Bushwack from the Woodland Creek Drainage to the Cornell/Slide Col
Aug. 26-29, 2009
This is one of my favorite "local" hiking and backpacking areas. In fact my first backpack was to this range and I sorta fell in love with the area. A year later I would become a volunteer trail maintainer, maintaining a section of the Wittenberb/Slide Trail, AKA Burroughs Range Trail or "Range Trail" for short. As I am obligated to return here at least 2 or 3 times a year now, I like to try to keep it fresh. So over the years I have bushwacked this Range from many different directions and used the several different trails- offical or otherwise. This is a description of a route that I have done several times now. It starts in Woodland Valley and ends on the Range Trail in the col between two Mountains- Cornell and Slide. The start of the route is not very exciting, but the route has some awesome pluses. For instance, a chance to climb one of the most visited Ranges in the Catskills on a route that promises plenty of peace and quiet, the enjoyment of visiting an old growth (or maybe even original growth) forest and the chance of seeing some old remnants of the areas past logging activities. To do this route, you must be good with map and compass and comfortable with off-trail travel. It would probably help if you had the topo map or hiking map as you read this.
I started at the Woodland Valley Campground and the trail head for the Wittenberg/Slide trail, blazed with red DEC plastic discs. After crossing Woodland Creek on the good wooden bridge for hikers, I almost immediately left the trail, turning to the right onto a faint and fading trail. This trail will soon peter out- but it will be the start of a short and not very fun- but nessecary- bushwhack. It is most important to bushwack up and around the private property that is at the end of Woodland Valley road and at the mouth of a main branch of Woodland Creek. You are aiming for that south/north running branch and it's valley. The bushwhack is along the hem of Wittenberg Mountain's skirt and is a steep bit of side-hilling.
Once around the private property I dropped into the desired drainage and there I picked up the very good old logging (or "Barkers") road. This road is neither blazed nor maintained- except maybe by the locals who hike up here- so there will be downed trees across the bed of the road. But it is still the easiest and fastest way to get up into the drainage and the start of the "real" bushwhack. Look for the occassional old tumbled-down stone walls that line the road and for the corduroy laid down in wet spots. This is a also a great area for camping.
This old barkers road parallels Woodland Creek, but is a bit above and away from the water- but the creek will be in sight most of the time and certainly within earshot and to your right. I followed this road for approximately one and a half miles, on a south bearing, gaining only about 300 vertical feet along the way.
After about 1 1/2 miles you will start to see that the creek splits into some major branches, and the road crosses one of them at barely distinguishable ford. In this general vicinity I have come across the remains of an old 19th cent. Barkers Camp.
Once across the stream, I followed the compass bearing across a flat parcel of land to the base of the ridge that took me up to the col. This is the start of my "real" bushwhack and in the next 1 1/2 miles you will gain approximately 1900' in elevation.
Initially, this ridge is very wide at it's base and clad in deciduous trees and dotted with boulders with loose and slippery soil and rocks underfoot. After a couple of hundred feet of elevation gain you will begin to hit the distinct step-like "Shelves" that are so characteristic of the Catskills Area. The nose of this ridge will begin to become more pronounced and narrow as you climb and gain elevation and the steps steeper. About midway up I passed through a couple of long and flat-topped shelves that are covered with a pure stands of healthy Hemlocks. It was a very nice sight to see as some stands of Hemlocks in other parts of the Park are dying off from that wooley adelgid blight. In fact, at the mouth of this branch of Woodland Creek, on the west bank, is a tangle of dead giants- victims of this disease. Higher up are also fine examples of old and large yellow birch and red spruce that impressed me.
Because of the terrain- the steepness and many rocky cliffs- I feel that the higher elevations of this ridge have never been logged, while the lower section and certainly the valley, were most definitely logged. The trees were stripped of their tanin-rich bark which was used in the Tanning industry. I am told that the trees were left standing and the bark stripped only to a certain height- as high as the barkers could reach. After the bark was removed, along with the living part of the tree (the cambian layer just below the rough outer bark) the tree would quickly die. But there are still stands of original growth forest left in the area- typically the very highest rockiest and steepest section of the mountains where the technology of the 19th and early 20th cent. could not reach.
Anyway, typically a shelf presents as a flatter area that approaches a sudden and steep incline. On this particular ridge (and typically in this area) this incline is a cliff of broken sandstone. But, I never encountered a cliff that I could not naviagate up, even with my full overnight backpack. Also, as you climb, turn around to see views, down the valley to Panther Mountain.
As I was not in any hurry, I stopped many times to take photos, to have a snack or take a drink. I would say that this climb, once I had dropped into the drainage, took me about 2 1/2 or three hours. I am sure that a stronger hiker with a day pack could shave off a fair amount from that time.
Once you are near to the col, the ridge actually flattens out quite a bit and you will find yourself walking through a lovely Hemlock/Red Spruce forest before shortly hitting the Range trail. From this point you have the option to turn right and head towards Slide Mountain or turn left and head towards Cornell and Wittenberg Mountains.
I spent the next several nights in the area as I wanted to do a fair amount of trail work. But the weather conspired against me and the next day and ight it rained.
There are 6 "offical" campsites in this col, but you can also camp "at large" as long as you camp far enough from the trail or water sources (200' will do it) and below 3500' (except in the winter on on snow). Water can be obtained from; the very good spring high on Slide Mountain, or at the seep nearer to Cornell or drop down into the East Branch of the Neversink's drainage. Good campage there too.
Last edited by woodstrider; Today at 09:09 PM.