Winter Camping at Devil’s Kitchen Lean-to

The Devil’s Kitchen Lean-to is located in the northeastern Catskills and is easily accessible from the Prediger Road Trailhead or the Platte Clove Road Trailhead.  This route, along the Long Path from Platte Clove, is approximately a mile shorter and at 1.1 miles  in one direction, makes for quick access and an easy to intermediate hike.

The Trailhead for the Long Path is located on Platte Clove Road in the Catskill Center’s Platte Clove Preserve.  There is a pull-off at the Trailhead, but you should drive east a few hundred feet along Platte Clove Road, turn at the “Forest Preserve Parking” sign and use the lot that provides parking for the trails to the north and south of Platte Clove Road.

As we exited the vehicle temperatures were in the upper 20s with a 5mph breeze.  We quickly grabbed our backpacks and hiked up the road to the trailhead where the Long Path drops down a steep embankment, passes by a trail register and then crosses on a replica of the original post and tenon bridge that used to cross the stream.

The trail follows sections of the Old Overlook Road, which at one time provided access to the Platte Clove area from Overlook Mountain and the Woodstock area.  There was also an old hotel in Platte Clove that the road accessed and a number of older quarry roads intersected with the Old Overlook Road.  The Long Path through the preserve is marked with the blue and white Long Path trail markers.  After the bridge, the trail turns to the right to avoid the very eroded roadbed that is straight ahead.  It then climbs steadily and makes its way through a mostly hemlock forest.  After about a third of a mile, the trail rejoins the Old Overlook Road and follows that road the rest of the way.  The Devil’s Kitchen Lean-to is indicated by the “L” on the map below.

It was certainly disconcerting to be snowshoeing along what was essentially a nature trail- complete with little informational signs provided by the Catskill Center describing different tree species as well as historical artifacts, such as the Overlook Road and a bluestone quarry.  Further along, the trail crosses into the Forest Preserve and the trail markers switch from the Long Path plastic discs to the DEC plastic disks.  The trail then comes to the intersection with the red marked Devil’s Path from the Prediger Road trailhead.  Just beyond that, the trail intersects with the red marked Indian Head Trail which the Devil’s Path also follows. There is large rock quarry  just east of the trail junction with the Devil’s Path. We continued straight at both intersections, staying on the Old Overlook Road.  Just beyond the intersection with the Indian Head Trail, the Old Overlook Trail comes up on the Devil’s Kitchen Lean-to and the Cold Kill stream is just beyond.  The lean-to is an older lean-to and receives a lot of use so is not in the best shape, but it is a nice area.

As we approached the lean-to we observed multiple snowshoe tracks coming in from the Prediger Road trail.  The lean-to was occupied by three men: Jim from WDC, Seth from Paramus, NJ and Steve from Queens, NY.  They had snowshoed in on the previous afternoon and spent a blustery night in the lean-to which had snow extending about 1/3 of the way into the platform.  We chatted while they prepared for a day hike and we consumed our lunch.  Steve, Jim and Seth rented their winter camping equipment, but said they typically got out winter camping 3-4 times a season.  After lunch we discussed options for the night and decided to seek a campsite in the woods protected from the wind.  The problem was that Matt and Skip planned on staying in the lean-to; only bringing a bivy sack.

We retreated back down the trail and found a suitable location with a small stream and lots of dried wood just north of the trail junctions.  Jim and Mark set up their tents – Mark without having to consult the instructions!

Matt used his space blanket and one from Mark to build a lean-t0; he stamped out an area between two trees and sheltered his bivy and sleeping bag from the wind.  Skip laid out his bivy next to a log.

After we got our sleeping arrangements set up Matt made muffins. The technique involved an inch of water in the bottom of a cook pot that dissipated the heat from the stove.  The muffins sat on an aluminum shelf.  There is nothing better than warm baked goods while winter camping.

We accumulated a large wood pile and built a fire next to a large boulder which reflected the heat back out.  We started our fire at 4pm.  Matt, Mark and Skip cooked brats over the open flame while Jim added boiling hot water to an expired Salmon Pesto freeze dried meal. Mark lit up his tent with the LED lights.We sat around talking until 8:30pm and then turned in.  The next morning we arose at 7am, packed up and were on the trail by 8am.  We paused on the way out for the obligatory group photograph on the bridge.