Hi! This is my first letter to you as the CMC President! As you may know, at our June CMC board meeting, Rick Roberts stepped down as CMC President and I was voted to take over the position. I want to express a huge thank you to Rick Roberts, who served as the President so ably from October 2013 until now and another huge thank you to him for agreeing to serve as Vice President going forward. Whenever the club has a need, Rick is always there, often times with creative solutions to the problems at hand.
I’m thrilled that Rick will continue as an Officer of the Club, continuing to lend his energies and expertise to the CMC. I’m also thrilled to continue working with our other great officers, board members, Executive Director and volunteers.
A little about me: I have been working with the CMC since its creation in 2004 and have been leading hikes (and later, paddles) for the CMC since the first ever Lark in the Park in October 2004. I’ve been a board member of the CMC since 2009, serving as Secretary for a number of years. Along with many of you,I’ve been working on trail design, trail building and trail maintenance with the Club.
I’ve seen the Club grow from its roots with the Andes Hikers and the Catskill Center to the organization it is today. One of the contributions of the Club I am most proud of is ourcreation of the CMC Trails.
The long term effects of covid-19 on our lives and lifestyles are not yet clear, but for outdoor recreation enthusiasts it now means recreating solo or in small groups, preferably with folks of the same household. It means taking care to stay a safe distance apart and to not share equipment, food or rides with others outside of our households. It means recreating locally when the threat of transmission is high.
What has the pandemic meant for the Catskill Park and the surrounding region? The most striking change has been the huge increase in the use of our trails and other infrastructure. Although we have not yet seen the results of studies of road traffic or estimates of the use of our fisheries, cycling or mountain biking infrastructure, we have hard evidence of the impacts on our trails and the attractions that they serve. Anecdotally, we know that our highways are more crowded than before, that many trailhead parking areas are overflowing and that swimming holes are inundated with visitors. Crowds are showing up at places that were lightly used before, even on mid-week days. On the trails built by the CMC, hiking use has nearly doubled from last year. While that level of increase may not be fully reflected on state trails, the increases seen there are similarly unexpected and impactful. So what have these impacts been on Catskills trails and swimming locations? It is well documented that the amount of trash left behind at many popular attractions has become unmanageable. While certain areas have been of concern for several years – Peekamoose Blue Hole, Kaaterskill Falls and Kaaterskill Clove most notably, where trash left by weekend visitors is astonishing – the impacts of increasing usage are now being felt at places like Colgate Lake, Big Pond and Alder Lake. DEC staff, town workers, paid and volunteer stewards are overwhelmed. Bears have become a nuisance at Alder Lake due to increased camping and swimming and the food and garbage left unattended. The increased wear on trails has resulted in widening treads with attendant damage to adjacent plants. In other places alternative “trails”, also known as herd paths or social paths, are developing. There is concern about possible impacts on fragile habitats and on threatened plants and wildlife.
Although the great majority of users are responsible, it is clear that we need to do a much better job of educating the public about what it takes to use wild places in a sustainable way, and how to be good stewards of these great public resources. While that "we" includes governments and other organizations, the best way to achieve the goal is for the greater "we" - hikers, swimmers, boaters, cyclists and others - to spread the word. That doesn't mean in a confrontational way, which is unlikely to convince anyone of anything except that they are being attacked. Instead, we can talk to our families, friends, neighbors, acquaintances and fellow outdoor recreation enthusiasts about these issues before we head to the outdoors and when we see the effects of harmful activities first hand. A comment reflecting on how disappointing it is to hear about or see trash on the ground or in the water at these beautiful natural places will raise awareness without implying personal judgment. Knowing and talking about Leave No Trace Principles will imbue others with the knowledge they need to make good decisions. Talking about how garbage can harm wildlife by encouraging unsafe feeding habits due to loss of fear of humans or by causing blockage in digestive tracts from plastics and other packaging materials can help people understand the importance of taking all of their garbage out with them, whether foods, containers or implements. Speaking of how walking off trail can harm endangered plants by trampling on them in their limited habitats, harsh environments or shallow soils can bring to light issues that few are aware of. And we can set an example by picking up trash and packing it out to demonstrate our commitment.
