A few notes from my latest Catskills hike, in this case, the ascent of Eagle and Balsam with my friend Steve Aaron, for whom these were the final two peaks in his quest to join the Catskills 3500 Club. To spare ourselves the staircase-steep climb out of McKenley Hollow, we met up Saturday morning at Rider Hollow, where we were joined by Chris Rokos, an avid hiker and volunteer maintainer on the Long Path. I’d hiked these two peaks from this trailhead on November 3, 2017, and in addition to accompanying Steve and Chris I was looking forward to repeating the same route at the same time of year and seeing what would be the same and what different — but this visit was going to be a completely new experience….
On the drive up to the Catskills, the early morning clouds were tinged with red, and then as the road snaked higher into the mountains, a burning eyeball appeared in the rear view mirror, a circle of fire smoldering between mountain ridge and lowering sky; it was like someone had opened a furnace door. But on reaching the trailhead, all was gray again, and snowflakes were twirling in the air.
A few minutes later, my friend Amy arrived. Her friend Serguey was supposed to meet us, too, but he was running late and had texted her not to wait, so the two of us set off. My weekend goal was to bag six peaks, four of them off trail, and these would be first-ever winter bushwhacks for both Amy and me…
[Author’s note: after writing this blog post, I recalled that my first ever winter bushwhack was almost a year earlier, when some friends and I attempted to complete the Nine.]