Category Archives: Trail Maintenance

Notes from the field: Dealing with the Devil

The Devil’s Path, Indian Head Project

Thank you, Hurricane Sandy: what had once been an interesting and challenging scramble had, over the years become an all but impossible spot to negotiate. Fallen trees combined with a large rock ledge to create the perfect storm of a mess. The DEC operations crew removed the downed trees and made the area passable once more, but ultimately the decision was made to improve the treadway in that spot.

blowdown from Sandy on the Devil's Path
blowdown from Sandy on the Devil’s Path

I know what you’re thinking: difficult scrambles make the Devil’s Path what it is – a tough and exciting trail to hike. No argument here. But when an area on a popular trail becomes too difficult for folks, they start seeking alternative ways around… and that can be a problem. In a sensitive, high elevation ecosystem, making the trail the most attractive place to put your boots has real merit. Besides protecting slow-growing and unusual plants and limiting the impact on bird nesting habitat, a well-designed trail with good tread prevents erosion and holds up to heavy use. The Devil’s Path is a backpacker destination, and every weekend sees hordes of heavily laden back country campers huffing and puffing up these pitches. Making the trail the best option is worth the effort.

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Cal Johnson and the SCA intern crew, plus canine assistant

The instructions to volunteer team leader Cal Johnson were simple: improve the tread without sacrificing the rugged and wild quality of the trail. Do not attempt to tame the Devil’s Path! Two full work days and 4 interns later, the tread improvement project has been completed. Five rock steps were installed in the lower area, approaching the ledge. The footing is solid and secure, and the area is still challenging but doable. You will still need to lift small dogs and children, but the rest of us human and canine hikers will be able to manage just fine. Oh, and did I mention that it looks great?

halfway finished!
halfway finished!

Interested in learning rock moving techniques? Want to learn how to build awesome stone steps like the ones Cal and the SCA interns built? Think you’d like to help out on another section of the fabled Devil’s Path? Contact the CCC to learn about upcoming opportunities in rockwork! Click here, fill out the form, and put “rockwork” in the comment section. Looking forward to rocking out with you!

CCC Mascot, PeekaMouse, says "Volunteering makes you look fabulous!" We tend to agree!
CCC Mascot, PeekaMouse, says “Volunteering makes you look fabulous!” We tend to agree!

Notes From The Field: Welcome, Summer!

Summer solstice, Father’s Day, and some super Catskill Conservation Corps activities made for a busy and fun weekend in the Catskills!

On Saturday, June 20, a star-studded cast of characters taught and learned side by side on the scenic trails of the Southern Escarpment. NYS DEC Ranger Rob Dawson and the Trail Conference’s Catskill Program Director Doug Senterman, along with Heather Rolland of the Catskill Conservation Corps (CCC) taught the Introduction to Trail Maintenance course on the trails. Hands on learning at its finest, volunteers assessed blowdowns and used a variety of tools to remove them, cleared water bars and learned about their construction, and clipped encroaching branches. In total we cleared about 3 miles of popular trails, and enjoyed some killer views as well. We were joined by two hardworking Student Conservation Association (SCA) interns, Kalvin Murphy and Louis DiLorenzo, who helped out and learned alongside our volunteers.

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June 21 became an impromptu “undergraduate litter picking day” as the SCA interns returned with a volunteer from SUNY Geneseo! Heather led these intrepid litterpickers through the mess just off the trail at Overlook Mountain, removing 10 bags of nasty stuff from the woods. The ugly eyesores have were removed amid shouts of “hey! Look at this! Dude! Look what I found!” and as always, lots of laughter. Afterwards ice cream and people watching in the village of Woodstock rounded out the day.

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The CCC wishes to thank DEC and Ranger Dawson for the advance planning regarding the Introduction to Trail Maintenance course. In order to learn in the field, we needed a number of different problem types and learning opportunities. Ranger Dawson made sure we had a great trail to work on – plenty of all manner of challenges with amazing views to enjoy. It was perfect!

Read the full follow-up press release for our workshop

Another big thank you to the SCA interns and their supervisor, NYS DEC forester Ian Dunn, for their role on Saturday – helping to fetch and carry, as well as pitching in and participating in the workshop. They also get kudos for working hard on a miserably muggy Father’s Day, picking up trash and swatting mosquitoes with good cheer.

Our next event is another litter pick up, this time near Kingston, NY, at Onteora Lake on July 5. Stay tuned for all the details on how you too can make friends, whistle while you work, and have a blast while making a difference. Volunteering in the Catskills is cool, even on the hottest of summer days!

