In April 2021, I reached my 7,000th mile of hiking, running, and walking barefoot, accumulated over roughly seven years. Now — five months later — the mileage stands at 8,034. I seem to be picking up the pace. Which supports the thesis that practice makes you stronger (at least until age catches up). The real thesis, though, is that life is better with more nature and less technology.
Over the last few years, I’ve spent a lot of time climbing the Catskill High Peaks, traditionally defined as summits of 3,500 feet in elevation or higher. Not only have I climbed each of these, I’ve done each in every month of the year, which is called the Grid.
The Catskills All Trails Challenge is a different kind of exercise. It requires you to complete every hiking trail in the region, which total 347 miles in length. I embarked on this challenge with curiosity, for it would take me out to places I’d never seen before.
Since I’d been hiking and running in the Catskills for many years, I already had close to half the trails complete. Over the last year, I’ve made several trips in pursuit of this new goal, which has pushed my completion level to 66%. It’s been slow progress. Many of the trails are remote. Sometimes the trails I need are quite short, but require a long walk to reach a junction I’d never taken before. While there are some loops, most often I have to go out-and-back, which means it takes twice the required distance to complete the trail.
Like any challenge, this exercise provides structure, a specific goal, camaraderie, and a sense of meaning. I’m looking forward to earning the certificate of completion, which I’ll add to my collection of finisher medals and other trinkets. But the real question is what I’ll experience by going out to new places. What I’m finding so far is that the All Trails Challenge is a different experience from peak-bagging. Instead of rocky summits with distant views, I’m discovering lovely forests and meadows and so much water — ponds, lakes, streams, bogs, and falls.
What follows are a handful of images and some observations from trips taken over the last year.
With all the peaks for May complete, the Catskill Grid is on pause until the 1st of June. With some time on my hands, I was thinking the other day about the Catskills All Trails Hiking Challenge, also known as Redlining the Catskills, a project where you keep track of all your hikes and runs until you’ve covered every step of the 345 miles of official trail. On a whim, I downloaded the list and started checking off the trails I’d completed as part of the Grid and other adventures, and perhaps that was a mistake, or put differently, these projects are slippery slopes and even if they don’t sound compelling at first, once the spreadsheet is created, then you feel the force of gravity starting to tug.
With respect to the Redlining project, my calculations showed around 40% of the 345 miles complete. There are a number of connector trails and side-loops I’ve never explored, particularly out west.
With the forecast calling for a beautiful spring day, a glance at the map identified Ashokan High Point as a place I’d never been with a trail that wasn’t too long and a trailhead that was only an hour’s drive away. So Odie and I piled into the car and off we went….