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Westkill/SW Hunter/Hunter/E Rusk/Rusk from Spruceton Rd, 04/03/2021

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  • Westkill/SW Hunter/Hunter/E Rusk/Rusk from Spruceton Rd, 04/03/2021

    Haven't seen too many reports of the bushwhack across diamond notch from westkill to sw hunter so figured i would type this one up.

    (I found an article of clothing close to the buck ridge lookout up by Westkill's summit that is probably pretty expensive and im thinking the owner would want it back, im guessing it is considerably more expensive than a solo glove or something similar so i didn't want to just leave it at a register, i packed it and have it and can get it back to the owner. i think it was dropped within the last two days based on condition found, in case anyone knows of anyone looking for something.)

    I was 3rd or 4th vehicle in the big Spruceton Rd lot at 7am, a couple ladies were heading out towards SW Hunter when i was trying to figure out what to wear and pack. I lurk on conditions but still wasnt sure what to do, and basically flipped a coin and decided to wear my goretex trail runners for the first time this year in the cats instead of my comparatively "clunky" mid-high winter boots, and packed spikes/crampons/snowshoes. I tried on my trail runners with my snowshoes prior to this hike (in my living room) and figured if i had to pair the odd couple it wouldnt be for too long or far today anyway. It was definitely below freezing early this morning so i got moving quick and fast instead of layering up, and was shortly taking pics at the falls before going around the horn up the devil's path towards Westkill. Bareboots were fine to the falls and the first half mile or so of ascent after that, but as usual i was kicking myself for not putting on my spikes sooner; the ground and trail had become completely covered with snow and ice, and i drastically slowed until finally stopping for the minute it took to spike up. After that i was back on pace, and soon got to "posthole city". The snow depth increased pretty quick (i dont think there was really any at the trailhead in the am, it was just spotty ice and snow to the falls, but up to 2ft within 1.5 miles up the devil's path), and with the recent warmups people had postholed the stuffing out of that trail. It sucks. Even the center of the monorail is bombed out for stretches. Extremely unpleasant; i found myself looking down the whole time, making sure i didnt twist an ankle or even worse, and i wasnt enjoying my surroundings at all. I think there is a proverb along the lines of: he who is always looking up trips over something, he who is always looking down bumps his head, better to be in-between. This stretch i didn't hit my head but was cursing all the dirty p-holers while staring down at my steps.

    So why is it that the catskills cant have the same snowshoe requirement as the ADK?

