Escarpment Trail – DNS

July 30, 2017. Escarpment Trail Run. I was registered to run. DNS (Did Not Start). But no regrets.

I sprained my left ankle last Saturday, July 22. It’s healing well, so far. Applying cold treatment and ankle brace daily. Doing regular walks for a week, hobbling at first and getting better each day. Hoping to become a-ok for the race. Undecided to do the race until the very last minute.

My friend, Jun, and I still went to the North-South Lake Campground on Saturday, July 29, for an overnight stay. We hiked on Saturday, testing my foot if it can handle the rough trail condition. The ankle did not have the full flexibility and agility it had before the sprain. Landing on steep and technical sections was still awkward and with some difficulty. There was still some swelling after the hike. When we got back to the campsite, I made the decision to skip the event. After a few beers, I’ve accepted my decision.

Sunday, we did another hike. We did 3 major peaks in the Blackhead Wilderness area  – Thomas Cole Mtn, Black Dome Mtn, and Blackhead Mtn, all members of the Catskill 3500 Peaks. The trail was technical, but the ankle managed well. And since it was not a race, there was no pressure on how fast or slow we had to go, stopping and resting at every vista. We had some wonderful views, the best one was the view of the Devil”s Path’s peaks from Black Dome Mtn.

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Devil’s Path Peaks – View From Black Dome Mtn

Escarpment Trail is a very tough and technical race. And I know I needed to be 100% ok to do it, which I wasn’t. Doing the alternate plan of a pleasure hike was the right decision. And at the end of the day, there were no regrets.  And perhaps, more beers.

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Late Post. Grand Canyon SK-PR-BA Hike

Dec 10, 2016. Grand Canyon. South Kaibab-Phantom Ranch-Bright Angel.

The Adventure – Goal. Hike from South Kaibab trail down to Phantom Ranch and up to Bright Angel trail. This is my first hike down the canyon, with information and knowledge gathered from the web.  This is a good source of information for GC backcountry hiking – Backcountry Hiking Brochure (PDF).

The Gear.

  • Mizuno Merino Wool + Midlayer Jacket
  • Baselayer Pants + Mizuno Pants
  • Beanie + Neck Gaiter + Gloves + Hand Warmers
  • Hoka trail shoes + Drymax socks
  • UD vest with 50 oz bladder (H2O) + 2 bottles (Tailwind)
  • 3 servings of Tailwind in ziplock bags
  • 2 Nut bars, 1 bag of trailmix
  • Trekking Poles
  • Trail crampons (not used)
  • Headlamps (not used)
  • First Aid Kit (not used)
  • Extra shirt, light rain jacket, extra hand warmers (not used)

The Adventure – Details.
After an egg white omelette breakfast at Maswik Lodge cafeteria, I walked to the Bright Angel bus stop for the the 8:00AM Hikers’ Express bus to South Kaibab Trailhead. Weather forecast was sunny, with temps in the village area at about 30s in the morning. It was just me and 4 guys (doing an overnight hike) on the bus that day. We arrived at the trailhead before 8:30AM.

I started at 8:30AM from the South Kaibab Trailhead. The distance from the SK Trailhead to Phantom Ranch is ~7.4 miles, with an elevation drop of ~4780 ft. It is a well maintained but steep trail, without any water source this time of year. I jogged/speed-hiked the trail down skipping the urge to take pictures because I wanted to make sure I’d reach the bottom with enough time for the hike back up. There’s a popular phrase in Grand Canyon for those hiking the corridor trails – Going Down Is Optional, Coming Up Is Mandatory. Only when I saw the Colorado river and the black suspension bridge connecting the South Kaibab and North Kaibab trails that I took some pictures. I crossed the suspension bridge at 10:30AM, with ample time to reach Phantom Ranch.

Can you see the suspension bridge?

View of the Colorado river (left) and the suspension bridge (right) from the SK trail

Can you see the mule train?

Looking back after crossing the suspension bridge. Can you spot the mule train? (upper left)

I reached Phantom Ranch 10 minutes later. The temp at the canyon was about 60F. I removed my jacket and the baselayer pants and refilled my 2 bottles with my pre-packed Tailwind. Water is available in Phantom Ranch. Bright Angel Campground is ~0.4 mile across Phantom Ranch, separated by the Bright Angel creek. At 11AM, I left Phantom Ranch, crossed the Bright Angel campground, and headed towards the Bright Angel trail.

