Lichens of Slide Mountain

“I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass,” wrote Walt Whitman (1818-1892) in his poem, The Song of Myself, an eerie echo of a theme in 13th century Japanese Zen literature:

There is a world of sentient beings in clouds. There is a world of sentient beings in the air. There is a world of sentient beings in fire…. There is a world of sentient beings in a blade of grass.

— Mountains and Wates Sutra, Eihei Dogen (1200-1253)

Could there be a world of sentient beings in a piece of lichen?

Last weekend my friend Steve Aaron and I had the privilege of accompanying nature photographer John Franklin on an expedition to Slide Mountain.  John is working on a book about New York lichens, and he kindly shared many observations with us as well as some spectacular photographs which are showcased below together with some apropos quotations from Henry David Thoreau.

Lichen 12 (1 of 1)
Nature Photographer John Franklin in action.  Credit:  Steve Aaron Photography

Thank you, John!

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Lichens of Slide Mountain

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.

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Green Mountains Walking

Plateau in the Snow

Spring arrived on March 21st, and what a relief to put aside spikes and snowshoes and head to the mountains unencumbered.  Rain was in the forecast, but with a new Goretex jacket and plenty of warm gear, this didn’t faze me in the least.  Friday evening of March 31st saw me on the road to the Catskills for a nighttime attempt on the eastern mountains of the Devil’s Path. Continue reading “Plateau in the Snow”

Plateau in the Snow

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.

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Cold Snow, Warm Feet

Notes from a hike: Nightime bushwhack of Panther and Slide

Men talk glibly enough about moonshine, as if they knew its qualities very well, and despised them; as owls might talk of sunshine.

— Henry David Thoreau, “Night and Moonlight,” 1883

  • Met Alan and Amy for dinner in Phoenicia, and then the three of us proceeded to the Woodland Valley Campground.  It was 8:15 and pitch black, with rain in the forecast, which at elevation might well manifest itself as heavy sleet driven by gale-force winds, and accordingly I’d warned Alan and Amy to prepare for the worst — but they are experienced hikers and were totally unfazed.  After gearing up, we headed out on the trail in high spirits.

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Notes from a hike: Nightime bushwhack of Panther and Slide

Views of and from Peekamoose

To complete the Grid requires climbing the Catskills’ thirty-five high peaks during every calendar month, and part of the purpose of this exercise is to observe new aspects of the mountains at different times of year and under different conditions.  In this regard, last weekend’s trip up Peekamoose Mountain was productive:  clear skies and leafless forests helped me better grasp the topography of the mountain and surrounding areas.

(Comments below refer to this screenshot taken from the NY-NJ Trail Conference Catskills map installed on my phone.)

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Peekamoose Mountain and surrounding areas

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Views of and from Peekamoose

Halcott, from a different angle

I’d climbed Halcott several times from the west, but driving along route 42 one day I noticed a small parking area on Halcott’s eastern flank, where the road cuts through a steep-walled mountain gorge.  This area is labeled on the map as “Deep Notch,” and appropriately so:  the mountain walls rise 1,500 feet to the summit of Halcott’s neighbor, Sleeping Lion Mountain, reaching grades in some points of 100% (equivalent to a 45-degree incline).  But if you could make it up to Sleeping Lion, it occurred to me, a long, flat ridge would take you straight to Halcott.  This was intriguing…

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Halcott, from a different angle