May in the Catskills

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…

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May in the Catskills

Hikin’ with Lichen

There are times to go fast and times to go slow.  Recently I headed off for the Catskills with the goal of bagging a few more peaks for my record of barefoot ascents.  It had rained earlier in the morning and was still cloudy, but the rain had let up, the winds had calmed, and the temperature hovered in the mid-50s — conditions which encourage a person to relax, move at a more leisurely pace, and take in the sights.  In no particular hurry, I was sauntering up the gravel road that leads to the saddle between Bearpen and Vly mountains, looking down at the ground to avoid stepping on sharp rocks, when I noticed a small green ball of puff lying on the ground.

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Hikin’ with Lichen

Crescent Moon Over Bearpen Mountain

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.

moon
Photo credit: Tom Bushey (photo taken on the same night)

Continue reading “Crescent Moon Over Bearpen Mountain”

Crescent Moon Over Bearpen Mountain