We want our fellow citizens to know and enjoy our wild places. We know that love grows from understanding and familiarity. We want everyone to respect our natural habitats and the environment. We know that experience is the best teacher. We believe that, in the long term, the best way to protect our natural treasures is through personal experience in tune with the public good. We believe that denying the need for access is a losing game, while managing access may sometimes be necessary.
Be safe, have fun and please support the Catskills, especially the work that will help preserve and protect this beautiful and unique place.
Catskills Lark in the Park
The 2020 Lark will look different. Due to the covid pandemic, we will not offer in-person events. Instead, there will be several self-guided tours and virtual events online. Look for the CMC's newest hiking program, the soon to be launched CMC Hiking Trails program. Hike them all and you will qualify for a beautiful new embroidered patch. Program details will be posted soon. Check the CatskillsLark.org website for more info as it develops.
Rick Roberts, Vice President, Catskill Mountain Club
A couple of weeks ago I was driving back home from a grocery run in Walton. As I was approaching the last mile I noticed a car stopped alongside our rural road and a woman standing next to it. Me, being the inquisitive type, stopped, rolled down my window and asked if all was OK. “Oh, everything is fine; I was just picking up some trash that someone dumped on the road.” I replied, “some people are just slobs and it amazes me the things they toss out of their vehicles.” She stated that she couldn’t stand to see such a nice pretty road messed up with garbage. I thanked her for her efforts and went on my way.
Then, several days later I had a chance to pay it forward as the phrase goes. On my trips back and forth to Walton, along the same road, I had noticed an old TV and a plastic bag of something discarded in a small turn out. I must have driven past it 5 or 6 times each and time thinking “why would someone do that”. Well the time had come for me to do my part. So I stopped, loaded the TV, which was an old 40” monster, into the back of my Subaru. I looked in the bag and found that it contained several board games in good condition and loaded that in too and continued on to Walton. On my way back home I swung but the Landfill, put the TV into the recycling shed and left the board games on the ledge to the garbage bins for someone to discover and perhaps give them a new home.
It is always a mystery to me that a person or persons can hike with 2 six packs of beer 5 miles into the woods along a trail but leave all the empty beer cans right where they were consumed. The cans weigh nothing and if crushed take up almost no space. Yet there they lay.
A couple of years ago a group of CMC volunteers were maintaining the trail between Big Pond and Alder Lake. We had just finished the long 5 mile stretch and were at the Big Pond parking lot. I went into the woods to, well you know, and discovered about 4-5 bags of garbage, all scattered about by the critters. Much of it looked like camping trash: paper plates, food wrappers and a well used sleeping bag etc. It was too much for us to clean up with no receptacles to put it all in. So we called over to Little Pond campsite and 2 employees came over to take care of it. It was no surprise to them and they related some of their encounters with even worse instances.
A few months ago there were several bags of trash dumped on our rural road near Delhi. I stopped, opened one of the bags and found an envelope with a name and address. Back at home, I found the telephone number that matched the address. I then called the number and told the person on the other end what I had found and that the Sheriff would be called if the trash was not removed in 4 hours. I drove by the next morning and it was gone.
So, Rick, what’s the point of your verbiage here? My point is, we can all be the volunteer like the woman at the beginning of my article. Not that we should be the garbage men for the slobs of the world but that when we see something that offends us, rather than ignoring it and just asking ourselves “why do people do that”, that we actually DO something: that we take a part in making our little part of the earth a bit better for ourselves and for those who, I am sure, have no idea of our anonymous act.
If I had not stopped and asked the woman what she was up to, the trash would have mysteriously disappeared and her anonymous act would have been just that.
We could not agree with Rick more. Since 2009, a group of Andes volunteers (including several CMC members) has been picking up trash on roads around Andes. This year the pandemic caused the cancellation of our Earth Day pickup, but the recent temporary closure of Rt. 28 enabled a handful of us to do a hastily scheduled cleanup of the Palmer Hill area on Rt 28 this past weekend with greatly reduced passing traffic. Six volunteers picked up 28 bags worth of litter on 4.5 miles of the highway. The following day I tried out something I had been thinking about for years -- trying to pick up litter from my bicycle. Not while riding, mind you -- I'll leave that kind of reaching for the polo ponies.
