With a Nor’easter blowing in, it was touch and go, but I managed just barely to complete the Grid for October, and along the way was the chance to explore some off-trail ridges. These are magical places that make you feel like you’re walking across a suspension bridge, or the battlements of a castle. They give you a break from the claustrophobic tangles that blanket much of the Catskills, reveal the wild and soaring topography of the mountains, let you revel in space and light.
The fall foliage this year has disappointed, possibly due to warm temperatures persisting into late October, but on the drive up to the Catskills, the maples growing high atop the Shawangunk ridge were glowing in such exotic shades of yellow, orange, and red — and creating such a kaleidoscopic effect that it took a conscious effort to focus on the winding road.
It was time for something new. I could hardly count the times I’ve done the 8-mile loop from Balsam Lake Mountain (BLM) to Graham and back, starting and ending at the Dry Brook Ridge parking area. OK, I’ll try: three times this year, once last year, and a long time ago I took my son Philip, then five years old, on approximately this route for an overnight camping trip. I’ve also come at Graham/BLM from Doubletop, which entails a difficult bushwhack across a steep divide; most recently in August 2016 as part of an aborted attempt to thru-hike the 35, and once the year before.
Studying the map, I’ve discovered a different route connecting these three peaks, one that circles around into a valley to the west through which the Hardenburgh Trail runs — an area I’ve never seen before….
With 232 Catskill climbs under my belt, I’m 55% of the way through the Grid. I wasn’t able to put much of a dent in September, only 43% complete — there were too many conflicts, like the SRT Race and and a trip to the Adirondacks — but October is coming together nicely with 74% done and plenty of time left in the month.
Here are a few notes from recent hikes, the purpose being to document the experiences before they’re forgotten…. Continue reading “Random Notes – Fall Hikes”
My son Philip was in town for a couple of weeks before resuming college, and since he’s an Army ROTC cadet and expected to be able to navigate with map and compass, I offered to take him out to the Catskills for some practice.
Our goal would be to start from a parking spot in Peck Hollow, a place I’d never been to before, and then undertake an 8.5-mile bushwhack loop to the summits of North Dome and Sherrill and back, with Philip leading the way, me keeping an eye on the GPS just in case, and Odie along to supervise the both of us.
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….
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.