October 26, 2014
My friend Nancy and I decided to spend some girl-time together at Plotterkill Preserve out in Rotterdam, NY. The start was nice and smooth, and we decided to take the red looping trail, a trail neither of us had taken before but that looked pretty straight-forward and simple on the map posted by the trailhead.
I knew from my own and others' experiences, the trail marking here isn't particularly good. We followed the little paint marks on the trees pretty well for a while and then found ourselves like this - crab walking along 45 degree angled slick-as-hell terrain. Once we got ourselves down, around, and re-oriented, we saw that there was a set of stairs we could have conveniently taken. Hmmm.
We're good sports so we easily laughed it off and kept going, to this lovely spot. You might notice my hand is clenched.
In hindsight, I'm guessing it might be because we were on the edge of a remarkably steep ledge. Here's looking down from where we were standing.
Taking a little break to enjoy this sweet little waterfall.
The pretty pathetic markers seemed to appear and disappear randomly. We were seeing red, yellow, and white ones, and none of them seemed to provide a clear path. We hadn't even seen a white trail on the map. We decided to go down, down, down this steep trench because we wanted to keep going and to see the falls, and I recalled our going down a steep trench to the creek on an earlier visit. This is when Nancy announced that she had become an official tree hugger. When we got down there, we remarkably saw a red trail blaze. We couldn't believe it! Until we realized "a" was the key word and we couldn't see any other ones in any direction.
We saw people on the opposite side and asked if they had come from a trail. Nope, they had gotten there the hard way - up and down and criss-crossing the creek. So we figured we'd go with it and criss-cross our way upstream, which we knew headed towards the bridge we had initially gone across.
Yay! We ended up at the bottom of a beautiful falls. Ran into two other folks. Had they come from a trail? Nope, but they had a plan for getting out and back to their vehicle, which was at a different parking lot than ours. Didn't work that well for them as they returned 10-15 minutes later to try a new plan.
Our spectacular plan? To scale up the side of the gorge to the trail we knew was along the top. We figured that if we could successfully make it up the slippery mud section, we could then pull ourselves up using tree roots and rock corners as leverage until we traversed over to the rock shelves which would be relatively easy to get up. Somehow, it worked, and we made it. <sigh of relief>
What the hell is this?! Oh, we made it to the top of *that* falls but not all the way up, and we didn't have it in us at the moment to continue scaling up the gorge wall. Guess we'll keep heading upstream, criss-crossing our way across the creek as needed any way we can. . .
until we came to the next, beautiful, bigger falls! You might note how steep, again, the sides are. <deep breath> We could attempt to retrace all that we had done (which would have required us to dangerously go back down the gorge wall back by the other falls) or we could suck it up and scale up this part of the gorge.
This time we'll be going up the other side, which we knew had a blue trail at the top heading to our parking lot. I had been on the blue trail before, knew where it was, and knew just where it went. Choose your spot carefully for a steep, slippery experience.
Did I mention it was very steep and slippery? We held tightly onto anything we could find that didn't move. Surprisingly (or maybe not) a lot of things moved and slid, sometimes pretty much all the way down. Those things, we tried hard to avoid.
Every so often, we would hold onto and hug a tree tightly, take a few deep breaths, share a laugh about what we were doing, give each other words of encouragement, and plot a course for the next section of the climb up.
I suppose it's obvious that we made it up. And we immediately came upon the blue trail that would lead us home. Phew! Here's a look down from where we came on this side. We hugged, we high-fived, we cheered for our combined awesomeness.
On the way out, we looked at the trail map again and noticed this statement that was posted about the red trail. You don't say, eh?!! If nothing else, with all of the energy we expended, we'll get a good night's sleep.