April 1, 2006 - Doubletop And Big Indian

Since I have completed the 39 climbs required for the 3500 club membership, I have found my motivation to go hiking in the Catskills has dropped a little.  That is probably healthy, since near the end I was almost obsessed with finishing.  Now it is back to normal -- I go for the pleasure of hiking, exploring, and camping.  A little of the "exploring" motivation is gone, but there are still new routes and new trails I have not yet traveled.  I can still work on my winter patch, but that is so far away that it does not exert much of a pull yet. Besides, it is no longer winter.

But mostly completing my 39 peaks has left me without an organizing principle -- what do I try next?  for now, I am finishing up on a couple projects I started partway through -- measuring the GPS coordinates of all the peaks, springs, and other key features, getting pictures of all the canisters, things like that.  I also want to visit all the crash sites that I can find.  After that, I will have to find some other reason.

The "purpose" of this hike was to fill in several holes in my GPS list as I could: the Doubletop and Fir canisters, several features on Pigeon Brook, and the Doubletop crash.  I did not accomplish most of these, so it means I get to go back!

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The weather forecast was for rain and temperatures in the 40s.  Not the best weather for hiking.  But Friday was gorgeous -- sunny and temperatures in the 70s, and Sunday was predicated to be sunny too, so I took a chance.  The plan was to climb Doubletop on Saturday and explore the Panther crash site on Sunday.

I drove up on Friday night, and spent the night near the Biscuit Brook trailhead were it rained off and on through the night.  When I set out in the morning it was very cloudy -- more like thick fog -- but not raining.  I hiked up the Biscuit Brook trail to the YMCA property line, and followed that across to Doubletop.  This is the same route I took in May 2004.

Pigeon Brook Crossing


 I was surprised how many details of that hike I remembered: the rises and falls of land on the way to Pigeon Brook, the steep slopes bordering the brook, the confusing slopes after crossing, the steepness of the final approach on the ridge.
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Pigeon Brook Narrows


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So we made it up to Doubletop by noon, in about four hours.  I remember last time how I spent so much time searching for the canister on the wrong peak, simply because I had marked it wrong on my GPS.  I remember thinking I was following the ridgeline, only to unexpectedly come right back to my starting point.  Well, the same thing happened again!  I still had the wrong waypoint on my GPS, and after heading to the other peak for a ways, and then cheating and using the GPS to find it, I went right back to the wrong peak.  I chided myself, put away the GPS, and used the compass.

Doubletop Canister


his time I brought along Rosie, my Irish Setter.  She is a pretty hiking companion, but I am beginning to conclude that she really does not like hiking off the trail.  As long as we are on a trail, she walks ahead of me, having a good time.  But off the trail, she drags behind, she goes on the opposite side of every sapling, she pulls this way and that.  She really disapproves, I guess.  If I trusted her off the leash it would be different.  but as it is, she really slows me down. 


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P4010778.jpg (104870 bytes) I have recently been reading Paul Repak's article about observational navigation (http://adkhighpeaks.com/forums) and it reminded me about how lazy I have gotten about navigating with the GPS.  I tried to rely mostly on my compass, which actually works even better than the compass on a GPS.  The GPS seems to be exquisitely sensitive to whether you hold it level, whereas the compass needle levels itself.  Still, because of the limited visibility, and my haste to get going due to the rain and wind, and because my map was disintegrating from being wet, I neglected to check the bearing leaving Doubletop, so I wandered a little south of the ridge, putting me on the steep part of upper Pigeon Brook.  Finally I puled out the GPS and saw what was wrong, but by then I had to hike a couple hundred feet up to the saddle, in addition to the climb up to the trail junction.  Next time I will be more careful.  I used to be able to navigate without the GPS.
Biscuit Brook Tributary


A big notice at the trailhead warned that there was deep snow and ice at the higher elevations.  Somehow, I doubted this but nevertheless I want back to the car and got my crampons.  There were some patches of snow and ice on Doubletop and its ridge, but nothing remotely requiring crampons, so I carried them all day for nothing P4010781.jpg (99131 bytes)
Biscuit Brook near Lean To


P4010784.jpg (62807 bytes) We were both pretty wet and tired by the time we got to Big Indian. The original plan was to cross the ridge to Fir, and then return to the lean to.  Because it was getting late, I decided to just return on the trail.  Lower down the wind subsided, the sky started to clear, and the day turned pretty pleasant.  It took nearly three hours to return from Big Indian, but by the time we got back to the car we were starting to dry out.
Rosie on the drive home

What I learned from this trip:

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