October 20, 2003
Rochester Hollow

As the fall season in the Catskills winds down, we continue to try and squeeze a few hiking opportunities into our busy work schedules. We have snuck in a few outings here and there - a hike from Rider Hollow over Belleayre and down to the Day Use Area after work; a hike back to the car the next morning from McKenley Hollow before work; and of course hikes on the 3rd Annual Catskill Fire Tower Day over Columbus Day weekend. The hike up Tremper Mountain was gorgeous and rain-free, unlike the one to Overlook Mountain tower.

Perhaps our most notable hike this fall was in Rochester Hollow, a small (2,475 acres) parcel of state-owned land on the north side of Route 28 between Big Indian and Pine Hill. The trailhead for this hidden gem is found at the end of Matyas Road - only about a third of a mile off Route 28. A newly constructed kiosk holds a map of the Shandaken Wild Forest - the unit of Forest Preserve that contains Rochester Hollow.

This parcel was the former estate of Colonel William Rochester, who purchased small farms in the area to create a large estate. Remains of some buildings can still be seen at the head of the hollow on the north side of the trail. The trail is an old road that once connected to Rose Mountain Road, and it parallels the stream north for nearly 2 miles before making a sharp turn west for the remaining 0.75-mile. This gently sloping trail is great for cross-country skiers and families looking for a short, easy hike. The newly released draft Unit Management Plan calls for the extension of the trail to create a loop, and the construction of a lean-to near the estate ruins.

Some of our favorite spots in the hollow are the numerous hemlock-lined pools and riffles where we looked for trout and aquatic macroinvertebrates - both signs of healthy streams. With a thick tree canopy to keep the stream’s temperature below 50 degrees and many cascades and plunge pools, supplying the stream with oxygen, aquatic life is extremely rich.

Near the beginning of the trail we passed a couple of designated campsites and the old stone pillars (pictured) that once marked the entrance to the estate. About 2 miles in (elevation 2,100’) there is a nice memorial to John Burroughs. Here we decided to bushwhack up to the ridge that extends to the southeast from the summit of Rose Mountain. From the memorial, we headed east, following a stonewall for a while before ascending over several ledges and underneath some gigantic black cherry and yellow birch. Our climb crested at 2,700’ where we met the state land boundary and followed it to the southeastern summit (2,900’).

The understory was fairly open, with a grass floor making it a great spot to camp. We explored the area at the head of Millbrook and Seneca Hollows before continuing along the ridge as it snaked south. We came upon a large flat area of excessive standing water before it trickled off the ledges to the west. On the other side, there was a small rise where it was evident that hunters had made intensive use of this unique spot. There were stones and branches stacked up to create deer blinds - one on top of a 20’ bedrock ledge and the other nestled in a crevice in the rock. Unfortunately this wasn’t the only evidence left behind. Plastic bottles and bags, ammunition cases, and even a pair on fluorescent orange snow pants were there too.

We packed up what litter we could, and headed down the slope to the west knowing we would reach the trail in under a mile. The heavy, insulated snow pants were so dirty and wet that we had to drag them out by clipping them to a backpack and forcing us to cut short our day. We are very much in favor of hunting in the Catskills, but only if hunters leave no trace.

As we drove home it was a welcomed sight to see new brown and yellow signs for hamlets along Route 28 in the Town of Shandaken, from Highmount to Mt. Tremper, replacing the old green and white ones. The Town of Olive has had them up for a while now. A big ‘thank you’ to the NYSDOT, and we hope the brown box guardrails (like Olive has) are next. These visual cues are so important for reminding people that the Catskill Park is a special place.

- Chris and Aaron



Catskill Mountain Club

PO Box 558, Pine Hill, NY 12465