- Peaks: Black Dome, Thomas Cole, Blackhead
- Type: Out and Back
- Time: 5 h
- Distance: 7.9 mi
- Elevation Gain: 2680 ft
- Hikers: Dan, Alex, Vincent
- 10:00 AM Start
- 11:40 AM Summit Black Dome
- 12:10 PM Summit Thomas Cole
- 1:50 PM Summit Blackhead
3:20 PM Back at car
- Tracks: AllTrails, eBird
- Conditions: Rainy and misty all day, muddy, temperatures in the 40s
With just a few days left in 2023, it’s make or break time for my goal of hiking all the high peaks this calendar year. After hiking Hunter and Southwest Hunter on Tuesday, I had three peaks left: Black Dome, Thomas Cole and Windham High Peak. To make the last few peaks easier and more fun, Alex and I decided to head up to Windham for two nights, staying at the Albergo Allegria inn, just 10 minutes from nearby trailheads.
It felt pretty luxurious to have a sit down breakfast and such a short commute to the trailhead this morning. We were joined today by Vincent, who I’d run into near Southwest Hunter on Tuesday. He’s interested in doing all the winter peaks this season, so our goals nicely align.
Unfortunately for all of us, the weather was pretty poor this morning. It was gently raining in the morning, but I was optimistic based on the forecast that it would clear up in the afternoon and we’d avoid another foggy Black Dome hike. There were a surprising number of cars in the parking lot for such poor weather, but I guess it’s a holiday weekend.
There was another group close behind us as we started up from Big Hollow, close enough that their dog decided to come join us to be at the front of the pack. Ziggy the Goldendoodle was our companion all the way up to Black Dome.
It continued to be misty and, sadly, there were no views on the way to the summit. Unlike on Hunter on Tuesday, there was almost no ice on the trails. I’d learned my lesson and left my spikes in the car today.
Between Black Dome and Thomas Cole we ran into Kevin and Lorraine, who we wound up hiking with most of the rest of the day. Kevin hikes all the high peaks each winter, and has been doing it for nearly 30 years!
Thomas Cole came so quickly that we nearly raced passed it. This was the peak that Alex needed for the day. One closer to the 3500 list for her!
I still had some hope that it would clear up on our way back down. The sky did lighten and we could at least see where the sun was. But the clouds never opened up, and as we started down Black Dome, I realized there would be no views today.
We hadn’t seen or heard many birds all day, but as we descended from Black Dome we heard some unfamiliar chirps. I noticed several small birds hanging out in a tree just ahead of us. Alex investigated with her binoculars and I walked closer with Merlin Sound ID on, in case they made more noise. There were actually quite a few of these birds, at least 35 and maybe more. We eventually decided that they were Pine Siskins. Not an everyday sight in the Catskills, and certainly not in that number!
There are at least 35 Pine Siskins in this tree!
While we investigated the birds, Kevin and Lorraine caught back up with us and we all made our way down to the col together. Alex started making her way back towards the car, but Kevin, Lorraine and Vincent all wanted to hike up Blackhead. Alex had hiked Blackhead before (her “personal Everest”) but needed to hike it again for her 3500 Club list. Lorraine encouraged her to do it and, much to my surprise, she agreed! The “one peak kinda gal” was doing her third peak of the day.
The hike up Blackhead was muddy and there were no views, but it added less than an hour to our trip and saves Alex a trip in the future. I would like to hike from Blackhead down to Arizona Mountain and North South Lake Campground someday.
All in all a successful day despite the poor weather. Alex and I both ticked off a few peaks on our lists, we made some new hiking friends and saw some cool birds.
Just one peak left for 2023! I’ll hike Windham High Peak tomorrow.