Three Miles to KHP

The Grid entails climbing the Catskills’ thirty-five high peaks in each calendar month, and on the drive home from the Adirondacks I planned to swing by and knock out Kaaterskill High Peak, one of two climbs left for August.  But as I pulled into a parking spot on Clum Hill Road, the project seemed suddenly pointless.  When runners cover ground with no particular training goals in mind, they call these “junk miles,” and now that term seemed like the right description for this hike, whose only purpose was to scratch a name off a list.

It didn’t help that Kaaterskill is one of my least favorites.  There’s a long hike in on a wet, rocky path, then you have to cut through the woods to reach a snowmobile trail that’s in truly atrocious condition, and the summit is guarded by steep rock scrambles.  Clum Hill Road offered a slightly shorter route, but I’d never been here before.

I got out of the car, glanced at the overcast sky, and didn’t bother changing into hiking clothes or grabbing my pack, didn’t bring any water, and forgot my compass, but headed out instead wearing a polo shirt received as a birthday present and a clean pair of shorts.

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Three Miles to KHP

Three more ADK high peaks

Emboldened by the successful completion of Rocky Peak and Giant Mountain, I laid out plans for an overnight hike that would bag me three more of the ADK High Peaks:  Wright, Algonquin, and Iroquois, with an option to bag a fourth, Mt. Colden, if all was going well.

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Three more ADK high peaks

Giant Mountain

Last August, my friend Dave invited me on a trip to the Adirondacks, and I had so much fun in these gorgeous mountains that here I am back again a year later and this time spending a full week.

In recent months I’ve been doing a great deal of barefoot hiking, in part because of a running injury (barefoot hiking is very slow, and this lets a sore tendon heal) and also because it’s a lot of fun (every step is a small adventure).  On a recent barefoot tramp in the Catskills I ran into a hiker who told me of a woman who had completed the 46 Adirondack High Peaks barefoot.  Predictably, that comment got me thinking, maybe that was an appropriate goal for me, too…

Arriving in the Daks a few days before Dave and his gang, I decided to try one of the high peaks without shoes, and feeling ambitious, I chose the 16-mile round-trip from New Russia Trailhead to the summit of Giant Mountain, which if I made it would also bag me Rocky Peak along the way.  According to the ADK Club website, this route is “difficult” due to the mileage and also 5,300 feet in cumulative elevation gain, but it is also described as “probably the best hike in all the Adirondacks” — and that comment seemed very intriguing.

Here are a few notes from the hike….

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Giant Mountain

August in the Catskills

I’ve been reading a very good biography of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and that’s been encouraging me to think about and try to articulate why I seek to spend so much time on the trails:

  • As modern society is becoming more and more digital, I want to stay physically active, as it seems to me mind and body completely are intertwined, so one can’t be healthy and happy without the other
  • As the world is becoming more and more artificial, I want to spend time in nature, which seems like the real source of joy and exhilaration, of which media and other content are but faint imitations
  • As people are becoming more and more interconnected, I want to cultivate an attitude of self-reliance, not meaning that I shun relationships, but rather how can you interact meaningfully with others if you can’t stand on your own two feet

Which brings me back to the Grid, which is the goal of climbing all 35 of the Catskills’ high peaks in every calendar month.  Heading into August, I was in pretty good shape, with 27 done and only 8 left to go, thanks in large part to my August 2016 attempt to thru-hike the entire 35.

Here are some notes from a recent hike where I completed 6 of the remaining 8 together with my friend Alan D.

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August in the Catskills

Moonhaw

I was dimly aware that people had climbed Wittenberg from a trailhead or parking area on Moonhaw Road in the tiny hamlet of West Shokan.

The name “Moonhaw” had caught my attention.  I pictured moon-glow in a dark forest, and then imagined a donkey braying.  “Moon” and “haw” are two familiar-sounding syllables, yet the sense conveyed was of some kind of atavistic lunar exuberance, an experience or feeling that would be completely alien in a modern, urban, high-tech world.

The Internet yielded no clues to the origin or significance of Moonhaw.  You would pronounce it, I thought, like this:  “moon-HAAAW.”

And so this became the focus for my next Catskills adventure…

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Moonhaw

Notes from Recent Catskill Hikes

Half-way through July, and I’ve completed just over half of the Catskill high peaks, many at night due to limited windows of opportunity during the day, but the rest of the month is tighter, and time is running out.  The Grid has become a burden, and I feel a little like Sisyphus, doomed to push a rock up the mountain only to see it rolling back down again.  But without burdens, life would be unbearably light, which is why Camus wrote that one must imagine Sisyphus happy.

Without enough time to write full articles on each climb, here are some notes from recent hikes, mostly for my own purposes in keeping track of the Grid Experience:

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Notes from Recent Catskill Hikes

Racing the Sun

The goal for Friday evening was to get a climb done before dark, and Plateau Mountain seemed like a good candidate — and if I got moving quickly enough, it might be possible to reach Orchard Point, a sandstone ledge that juts out high above the valley floor, in time to witness the sun’s last rays.  But my stomach objected to the prospect of skipping dinner, and thus the early start was delayed while I grabbed a quick dinner, and by the time I’d finished eating, stopped for gas, and made the hour-long drive to the trailhead, the valley was already filled with shadows.  There was still an hour until sunset, and thus a chance of making it to Orchard Point before the day was gone, but this is one of the Catskills’ more daunting climbs:  the 1.3 mile trail rises 1,500 feet for an average grade of 22%, and the middle part is even steeper, averaging 44%, with the path in some sections leaping up crude staircases fashioned from blocks of stone.  This would be a race with the setting sun.

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Racing the Sun