Blackhead Range Traverse

Never lose my sense of adventure.  This is my third and final hike for the winter season.  The Shawagunks, Hudson Highlands, and now the Catskills have stolen a piece of my heart.  My mind has been blown on way too many mini-adventures within these travelled miles.

It’s 4am on Sunday and I’m not surprisingly hyper for the days’ adventure.  A solo trip to Upstate NY with three hours of open road.  Bag, supplies, food, and incidentals are all in check.  Those twice missed tissues are officially in my bag and ready to go. So what does one do for a long solo road trip? Explore music.  Blast it, sing at the top of your lungs, and do some crazy shoulder / arm / neck kind of dancing. Yes, I’m feeling super determined.

I drive past the road sign for Woodstock and immediately feel the mountain town vibes.  You’re in the sticks. Lots of open air markets line the sides of the highway.  Local maple syrup, hot apple cider, and mason jars stacked high with local jams. As I get closer to the the destination, my heart feels a little more full.  It is impossible not to feel humbled when you’re driving on the winding roads of the Catskills.  Look out of your sunroof or poke your head out the window just to see the mountain tops.

GPS location achieved, oh crap, we’re just parking on the side of a random road. I forgot this was a thru hike. I offer to leave my jeep at the starting point, a total of three jeeps carried the group over.  Two other hikers hop in and 10 minutes later we reach our base location.  It feels good to recognize some familiar faces. The plan is to tackle five mountains and get started pretty quickly.

The first mile or so really felt like you entered some sort of enchanted forest.  The deep greens, golden yellows, and chocolatey browns were gorgeous.  We all warmed up pretty quickly despite it being a cool 42F.  Our trail lead warned us that after 3000 feet of elevation we would be hiking in icy conditions so I braced myself.

And then it got steep, and scary.  Our trail lead ended up using his 50 foot rope and ice picking his way down to aid us in the climb.  I’m not going to sugar coat it. The climb was tricky, we bushwhacked a small part of it, and my heart skipped a couple of beats.

These ice trails became 75% of our overall path. Throughout all the miles I laughed, I challenged some fears, and I felt deeply centered.  Many of the lookout points were obscured by pine trees, but there were enough places to grab a bite with a view.

The miles continued. We worked like a great team.  Many stories were shared that will stay on those mountains. So, for the final half mile we were able to take off our crampons and give our legs much needed relief.  I opted to forgo dinner with the crew for the Super Bowl with friends.

Here’s the tally. We travelled the Blackhead mountain range in the northern region of the Catskills. In order, this included Blackhead Mountain, Black Dome, Thomas Cole, Camel’s Hump, and Caudal Mountain. Final stats: 12.87 km, elevation gain 2678 ft, time 6 hours.

The Gunks


4am. I’m up and ready to conquer the day.  Or find some semblance of winter.  It’s been extremely mild in NJ and I’m craving the chilled winter air.  My pre packed bag is ready.  I rummage through it real quick and am good to go with food, clothes, and incidentals.  For some reason I kept obsessing over baby wipes to the point where I woke up several times though out the night.  Hey, if we’re stranded on the mountains I want to be clean.  Oxymoron, yeah, got it.

About an hour and a half later I’m on the road and pick up two friends.  While the plan is to meet up with a larger group of hikers at the base of the mountain, my gut feeling is that there are too many quirky personalities to risk an awkward hike.

By 9am we reach the Catskills and an amazingly beautiful wilderness conservation center.  Completely decked out with stuffed wildlife hanging from the ceilings to the floor, wall painted murals, and the friendliest staff.  $10 for all day parking.  Meet up with the group, a pretty chill bunch.


I started climbing and was immediately awestruck by all the tabletop rocks.  There was a bit of ice and snow, no big deal as long as you had microspikes.


Next stop was Lake Maratanza, halfway up the mountain.  This was the first and only time the sun poked through the clouds.


Miles later we stopped to check out the views of New York.  Snacked and kept moving. The  group hiked at a quick pace.  I stripped a few layers.  It was all good. We made it to Verkeederkill Falls.


Our last and final stop was to reach Sam’s Point Ice Caves.  It was gated off, closed.  Just our luck.  Much to my content there were a few renegades that just kept it moving.  When you drive over two hours, you want to check out the caves.


I slowly lowered myself into the cave.  It felt like someone put the air conditioner on high.  Freezing was an understatement. Also, let’s just say that a foot or so of ice and no railing made that part of the trip pretty unmanageable.  I’m okay with that.  When I think of caves, leave the manicured stairs and railings out of it.  Give me scrambling pitch black openings into the earth.  I want to rappel into a bat infested hole and feel my heart beat out of my chest.

We ended up turning back and headed towards the car.  I received a call from family that it finally started snowing pretty hard down south so we opted to leave early.  The rest of the group headed into Ellensville to a little Mexican spot.  Yum.  Missed out on that one.