March started out on a difficult note with four different snowstorms — which left me slogging through deep drifts, sinking up to the knees in fresh powder, toiling upwards one step at a time — just miserable hard work. On one hike, I’d set out to climb four peaks but completed only one, which put me behind schedule. As month-end began to draw near, there were seven peaks left — a feasible load — but then conference calls and meetings popped up unplanned for, and time started to get tight. Now there would be little room for error, especially when the longest, toughest hike was left for the last day of the month….
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…
With commitments during the day, the only window to sneak out to the Catskills was at night. It was a little after 5 PM when Odie and I arrived at a parking spot deep in the Schoharie Valley. Soon we were heading up a steep snow-covered lane… Continue reading “Moon Shadows”
To climb one of the Catskills’ highest peaks, barefoot, in 30 F weather, and at night – was this really a good idea?
I studied the map. Between commitments on Saturday and Sunday, there was a narrow window of opportunity. It would mean a lot of driving and little sleep, but with winter approaching, this might be one of the last chances this year to scratch another peak or two off the list.
And what could be more important than that? Over the years, I’d fallen in love with the Catskills’ rugged mountains and quiet forests. Barefoot hiking was a strategy to slow down, sharpen form, and improve balance and strength. To climb all 35 of the Catskills’ highest peaks barefoot – this had started as an idea, become a goal, and was now a priority.
During the long dark drive north, the moon lay low on the horizon, as if weighed down by the glowing crescent on its lower side. A small town, dark and derelict, passed by in the mirror, and then I was pulling over at the trailhead, the car’s clock reading 10:00 PM and the thermometer, 30 F. Behind me, the moon hovered atop a distant ridgeline, as if it had descended from space and come to rest.