My dad liked to walk up the hill on our farm. Even in his late 80s and 90s he did it almost every day. I used to joke with him, as he said so many times, “I think that hill gets steeper every year.”
Well, as the years go by, I get what he meant. Yesterday, my friend George, his grandson, Brent, and I hiked up Doubletop Mountain in the Catskills. We all know that the mountain hasn’t changed, but in the last three or four years I have. I climbed that peak on the far end of Dry Brook out of Arkville the year I turned 70. It is one of the peaks that are over 3500 feet at their summits and is part of the Catskill 3500 Club challenge.
Maybe it wasn’t me. After all, the temperature was in the upper 80s, the black flies were swarming like kamikaze pilots and a 14-year-old who was in a hurry to get to the top led the way. Maybe I shouldn’t have told him there was a lake on the summit with a nice sandy beach. Trouble is, he believed me, and with youth on his side, he hardly slowed down even wearing a black sweatshirt with the hood up.
When we climbed this mountain a few years ago, we ran into several inches of snow once above 3000 feet, making it a bit more difficult, but not yesterday. Trust me, snow would have been a blessing, as I trudged my way to the top.
Unlike many of the 35 high peaks, Doubletop has no marked trail to the summit. Three or four years ago there wasn’t even a herd path up through the timber. We just started climbing, picking our own way up the ridge, finding an easy through the ledges until we got to the top.
Yesterday after parking at the trailhead we headed up on an old, abandoned, often washed-out road until we came to the base of the mountain. There is a plywood cutout of a bear leaning against a tree where we would start our ascent. I was surprised by some orange flagging on the tree. I was also amazed that there was a trail created by the many people who have climbed the mountain. Actually is was an unmarked herd path that led us right to the summit.
But, the hike is long and very steep in many places. Once at the top we found the canister where we signed in, indicating we had completed the climb. It took us three hours to get to the top. There we had lunch with a nice cool breeze that kept the flies at bay.
Doubletop as well as Graham Mountain are unlike the rest of the 35 high peaks. They are on private land owned by the Gould Family. When I looked on the internet for the GPS coordinates for the summit, I saw a notice that all Furlough Properties were off limits to hikers and any trespassers would be arrested. So, I made a couple of phone calls.
It has always been the practice to call the Property Manager to get permission to hike on their property. But, it was discovered that large groups of 20-25 were hiking without permission and leaving trash along the trails. I was told that permission would be granted to small groups of local people for the time being. Luckily, those of us from Otsego County were considered local.
I called Bill Feidler, the new property manager, and was told the new rules – small groups, leave no trace and stay on the main herd path – and was then granted permission. Bill can be reached by calling 607-221-1279. He usually responds by text, so if you are using a land line, please let him know.
When people misuse the property of others, things like this happen. It is important that all of us obey the rules and leave the property as good as we find it. I did bury two bunches of toilet paper and picked up a mylar birthday balloon that obviously flew in from somewhere down the valley.
I realize that this was my first hike of the season, and I was completely out of shape, but I will eventually want to climb Doubletop again. Let’s all do our part, so we don’t get locked out of this mountain treasure forever.