Whenever we are out paddling, we pick up any trash we find. In the first years after Hurricane Irene, we pulled out a lot of trash that had washed into the Pepacton Reservoir from the flooding. Thankfully, we got most of that cleaned up and now we mostly find discarded beer cans, snack wrappers and miscellaneous fishing stuff. Below is a fun picture of the indefatigable Bob Moses with what was probably flood debris. We can all help a little if we bring a bag with us when we are out hiking or paddling and pick up what we can.
Bramley Mountain Fire Tower work
The Bramley Mountain Fire Tower Project took another step forward.
While the novel coronavirus pandemic caused the Friends of Bramley Mountain Fire Tower to scale back fundraising efforts for the project, the group has continued to take important steps to move the project forward, where practical.
On August 25th they performed an inventory and inspection of the fire tower components to help determine the total cost of reconstruction.
I hear stories of neighbors of these trails that use them almost every day, and I can’t visit any of the trails without bumping into groups of hikers enjoying themselves, some coming from nearby towns, some travelling great distances to hike these particular trails. I love reading the notes that are left for us in the trail register and especially enjoy the stories of new hikers who are hiking the easiest portion of the Andes Rail Trail or Bramley Quarry Trail who are now working their way towards being able to do the harder trails.
The trails developed by the CMC had been seeing a significant increase in usage year over year, but the increased use of them during the pandemic has beeneven more dramatic. I am so proud of the work of all our CMC volunteers, building and maintaining these trails which have made a great contribution to the economy and the health and wellbeing of our communities. And we’re happy to say that for the most part we are not seeing the issues with trash, overcrowding, lack of social distancing and parking problems that more highly trafficked areas of the Catskills have.
While working on the Andes Rail Trail and Bramley Mountain trails last week, we met families with young children who thought those trails were just perfect for them – not too long or hard and with many interesting things for kids to explore. We were happy to point them to other CMC trails that we knew would fit their needs as well. Our new trail guide is a great way to learn about the trails the CMC created and maintains, and those have been flying out of the trailheads like hotcakes
Obviously, this isa very difficult time for all of us, as we navigate between worrying about the health, safety and livelihoods of our family, friends, neighbors (and even ourselves), while alsofulfilling our missionto help people stay sane by having access to great recreational opportunities in the Catskill Mountainsduring this difficult time.
We know that being in the outdoors and getting exercise is truly important for both mind and body during the pandemic. At the same time, we’ve seen the problems that some of the increased usage of the most popular areas of the Catskills have endured and we’ll continue to work with our partner organizations such as the NYS DEC, NYC DEP, Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, and the NYNJ Trail Conference to mitigate that as much as we can. This was a growing problem before the pandemic but has really increased in some areas since the pandemic began.
In keeping up with the current news about racial justice, I’ve been surprised to learn about how unwelcome some members of our human community feel in the great outdoors. You’ll read more about this in the article below by CMC board member, Michael Drillinger. Michael has been thinking about this issue for a long time, and planning ways to help improve the situation. We’re looking forward to working with Michael and the community on this in the future.
CMC Trails Brochure: We released a new brochure containing maps, descriptions and directions just a few weeks ago. The greatly revised guide has new and improved maps for all trails. They can be found at the trailheads, the Catskills Visitor Center and at select local merchants. Click here to view it online.
Ashokan Quarry Trail: The AQT officially opened on July 18th. The reception has been tremendous, with a full parking lot on weekends and many hikers every day. In reviews it has been called “perfect for families”, “highly entertaining” and “a very leisurely and historic hike with a beautiful view”.
Shavertown Trail:We recently announced the opening of the Shavertown Trail's Snake Pond loop. The new configuration restores use of a temporarily closed section which combines with the trail that was built to provide access to the pond while the parcel was being logged. We are working on an additional 0.7 mile trail section to a beautiful new viewpoint overlooking the Tremperskill valley. Check our Facebook page or website for news of its opening.
