Friday, May 11, 2012

Views and Wild Azalea on Dry Brook Ridge

At 3460’ in elevation and lying west of the Catskills’ high peaks (summits above 3500’), Dry Brook Ridge is a less frequented and rewarding mountain to visit. There are several approaches to this long ridge, including the Dry Brook Ridge Trail which runs 9.6 miles from the village of Margaretville to the Millbrook Road Parking Area (and another 4 miles to Quaker Clearing in the Beaverkill Valley). Along the way, there are intersections with the German Hollow Trail (a 1.65-mile trail climbing from the east); the Huckleberry Loop Trail, which reaches Hill Road to the west in 2.3 miles; and again the Huckleberry Loop Trail Valley which connects with Ploutz Road in 1.5 miles. All of these trails are shown on the Central Catskills Trails Map (# 142) which is published by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. It is recommended that hikers obtain this map, which shows the many ‘point-to-point’ and advanced hiking possibilities found in this area.

Near the center of the ridge and near its highest point are a series of ledges that offer westerly views. A good way to reach these ledges (also known as Penguin Rocks) is from the Ploutz Road Parking Area. Ploutz Road is reached by taking the Millbrook Road 6.7 miles from the Pepacton Reservoir. After turning left, proceed just over a mile, passing the farmhouse, until the parking area on the right. At first, the trail ascends through a mature spruce forest, then it passes through some rocky sections before coming to the DBR Trail after a climb of about 1000’. Turning left, the trail moves through an open swampy area and semi-stunted ridgetop forests until the first overlook is reached in about a mile. This is a good place for a break while you take in the view and decide if you would like to continue about three-quarters of a mile to the next major overlook. Each of these overlooks is denoted by a star symbol on the trail map. If you turn around at this second viewpoint the hike is about six miles roundtrip.

There have been two lean-tos adjacent to this 9.6 miles section of the DBR until a few years ago when the German Hollow Lean-to was crushed by trees during a storm. It is still slated for reconstruction, although it may be relocated. The second lean-to is located 1.35 miles from Mill Brook Road, which makes for a convenient “out-and-back” overnight trip or a welcomed shelter if you’re on a longer journey. (Note his lean-to is located near private land and access to the spring shown on the map is limited.) 

The large tracts of wild forest along the ridge make for excellent wildlife habitat, and the ridge is known for its bear and bobcat. In the spring, the ‘Pinkster’ bush, a type of wild azalea, blooms in abundance along the higher, central part of the trail. Although many hikers opt for the 9.6-mile through hike, each of the trailheads offer secluded climbs to the ridge. To reach the trail from Margaretville, turn onto Southside Road from Route 28 (across from Fair Street), go to the top of the hill and turn left; the trailhead will be on your right in a short distance.