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:

Continue reading “Notes from Recent Catskill Hikes”

Notes from Recent Catskill Hikes

Five Late Spring Summits

With a sore ankle slowing me down and limited windows of time, it wasn’t going to be possible to complete the Grid for June, but if I could get a few more peaks done now, then there’d be less work next year.  Meanwhile, with the weather finally warming, it would be a wonderful time to explore the mountains and experience the changing conditions of late spring.

Indeed, the variability of the natural environment is one aspect of its beauty.  The east coast nature-writer John Burroughs commented that you cannot have good without evil, health without sickness, or pleasure without pain.  Applying this philosophy to spring in the Catskills implies you cannot truly appreciate a cool breeze on a warm afternoon without suffering the humidity, haze, and insects that also come with spring.  In any case, whatever the mountains might have in store for me would beat the climate-controlled office environment where I spend most of my time.

Continue reading “Five Late Spring Summits”

Five Late Spring Summits

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….

Continue reading “Bushwhacking the Neversink”

Bushwhacking the Neversink

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…

Continue reading “May in the Catskills”

May in the Catskills

Green Mountains Walking

In his book “The Practice of the Wild,” Gary Snyder quotes from the writings of 13th century Japanese Zen Master Eihei Dogen (1200-1253).  One quotation in particular from Dogen’s Mountains and Waters Sutra caught my attention:

Mountains’ walking is just like human walking. Accordingly, do not doubt mountains’ walking even though it does not look the same as human walking.

— Dogen

What could Dogen have meant, I wondered, by mountains’ “walking”?

There seemed no better way to answer this question than to head out to the Catskill Mountains and with some luck catch them in the act of walking.  And so, with a shout for Odie, off we went.

Continue reading “Green Mountains Walking”

Green Mountains Walking

Cold Snow, Warm Feet

I was supposed to join a hike in Harriman but discovered at the last minute that Odie the Labradoodle wouldn’t be welcome.  It wasn’t personal: some groups have developed policies, out of respect to certain members, that limit who can accompany a group hike.  So Odie and I headed north instead, for our first spring hike in the Catskills.

Continue reading “Cold Snow, Warm Feet”

Cold Snow, Warm Feet

Finding Black Birch on the Long Brown Path

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:

20170220_110829

Continue reading “Finding Black Birch on the Long Brown Path”

Finding Black Birch on the Long Brown Path