Trail Maintenance 101 in Mine Hollow

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Trial Maintainers Walking in Mine Hollow

Trial maintainers walking in Mine Hollow

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Look at this place. What a day to be outside in such a beautiful setting. The very next day, it snowed all over the Catskills—in mid-May! But on this perfect spring day, I joined a small group of fellow trainees for Trail Maintenance 101. Led by Elie Bijou of the New York New Jersey Trail Conference, we lopped and pruned and sawed our way up Mine Hollow, a charming section of trail in the Western Catskills.

Trail Maintainers do things like clearing blowdown that’s fallen across a trail…

Blowdown blocking a Catskills trail
Classic blowdown across a Catskills trail

So many people had walked around this blockage that a new trail had been worn into the woods. But after a few minutes’ work we’d made this section quite passable…

Mostly cleared section of Catskills trail
Mostly cleared section of trail. Passable now, at least.

Maintainers do whatever they can with simple hand tools and elbow grease. We couldn’t move the largest piece, so it got logged as an issue with its GPS location. Later, a pro-crew from NYNJTC or DEC will come and deal with it.

We also dropped flat rocks into muddy sections of the trail to make basic stepping-stone paths. This keeps the trail from widening over time as people walk around puddles. Whenever possible, it’s always best to walk right through mud and puddles.

The trillium were out in force all over the Catskills. I’d come across lots of Purple Trillium before, and some White Trillium. But this was the first Painted Trillium I’d seen…

Painted Trillium in the Catskill
Catskills Painted Trillium

And this lil beast was a big hit…

We also came across a garter snake on the trail, but she slipped right past us before I could get a shot.

This fine rock ledge is near the top of Mine Hollow, just before it begins to flatten out on the ridge-line…

Rock Ledge in Mine Hollow
This big rock ledge is near the top of Mine Hollow

By the way, this hollow is a very picturesque route up to Balsam Mountain, much easier than the usual route from McKenley Hollow. You pass through lots of enchanting brook action and some wonderful old hardwood stands.

One of my favorite moments was when we sat in a line on this massive moss-covered trunk like hobbits having second breakfast in dappled light of The Shire. It was old and soft and comfortable, and the company was excellent…

Huge moss-covered log in Mine Hollow
A great spot for lunch in The Shire

By the end of the day, we’d each been assigned our sections of Catskill Park trail. Our role is to maintain our sections twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall—basically, after the winter storms and summer growth. We keep our trails clear, repair what we can, and report bigger problems back to NYNJTC. We also report all our work to NYNJTC, who coordinate the entire program.

There are so many work hours that go into keeping the Catskills useable and awesome, and it’s so rewarding to be part of that massive effort. Plus, you get to saw things legally. I can’t wait to get out to my sections and saw things legally.

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