Over the weekend of June 19th through 21st, Porcupine and I completed completed another section hike along the Finger Lakes Trail. This time, we were joined by our friend Splash. To avoid car shuttling, we made up a loop route that would incorporate several other Catskill’s trail with a section of the Finger Lakes Trail in the Big Indian Wilderness.
Our loop route started and ended at the Long Pond parking on Flugertown Road in Willowemoc, NY. The first night we hiked up the Long Pond snowmobile trail and stealth camped near Long Pond. The next day we covered bits of the Long Pond – Beaverkill Ridge Trail, Mongaup-Hardensburg Trail, and Neversink-Hardesnburg Trails. We camped our second night at a primitive site near Tunis Pond. On day three we covered several miles of the Finger Lakes Trail before looping back on the Beaver Kill Ridge Trail to Long Pond.
Friday Evening: Parking to Long Pond Stealth Site
Friday night we hiked about a mile to a stealth camp on Long Pond. We found a nice site just off the trail. There was an existing fire pit, several tent spots, and reasonable access to the water. The turnoff to this site was marked with an old foundation along the trail.
This was a weekend of very many frogs. They were everywhere! The frogs at our stealth camp were so loud at night they almost kept me awake. They were even jumping around in my tent vestibules! Come to think of it, I’ve seen more frogs jumping around this year than any other year. It must be a 2020 thing.
Splash loves building campfires. Who doesn’t? A nice fire can warm you up and lift your spirits! Just remember to keep your fire small and stick to existing rings in permitted areas. I think its nice to leave a small bundle of firewood for the next group as well.
Saturday: Long Pond to Neversink-Hardensburg Area
This pretty bridge is near the intersection of the Long-Pond-Beaverkill Ridge / Mongaup-Willowemoc Trail and Flugertown Road. There’s a free roadside primitive site here that isn’t on the map. There is also a nice stealth site near on the bank of the river next to the bridge – but you should never camp within 150 feet of either a water source or a trail.
Long Pond – Beaverkill Ridge Trail
The Long Pond – Beaverkill Ridge Trail ascending Beaverkill Ridge from Long Pond is in dire need of some maintenance! There’s a lot of overgrowth, blow downs, washouts, and areas that are just hard to follow. I think this area is only hiked by red-liners.
Balsam Lake Road
This rickety old suspension bridge crosses the Beaver Kill River and marks the end of the Mongaup-Hardenburg Trail. This would make a nice stop for a break, except that water access is blocked off by private property fences. The trail is on an easement, but access to the river is discouraged.
There is a 1.65 mile roadwalk from the bridge at the end of the Mongaup-Hardenburg Trail to the trail head for Balsam Lake Fire Tower where we met the Finger Lakes Trail. Here you have the option to head north to the tower or east toward the Neversink Valley. We went east through this region of many river and stream crossings.
We cross one of many bridges over the small creeks that contribute to the Beaver Kill River. This creek has no bridge, but a lot of pretty marine plants. There is certainly no shortage of water supplies along this section where the FLT aligns with the Neversink-Hardensburgh trail.
Night 2 Camping along Neversink-Hardensburg Trail
There are two primitive campsites along this section of the FLT/NHT, and a maybe a few reasonable stealth options if you sleep in a hammock. There is also a lean-to shelter located near the Neversink end of the section. Because of the short walk in from parking areas, these sites probably go fast on holiday weekends or during fishing season. Remember that you’re not allowed to set up a tent near a lean-to. If you plan to stealth camp, you must be at least 150 feet from the nearest established site. This avoids the creation of tent cities.
Sunday: Neversink-Hardensburg to Long Pond
After a night of thunderstorms, we rose to a sunny morning and struck camp. Most of our walking today will be on country roads, so I applied some of Porcupine’s Trail Toes. Its basically just petroleum jelly that lubricates your toes to help avoid blisters and hot spots.
After crossing the height of land between the Beaver Kill and Neversink Vallies, we begin crossing streams that appear to flow the wrong way. These flow SE into the Neversink River. Porcupine is always very careful about water crossings. Trekking poles or walking sticks are very helpful to pick your way across streams and rivers.
Road Walk down Wild Meadow Road
After just a few miles of hiking, we came out on Wild Meadow Road, where there are many views and hunting clubs. Across the way we can see Peakamoose, Lone, Table, Red Hill, and Denman Mountains, a fine collection of Catskill 35ers and Hundred Highest. Red Hill (directly behind Porcupine) is also home to one of 5 fire towers in the Catskills.
Back in the Woods
After 4.4 miles walking along country roads, we passed Buckeroo Camp (end of Basily Rd) and headed back onto the Beaverkill Ridge Trail. From here, we have to just walk 1.5 miles along the Long Pond Trail and then back out 1.3 miles to our cars on the snowmobile path.
This was another great weekend out in the woods. Most of these trails get very little traffic, so we had them to ourselves. This would be a reasonable beginner backpacking loop for someone who is already a strong hiker. For us it was a great way to start getting our legs back after the pandemic lockdown.