Bushwhacking the Neversink

I’d spent all week at my work desk, focused and diligent, but deep in my heart the Catskills were calling, and every so often I’d pull out the map.  The weather for Saturday looked good, and my weekend plans steadily became more ambitious:  first to bushwhack up the Neversink River to its headwaters below Cornell Mountain, next to visit Wittenberg and taken in the splendid views from its summit ledge, then to return along a pathless ridge covered in some of the Catskills’ most ferocious fir thickets, and somewhere at some point to pitch a tent.  And on Sunday there’d be time to do more.

But upon arrival late Saturday morning at the remote Denning trailhead, and despite a big breakfast and double espresso, my enthusiasm had cooled.  A visit to the doctor’s had yielded a surprise: the sore ankle that had plagued me on and off for the last year was not a strained tendon after all, but rather a minor stress factor.  This was good news, because the prognosis was better, and hiking (although not running) was still allowed….but, at the same time, the stress fracture was only one of a number of recent injuries.  Perhaps there was a message here, that 54-year old runners should be a little more mindful of bodily wear.

In any case, it was time to get going, and so I marched out purposefully, feeling a bit like a knight in armor that maybe once was shining but now was somewhat dented and rusty, and instead of carrying a shield, I was wearing three shirts to ward off the morning chill and shoes with inserts to support the ankle….

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Bushwhacking the Neversink

Seeking Wildness

In The Practice of The Wild, Beat poet, Zen student, and environmentalist Gary Snyder writes of stepping off the beaten path. This metaphor brings to mind the 19th century Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau, who advocated for “absolute freedom and wildness,” and who strongly preferred sauntering through the woods to walking the public road.  These authors have attracted a large following among nature-lovers, environmentalists, and even anarchists, many of whom crave independence from the constraints of modern society, and some of whom advocate for “rewilding” or a return to ancestral lifestyles.  But a close reading of Snyder and Thoreau finds little support for “human wildness,” i.e., a state of being free of social constraint.  Rather, they portray wildness as a fleeting experience and use the word more as a metaphor for creativity and originality.  Once we understand this point, we find that the key to absolute freedom is not to be found in nature, but rather in the spirit of self-reliance and self-discipline – or put differently, the wild must indeed be “practiced.”

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Gary Snyder

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Seeking Wildness

May in the Catskills

The mission was to complete the remaining twelve peaks needed to scratch the month of May off the Grid, and accordingly I arranged to take a week off of work.  But the Rock The Ridge 50-miler left me with a sore ankle, which required a reduction in speed and mileage.  In Henry David Thoreau’s essay, “Walking,” he used the word “saunter” to describe the act of sallying forth into the woods, which was for him the adventure and escape of his day, and he likened this daily saunter to the motion of a stream flowing downhill to the ocean:

The saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea.

— Henry David Thoreau, “Walking”

To complete the Grid for May, I’d need to saunter instead of run — and rather than pushing myself, I’d need to “flow” through the mountains, just like a stream, except I’d be going uphill as well as down…

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May in the Catskills

Sights of Spring

Thoreau wrote about the brilliant colors of New England’s fall foliage, but I wondered, what about winter?  And I found such a wild mix of impressions during my winter runs:  sun dazzling against fresh rime ice, clouds rolling in and smothering the world in dim light — one hike was a slog through sand-like snow that spilled out from underfoot and dribbled down the rocks, another a desperate scramble over sheets of ice, and then a storm rolled in with pelting sleet and lightning.  Even at night there was a huge variety of sights: solitary farm lights sprinkled across the darkened plains, snowflakes sparkling in the headlamp’s beam, moonlight shining on snow-packed trails so bright you could run without lights, or the crescent moon rising above a distant mountain ridge and glowing in such a strange mix of orange and purple it seemed like a hue that’d never been seen before.

But now it was spring — and everything was changing so quickly, it seemed if you blinked you might miss it all.

So I kept my eyes open as best I could, and here’s a collection of spring impressions, things I noticed while hiking the Long Path along the Hudson River and in the Catskills.

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Sights of Spring

Discovering John Burroughs and Walt Whitman on the Long Brown Path

This post is based on talk I gave at the John Burroughs Association May 20, 2017 Slabsides Open House, assisted by my friends Lisa Zucker Glick, who read the John Burroughs’ quotations, and Jim Porter, who read the words of Walt Whitman.  For additional citations and references, please see “Running the Long Path.”

An edited video of the talk is available here:  https://vimeo.com/218372727

For more information on the John Burroughs Association, please visit johnburroughsassociation.org

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Joan Burroughs welcoming visitors to the Slabsides Open House

 

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Discovering John Burroughs and Walt Whitman on the Long Brown Path

Rock The Ridge and the Number Three

By guest author Lisa Zucker Glick

On May 6, 2017 I participated for the third time in the Rock the Ridge 50 miler.  This event is a   fundraiser for the Mohonk Preserve.  It has a generous cutoff of 24 hours. The event is designed for the average runner/ hiker to be able to complete the entire distance.  There is a registration fee as well as a fundraising minimum.  I chose not to fundraise and pay the amount myself.  These are my trails in my backyard.  I know the  importance of  protecting and caring for this great gift of the Mohonk Preserve.

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Rock The Ridge and the Number Three

Rock The Ridge 2017 Co-Director’s Report

As co-director of Rock The Ridge it’s a great thrill for me to see the participants moving through the mountains and especially the expressions on their faces when they reach the finish.  Even more remarkable is their good work raising funds for the Mohonk Preserve (New York’s largest not-for-profit nature preserve and host for the event), the Michael J. Fox Foundation, the NY-NJ Trail Conference, and other causes.  With close to $250,000 raised in 2017 alone, the event is now approaching a cumulative five-year total of one million dollars, an outcome which brings a mix of joy and astonishment to the organizers.

As co-director it is also my job to run in the event, so that organizers have a clear understanding of the participant experience.  In past years, this has been great fun, for example, in 2015 when I won the master’s division and set a personal record.  But as one gets a little older, fifty miles gets a little tougher, and in 2016 my time was quite a bit slower.

As I stepped up to the starting line this year, the only goal was to finish.  This would be my first ultramarathon since Rock The Ridge the year before, thanks to a long series of injuries.  Two weeks before the race, I was feeling good, but then with one week to go the posterior tibialis tendon (which runs underneath the ankle on the inner side of the foot) flared up once again.

But even if my strategy was to take it easy, there might still be ways to make this an interesting and challenging event.  I could run the fifty miles without taking any calories, and I’d see how far I could get without drinking.

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Rock The Ridge 2017 Co-Director’s Report