Random Notes – Fall Hikes

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”

Random Notes – Fall Hikes

Warming up to John Muir

In a previous blog post, I expressed skepticism about John Muir’s message.  Both nature and humanity are expressions of God’s love, he had written, but it was pretty clear he didn’t care for humanity’s towns, cities, factories, and social conventions.  In some of his most famous quotations, he described nature as a place of “refuge” from the worries of everyday life, with the “healing power” to cure the wounds of society.  The wilderness was a source of beauty that “cleans and soothes and warms” and a place for “repose,” “pure rest,” and “sleep.”  As a runner, I had trouble relating to these metaphors and found the message a little preachy.

But then I read a comment by John Burroughs, America’s most popular nature-writer during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Burroughs lived in New York’s Catskill Mountains, on the other side of the country from Muir’s beloved Yosemite, but the two men had met during a trip to Alaska, and while their personalities were quite different, they shared many values, respected each other’s work, and became friends.

A unique character — greater talker than as a writer — he loved personal combat and shone in it.  He hated writing and composed with difficulty, though his books have charm of style; but his talk came easily and showed him at his best.

— John Burroughs journal entry 1915

Based on this assessment, I needed to give Muir another chance.  So I picked up a book called The Wild Muir:  Twenty Two of John Muir’s Greatest Adventures, which contained first-person accounts of some his most interesting exploits.  And now that I was hearing him talk (so to speak) instead of preach, I got a much better sense of the man….

Continue reading “Warming up to John Muir”

Warming up to John Muir

Peekamoose Mountain — Barefoot

Emboldened by success climbing to the Piz Boe Alpine Lodge barefoot, I resolved to tackle a mountain in the Catskills, despite the notoriously steep, rugged terrain and rocky trails.  Hesitant to take on this adventure alone, I recruited another barefoot runner to join me, namely Odie the Labradoodle.

Our destination would be the summit of Peekamoose Mountain, a 3,843-foot peak, which stands like a sentinel along the Catskills’ southern ramparts.   We left bright and early, having heard stories of congestion in the area.  One of America’s “best swimming holes” is situated on the Rondout Creek, whose source lies on the mountain’s shoulder.  This was once a local secret, but the word’s gotten out, and now on nice weekends crowds of visitors converge on the narrow road that leads to the Peekamoose trailhead.

We arrived around 8:30 AM and secured a parking spot, just a few seconds ahead of three carloads of visitors who were evidently bound for the swimming hole.  We didn’t hang around, but immediately headed up the steep trail, stepping over a couple bags of trash that hadn’t made it into a dumpster stationed nearby.  But after a few yards, all signs of civilization were left behind.

And now it was time for the sandals to come off — and for me to discover whether climbing a rocky mountain trail barefoot was really such a great idea.

Continue reading “Peekamoose Mountain — Barefoot”

Peekamoose Mountain — Barefoot