CMC Events: We regret that the annual picnic and dinner have been canceled for this year due to the covid pandemic. We have also refrained from offering organized in-person events for the time being. We are constantly monitoring covid developments and are hopeful that we will be able to safely and comfortably ask our leaders and you, our members and guests, to revive this popular program soon. In the meantime, please continue to hike safely and locally. For more about safe hiking during the pandemic visit our website.
CMC Hiking Programs: Building on the popularity of the Catskills All Trails Challenge, we are happy to announce three additional hiking programs that award a patch to those who qualify.
Having just opened the sixth trail constructed by the CMC, we will offer a beautiful new CMC Hiking Trails patch to all who hike each of them. Similar to a new patch available for purchase by the general public, the program's patch adds a big gold star to the design. Because you deserve it! And next year we will add another trail. (For now, hiking the six will do.)
With the disbanding of the Rip van Winkle Hikers, the CMC has agreed to assume sponsorship of two hiking programs founded by that organization which added so much to the Catskills hiking community for nearly three decades. We will offer patches and certificates to those hikers who complete the Catskills 4 Seasons 140 and the Catskills Grid 420 programs. Hike all of the 35 high peaks in each season for the first and qualify for the second by hiking them all in each of the 12 months. Patches are in the design or production stages and a webpage is being prepared for publication where details will be available.
Shandaken Wild Forest Unit Management Plan: Here's an opportunity to help DEC understand the interests and needs of folks who use the Catskill Park's recreational assets. Included below is a link to information about the proposals put forth in a new Unit Management Plan for the Shandaken WF and a chance to express your opinions.
"The Department of Environmental Conservation is accepting public comments on changes to the plan. DEC encourages the public to comment on the draft plan, which is available on DEC's website, along with a pdf of a powerpoint presentation of the unit and the proposals. Public comment will be accepted through Sept. 28, 2020."
Kaaterskill Falls is open for use with access from the Mountain Top Historical Society, Laurel House and Scutt Road parking areas. The Molly Smith parking area on SR 23A will remain closed for now.
Vehicles parked illegally in Kaateskill Clove are being towed (at the owner's expense): The Town of Hunter announced that they will be towing any vehicles parked illegally around Kaaterskill Falls and Rt 23A. Read more here and here.
Colgate Lake is also very busy. The parking area is being improved to help clarify where parking is legal. Greene County installed "No Parking" signs on both sides of Colgate Lake Road at the request of the Town. The Town is working with the Greene County Sheriff's Department to enforce the no parking signage.
State campgrounds are open and are accepting reservations. They are very busy and are restricting the amount of day visitors due to COVID protocols.
Speak to the Earth
Michael Drillinger, CMC Board Member and licensed NYS Guide
As a frequent hiker in the Catskills you may have noticed, by and large, a distinct lack of diversity among the other hikers you meet on the trail. More than likely a hiker in the Catskills will be Caucasian and of European descent. This is the case across the United States. In 2008 the US Forest Service published a paper “Recreation visitor research: studies of diversity”. In 2018 there were online articles with titles like “The Outdoor Industry’s Inclusion Problem”, “Outdoor Companies Address the Lack of Racial Diversity”, and “Five Ways to Make the Outdoors More Inclusive”. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation began a program of Environmental Justice back in 2003. The DEC’s Diversity Resources in the Outdoors, Science, & Environmental Justice web page provides links to a variety of articles and resources with titles like: "This is What Adventure Looks Like” and "The Joys and Challenges of Exploring Nature While Black”. These efforts are all good, and I feel it is about time.
I have personally cared about getting all folks out into the woods and wild open spaces for a very long time. As a licensed NYS Guide, I have tried to appeal to a varied audience with casual walks in the woods that focus on local and natural history. I found my experience in Scouting as a young person in New York City to be very inclusive, with scouting friends of all ethnicities and racial and cultural backgrounds. I have been dismayed to learn this is not the case in the wider outdoor world. In the past 10 years or so, I have become involved in land protection through the work of land trusts. Here too, most land trust people are White.