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Free Introduction to Trail Maintenance Workshop on June 20

Volunteers taking part in an Introduction to Trail Maintenance workshop
Volunteers taking part in an Introduction to Trail Maintenance workshop

On Saturday, June 20, 2015 join the Catskill Conservation Corps and the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference on trails around North and South Lakes as they teach you about the basics of trail maintenance in the Catskills.  You’ll learn what goes into keeping the hundreds of miles of Catskills trails open and discover how you can get involved in being a steward of the Catskills.

At this free workshop on the trail from 10am to 3pm, our instructor and Catskill Conservation Corps staff member Heather Rolland, will be teaching attendees the basics of trail safety, what tools are needed for the job, and you’ll be hiking the trail learning how maintainers clear back brush and weeds and remove fallen trees from the trail.  The local New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Ranger will also be joining us to talk about the work of the Forest Rangers in the Catskills.

Through the field work, participants will learn about the assessment of trail conditions, clearing, trail marking, proper use of tools and how to report any trail problems they may come across on their segment of trail.

Be prepared to spend the day on the trail as part of the field training. Make sure to wear your hiking boots; dress appropriately for the outdoor conditions and trail work; bring a bag lunch; pack plenty of water and snacks; and bring work gloves.

Refreshments and snacks will be served.

This event is free and open to the public.  Please register below using the form or register on the Trail Conference website so we can maintain an accurate headcount for the day.

Press Announcement for Workshop

 

From the Field: Huntersfield Vista Maintenance & Sprucing up the Spruceton Trail!

Huntersfied Vista Maintenance
Volunteers dressed warm with a day that featured snow, sleet and rain while the vistas were being maintained! Just a late May day in the Catskills!

Huntersfield Vista Maintenance: On May 20, volunteers and staff from the CCC assisted DEC staff members in clearing three vistas located on the yellow loop trail around the summit of Huntersfield Mountain located just north of the Catskill Park. Shawn Smith of Operations and Ranger Jeff Breigle led the crew; volunteers acted as swampers. The approved work for this project was completed and all three vistas have been restored.

Special thanks to all DEC staff involved. It was a real treat for volunteers to work with a professional sawyer – Mr. Smith is a surgeon with the saw! In addition, Ranger Breigle invited feedback and fostered communication among volunteers about the aesthetics of each vista, such that volunteers felt empowered to offer suggestions and feedback. For volunteers to be able to see a vista open up before their very eyes was magical – they were thrilled. The weather was awful, which just added to the allure of the day.

One of the trail clearing volunteers!
A rare Catskills chupacabra sighting or just one of the volunteers who helped clear brush along the Spruceton Trail?

Sprucing up the Spruceton Trail: On May 21, volunteers assisted DEC and Trail Conference staff in trail work on the Spruceton Trail. We worked for approximately 4 hours, removing piles of cut limbs and small trees from the side of the trail. The material was pulled back into the woods, alleviating the eyesore. We each removed approximately 20 piles of brush in a section of trail roughly .25 miles long. We estimate another .75 miles of trail still remains in need of this type of work.

Special thanks to Ranger Christine Nelson who drove us halfway up the trail to increase time spent working on the project. One of our volunteers was not familiar with the Catskills and had never been on Hunter Mountain before. She was truly delighted with her first experience – a ride in a ranger truck, hearing the Bicknell’s thrush calling, the incredible views from the fire tower!

Spruce up the Spruceton Trail on Hunter Mountain on May 21, 2015

IMG_2709The Catskill Conservation Corps and the Trail Conference’s Catskills Trail Crew will be working on the Spruceton Trail on Hunter Mountain this May.  The Trail climbs Hunter Mountain from Spruceton Valley.

On this trip we will be working to clear brush and other materials from along the trail as it makes its way to the summit of Hunter Mountain from the Spruceton Road Trailhead.

Please make sure to wear your hiking boots; dress appropriately for the outdoor conditions and our trail maintenance activities; pack plenty of water to stay hydrated; bring work gloves; and bring a bag lunch.

The public is welcome to join us. No experience is necessary, we will provide the tools and the training on site before we get started.

Register

To register, you can contact the trip leader, Heather Rolland at 518-628-4243 or you can complete the form below.

