, get dressed fast and get out the door was upon me. How I hate those days, but I had to give it a shot and see what a drive from home to the Catskills, hike and back was like. So, the plan was set in motion.

    3am: wakey wakey! Clothing laid out the night before. Strap on my new knee straps, I bought last year. Dressed.Grab my bag and lunch. cooler prepped and loaded with extra water. I slip my cigars in my pocket, load the car. Back to the house for a quick breakfast of Rice Crispies. Now, here is where I make my first mistake. This small bowl of cereal would be all I eat until I reach the summit. Already, the first rule of hiking is broken. Takes more than a bowl cereal to get the day going. I was going to stop off for a bagel and lox with coffee, and something else, but I was looking to save time and money. It's now 4:15am and I'm out the door and in the car. The adventure begins.

    The roads are clear at this hour. Typical. Before I know it, I'm on the NYS Thruway and within sight of the Castkills. I'm doing great. GPS has me heading in the right direction. Clear shot. I'm onto the smaller roads leading to Balsam Lake Mountain. I spot the turn off and make it like a pro. This is where the Pro part ends. Someone figure this part out. I come up on the PA. The sign clearly says, Balsam Lake Forest preserve. There is a mini van parked. What do I do? I drive four miles down the road, thinking, this can't be the right spot. After four miles, I deduce that the PA was, indeed the right spot. Turning around, I head back, pull in and get everything out.
    There is no one else here, except the mini van. I hear snoring. Guess, whoever it is, will be coming up later. There is no register here. I'd soon learn another lesson. Read the trail description a bit more closely.

    I saw an arrow pointing to the tower and followed it. I followed it too much. I got off the trail right off the start. Heading down the road, I saw a path with a cairn and a discarded hiking stick. I followed it down, but it lead to private property. Where the hell was the trail? I opened the book back up and discovered it was in back of me. Isoon found it and made my way up the trail. After about a mile, I found the register, signed in and was off. It was 7:54am. I had spotted a car pulling into the lot as i started up the trail from the road. Soon after, a couple was passing me. I said good morning and said see you at the top. They were soon out of sight. Little did I know they were the Summit Stewards. Husband and wife team named Scott and Terri. The Dry Brook Trail starts climbing right away, but its a short ascent. I'm soon on the Dry Brook Ridge Trail. Its mostly a flat rocky trail and goes for about a mile.Pretty easy. There are no pitches. Just a series of switch backs that meander gently upwards.

    9:45am I Reach the turn off for the tower. I'm into the hike about 1 hour 45 min, now. Technically, I should be at the top, but whats the rush? I still have the entire day ahead of me. I was feeling ok. Not my usual pretty good like my last three hikes.Just ok. This was my warning that something was not right. I made my way along the path, passing a gate across the way. The trail now began a sharp rise. I reached a point where I saw a sign on one of the trees. 3500 feet alpine region. I had not realized that I was on a Castkill 35 High Peak. Again, read the book!

    10am: I start up a few low rocks and then the bottom falls out on me. I'm feeling drained and my legs hurt. I realize I have not eaten much or drank enough water. My GPS tells me I'm close to the summit. I can see some breaks in the trees, so it has to be close. I grab a KIND bar from my satchel and gulp down some water with a few Motrins. I have to get my bearings. I'm not thinking clear, which means I'm dehydrated, but I've caught it in time. I used some electrolyte in my water and started to feel a bit better. I get back to walking and hit the summit at 10:35am. I put everything into getting there. I had to sit and catch up again before I climbed the tower. The cab was closed on this tower, as well. Very disappointing. However, I got some good shots. I stayed on the summit until close to 1pm. The best part of the hike was getting down. I was flying down the mountain and made it back to the PS just before 2PM. Luck was on my side this time. As I made my way back to Kingston, A thunderstorm struck. I'm sure it slammed into Balsam as there were threatening clouds around as I was driving out. The ascent was 1078 feet. A hard travel day. Next time, I am staying in a motel the night before and after the hike. One more Castkill Five to go. Overlook.

    Nothing like being in the woods.

  • #2
    Kind bars burn really even energy. Maybe You should have eaten 2 of them in the car on the drive up. The best feeling in the world is driving away from a hike and watching the rain drops hit the windshield. I always feel like I have gotten away with something.
    Leave No Trace!


    • #3
      Yay, Scott and Terry!
      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!