    I couldn't wait to start my whack to get off that trail, but my mood got better knowing i had first tracks up the trail this morning and so had buck ridge lookout myself. I went up to the summit before going back to the lookouts for a break, then heading down to the east shoulder to start the whack. I briefly met a fellow aspiring gridiot, with a bunch of certain triangular patches on her pack, between the lookouts and the shoulder, and she was also doing westkill before heading to swh, but she was going back down and around via the trails, and also not going for Rusk later on. I was wondering who would get to the swh can first, her via trail or me via who knows what through the notch.
    I got to my jumpoff point and was really happy with the open woods and even happier with the super crust this morning; the snow was deep but i was only kicking up the inch of fresh powder while staying on top of the snowpack with just my trail runners and spikes with no need for the snowshoes. I didn't really like the side-hilling feeling that i was set upon with my bearing, and ended up drifting downhill to the northeast towards the lean-to, which worked out great as it were. I soon came to a wicked cliffy area still up high on the shoulder, and drifted even further north at this point to find a safer path of descent. Getting past this obstacle i was back on a good pace down the slope, and hit the blue marked trail within sight of the lean-to.
    I think there were possibly fresh tracks on that trail from this am, but with no one at the lean-to and i took advantage of a dry semi-comfortable seat to work on a preemptive wrap for a blister and gather myself for an ascent that beta said would be interesting and steep. I think i got lucky by drifting towards the lean-to, cause from there i easily crossed the drainage in the notch and got on my way up that ridge straight towards the summit. it really was quite a bit of elevation gain, i think my recording does show over 1000ft in just over a half mile, but i think it would have been even more interesting if i had crossed the trail further south. On the way to the swh canister i often found really nice open areas, almost like meadows one would not expect to come upon on the side of a mountain, and with the supercrust conditions remaining through this ascent it went better than expected except for one stretch of somewhere between 50 and 500 yards of nasty blowdown and wickedly tight violent trees. I realized later on that i did lose my grey beanie, im guessing in this area, if anyone gives that stretch a go and sees it.
    I kept on my bearing all the way to the top, and hit fresh tracks from this am on the railtrail-to-canister herdpath a stones throw from the canister itself, with the book showing a large group having already signed in.
    I moved down and along the railtrail back to the devil's path, but instead of looping counterclockwise up to the tower i decided to hang a left towards Geiger point to partake in another whack. On this stretch i passed the hiker i met earlier on her way up towards SWH, so while the whack may be faster between Westkill and SWH i definitely dont think speed was my decision for that route this morning. I think just prior to Geiger point i was at a height of land, and got another bearing for this short straight stretch before pushing through more wickedly tight conifers. I then got to a pattern of ascent: short fun ledges/nice open meadowy area/repeat. I did this i think 3 or 4 times before hearing voices up and to the right, getting to the spruceton valley viewpoint for a quick break and view of my morning route.
    There was a fair amount of people at the Hunter tower clearing with the group from SWH as well as 2 other parties, and after a couple descended from the tower i took off my spikes and went up a bunch of icy steps and landings to really enjoy some views. Heading down from the summit to Jones Gap, i was reminded of something i had forgotten: i hate that section of hunter mountain "road", in either direction. I am going to strongly consider not doing Rusk on the same day as Hunter ever again, so i can whack down that center ridge or some other way instead of going between the summit and Jones Gap. I still haven't been from the Becker end of things either. The spring on the way was flowing really good as usual.
    Getting to the Gap i noticed some recent tracks heading up towards E Rusk, and i moved quick up the ascent by poaching the prior's navigation with my own occasional compass checks. I remember my past times on that hill seeing plenty of signs of bear, and this afternoon i stopped quick when right past the summit of E Rusk i definitely smelled a super strong memorable odor, reminding me of when i had a super close encounter with the big Lake Colden bear a few years ago. I started calling out just in case but didnt hear or see anything of note. I soon got to the E Rusk-to-Rusk highway and made good time over and up to the canister to take one last break before plunging down to the road hairpin.
    The snow quickly dissipated in depth, by the time i got to the road i dont think there was any snow visible except in really shaded areas, and i really enjoyed the spring/summer like feel on this day on the easy stretch of trail along the creek back to the trailhead.
    This was a bigger hike but there was definitely comfort from all the possible bailout points along the way. It ended up right about 14 miles/5050 ft elevation gain.
    "...don't assume you can't do it...we all make mistakes and sometimes fail. Keep working and learning, and be committed to improving fitness, and there is no limit to what you can do." Joe Bogardus
    "I believe it is in our nature to explore, to reach out into the unknown. The only true failure would be not to explore at all." Ernest Shackleton

  • #2
    You made a few wise moves, such as heading towards the DN LT and up from there. Also there is an old rail grade across the street from the SW rail trail, which hasn't been cut out as of yet, that goes to the Spruceton look out.


    • bikerhiker
      bikerhiker commented
      Editing a comment
      i had no clue about that other grade from the herdpath junction and the devils path toward the viewpoint, even though i dont mind the trail and its gentle ascent from that junction up around counterclockwise past the lean-to i will definitely remember that other line for next time.
      One thing i wished i had researched more that i was thinking about yesterday am as i ascended: doesnt that rail grade continue to the end of swh's ridge (towards westkill), and there were logging rails or lines that used to down to the notch from there?

    • mudhook
      mudhook commented
      Editing a comment
      No, the line doesn't go much farther and the logs were taken to the Devils Acre lean to area and out. The grade across to hunter is hard to find but its there.

    • bikerhiker
      bikerhiker commented
      Editing a comment
      i just did some brief but better digging and have already found some really interesting discussion on here from you guys about fenwick logging that should get me started down a rabbit hole for awhile, lol.