The Pecoy Notch trail must be magical in the summer because even in the winter, when it’s bare and cold, it’s charming in a way that other gaps and passes are not. The first 0.25 miles is a gentle incline and before you have time to be surprised at how quickly you arrived at it, you’re upon Dibble’s Quarry, a defunct quarry that runs down the side of the incline, on which someone has built a large stone stage and several over-sized stone chairs in which to relax. Behind the stone stage there’s a small room that looks like it’s on its way to becoming a small stone cabin equipped with stone picnic tables inside and out. Downhill, there are various lookout notches and seating built in the side of the hill from stone. The entire landmark is essentially a bluestone auditorium with a stunning view of Kaaterskill High Peak. Before you come to Pecoy Notch itself, which is a notch between Twin Mountain and Sugarloaf, you pass a frozen lake and then a frozen swamp, which adds an unexpected air of mystery. From the frozen swamp, you can clearly see the two mountains. The Notch from there to the next mile markers is a dense thicket of spruces with a soft forest floor covered in gnarly tree roots and fir needles. After the quarry, but well before the Notch, there’s a half-frozen, roaring waterfall that cascades across the trail and over the edge of the mountain. This stream is is a little tricky to cross, but shallow enough, and there are just enough boulders to help you pass.
If you take Twin or Sugarloaf Mountain via Pecoy Notch, Dibble’s quarry great place to rest on the way back because last weekend the going was covered in slick ice. The Devil’s Path had literally frozen over. Fellow hikers were bedecked in formidable looking crampons with fiercer spikes that allowed them to hop up the thick icy coating with confidence. The ascent to Sugarloaf is vertical in some parts and, when these parts are also covered in an icy mantle, it’s quite treacherous. A safer way to go, if you’re unsure, is to bushwhack around the sides of the trail, amongst the trees that give you a sense of security.
Sugarloaf Mountain via Pecoy Notch is 8.8 miles round trip and quite one of the most charming hikes in the winter Catskill 35 so far, but took much longer because of the sheet ice on the sheer vertical parts of the ascent. Take a look at the Upstate Dispatch Outdoors section here for my winter hikes here and never hike in bad weather if you’re not experienced. Order detailed maps and pick up tips from the NYNJ Trail Conference website.