I’ve written about my summer ascent to Hunter Mountain here and it was a memorable hike. Last weekend, it was even more memorable owing to the presence of a team of Asian hikers at the summit, huddled in the cabin porch, chatting effusively in their native tongue, crouched around a hissing hibachi grill. This is the second time I’ve seen such a spectacle and it couldn’t be any more delightful, but I’m not entirely certain its legal above 3500ft.
In the Catskills hiking world, there’s such a thing as “The Grid”: the ascent of every one of the peaks in the Catskills 35 over 3500ft accomplished in every month of the year. If you hike a couple of peaks a day, it’s possible to get The Grid done in a year by hiking the all 35 Catskills peaks every month for a year but, at a whopping 420 hikes, for most hikers who have a job, it’s something to accomplish over a lifetime. In addition to this, there’s the Winter 35 where the hiker must ascend every peak between the December 21st and March 21st. The Upstate Dispatch Grid is filling in at a snail’s pace, but the Winter 35 may be completed by the end of the year.
Hiked via the Spruceton Trail from the parking area on Spruceton Road, Hunter is a meditative climb alongside Hunter Brook (for about the first mile), which was rushing like the clappers at the weekend after the late February storm. This hike is a long, more gradual gradient up a wide, logging road for about 3.7 miles that gradually gets more narrow on the ascent. Horses are permitted on this trail. There’s a vehicle unloading platform in the parking area, a dismounting platform at the summit, and a place to tie your horse at each mile marker. Not content to be merely charming, this hike offers other gems like an old logging trail that’s a possible lead to a bushwhack of nearby Rusk Mountain (another Catskill 35 peak) and Colonel’s Chair, a trail to a ski-lift. There’s also a place to camp: the John Robb camping lean-to nestled deeply in a rocky nook, just after the spring, with breathtaking views of surrounding mountains. An added bonus – as if we needed one – is the summit’s fire tower from which you can enjoy panoramic views of the mountains – if you don’t suffer horrible vertigo.
On last weekend’s climb, thick sheet ice covered the trail just after the lean-to and my new Trail Crampon Ultra from Hillsound did not let me down. The gradient was just steep enough where I was slightly worried on the descent, but the crampons afforded a firm grip. These crampons are decked with many more spikes than the original Hillsound crampon, affording the hiker more confidence on the ice.
Finally, the ride down Spruceton Road from Route 42 to get to the parking area is exquisitely picturesque with farms, cute animals, barns, a church and a swanky hotel. This is a super summer hike to take visiting friends and family.