With respect to completing the Grid for September, I was full of valiant intention, prepared to squeeze hikes in at odd hours, take the month’s last week off entirely, whatever it would take — but there was still the sore ankle to contend with. So I settled for a 6.6-mile round-trip to Panther Mountain, at night since that was the available window, and instead of covering a lot of ground, I’d look and listen and ponder.
The fourth edition of the SRT Run took place September 15-16, 2017 with nearly 200 registered participants across all divisions, up 35% from the year before. The SRT Run has a minimalist format, meaning there are no aid stations (we don’t provide food or water) and no supplemental course markings. As one participant put it, “they don’t coddle the runners.” But the truth is, the runners don’t need a lot of hand-holding. At the start for each division, steely determination was evident in their faces, and then once moving, exhilaration, and when finally at the finish, relief. And maybe there were some points in between where it was necessary to grit the teeth. Results included three new course records, countless personal bests, at least one first-time ultramarathon finish, and remarkably a runner who completed the 30-mile division barefoot — and there were also some disappointments because the weather was hot, the trail is rugged, and the mountains, unyielding.
Organizers created this event to celebrate a magical trail that crosses the entire length of the Shawangunk Mountains, or the “Gunks” as they are called, an area identified by the Nature Conservancy as “one of Earth’s last great places.” By promoting awareness of the SRT, we hope to build support for further conservation. Continue reading “2017 SRT Race Director’s Report”
The goal was not just to bag three peaks for the Grid, but also to practice “natural navigation” i.e., moving straight through virgin forest without using map, compass, or GPS (although these would be carried just in case). Glancing at the map, we all agreed that the bushwhack up to Balsam Cap, although long, would be relatively straightforward, all we’d need to do was follow a twisting ridge….
With September’s Grid looking pretty sparsely populated (only 4 of 35 peaks complete), there would be a lot to do this month. To get the work off to a quick start, I hatched a plan for a night hike, which would entail driving up to the Catskills after work on the evening of August 31st, with the goal of climbing two peaks during the early morning hours of September 1st. Night hiking is not my preferred mode of operation, but it’s something I’ve done on occasion when commitments take up the daylight hours. The next day being the Friday before a holiday weekend, hopefully things would be quiet at work.
In a recent post on lichens, I quoted from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself: “I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.” I also mentioned that Whitman’s poetry echoes 13th-century Japanese Zen Master Dogen, who wrote: “There is a world of sentient beings in a blade of grass.” These sages question the modern propositions that big is more impressive than small, that sentience is only a human quality, that loafing around is a waste of time.
My last climb for August would be Windham High Peak, and as I began to plan the hike, I suddenly recalled that unlike many Catskill mountains, the path to Windham is lined with grass. There would be, it seemed, the opportunity to achieve three goals with one hike: to reach the summit, to observe the grasses along the way (and perhaps identify a species or two), and to reflect on Whitman’s message.
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.
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….