Two years ago, I conceived of a plan to reach out to Catskill communities of color and offer a program of field trips to those who have never ventured into the woods but may be curious and willing to try something new. I had the thought that I could work with neighborhood churches in the more urban communities to recruit participants and, looking to biblical references, I named this program “Speak to the Earth”. In the Bible Job says, “Speak to the earth, and it will instruct you”. The program I designed calls for a series of four field trips per group, with the goal of participants committing to completing all four trips. Each field trip would cover a specific aspect of walking in the woods, from safety to natural history. Each successive field trip would be a little more challenging than the one before it; starting with a walk along a rail trail, moving to a land trust preserve trail, and finally a flat walk along an easy Catskill park trail. The idea being to ease a novice out into wild open places in non-threatening steps.
With the sponsorship of the Rondout-Esopus Land Conservancy, a rural land trust, and the Kingston Land Trust, an urban land trust, I’ve developed and was ready to launch the first season pilot program. The novel coronavirus pandemic paused this program but I’m hoping to get it going again as the situation allows.
Current events have brought to light the real need for such programs. After the completion of the pilot program, I'll be working with the Catskill Mountain Club to see how we might expand on these efforts around the Catskills.
The CMC seeks to unite a diverse group of outdoor recreation enthusiasts, finding common ground in the effort to advance our goals. Whether you are a hiker, a hunter, an angler, a cyclist, a boater, a skier or enjoy another non-motorized outdoor recreational activity here in the Catskills, we believe that we can all work together to achieve worthy goals that serve us all.
SUMMER SIMMER: Waghkonk Notes August 4, 2020
I Should explain to the occasional reader why I call these missives Waghkonk Notes. I started writing these as the Comeau Newsletter, way back when I was the volunteer trail-keeper at Comeau. I decided to expand my horizon (literally) to include all of the Woodstock Valley, which runs from Bearsville to northern Zena, following the middle stretch of the Sawkill, going from the foothills of the Catskills to the western edge of the Hudson Valley itself. I settled on Waghkonk because that (as well as the versions, Awaghkonk and Wachkunk) is the oldest name for this area found on the earliest maps of the region from the 1600’s and 1700’s. Evan Pritchard, noted regional Native American scholar and etymologist (one who studies word-origins) believes that Waghkonk might mean (approximately) ”land of waterfalls under the Sacred Mountain” - which would certainly fit. There is evidence that the earliest settlers referred to the mid-Sawkill valley as Waghkonk, also. In “Woodstock: History of an American Town” (pg.33-34), my friend Alf Evers writes that Judge Robert R. Livingston, corresponding with his father, Chancellor Livingston, noted that the senior was at Wachkunk, then crossed Wachkunk out and rewrote it as Woodstock (after the Oxfordshire town in England where he was from), and thereby making the first known reference to Woodstock. I like Waghkonk Notes because I want to help others see, and remind myself, that this land is older than the settlers, and even older than the Natives who lived here before them (they at least had the ability to respect the Land and care for it - which is what I think we need more of right now).
A VERITABLE LIFE-STORM
The wonderful (literally, full of wonder) mini-season we call Midsummer is past now, the days are shorter, as the season inexorably turns. In our corner of the Catskills, in terms of burgeoning life-forms, this is still a rich, rich time of year - a veritable Life-Storm. We are literally surrounded by the fruitfulness of the season. The heavy, humid air we wade through is thick with insect-life (though not as much as previous years - note the lack of any real “windshield-effect”), including mosquitos now, nurtured by recent heavy rains. The “Cricket Chorus” - Crickets, Katydids and Seasonal Cicadas - is very healthy this year, busily entertaining us, day and night - I love it. Just when I think the Fireflies are done for the season, they show up again, responding to increases in the dew-point (the indicator of humidity-levels). Every species of animal is busy reproducing their kind and raising their young. Myriad trees and other plants are racing for the sun, throwing out new green shoots or sending down new, deeper roots and making seed. The very topsoil under our feet is seething with (seemingly) countless forms of life - animal, insect and microbe.
