Santanoni, Panther, Couchsachraga (August)
I had recently hiked the three Santanoni mountains in June, at the time remarking on how wet it was. Earlier this month, the drought had dried up even the wettest of trails; the thunderstorms that preceded this hike brought them back to their soaked and muddy glory. The lead-in trail to Bradley Pond was, unimaginably, even wetter than in June.
I traversed the same route as in the Spring, going up a wet Santanoni Express trail. Unfortunately, the 4,600-foot summit was about 200 feet higher than the clouds, giving me the same view I got the first time Kathy & I hiked it.
One of my goals for this trip was to improve my descending speed. For my last couple trips, my times down were roughly the same as up; even though I’m competent enough climbing, my descents should be faster.
Once atop Santanoni, it’s almost all downhill to Couchsachraga, with over 1,400 vertical feet of descending over the 2.6 miles. (I’ve remarked before, Couch is the mountain you climb to get off of.) Concentrating on keeping a steady pace, I vastly improved my time, getting to Couchsachraga in 1 hour 25 minutes, which is 35 minutes faster than in June. Unexpectedly, Couchsachraga’s notorious ‘bog’ was drier than in June even though everything else was wetter.
The faster pace didn’t hurt my re-ascent to ‘Times Square’ either (the junction of all three summits), making almost exactly the same time as before. I had to sit and wait on Panther Peak for the clouds to finally lift, gaining a nice look back at both Couch and Santanoni Peaks. (While it took 30 minutes, it’s a nice way to spend the afternoon, watching clouds lift from Panther Peak.)
I kept a slightly better downhill pace to Bradley Pond, and then kept a normal pace back to the car. The upper portion of the trail to Bradley Pond is simply terrible, and this is with a lot of recent improvements. The old ‘corduroy’ logs that were lain down across the wettest portions are now decayed and more slippery than the mud they’re protecting. The rest is practically a running stream until it finally crosses Santanoni Brook. (The NY DEC has been building staircases to get up Mount Colden, I wish they had used that lumber here instead.) Even with the wet lead-in and clouds, these three make a great hike.