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.
I was dimly aware that people had climbed Wittenberg from a trailhead or parking area on Moonhaw Road in the tiny hamlet of West Shokan.
The name “Moonhaw” had caught my attention. I pictured moon-glow in a dark forest, and then imagined a donkey braying. “Moon” and “haw” are two familiar-sounding syllables, yet the sense conveyed was of some kind of atavistic lunar exuberance, an experience or feeling that would be completely alien in a modern, urban, high-tech world.
The Internet yielded no clues to the origin or significance of Moonhaw. You would pronounce it, I thought, like this: “moon-HAAAW.”
And so this became the focus for my next Catskills adventure…
Men talk glibly enough about moonshine, as if they knew its qualities very well, and despised them; as owls might talk of sunshine.
— Henry David Thoreau, “Night and Moonlight,” 1883
Met Alan and Amy for dinner in Phoenicia, and then the three of us proceeded to the Woodland Valley Campground. It was 8:15 and pitch black, with rain in the forecast, which at elevation might well manifest itself as heavy sleet driven by gale-force winds, and accordingly I’d warned Alan and Amy to prepare for the worst — but they are experienced hikers and were totally unfazed. After gearing up, we headed out on the trail in high spirits.
Driving north on the Thruway, I peered through the windshield, seeking a glimpse of the Catskill Mountains, curious how their appearance today would compare to past trips. But a layer of clouds had spread across the sky and blocked the sun, and when the mountains’ southern escarpment finally came into view, it was just a dark gray wall beneath a gray horizon. A dim and gloomy scene, with little contrast or detail, lacking energy, listless. My heart sank. Gone was the dazzling light I’d experienced in late December, when a fresh cover of snow and rime ice flashed brilliantly under clear skies. Today it seemed better to sit by the fire, drink coffee, read a book — yet I was determined to climb several mountains this weekend, even if it was pitch black: surely there would be something to see and feel. Continue reading “Finding Energy in the Dark”→
Following an unsuccessful attempt on the Catskills 9, I returned two weeks later to bag the three peaks I had missed, namely Slide, Cornell, and Wittenberg. It was six miles barefoot over steep and rocky trails, and then six miles return in Luna sandals, but a relatively uneventful journey without physical or mental drama. It was also a chance to appreciate the mountains, make new discoveries, and enjoy the signs of spring.