Today I’ll be hiking Fir Mountain. At 3,620 feet, Fir is the 25th highest peak in the Catskills. It doesn’t have a trail to the summit, so it’ll be a bushwack tomorrow. I’m planning to head in from the parking area at Burnham Hollow Road and hike south to get to the summit. It should be about two miles in and two miles out, with an elevation gain of about 1,200 feet.
It’s also possible to hike in from the south, on the Pine Hill-West Branch trail. That hike would be about 5 or 6 miles round-trip, though only about two of those would be bushwacking. All told, that’s probably the easier way to go – bushwacking is much harder and takes much longer than hiking on a trail. Trails have blazes (markers), are well beaten with not too much undergrowth, and generally avoid some of the uglier aspects of trying to figure out how to navigate obstacles. Bushwacking means checking the map and compass often, pushing through undergrowth, and figuring out how to get around/over things myself – I’m not just following the footsteps of others.
Harder though it may be, bushwacking is also much more fulfilling than simply following a trail. Today, I won’t set foot on a trail at all. I’ll get out of the car, walk into the woods, sign in at the cansiter at the top of the mountain, and walk back out of the woods.
While bushwacking the whole way will take much longer, I’ve chosen this route because the way from the south means I have to cross Biscuit Brook – which is impossible when it rains. After seeing how swollen from the runoff the brooks and creeks I crossed last weekend were, I’m not chancing it this weekend. There’s still plenty of snow (or rather, ice) on the peaks in the Catskills. I’m still using crampons, though I only needed them for the last quarter mile or so last weekend (on Eagle Mountain).
Fir will be #34 of the 39 mountains I have to climb to get into the Catskill 3500 Club. Still left to go will be: Doubletop, Graham, Lone, Rocky, and Kaaterskill High Peak.