- Peaks: Balsam
- Type: Out & Back
- Time: 5.0 h
- Distance: 6.5 mi
- Elevation Gain: 2070 ft
- Hikers: Dan, Alex, Max
This wound up being 6.5mi and exactly 5 hours. Max came up Friday night for dinner and he, Alex and I drove up to McKenley Hollow Trailhead. This was yet another route to the Catskills. On the drive up, we debated whether there would be any snow, even on the peaks. About 500 feet from the trailhead, there was suddenly snow everywhere. Amazing!
A large group showed up in a van just after us so we tried to get on the trail quickly. We got a bit mixed up about which side of the river we were supposed to be on. The trail started by crossing an extremely nice bridge to the side we expected to be on.
Within a quarter mile, though, we had to ford the river again and there was no bridge. It had rained quite a bit the previous few days and the river was raging. We sorted out where to cross with the group behind us, only to have to cross one more time higher up.
After that the trail was straightforward, if steep. There was a light, consistent dusting of snow throughout the hike. We saw a few trail runners going down the steep section (including one in shorts!). We saw some Golden Crowned Kinglets on the trail, as well as a Hairy Woodpecker at the junction on the ridge.
There were no views (it was quite cloudy). It was cold but not unpleasant, and certainly not windy. Like last week, it was nice to feel like we were experiencing a real winter. Alex had been on the fence about coming, but was overall glad that she did.
We’d hoped to get Eagle as well as Balsam, but it was 2pm by the time we got back to the junction, so we just hiked down. We’d noticed a fancy looking hotel / bar / restaurant called Eastwind by the trailhead, so we decided to grab a drink after our hike. It turned out that they’d only opened yesterday, and we were literally the first hikers who’d stopped by! Alex said she wanted to spend the night there for her birthday.
Some notes from other variations we considered (maybe useful for finishing the Catskills 3500 this summer). The 11.5mi through hike is in play.
- 1h20m to McKenley Hollow Trailhead Parking
- ~5.5mi RT hike to Balsam
- 9.5mi total to add Eagle
- With car stacking, all four could be done as a 13 mile route or 11.5mi if you leave off Balsam.
- Adding Eagle now would open up the possibility of doing a 9mi hike to get just Big Indian and Fir from Biscuit Brook, which is only 1h5m from our place.