Considered to be the toughest and most dangerous day hike in the Northeast, the Devil’s Path is a 24 mile roller coaster with 18,000 feet of elevation gain and loss from start to finish. We decided to tackle this monster over one weekend in mid October. Unfortunately, the monster ended up tackling us.
Evan, Chris, Eric, and I showed up Friday evening at the eastern end of the trail. We got out of the car and the first thing that hit us was the cold. Brrr! We were in for a chilly night. We night hiked about 2 miles to the first campsite so that we could have an early start Saturday morning. When we got to the campsite there was a fire roaring and two hikers out for a boys weekend were there to greet us. We ended up chatting for a bit before settling down for the night. Hikers always have the best stories.
It’s so hard to get out of the sleeping bag on cold mornings. Three more members were due to join us Saturday, but with no cell service, we had no way of knowing what their timeline was. Eric decided to hike back to the trailhead to meet them, and Evan, Chris, and I hiked ahead, hoping that the other group would be able to catch up to us later on.
And then the fun started.
We all knew that the elevation change would be the difficult part of this trail, but I do not think that any of us realized just how crazy 18,000 feet of up and down really is. On most trails that I have hiked, there is usually a steep climb, but then you walk along the relatively flat ridge line for a while. Not the Devil’s Path. As soon as you are done with a steep, and I mean STEEP, uphill, get ready for a steep downhill and then do that 5+ more times. There were points where I had to take my pack off and drop it down a rock face in order to then climb down the face myself. Scramble is now my middle name!
Due to the difficulty of the trail, our pace was much slower than anticipated. However, the other group had the same difficulty, so they did not end up catching up to us until late in the day. Now as a group of 7, we hiked well into darkness and finally decided to call it a day once we reached a relatively flat area at the bottom of one last steep downhill. We made a stealth campsite off the trail, but since it was pitch black at this point, we really had no idea where we were.
And then it started to snow.
We set up our tents, unrolled our sleeping bags, shoved as much food in as we could, set up our bear bag, and passed out. It was a bitter cold night and Eric and I were using our old summer sleeping bags rated to 40 and 50 degrees. We purchased 17 degree bags shortly after this trip and have been warm ever since.
Signs of life emerged from snow covered tents Sunday morning. As we walked out into the brisk morning air, we realized that we were only about 15 feet from the trail and 50 feet from a road. Who knew we were so close to civilization! It turns out that we were right across the street from the Devil’s Tombstone Campsite which was unfortunately closed for the season.
We had completed the toughest part of the trail, the eastern section, but it took a lot out of some of our group, so we decided against attempting the western section. Eric, Evan, and Chris left their packs and jogged an abridged version of the trail to get the car at the other end. The rest of us packed up camp and waited by a fire for the rest of the group to return.
As tough as the Devil’s Path was, it just made me want to train harder. Climbing those uphills brought us to some magnificent views of the fall foliage in the Catskills. I would love to make it to a place where my fitness level does not hinder my ability to take in beautiful sights. Until next time Devil’s Path. Until next time…