Here are three tips to the first-time traveler visiting the New York area:
First, when the person renting your vehicle to you asks if you'll need the EZ Pass, go ahead and say yes! It seems like ALL roads are toll roads around here. We declined, and we ended up wasting time and money later buying our own EZ Pass at a local DOT.
Second, if you rent a bike at Central Park in Manhattan, beware of people walking up and offering a great price for a rental and then leading you past all the good-looking bikes right at the park, across the street, down the block, across another street, down another block to a hole in the wall rental place with barely functioning bikes. You then have to negotiate two blocks of bumper-car traffic back to the park on bikes with hardly any air in the tires and frayed brake cables. Do yourself a favor, spend a couple of more bucks and rent the good bikes sitting in the corals right at the park.
Third, takes the Staten Island Ferry. It's free, and it gives you awesome views of the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty.
Truth is, I initially had a hard time getting excited for a trip back East that started with a work-related meeting in Baltimore. I knew this was a rare opportunity to see classic historical sites, but I knew I wouldn't be totally satisfied unless I squeezed in a killer adventure. So I started researching things like "toughest hikes on the East Coast" and one hike in particular seemed to be at or near the top of every list: the Devil's Path in New York's Catskill Mountains.
The numbers looked legit: nearly 9,000 feet of climbing in 24 miles. I soon realized that the substantial elevation change isn't the hardest part about this hike.
The plan was to have Susie drop me off at the Prediger Road Trailhead at the eastern end of the path and then about 10 hours later, wait for me to finish at the western end on Spruceton Road. I figured ten hours was best-case scenario.
|Sunrise view from the shoulder of Indian Head Mountain--the first of many high peaks traversed in the central Catskill Mountains. The Hudson River Valley lies in the distance.|
|Roots and rocks on Indian Head Mountain.|
|Red spruce forest adorn Indian Head Mountain.|
|Enjoying the view from the Twin Mountain summit.|
|Twin Mountain staircase.|
|Trail junction at Mink Hollow Cove.|
|Water was not an issue. Springs and streams are plentiful.|
|OK, so there actually are a mile or two of sublime runnable trail across the top of Plateau Mountain. Enjoy it while it lasts.|
|Taking a break before the long plunge off of Plateau Mountain. Small villages near Hunter Ski Resort in the distance.|
|Small lake at Stony Clove Notch near Tombstone Campground. This near the halfway point of the Devil's Path.|
|Crossing Stony Clove Creek.|
|Diamond Notch Falls on West Kill (stream).|
|Moss and ferns near the top of West Kill Mountain, the final major summit before the long descent to Spruceton.|
|View north toward Spruceton from near the summit of West Kill Mountain. The sun would set soon after hitting this summit. The final couple of miles were spent trying to follow the small blazes by flashlight.|
This was a challenging and memorable hike. Close attention to the trail surface is constantly required which keeps the pace down. I felt a bit frustrated at times knowing Susie would be waiting. Even though I felt great, I simply could not push the pace and risk a fall or twisted ankle. I ended up finishing a little over 11 hours, which I felt was a decent time.
I was surprised at how many people I came across out on the trail. Everyone else was either backpacking or day hiking. One of the dangers that trail descriptions mention for Devil's Path is its remoteness. Coming from Utah, I certainly have a different definition of remote in my mind. Is it the toughest hike east of the Mississippi? Well, since this is the only East Coast hike I've ever done, I cannot say. It certainly keeps you on your toes for the full 24 miles and the climbs are unrelenting. It's an experience very different from what I'm used to in the West.