At first nothing much happened, as the trail wandered over one of Poke-O-Moonshine's wide and flat forested ledges. In fact, the trail was quite pleasant through here - open forest, small clearings with bare smooth bedrock, and a few nice but limited views out eastward to Vermont. With each passing step of flat terrain, I thought to myself that when the descent section arrived, it would surely be horrendously steep.
Finally the trail dropped off over the edge of the flat forested ledge upon which I had been hiking. And it was.... stepped. Yes, stepped. As in there were nicely-constructed rock steps that led down through the steep open forest. And then a few more sets of steps. And then a flight of wooden steps. Pretty decent so far.
Superb Rock Steps
As the descent continued, it became apparent that things had obviously improved since the time of the trip reports I had been reading. There had clearly been (a) trail work done, and (b) very likely there had been trail re-routes, for I was seeing no sign of excessive erosion - in fact, quite the opposite. My suspicions were confirmed when I came across a branch-filled laneway leading directly up through the forest - a sure sign of an old trail that has been put to rest. What a pleasant surprise then... (instead of an arduous knee-breaking experience picking one's way through eroded boulder-filled trail)
The descent continued to follow this positive theme. In between sections of well-constructed rock steps for the steep bits, a nice and uneroded forest path wound back and forth to interesting little viewpoints and rock features, showcasing the highlights of Poke-O-Moonshine's steep eastern terrain and excellent views down to the I-87 northway, which today was brilliantly lined on either side by fiery forests of color. In fact, in the whole way down, there was only one 100-yard section of rough, jumbled, unordered boulders. In all other places where the terrain was steep and rocky, fine sets of constructed rock steps made things easy.
More excellent rock steps
Back to excellent rock steps
The descent had been an unexpected treat - very enjoyable, not difficult, and not tiring. In fact, in its new current state, the shorter and steeper ascent is (in my opinion) the more enjoyable, more interesting way to climb Poke-O-Moonshine mountain. Although a traverse where you do both, like I did here, is still the most enjoyable.
It is only about a mile along US-9 between the north and south trailheads, and mostly downhill, and I quickly walked back along the road to fetch the car at the southern trailhead. Poke-O-Moonshine is an excellent choice for fall, and has some very worthwhile trails and views. Visiting was long overdue.
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Poke-O-Moonshine both trails - click map to view
Poke-O-Moonshine long and short variants - Hike Data
* : +/- 75 feet