• 10:35 AM Start Hiking from Becker Hollow
  • 12:15 PM Summit Hunter (Fire Tower)
  • 1:15 PM Arrive Devil’s Acre Lean-To
  • 1:45 PM Summit SW Hunter
  • 2:15 PM Back at Devil’s Acre
  • 3:35 PM At Devil’s Tombstone / SR 214
  • 4:20 PM Back at the car

  • Tracks: AllTrails
  • Conditions: Fog, rain, temperatures in the 50s and 60s

GPS Track of the hike

This hike has a long backstory and has, frankly, been a little cursed! John, Kenny and I first talked about doing a Catskills overnight last summer. We planned a two day adventure: the Rusk/Hunter Loop on day 1, sleep at the Devil’s Acre, then complete the Eastern Devil’s Path on day 2. In addition to being a fun hike, this would get John seven of the twelve high peaks he needed to complete his list. Unfortunately, due to weather and work schedules, it didn’t wind up happening last year.

Notch Lake

This summer, we figured we’d give it another try. The weather looked good a week out, but by Friday, the day before the hike, things had shifted. There would be light rain starting around 3 PM on Saturday, then heavy rain by 8 PM, followed by a nice, clear window on Sunday morning.

With so much uncertainty in the weather, I decided to shuffle our plans, so that we’d stay closer to our cars along the hike. Instead of starting at Spruceton Road and ending at Plattekill Falls, we’d stash a car at the Prediger Rd trailhead and then start the hike from Becker Hollow, just a ten minute drive away. That way, if we needed to bail, we’d at least be close to a car mid-hike. This proved to be a good decision! Our plan was to hike Hunter, SW Hunter and Plateau on day 1, sleep at Mink Hollow, and then hike the rest of the Devil’s Path on day 2. No Rusk, but less milesage and more flexibility.

The morning of, I weighed my pack: 27 lbs with 3L of water. The drive up was foggy with a bit of rain. I caught a few glimpses of high peaks, but most of them were shrouded in mist. The drive along Platte Clove Rd is pretty spectacular. For such an iffy day, I was surprised how many cars there were at the Prediger Road trailhead.

Gate at Becker Hollow

Due to some packing issues, we got a much later start than planned, and we only started hiking up the Becker Hollow trailhead around 10:30 AM. This was a new stretch of trail for me. We made good time, but it was steep! There was some talk about Tobler’s Hiking Function: you hike the fastest at a -3° grade, and your pace falls rapidly as the slope either increases or decreases. When we did The Nine two years ago, I didn’t mind the weight of my pack as we ascended Slide. I very much minded it hiking up Hunter this morning. In retrospect, Slide was a much gentler grade—about 1/3 the grade of Becker Hollow—and that matters a lot when you have 30 lbs on your back!

Foggy Ascent

Halfway up the hike, we hit a wall of fog. We heard quite a few birds along this stretch: Black-throated Green Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Winter Wren, Ovenbird, Hermit Thrush and Swainson’s Thrush. We even saw one of the Black-throated Greens foraging in the path ahead of us. It’s a poorly-named bird: it’s bright yellow!

After what felt like a very long hike (it was 1.5h), we finally made it to the Hunter Mountain fire tower. This was John’s first Catskills fire tower, so we had to climb it. We’d experienced the fog on the hike up, but the trees had shielded us from the wind. Not so atop the fire tower! It was blowing hard. We quickly touched the top as I tried my best to keep my hat from blowing away. Needless to say, there were no views.

Foggy Fire Tower

It took us a minute to figure out which way to go from the summit, but soon we were hiking towards the Devil’s Acre Lean-To. This part of the trail was lovely. Possibly even a -3° grade!

Green Path

We broke for lunch somewhere along here. We were incredibly hot and sweaty on the hike up, but after even a short break, we got cold. My hands even went numb for a bit.

It was smooth sailing to the Devil’s Acre. We dropped our packs and John read through the log book. We’d read that this was originally a logging camp from the 1800s. I’m not sure what the “acre” refers to, it’s much smaller than that.

Next stop: Southwest Hunter. It felt great to be hiking on flat terrain without a heavy pack. I found the turnoff for the herd path and Kenny led us straight to his first canister.

SW Hunter Kenny John

It was only 2:15 PM when we got back to the Lean-To. Too early to stop hiking for the day. It was 6 miles to the Mink Hollow Lean-To, plus another 2000ft of elevation. Regardless, the first step was to descend back to the valley floor.

I’d read that there was a slice of first growth forest between 3,000 and 3,350ft along this stretch of the Devil’s Path, but we had a hard time spotting it. We did see one enormous downed tree, maybe a maple?

Stinging Nettles

We were quite impressed by this massive field of stinging nettles. They’ve gotten taller since Alex and my hike at Halcott three weeks ago! I was glad to be wearing pants. Still, I got my first nettle sting on my hand. Ouch! I can see why the deer avoid these, and why they’re a real impediment to bushwhacking.

Unfortunately, it also started raining on our hike down. The “light rain” from the morning forecast had come early, and it was not light. By the time we got down to the Devil’s Tombstone campground, it was pouring and we were soaked. Now we had a decision to make. Keep going? Go back to the car?

We ran into a solo hiker doing the Devil’s Path who’d planned to go up to the Devil’s Acre but was considering bailing. He said that Plateau was very, very steep. John told us that, when he’d hiked in bad weather on the AT, the locals’ reaction was usually just “why?” That settled it. We didn’t need to be hiking in the rain. So why would we? We set off for our car, but not before taking a wet selfie at Notch Lake.

Notch Lake Selfie

There was a family that was just heading up to the Devil’s Acre in the rain with a baby. Crazy!

Despite being on the roadside, the 1.5mi walk back to John’s car was quite nice. We were surrounded by wildflowers and beaver meadows. We could have driven to Mink Hollow, but our outdoor psych was throughly sapped by this point. Instead, we drove over to Rip Van Winkle Brewery for an enjoyable post-hike beer and burger.

Surprise view of Platte Clove

On the way back to pick up my car, we stopped by Plattekill falls, where we got a surprise view of Platte Clove. The waterfall was running hard and the water was chilly. A dip might have been appealing after 20+ miles of hiking, but not today!

Waterfall View

So in the end, we took our overnight packs for a loop hike and bagged two peaks instead of six or seven. It wasn’t the hike we planned or hoped for, but it was still nice to get out into the woods.

A few lessons learned for the future:

  • Get an early start!
  • Try to take more gradual ascents when you’re carrying lots of weight.
  • Flexibility is good when there’s the possibility of bad weather.
  • While the weather often turns out better than you feared, it can just as easily be worse!

Kenny at Waterfall