Now it is hard to remember those January days when the trees were popping and the stream was crackling - just as at that point it was impossible to fully imagine everything ever getting hot and green again. I keep thinking maybe I should be bored with the cycles of the season, year after year. Not at all. In truth, I find it more exciting each year. I see new things every spring, flowers I hadn’t noticed before, subtle permutations of field and forest.
So much life is in evidence - “making hay while the sun shines”. Both forest and meadow are about as lush as they can be - one cool and dark, the other, sometimes almost unbearably hot and brightly sunny. Since the woodland flowers already flowered in the spring (before the canopy filled in) the primary growth there now is that of the Understory (smaller tree-species like Striped Maple, Flowering Dogwood and Sassafras) and below it, the Shrub-layer (Mountain Laurel and Viburnums). Under that is the Herb/Fern layer. This is called Stratification.
The only strategy for growth in fields and meadows right now is which plant can grow tallest, fastest and Mullein wins handily, some reaching 7 ft. already. Likewise with all the animals, whether they are amphibian, bird, fish, insect, mammal or reptile this is the time for them to make and have as many young as possible. The entire chain of life is wildly (ha!) visible now - very hard to miss. The streams and ponds team with aquatic life, waterborne insects serving the same function as their cousins in the air and on the land, only in this case to feed fish, who in turn become prey to Bald Eagles, Ospreys, Great Blue- and Green Herons, Great Egrets, Raccoons, snakes, turtles and larger fish. Our Cottontail rabbit population is on the increase and Black Bear cubs are growing fast, learning from mom about the ursine world, but occasionally running afoul of automobiles and older bears. Wild Turkeys may have started their season with a dozen or more poults, as their young are called, but by now are down to about half that. Same with the young of ducks and geese. As cute as all these creatures can sometimes be, we must remember the harshness of the natural world around us. In that food-chain I mentioned before, our local Eastern Coyotes, Grey- and Red Foxes, as well as the Red-tail- and Red-shouldered Hawks and assorted Owls all look at the small animals as prey. These predators themselves can become prey to human hunters, or even accidentally to motor vehicles. Again, remember that this is their optimal time. Come winter it is not uncommon for all the small wild dogs, and even the hawks, to starve. Our cycle of the seasons in the northeast is a relentless one - beautiful but unforgiving. It is a tough reality for wild creatures that sometimes we don’t want to admit to. We love to idealize Nature, but Nature is not about to be idealized so easily. Even experienced, life-long outdoorsmen like myself fall into the trap of loving these wonderful creatures, setting ourselves up for a fall. But how can we not?
MEADOWS AND FIELDS FLOWERING
Most of the flowering has now switched solidly from forest to meadow and field (with the exception of myriad mushrooms finally filling the forest with fungi). Present now in our open spaces are Beebalm, Goldenrods (not allergens), Ragweed (the real allergy culprit), Queen Anne’s Lace, Wild Strawberries, Wild Blackberries and Raspberries, Long-stem Buttercups, the Clovers, Red and White, and many others - most notably, Milkweed. The Milkweed’s symbiotes (meaning another creature or plant whose life-cycle is inextricably linked to it and dependent upon it) - the Monarchs - have only belatedly arrived and just a few of them in a tragedy of epic proportions in the insect world as uncontrolled logging continues to destroy the Oyumel pine trees in the mountains of Mexico’s Michoacan state. These are the only trees the Eastern Monarchs will winter on, clustered together for ambient warmth (the smaller Western Monarchs winter in southern California). Since Monarchs help pollinate Milkweed which then supplies them with its bitter taste that repels most predators (encouraging other butterflies to mimic their appearance), as well as a safe haven for their eggs, I’m sure that this season’s lack of Monarchs is not helping the Milkweed, either. The intertwined, symbiotic dependence of Milkweeds and Monarchs should teach us about our own dependence on the varied elements of the world around us. Also, perhaps generations of Monarchs have passed down stories of these lush green summer fields of ours - their Avalon. I wonder, in the winter, as they huddle together on their pine trees in the cool mountains, do Monarchs regale each other with stories of their ancestral Milkweed patches and dream of frolicking in these Milkweed-rich, sunny leas? Why not, I say.
