East coast naturalist John Burroughs once wrote, “To learn something new, take the path you took yesterday.” With this thought in mind, I returned recently to Peekamoose Mountain, one of my favorites in the Catskills, and a peak whose trail I’ve taken many times. On this occasion, the plan was to survey the bushwhack from Peekamoose to Lone Mountain, so that I can improve my time when I next attempt the Catskill 35, as well as experience the sights and sounds of a beautiful late summer day.
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.