Indian Head and Twin Mountains – My first foray into the Catskills

First of all, the title may be a lie, I have been to the Catskills and done little strolls in search of swimming holes, but I have never done a proper hike in the Catskills, this was my first.  Mind you, my first 3000+ foot hike was just recently in the White Mountains so I am new to this level of altitude.

It was never my plan to do this hike. I originally saw this amazing picture of a place called Indian Head:

Indian Head in the Adirondacks

As it turns out though there are two Indian Heads, one in the Adirondacks and another in the Catskills.  My favorite hiking site, Hike the Hudson Valley, had an Indian Head in its roster but when I went to go check it out, it was the Catskills one.  This past weekend I really wanted to sit on that rock and soak in that view and have my own little moment of zen, but the almost 4 hour drive deterred me, instead I did the closer Indian Head which is the reason I’m writing right now.

So, here I am about to undertake two 3500’+ peaks, not knowing that they are part of a greater number of them that are secretly calling my name.  As always the weather was nippy at the start of the hike and what was suppose to be a gorgeous day started off with many clouds and chilly at the base of the mountain.  It amazes me at times that in the middle of summer, I’m carrying around layers, just in case.  The temperatures shift greatly though the more you climb.  The hike started fairly simple, a stroll in the woods and immediately a beautiful rock bridge.

Stone Bridge – Indian Head

The climb was pretty steady, and never anything that was beyond what I expected.  What I did realize though was that as much as I climbed, the trees never thinned out.  Hiking the whites, you actually get that feeling of reaching the summit, as the trees thin out and you reach the ridge, it’s all nice and rocky not a tree in sight with 360 degree views of your beautiful surrounding.  In the case of the Catskills, it seems like the trees were never gonna give way and they did not.  I hit one perfect view point on the way to Indian Head after a near 90 degree climb where I had to use tree roots as pull up bars, here is where I started to see why this trail is nick named Devil’s Path.

Best View Indian Head

In this pic notice the river in the background, that’s the mighty Hudson as it meanders left and right.  It’s quite a sight to see from this vantage point as it curves and conforms, widens and thins.  Unfortunately, after that I quickly hit the 3500′ marker, I hit a similar marker on the way to both of today’s summits (also saw them as soon as I hit that mark on the Whites):

3500′ – NO CAMPING!

But the top of Indian Head was surrounded by trees., had I not been looking at the GPS and known the spot I was on, I would have never known.  So down I went towards Jimmy Dolan Notch (I  sometimes wonder where they get these weird names from, who the hell is Jimmy Dolan) losing what felt like way too many feet to have to start going back up, but surprisingly when I got to the notch there was a nice little spur trail that gave me this amazing view.  I usually try to avoid these unmarked trails, but the people I was hiking with wanted to geotag something so I had some downtime to take a look.  The shot just calls to you, since its squished between two sets of trees and giving you a view, that although narrow is still, let me just sit here and enjoy.

Great Shot Off The Notch

To the climb again, and again no real respite and no real indication that we were about to crest the peak.  The Devil’s Path was making sure I remembered it.  The best view of Twin Mt was actually shortly before Twin Mt itself as the real summit was still a bit more than half a mile away along a wooded ridge.

Twin Mountain – The First View

I sat here to eat something, where a friendly queen snake decided to keep me company for a while, thank god we were in a stable rock ledge, because when I finally noticed the company I jumped almost high enough for it to be considered another peak.  The one thing that these two peaks have in common is that while there is no flat piece or sense of obviousness that you are at the summit, the few views you do get are just amazing.  It’s rolling mountains as far as the eye can see and not a dash of civilization.  The mountains seemingly call to you, to stare at them and ogle them like a horny 13 year looking at his first crush.  After eating I was off again, a bit over a half mile to the true summit, have to reach the true summit or what’s the whole point, I console myself knowing that I will double back and I will stand here again and enjoy the mountains that remind me of home.

Twin Mountain like Indian Head was in itself meh, it was the hike that and the viewpoints along the way that mattered.

Twin Mountain

That’s the entire view from a small ledge on the summit.  Whereas from the previous point you got 180 degrees of goodness, vs the bare 90 degrees here.  It was time to double back, and start a mad descent losing every foot I’ve climbed in a shot.  But first I stop at the previous view where I bump into some great hikers. They tell me a bit about the Devil’s Path, how it’s one of the most difficult in the North East, how there is a great site with all the 3500 footers and how there is a group of people that try to complete them all.  Right then and there, I knew where every spare weekend day this summer would be spent.  On the Catskill’s conquering all 35 of the 3500 footers, even the ones with no trails at all of which there are a couple.

I hope you enjoy my journey since part of it will be writing afterwards, if nothing else for my own piece of mind, and my own bit a self therapy.

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