TIME OF GREAT CHANGE
Summer is a time of great change, phenomenal transformation. The Milkweed plant of early summer is not the same plant now. The Red-tail that builds it’s nest in the spring is very different from the one that watches its young leave that same nest. This is also a time of change and growth for people. Summer gives us the opportunity to get outside (of ourselves?) more than we generally do. We travel more (or used to), to the shore, to visit relatives, etc. By getting out into our world we meet people we normally wouldn’t and we do things we normally wouldn’t otherwise do. All of these activities make us learn and grow (sometimes whether we like it or not). In this season we get a chance to see our selves reflected by others, whereas in winter, because there is less light and we’re “cooped up” more, we tend to delve more inside our own self in an introspective, self-reflective manner. COVID-19 has altered this pattern some, but I think much of this still applies. Like the Milkweed and the Red-tail, it could be that by the end of the season none of us will be exactly the same person we were at the beginning of the summer.
Please have a Fun, Happy and Safe rest of your Summer. Thank you all.
Take Care, "Ranger" Dave Holden - firstname.lastname@example.org / (845)594-4863 rangerdaveholden@instagram / Woodstock Trails on Facebook /www.woodstocknytrails.com
View at Sunset from Balsam Lake Mountain fire tower
ALL (those) TRAILS!
I can remember when I first started hiking the Catskills. It seemed like it would take forever just to do 35 peaks! It did take me almost 5 years, but I finally finished on Slide. I was originally interested in the quickest way up the mountains, but eventually, I began to hike the peaks from different directions. After a few more years, I had hiked the 35 from almost every trail. But I was also becoming aware of other challenges. For starters, my wife Laurie and I decided to do the Catskill Hundred Highest. Not every peak on this list has a trail of course, but this did lead to discovering that the Catskills were bigger than I had originally thought. Eventually, I became aware of the All Trails Challenge, aka “redlining”, a quest to hike every trail in the Catskill region. (Most trails were indicated in red on old maps, so that's where the name comes from). I never thought I'd be interested in this type of activity, being a pretty hard core peak bagger.
What got me into this in earnest was being asked by Dave and Carol White to write the new version of the ADK's “Catskill Trails”. The Whites were some of the first to finish the Challenge. Their book and the Challenge include almost all of the same trails. Writing about the trails knowledgeably would of course require hiking all of them, so off we went. I soon realized that no matter how organized you are, and even if you have 2 cars, you will have to walk many of the trails in both directions. When a trail ends in the middle of the woods, you have no choice but to turn around and walk back, in one case, about 7 miles!
My impressions of the trails are quite varied. A few are just not worth it in my opinion. The “trail” is sometimes literally just a paved road in a few places. Other road walks were more pleasant, and to be honest, road walking usually means smoother trails. Some trails were surprisingly challenging, such as several sections of the Finger Lakes Trail. The Hunter, Balsam Lake, Tremper, Overlook, and Red Hill trails offer trips to fire towers that have wonderful 360 degree views of the surrounding country side. Speaking of fire towers, did you know at least 1 bridge in the Catskills is made of repurposed steel from the Belleayre Fire Tower? A loop of Sugarloaf and Twin will take you thru a “keyhole” and into “Dibbles's Quarry”, abandoned years ago, but still fascinating to visit. Sitting on the “throne”, you can become “King of the Catskills” for a few minutes! A trip on some trails can transport you back in time. Ruins of hotels, mansions, and farmsteads await the explorer. But be careful, some are off limits, and are not safe to enter. We saw our first ever Fisher Cat while hiking to Quick Lake!
Eventually, the end of the Challenge was in sight. We had to drive quite a bit for some short trail sections, so we tried to combine 2 or more trails in 1 day. We finished a few months ago by hiking a section of the Rock Shelter Trail. Of course, we had to turn around and retrace our steps!
