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FBON 2012: Leaving Pelnor Hollow and Revisiting Trout Pond

Hiking out of Pelnor Hollow

The final day of FBON 2012 starts early at Pelnor Hollow lean-to in the Cherry Ridge/Campbell Mountain Wild Forest of the Catskill State Park, but thankfully it is a much warmer one than the day before. Unfortunately, the night was no more restful than the first night here, as the Breathe Right strips, generously provided by Tom, proved not to be up to the task as far as my companions’ snoring was concerned.

There is no delay in packing up this morning. As soon as Dave begins emerging from his sleeping bag, Tom and I quickly follow suit, overwhelmed by the enormity of the peer-pressure. Breaking camp takes little time, as we pass on preparing breakfast; Roscoe Diner shall provide that for us soon enough. The warmer temperatures makes packing considerably easier than yesterday, and by eight in the morning we are on the trail, heading back toward Dave’s waiting vehicle, a little less than a mile away.

The trip back to the car goes by quickly, perhaps too quickly. After performing some nominal personal hygiene and changing into fresh clothes, we decide to hike down the grassy lane leaving the parking lot to see where it ends up. The less than a mile hike out obviously fails to satiate our desire for a good hike this morning, so we do our best to extend our stay here.

The grassy road descends for only a short distance, rounding a bend and ending at a “bridge” with a small red camp on the other side. The area around the camp is pretty busy, complete with stacks of cut wood, a picnic table and even a green plastic, turtle-shaped sandbox. Numerous posted signs hang on every tree large enough to support one, obviously someone wants it known that no one else is welcome here.

The “bridge” is just a narrow lane, lined with gravel, a culvert running underneath, water doing its best to flow through. Many sticks and small tree limbs impede the water’s progress, clogging both ends of the culvert, the results of an industrious beaver with an overactive imagination.

Rather than cross into the forbidden zone around the cabin, we decide to follow the stream, fed by a large pond to the north. Incidentally, this stream is Pelnor Hollow, the same stream fed by the spring near the lean-to. Obviously, the beaver moved down here to be closer to the cabin. Perhaps it wants its young to use the sandbox.

Camp near Pelnor Hollow

Many eastern hemlocks border the pond along its western shore. The shoreline is somewhat indistinct, with many tendrils of water weaving their way into the surrounding forest. This makes getting a respectable view of the pond difficult, preventing me from getting a good look at a duck that flushes from near the opposite shoreline. The great number of snags near shore suggests the pond’s enlargement is a rather recent development, probably due to the beaver’s moving downstream to get away from the irritating neighbors from the lean-to.

After following the pond as best we can for a while, we head west for higher ground, and eventually with any luck, the Pelnor Hollow Trail we used earlier in the morning. Fortunately, we avoid retracing our steps and find an old road instead, with an intact retaining wall, leading right back to the parking lot and our waiting vehicle. Given this old road ends at a metal barrier, it must have been the continuation of the jeep trail we drove up on to get to the parking lot two days ago.

Within minutes upon returning to the parking lot, we are back in Dave’s car and retracing our route from a couple days ago back to Roscoe. Upon returning to the small city, my memory from last year’s excursion serves us well and we find the way to the famous Roscoe Diner for the second year in a row.

Beaver Pond along Pelnor Hollow

Old Road back to Parking Lot

We had the standard breakfast fare at the diner. We chatted up the waitress quite a bit, she told us much of her life’s story, including her desire to retire and move to Colorado. She called Dave a city boy at some point during our breakfast, and requested he come back next year. I think she may have taken a shining to him. Maybe it had something to do with Dave eating a ton of wheat toast, as usual.

After finishing off breakfast, Dave suggests we head back to last year’s destination to show Tom the beautiful Trout Pond. Surprisingly, we actually find it following a maze of different country roads, including a few dirt ones along the way. Thankfully, the road in to the parking lot is in better condition than the previous year.

Russell Brook Falls

We hike along the trail into Trout Pond, crossing the bridge over the large Russell Brook and checking out the falls before continuing on to the pond itself. The Russell Brook falls, located just upstream from the bridge, is an impressive sight. A narrow trail skirts around an open low area, following along the stream bank, before passing an old ruptured rock dam, and ending near the waterfall.

The water plummets a good distance over the falls, the crashing deluge making it difficult to hear either Tom or Dave speaking. Another ruptured wall sits at the top of the falls, the water passing through the gap in the wall. Apparently, this stream functioned as more than a natural wonder at some point in the past.

After visiting the waterfall, we hike up the trail toward Trout Pond. It is only a short distance to the southern end of Trout Pond, but it is almost entirely uphill. An unfortunate deer mouse lies dead in the middle of the trail, and we pass an occupied campsite flying an American flag, appearing eerily similar to the camouflaged-clad guys’ camp from last year. Perhaps they come to this area on this same weekend just as we do – like a bizarro Frostbite Overnight.

Trout Pond appears much as it did the year before. As we crest the ridge, the wind whips off the pond, making me synch up my hat to prevent it from flying off. We walk down to the outlet, before crossing the slippery spillway to investigate the old lean-to site. Only a grassy clearing, with the remains of a fireplace remains now.

Trout Pond

On the way back to the car, we find a small purple mitten on the trail where none had been just moments before when we hiked up to the pond. Tom picks it up and we walk it down all the way to the trail register, where he leaves it just in case someone comes back looking for it. When we reach the parking lot, a mini-van with a woman and some kids is parked a few cars down from ours. After some discussion, Tom is designated our representative, and he is declared a hero by the woman since the mitten is her child’s.

Just another day’s work on a typical FBON.

The drive home is characteristically sunny and beautiful, though we fail to make another significant stop.

Little did I know that this would be my only backcountry trip for the entire year. A couple of weeks later, I would wake up with a terrible pain in my left knee, followed by it swelling up to twice its normal size in another day. Despite x-rays and a MRI, no serious problems are found, thank goodness. It takes about five months for the pain to recede enough for me to work the knee comfortably, and several more until I gain enough confidence to hit the trail again.

Hopefully, this year will be much more fruitful than the last. Stay tuned.

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