Phantom Ranch to the start of BA Trailhead is ~9.9 miles – longer than SK-PR, but not as steep, with a water source in the Indian Garden campground.  This information from the NPS website provides detailed information about the trail distances – Backcountry Trail Distances

There is another bridge crossing the Colorado river on the Bright Angel trail, sometimes referred to to as the white bridge (as opposed to the black bridge connecting SK and NK trails). The first 2 miles in the Bright Angel trail is nearly flat following the Colorado river. It then goes back to the trail on the mountain side. While the SK trail provided open views of the ridges and the canyon, this part of the BA trail provided close up views of the mountain walls. It feels like you are traversing the ‘carved’ section of the mountain.

I reached the Indian Ground campground past noon, and with lots of time to spare, I did an extra trip to Plateau Point, a 1.5 mile flat trail from Indian Ground campground. This trail is visible from some viewing points in the South Rim. It’s different at Plateau Point – you get a 360 view, both horizontal and vertical, from the ‘middle’ point of the Grand Canyon.

Panoramic view from Plateau Point

Panoramic view from Plateau Point

A view of Indian Garden Campgound / Bright Angel Trail from Plateau Point

View from Plateau Point trail – Indian Ground Campground and South Rim.

Purple cactus! Only in Plateau Point!

Added bonus. Purple cactus at Plateau Point trail.

Water is available in IGC. Refilled my water bottle and continued on with the hike. A group of hikers was resting and enjoying lunch at IGC. The trail becomes steeper and steeper as it gets closer to the South Rim. I started to see more hikers on this part of the trail, most of them probably doing an out-and-back hike from BA Trailhead to IGC. The last mile+ leading up to the BA trailhead was icy. From the website information, this is the part of the trail that’s almost always covered with snow and ice come winter time. Saw some hikers having difficulty going down because they had no traction. I advised one hiker who was sliding that it was not worth the risk to go down with those shoes – one false slide and you’d be part of statistics.

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Bright Angel – Snow-turned-Ice

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Bright Angel – Icy trail

I reached the Bright Angel trailhead at 3:40PM. Covered 21.56miles, including the trip to Plateau Point, in 6:40 hours.

Epilogue. Grand Canyon at the South Rim is already magnificent. It’s enough to give you chills. Hiking down the corridor trail is an added bonus to those who decide to do it. Seeing the different rock layers up close and being able to touch the mountain walls give a different perspective of this natural wonder. And once again, Thank You for letting me experience this.

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View from the South Rim – Sunrise Dec 12, 2016.

Bear Mountain Trails, Part 2

Saturday, May 28, 2016.

2 birds in 1 stone, my Saturday plan.  Or should I say, 2 bears in 1 day – Bear Mountain that is.

Since the first BM Trails exploration, I’ve been craving for another trail experience.  But at the same time, I  needed to spend some time on the saddle for a triathlon training.  So, I decided to do both – bike up Bear Mountain to Perkins Tower, and then switch gears and hike the trails afterwards.

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Google map address of the RD-TT Trailhead parking

Saturday morning.  I parked at the RD/TT trail head on 9W, and started the ride before 8AM.  This part of the road offers no flat section up to Perkins, only ups and downs.  1+ mile up, 1+ mile down, and then 5 miles up to Perkins, for a distance of ~7.5 miles.  Total of ~15 miles, ~1800 ft elevation, out-and-back to start.  Close to 4 hours and 3 laps after, I’m done with the bike ride.  My Garmin recorded 44.36 miles, with 5456 ft elevation gain.  A good hill repeat, I must say.

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BM Ride Elevation

Stored the bike inside the car, and switched gears for the hiking exploration.  The hike would start at the RD/TT (Red/Blue – Ramapo-Dunderberg/Timp Torne) trail.  This was my first time on this trail section.  At the intersection of the Red/Blue trail blazes, I decided to do the RD (Red) trail out, and later on the TT (Blue) trail on the way back.  It was a continuous climb from the start until the first vantage point on the RD trail, with a view of the Hudson River (1).  More climbing until the next vantage point, this time with a view of the Bear Mountain, with Perkins Tower visible from this point (2).  Continued on until the summit at Bald Mountain, with another clear view of the Perkins Tower (3).  Rested a bit at the summit, pondering where to go from here.  I decided to continue on the RD trail, then right to TT until the summit vantage point.  This was the same windy summit I didn’t know on the first exploration (4)**** After this hike, and upon checking the complete Harriman State Park Trail Map, this is The Timp vantage point.  The ‘binocular’ marker on the Bear Mountain Trail Map has it on the wrong spot. *****  From this summit, the West Mountain Shelter was clearly visible.  Just across another mountain, so I decided to continue and marked that as my next target.  The TT trail was rocky and technical going up, coming down, and again, going up (but then, that’s what makes it more fun).  Reached the shelter, and saw some overnight? campers – one tent pitched nearby.  Took some pictures of the summit where I just came from (5), and again pondered where to go next.

