• 7:30 AM Meet JBHS at Mill Brook lot
  • 11:30 AM At first viewpoint
  • 11:45 AM Summit Dry Brook Ridge
  • 12:40 PM Fork back towards Ploutz Rd
  • 1:30 PM Back at Tracy’s car

  • Tracks: AllTrails, eBird 1, eBird 2, eBird 3, eBird 4
  • Conditions: Cool, mostly overcast but dry, trail slightly damp

GPS Track of the hike

This was my first Catskills hike since becoming a member of the 3500 Club last month. It felt liberating to be able to go on a hike without worrying about collecting a new high peak! This was a group organized by the John Burroughs Natural History Society (JBNHS) to help fill out the New York State Breeding Bird Atlas. We’d be hiking Dry Brook Ridge and looking for breeding bird behavior such as nests, territorial defense, or recently-fledged young.

Dry Brook Ridge is not a high peak, but it’s quite close! It has 866ft of prominence (the 3500 Club only requires 250 feet) and is miles from any other peak. The one mark against it is that it’s only 3471ft. At the summit, my compass even read 3480ft. Still, not quite 3500!

On my last hike in mid-May, it was still spring in the Catskills. Now it’s definitely summer. Every tree was fully leafed out and there were no spring ephemerals left. There were lots of beautiful fern groves, and so much green!

Walking along a fern grove

There was plenty of bird activity on the hike, just as we’d hoped. We got great views of a Red-Eyed Vireo and a Black-Throated Blue Warbler. We heard several thrushes and got yelled out by a pair of Juncos defending their territory. Alex even spotted an Eastern Phoebe nest with young chicks in the roof of a lean-to. We also heard some unusual variations on familiar calls, e.g. “a Red-Eyed Vireo with a New Jersey accent.”

Another highlight was hiking through one of the few bogs in the Catskills and seeing some Mountain Azaleas in full bloom:

Mountain Azaleas in full bloom

Soon we found ourselves at the summit viewpoint.

Dan & Alex at the summit overlook

We were joined here by Tracy who I’d hiked with on the Winter Six back in March (Pat was there, too!). She took us on a short bushwhack to the true summit of Dry Brook Ridge, which was marked by a stack of stones. I thought it was odd to do such a short side-track, but I found out later why we did.

Tracy had come up from another parking lot (Ploutz Rd) and offered to shuttle us back to the Mill Brook Rd lot from there. So we were able to make it a through hike and see some new areas on the way down. Merlin ID’d a Cape May Warbler near the Ploutz Road lot. This would have been a USA Lifer for me, but we weren’t convinced it wasn’t a Blackburnian Warbler.

This hike was unusual for the Catskills in that it was decently long (7+ miles) but had very little elevation. This is partially because the peak isn’t that high, but also because the parking lots are at high elevation to begin with (2500+ ft). The net effect was that I walked a long way but didn’t feel like I’d worked very hard.

Tracy invited us to Woodstock Brewing for post-hike beers. We’d have some time to kill before the rest of the group arrived, so I took Alex to Halcott Falls, which I’d hiked two months earlier. The waterfall was just a trickle (there’s been hardly any rain the past month). We heard a Louisiana Waterthrush here, got good views of a Blackburnian Warbler and Black-Throated Green Warbler and heard a Least Flycatcher.

At Woodstock Brewing, I learned why Tracy was so insistent on summitting Dry Brook Ridge: she’s going for The Grid (aka the Catskills 420), in which you hike each of 35 high peaks in each of the 12 calendar months (12x35=420). When Graham and Doubletop closed, the organizations that recognize The Grid came up with alternate peaks. For the Catskill Mountain Club, the two alternates are Mill Brook Ridge and Dry Brook Ridge. For Hikers Anonymous they’re Mill Brook Ridge and South Doubletop. So Tracy needs to hike Dry Brook Ridge twelve times and was happy for company doing it.

Hearing talk of the grid really makes it sound like a job! I’m not interested, but if I want to do the Four Seasons then I’ll have to choose replacement peaks and hike them four times. One down, I guess!