In a post last fall, I shared a photograph taken from the summit of Twin Mountain and made the point that after years of admiring the Catskills from the vantage of the Shawangunks, I had for the first time made the reverse connection.
Last weekend I returned to Twin Mountain, but this time with my friend Steve Aaron, who is a talented landscape photographer. And this time I saw something new….
Saturday, April 23, 2016, I was running with friends in the Sam’s Point section of Minnewaska State Park, descending from High Point toward the Verkeerderkill Falls, when we spotted a distant plume of smoke. We paused and watched as the smoke billowed up from a small patch of ground and then caught the wind, blowing away to the south, then shifting back towards us. Was the trail blocked? We couldn’t tell, but thought it best to turn back.
Two days later, what had started as a pin-prick was now threatening 2,000 acres, and Rock The Ridge race director Todd Jennings and I were forced to consider an emergency re-route of the course — with only five days until the start. The problem wasn’t that the flames would threaten the runners, but rather that Minnewaska State Park was closed while the staff worked around the clock with 300 firefighters, rangers, and volunteers to contain the blaze. Hosting a race at the same time didn’t seem possible. But with two days to go, we got word that Minnewaska had approved us to proceed with the original course, even if the park was still closed. And then it rained, and the fire went out. Todd and I salute the staff for protecting thousands of acres of beautiful land and managing hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. It’s an incredibly important job, and there’s nothing easy about it.
Upon reaching a mountain peak, one may be rewarded with a sweeping vision of the land, assuming the weather is clear, something that in times past would have helped chart a course through the wilderness. But even today, when maps and GPS all but eliminate the practical value, we still experience special feelings when reaching a vantage point: surprise at the immensity of the landscape, joy in making distant connections, wonder at new sight lines, reverence for nature, humility, awe. In certain cultures, climbing mountains is part of a quest for spiritual vision.