Hiking Bonticou Crag in the Winter

shawangunks-bonticouAs soon as I exited my car by the Spring Farm Trailhead in Mohonk Preserve, I grabbed the back of my car and began slowly lowering my body towards it while keeping my feet flat to stretch out my calves. I was finally able to touch my forehead to the trunk a few times, and was glad no one was around to see what looked like a bizarre religious ritual involving Nissans. I had destroyed my calves working out for the first time in months, and the 8:45 a.m. hour and 34 degree temperature did not help their tenderness.

The hike was planned early because my trail-mate Hollis, a musician by trade, had to teach a lesson at noon.

I’m a real imbecile when it comes to directions, and I’ve come to accept that I get lost on most hikes. Hollis was therefore not only leading the way on the actual hike, but had met me at a familiar spot outside New Paltz to lead me to the hike.

A stroll up a dirt road from the parking lot brought us over a broad hill with a preliminary view of the Catskills.

The first leg of the trail was a light-to-moderate hike up the base of Bonticou through forest, the denuded trees giving you glances north as you ascend.

After a half hour, we reached the base of Bonticou Crag. Hollis, who admitted a slight fear of heights, said he had gotten stuck at a hazardous spot on the crag and climbed down, which I told him was much more dangerous than if he had just continued up (to his credit, he turned around when at the bottom and re-climbed it to the top).

shawangunks-bonticouIt was a proper rock scramble, with Hollis and I boosting and wriggling ourselves up. The rock itself was pretty forgiving for climbing, a giant pile of Shawangunk Conglomerate slabs, the quartz studs in the grey rock giving good traction.

At the crag’s top, there are three overlooks jutting north over the climb, two accessible by the trail.

shawangunks-bonticouA minute-or-so walk from the overlooks takes you to the pinnacle of Bonticou Crag, and the bare mountaintop descends slightly to the west in a series of flat rock platforms.shawangunks-bonticou

The trail down from the peak took us an hour because my calves were increasingly tender. The trail spat us out on the access road a bit farther up than where our cars were parked, but I can blame that on Hollis.

We were back by 11 a.m., and I hopped back in my car for the drive back, my calves beginning to spasm.



5 thoughts on “Hiking Bonticou Crag in the Winter

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