Sunday was beautiful: sunny, calm, warm (in the 50s!) — a respite from the snow, ice, gusting winds, and heavy cloud cover more typical of February in New York. A great day to be alive and outdoors.
Driving back to the city with Odie the Labradoodle, I pulled over at a trailhead on the Long Path, figuring we’d sneak in a two- or three-mile hike. The snow had largely melted, leaving only scattered patches, so I took off sandals and stepped gingerly onto the path and found it to be a manageable mix of dirt and mud that had warmed up nicely in the morning sun. Odie scampered ahead, while I sauntered along, and soon we were clambering up the lichen-crusted granite rock face that marks the summit of Long Mountain, a 1,155-foot peak in Harriman State Park. Carved into the rock is a memorial to Raymond Torrey:
Continue reading “Finding Black Birch on the Long Brown Path” →
Time is short and so in lieu of writing up a narrative, here are some notes and images from a recent traverse of Graham, Balsam Lake, Hunter, East Rusk, Rusk, and SW Hunter — 27 miles that left me tired and hungry, but which contained several memorable moments, thanks to glorious February sunshine, dramatic winds, and the unavoidable adventures associated with nighttime bushwhacking.
The pleasure and value of every walk or journey we take may be doubled to us by carefully noting down the impression it makes upon us….It was not till after I got home that I really went to Maine, or to the Adirondacks, or to Canada. Out of the chaotic and nebulous impressions which these expeditions gave me, I evolved the real experience. There is hardly anything that does not become much more in the telling than in the thinking or in the feeling.
— John Burroughs
Continue reading “Notes from a hike” →
Driving up to the Catskills early one morning, it was another dim day, with overcast skies smothering the light and fresh snow blotting out the subtle colors of the winter landscape. The Shawangunk Mountains slid by in the rear view mirror, slate gray and dusky taupe. The Catskills’ southern mountains looked like a bank of fog. The scene lacked energy, but this doesn’t matter when there are mountains to climb….
Continue reading “Losing Traction” →
The east coast naturalist John Burroughs was a passionate observer of the forests, animals, and especially the birds of his native Catskill Mountains. He wrote unabashedly, “I find I see, almost without effort, nearly every bird within sight in the field or wood I pass through (a flit of the wing, a flirt of the tail are enough, though the flickering leaves do all conspire to hide them).”
This was no idle boast. Theodore Roosevelt, himself a great birder, acknowledged Burroughs’ mastery in his 1905 book, Outdoor Pastimes of an American Hunter, where he wrote that “No bird escaped John Burroughs’ eye; no bird note escaped his ear.”
As a Burroughs fan and someone trying to improve his own skills, I was thrilled to discover recently that the master had left behind some advice on the art of observation. Several of his essays contain how-to tips, including “The Art of Seeing Things,” “Sharp Eyes” and The Gospel of Nature, which I’ve tried to summarize in this blog post.
But first a few words of caution, in the form of a caveat Burroughs offered his readers: “I have as little hope of being able to tell the reader how to see things as I would have in trying to tell him how to fall in love or to enjoy his dinner. Either he does or he does not, and that is about all there is of it. Some people seem born with eyes in their heads, and others with buttons or painted marbles.”
Continue reading “Burroughs on “Observing”” →
With commitments during the day, the only window to sneak out to the Catskills was at night. It was a little after 5 PM when Odie and I arrived at a parking spot deep in the Schoharie Valley. Soon we were heading up a steep snow-covered lane… Continue reading “Moon Shadows” →
On the drive up to the Catskills, the early morning clouds were tinged with red, and then as the road snaked higher into the mountains, a burning eyeball appeared in the rear view mirror, a circle of fire smoldering between mountain ridge and lowering sky; it was like someone had opened a furnace door. But on reaching the trailhead, all was gray again, and snowflakes were twirling in the air.
A few minutes later, my friend Amy arrived. Her friend Serguey was supposed to meet us, too, but he was running late and had texted her not to wait, so the two of us set off. My weekend goal was to bag six peaks, four of them off trail, and these would be first-ever winter bushwhacks for both Amy and me…
[Author’s note: after writing this blog post, I recalled that my first ever winter bushwhack was almost a year earlier, when some friends and I attempted to complete the Nine.]
Continue reading “First-ever Winter Bushwhacks” →