It was about 3PM at this point.  I decided to go back because of the unfamiliarity with some sections of the trail on the way back.  Followed the TT trail back until I hit the intersection of the RD trail and the ‘unmarked’ Red Cross trail – meaning, I missed the turn on the TT trail.  It’s really easy to miss the Blue trail because it’s a sharp turn, whereas the unmarked trail was straight and looked like a continuation of the TT trail.  Looking at the map, I decided to follow the RD trail from here because it would eventually intersect with the TT trail at some point.  This part of the RD trail was really rugged, with trail blazes that were easy to miss.  Looked like very few hikers take this route.  Turned right at the RD/TT intersection to get back to the TT trail.  **** This is where the Bear Mountain Trail Map has the ‘binocular’ marker on the wrong spot, as there was no clear vantage points in this section. *****  Continued on the TT trail until the last last vantage point, with a view of the Hudson River once again (6).  From this point on, the trail would be a descent back to the starting point, passing (not through) 2 tunnels (7), and finally the end/start of the trail head (8).  The official trail head is a short walk along 9W from the parking.

 

It was about 5PM when I finished the hike.  My Garmin recorded 10.43 miles, with 3169 ft elevation gain.  Bear Mountain trails explored once again.

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BM Hike Elevation

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Covered trails on this hike

It was hot and humid.  Took a gallon of water from the car, and poured it on me.  A refreshing way to end the day.

Till then.

 

Exploring the Bear Mountain Trails

BM Trail Exploration 20160508 (1)

15+ miles. Numbered markers with corresponding pictures below.

Sunday. May 8, 2016.

15+ miles covered exploring the Bear Mountain trails.  Ok – I didn’t really plan to cover this distance.  It just happened because I kept on intentionally making myself lost in the trails.  This was my first time exploring these trails and I only had the Avenza PDF Map App as my guide, which served me well.  The plan was to go back to Bear Mountain and re-trace the trail leading back to Timp Pass, the last steep climb in the TNF ECS BM event I did on April 30th.  I wanted to have a picture of that climb, then and now. ‘Then’ – but my smartphone died; ‘Now’ – with fresh legs and a point-and-shoot camera.

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01. View of Bear Mountain from the parking lot.

I parked at the Bear Mountain Inn ($10 parking fee).  With my backpack loaded with 4 water bottles (2 with my tailwind+carbopro mix), a bar, some nuts, and my-supposedly-tuna-wrap-lunch, off I started the trek around 12NN.  I went to the trail head at the back of the Inn, south-end of Hessian Lake, and followed the White trail (AT-Appalachian Trail).  It was a long stretch of stone steps going up.  I didn’t know where these steps lead to – I just kept going.  At some point, there was a sign that says ‘To Inn’ and ‘To Tower’.  I was not going back to the Inn yet, and Tower?  ‘What Tower?’.  So I just followed the sign going up to the Tower.  More climbing and then there it was – the ‘Tower’.  It turned out to be the Perkins Memorial Tower.  This is our summit stop when doing our Bear Mountain bike rides!!!  This time, I appreciated the scenic views, and took pictures.

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02. Tower summit bench and viewport from the trail.

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02. Perkins Tower summit.

‘Where to next?’.  I looked at my digital map.  I could re-trace the trail back to the Inn, or keep following the White trail south going to the West Mountain section, one sign says.  ‘What’s in the West Mountain section?’.  So I continued to follow the White trail.  The trail from Perkins was a descent, some steep, some runnable.  My backpack was not designed for active running when loaded.  I was grasping the straps when running and hopping on the trail to minimize the bounce.  Still on the White trail, I crossed the Seven Lakes Drive road, back to the woods, and started climbing again, intersecting with the Red (77W) trail briefly, back to White, until the White/Blue (AT/TT-Timp Torne) trail.  This would lead to the West Mountain vantage point.  The end of White/Blue trail would be another good vantage point.