If you're looking to get away from the crowds that sometimes fill the more popular trails in the Catskills, we hiked many of the trails on this list without ever seeing another person. We did run into a few hunters, but all of the encounters were friendly and positive. These trails still involve elevation gain, but they are not like doing a Devil's Path traverse. As far as maintenance goes, some trails are well tended, (these tend to be trails shared with snowmobiles), and some are not. We struggled to find the trail a few times, when trail clearing and markers were not kept up. And not every sign is still readable, or accurate. Make sure you have a good map when setting out!
Tom Rankin is the Past President of the Catskill 3500 Club. He has hiked extensively in the North East over the past 20 years. He recently became the author of “Catskill Trails”, a guide book published by ADK. The newest edition is due out this year.
View from Giant Ledge
View from Slide Mountain
Oh, no - not those caterpillars again!
Don't worry, these caterpillar tents we are seeing all over the Catskills now are not the awful Forest Tent Caterpillars that defoliated so many trees a number of years ago. These tents are made by Fall Webworms and are said not to really harm the trees. The tents are mostly built at the ends of branches, and the leaves that are being eaten are getting close to the end of their useful life anyway. An interesting fact about the Fall Webworm caterpillars, according to Wikipedia: Larvae are known to wiggle vigorously at periodic intervals in synchrony. How they synchronize these movements especially when distributed over a wide area has not been established.
Yoga for Hikers
MINDFUL FOCUS in Difficult Times
by Deanna Felicetta
If you are like most of us, the current times are very stressful. The turnings of the mind seem endless, as you sort through how we live in our new reality, our “ 2020 lives”. Some of us are isolated from family, home alone and when lucky, working there. Others are home with the children, negotiating their virtual school reality and, if lucky, a work schedule. There may be parents in the nursing home we do not get to visit so we can keep them safe. Family may live in a HOT SPOT, and so visiting is not prudent at this time, and you miss them. AND our healthcare heroes, first responders, road crews and those in the supermarket and other urgent stores and shops so crucial to our daily lives, are you one of them? You are appreciated! But how do all of us stay centered and focused? Mindful focus can be helpful.
It is good to take a break from our daily mind status. Yoga can help us. It can be like that weekend vacation, leaving you refreshed and de-stressed a little! So many people do not realize that YOGA is more than asanas. Asanas are poses we do with our bodies as we breathe. YOGA is more the meditation, and sitting still. It is the mind, the body (asanas and breathe), and spirit! Allowing the whole self to take a break using mindful focus on the present moment, we become absorbed in the present moment. This focus and stillness of mind helps calm our emotions, quiet our body and center our mind and spirit.
As hikers you will find that standing still and quiet in Tandasana, Mountain Pose, as you allow you breathe to gently flow in and out can be a perfect way to work on your skills of mindfulness. Do not be frustrated if physical balance or the focus of the mind are difficult at first. Practice will develop a healthy discipline. A warming and calm feeling will soon welcome those who are persistent. Do focus your mind fully on the stillness and your breath. Let your mind be full of just this. Push other thoughts away. This is mindfulness.
Tandasana is a great pose for us in learning mindful focus. It is a pose that is wonderful for strengthening your core and body alignment. It improves your balance. Allowing your breath to flow in and out fully is good for your entire body. We know how important these things are when hiking. So begin standing on a solid surface or yoga mat. Your feet should be about your fist width apart. Toes will be pointing forward with you middle toes as pointers. Your inside foot from heal to toe will be in a straight line. Legs are straight, knees are not locked. Hips are level. Tailbone points down. Stomach is strongly engaged with muscles pressing against inner spine for support. Lift chest and shoulders upward. There should be a lightness in this. Neck and shoulders are relaxed as head sits level on top with eyes focused forward. Breathe, breathe fully and gently. Review your posture, toes to top, and breathe. Your arms are relaxed by your sides with palms facing forward. Think how you, the hiker are now a grand mountain! Stay in Tandasana for several moments and think only of how you are in your body and that you are a Mountain in your mind and spirit!
I wish you pleasant “Mindfulness”. Be safe, healthy and at peace!
Deanna Felicetta is a Yoga Teacher, E-RYT 200, 500, Yacep, Yoga of the Heart Certified. She is a Life Member of the CMC and a long time hike leader.
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