Spring Cleaning at the Mink Hollow Lean-to on Sunday, May 17, 2015

IMG_2467The Catskills Trail Crew and the Catskill Conservation Corps will be working at the Mink Hollow Lean-to to relocate the privy to a new location. The crew will also be doing maintenance work as necessary around the lean-to site.  That work will include cleaning the lean-to, maintaining official camp-sites and removing any litter that may have accumulated over the winter.

Please make sure to wear your hiking boots; dress appropriately for the outdoor conditions and our trail work activities; pack plenty of water to stay hydrated; bring work gloves; and bring a bag lunch.  The lean-to is located a few miles in from the trailhead, so crew members will have to hike to the work site.

The public is welcome to join the crew.  No experience is necessary, we will provide the tools and the training on site before we get started.

Help Improve the Kaaterskill Falls Trail on June 15, 2015

KaaterskillFallsJoin the Catskill Conservation Corps and the Trail Conference’s Catskills Trail Crew on the Kaaterskill Falls Trail as we work to improve this trail.

On this trip we will be working to maintain existing trail structures between Route 23a and Kaaterskill Falls.

Please make sure to wear your hiking boots; dress appropriately for the outdoor conditions and our trail maintenance activities; pack plenty of water to stay hydrated; bring work gloves; and bring a bag lunch.

The public is welcome to join us. No experience is necessary, we will provide the tools and the training on site before we get started.

Registration

Registration is required for this event.  Please call 518-628-4243 or complete the form below:

Free Introduction to Trail Maintenance Workshop April 12 in Fleischmanns

Trail Crew members cleared the route of the new trail
Trail maintenance work gets you outside and on the trail! The Intro to Trail Maintenance workshop teaches you what you need to know to get involved as a volunteer trail maintainer in the Catskills!

The Trail Conference‘s Second Sundays at Spillian series continues with a free workshop on the basics of trail maintenance in the Catskills on Sunday, April 12 from 1pm to 4pm.

This workshop will provide participants with the skills necessary to properly clear, maintain and improve a hiking trail so it is easily passable for fellow hikers and the trail itself is harmonious with the environment. Through a few hours of field work, attendees will learn assessment of trail conditions, trail clearing, trail marking, proper use of tools and how to report any trail problems they may come across on trail that they ware working on.

Be prepared to spend a few hours on the trails around Spillian as part of this workshop.  Make sure to wear your hiking boots; dress appropriately for the outdoor conditions and trail work; pack plenty of water; and bring work gloves.

Refreshments will be served.  This event is free and open to the public. Please register on the Trail Conference’s website so they can maintain an accurate headcount for the event.

REGISTER FOR THIS WORKSHOP

About the Presenters:

Will SoterWill Soter is the Trail Conference’s Trails Chair for the southern Catskills, CEO and Lead Guide of Upstate Adventure Guides,  and a registered New York State Guide.  Will has years of experience exploring and hiking throughout the Catskills and as a guide, he strives to provide a superior level of wilderness guidance, while maximizing the visitor’s experience.

Heather RollandHeather Rolland is an avid Catskills hiker, on staff with the Trail Conference as the Catskills Program Coordinator, a member of the Board of Directors of the Catskill 3500 Club and is currently working on her Catskills All Trails Patch.

Adopt a hiking trail in the Catskills

Hiking Trails in the CatskillsAdopt a hiking trail in the Catskill Park!

Do you love and enjoy the hiking trails of the Catskills? Want to give back to those trails?

Get involved and join Trail Conference volunteers and member clubs who maintain miles of hiking trails in the Catskill Park and the neighboring Catskill Mountains region.

The strong smell of balsam, the famous Devils Path and Long Path, two peaks above 4000′, and the best fly fishing around.  These are all things you’ll be able to enjoy while working on your adopted trail!

The Trail Conference is responsible for maintaining over 200 miles of trails in the Catskill Park and the surrounding region and almost always has an opening for a new trail maintainer.

Trail maintainersTrail segments available for adoption range in length from one to two miles and span the difficulty range from easy to difficult hikes. We work with potential trail maintainers to identify a section of trail that is right for their abilities and needs.

If you are interested in adopting a trail in the Catskill Mountains, please complete the volunteer information form and indicate that you are interested in Trail Maintenance.  That information will be forwarded to the Trail Conference who will will contact you with information on trails that are available for adoption.

In order to adopt a trail, a trail maintainer must be a member of the Trail Conference.  Free training is available through trail maintenance workshops, Trail University, and through individualized training with Trail Conference trail leaders.

Adopt a hiking trail (be sure to indicate you are interested in trail maintenance!)