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03. AT trail vantage point. Nice crater-like boulder.

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04. AT-TT vantage point. Perkins Tower on the other side.

‘Where to next?  White goes there, Blue goes there…  Hmmm, I’m lucky with White.  Keep going White’.  It was a rocky descent.  After the descent, I looked at my map – this section was not in the map and/or covered by the map legend.  ‘I think I’m going the wrong way’.  Saw 2 hikers and asked.  ‘Yup, you need to go back’.  Hiked back up that rocky section, until I was back at the vantage point in the White/Blue trail.  ‘Ok, let’s follow the Blue trail this time’.  The Blue trail intersects with the Yellow (Suffern-BM) trail – which leads back to Bear Mountain area.  I kept on following the Blue trail.  There was a shelter on the Blue trail – which I found out later, after Google search, is the West Mountain Shelter.  There was a guy with a tent – either he has already spent the night, or planning to.  I stopped and asked a few questions.  He said it’s ok to stay overnight in the area, no permit needed.  ‘Hmmm, perhaps I could stay overnight here one day?’.  After some more descents and ascents, I hit another vantage point. ‘What summit is this?’.  Some quick pictures and continued on, mindful of the time.

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05. TT trail descent.

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06. TT vantage point – very windy here.  What summit is this?

Continued on the Blue trail until it intersected with the Red (RD-Ramapo-Dunderberg) trail.  From the map, RD then intersects with 77 (1777) trail. ***** I thought I would hit the Timp Pass on 77 leading back to Bear Mountain – which would turn out to be wrong! *****.  At the intersection of RD and 77, I made the decision to continue on to the RD trail up to Bald Mountain. ‘I’m already here, might as well go up Bald Mountain quickly and come back at this intersection’.  More views from Bald Mountain – another good view of the Perkins Tower from this summit.  Took some more pictures and headed back to the RD/77 junction.

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07. Bald Mountain summit. Perkins Tower visible from here as well.

Back at the RD/77 junction, ‘Ok, just follow 1777 and at some point you’ll hit Timp Pass’, I told myself.  The 1777 trail was wide and flat.  ‘Hmmm, I don’t remember this in the TNF ECS BM course.  I think I missed a section that would lead me to Timp Pass.  Should I go back somewhere and try to find it?’.  It was past 5PM at this point.  It was a little late to explore so I decided to just follow the trail.  The 1777 trail hits the old settlement of Doodletown.  A little sight seeing on this trail, some landmarks and signs where the old homes used to be.  Kept on 1777, then 77E.  One last quick detour on 77E and followed the path and sound to a ‘Cascading Waterfall’, the sign says.  More like a ‘Cascading Stream’, I’d say.  Walked back to the trail and followed 77E to the Bear Mountain playground/parking/starting point.

 

 

It was 6PM when I finished the hike.  Took my shoes off, walked on the grass barefoot.  I would have taken everything off and played on the grassy playground, BUT just-add-what-you-think-if-i-have-done-this…

70 end of hike

10.  End of exploration

My tuna-wrap lunch became my dinner, while resting before heading home.  First time exploring the BM trails done, and I really enjoyed the experience.

Post-Hike.  I reviewed the trails I took, plus internet googleing, to find out how I missed the trail to Timp Pass.  It was on the Blue (TT) trail, intersecting with the Red Cross (red cross on white blaze) trail.  This is not marked on the map.  It appears as dashed crimson trail, which the map legend describes as Unmarked Trail.  I saw this intersection, but didn’t know that this was the trail to Timp Pass.  Oh well, next time perhaps.

Till then.

Avenza PDF Maps App

avenza pdf maps app

Another positive review on a product I use – because it works!  This one I’d consider a necessity for exploring trails, especially when going solo.  This is for the the Avenza PDF Maps Mobile App, available for Android and iOS smartphones.  I have this on my phone, plus the digital maps of the trails I wanted to explore.  One of the maps I have is the Bear Mountain Trail Map (detailed information and maps from NY State Parks site).  Last Sunday, I explored the Bear Mountain trails relying on the information I’ve read on the web and the digital map on my phone.  The trails are well marked, but I would not recommend not having a map or guide to explore these trails, or any unfamiliar trails in this matter.  I ‘intentionally’ made myself lost in Sunday’s hike, covering 15 miles of different trails, looking for amazing views to see and this guide brought me back to where I started safely.  Again, a must have app on your phone.