Prepare for Winter! Volunteer! Enjoy!
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Ah, late fall in the Catskills: bare trees mean great views, and there's hot apple cider in my thermos!  If you're an avid winter hiker, you've already got your snowshoes out and your microspikes in your pack. If you're not a winter hiker yet, read on - I promise by the end of this newsletter you may feel differently about winter hiking!
In this newsletter:
Hiking in Winter
A Message from our President
Renew Your Membership -- Dues are Due!
Dear Prudence
The Rock Rift Fire Tower Trail
The Catskills All Trails Challenge
Blizzard Bag - A Gear Review
The CMC Annual Dinner 
Wear Your Orange
Ah, Wilderness!
Thank You, Members!

Devil's Acre Lean-to - slated to get a new roof next year

(But then everybody knows that!)
At our CMC Annual Dinner held October 12th at the Emerson Resort, I gave a state of the club report outlining the various achievements of the CMC over the past year as well as mentioning some upcoming projects for 2015 (please see Amy's article regarding the CMC Anniversary Dinner). Toward the end of my report I made an appeal to the general CMC membership to become more involved in the club by volunteering their time and special skills in helping the CMC achieve its goals. At present the 13 volunteers who comprise the CMC Board of Directors have been responsible for 90% of the club’s work load, consisting of computer programming, web design, media communication, finance and accounting,  outreach, membership, correspondence, newsletter writing and editing, graphic design, trail maintaining and building, advocacy, grant research and writing, photography, leading hikes and other CMC outings, event planning, serving on other committees and boards, sales, and distribution of promotional items. I’m sure the list is longer but this gives you an idea of the Directors’ work load.
I happen to be a member of 4 other trail organizations, the Finger Lakes Trail Conference (FLTC), the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), the Triple City Hiking Club and the NYNJ Trail Conference (NYNJTC). In all four organizations, it is volunteers from the general membership that handle a large portion of the overall work. Yes, the NYNJTC and the ATC do have paid staff but their Board of Directors are in place to guide the organization’s direction and make major decisions on proposals brought to them by volunteer committees. In the case of the FLTC, with a part time executive officer and 2 part time staff employees, all trail maintenance and building, sales of promotional items, event planning, web maintenance, edition and printing of the FLTC News, graphic design and map maintenance and distribution, are handled by volunteers from the general membership.
My goal, as President of the CMC, is for our organization to gather together talented and hardworking volunteers to take over some of the tasks now shouldered by the Directors and benefit from the expertise that I know is out there. If you believe as I do that the CMC is providing a worthwhile service to the Catskill region by promoting of outdoor recreational opportunities and with its advocacy for improvements and conservation within the Catskill Park, then by all means, volunteer your time, efforts and talents. We are not asking for donations of your money but rather your time and efforts to grow our and your organization, the Catskill Mountain Club.
I can be reached by email at
Other Board Members can be reached as follows:
Laura Battelani (Treasurer)
Aaron Bennett (Vice President)
Tom Herlihy (Secretary)
Wendell George (V.P. and Stewardship Chair)
Ann Roberti (Communications Chair)
Jeff Senterman (CLIP chair)
Amy Beveridge (Development Chair)
Heather Rolland (CMC Newsletter Editor)
Howard Raab
Robert Moses
Lisa Lyons
Hope to hear from you soon.  
Catskill Mountain Club Celebrates 3rd Annual Dinner
On Sunday October 12, 2014, The Catskill Mountain Club hosted the 3rd Annual CMC Dinner. Approximately 70 members and friends attended the annual event at the Emerson Resort’s Catamount Restaurant. The evening kicked off with a slideshow provided by CMC Board member Aaron Bennett which included pictures that spanned the past 11 years of Catskill Mountain Club activities. Later, Aaron acknowledged founding member and first president, Chris Olney. Chris’s vision for the Club and his energy and hard work at the Club’s inception shaped the CMC, helping to make our club the success it is today. Chris and his wife Amy, who also served on the initial board of directors of the CMC, now live and play in the Finger Lakes region, but it was a delight to see them and celebrate Chris’s contribution at the dinner. We hope to see them on Catskill trails again soon!

Next, CMC president Rick Roberts reviewed the club’s many accomplishments for the year. Attendees were reminded that the CMC has existed for 10 years and 2014 was an important year- the first full calendar year of being a dues-paying membership based organization. We opened in new trails in Andes and Delhi, and helped with the Rock Rift trail! Rick presented two past Presidents with a life time membership to the Catskill Mountain Club in recognition of their contributions to the club. Rick also mentioned that over 500 people participated in 53 CMC lead activities over the course of the year. Catskill Mountain Club Vice President, Wendell George, reported that over 660 man hours and 24 people engaged in trail stewardship and trail maintenance activities.

Our keynote speakers, Dave and Carol White, shared motivating pictures and stories from their hikes in the Catskill Mountain region. The Whites’ presentation reminded us all how beautiful and unique the great Catskill Mountains are and how lucky we are to live, work and play in the exquisite Catskills region! In addition, to the White’s many published hiking books, Dave and Carol are well known for the encouragement and support they offer fellow hikers in the Catskill Mountain region.

The 3rd the Annual Catskill Mountain Club dinner inspired and encouraged all attendees to remember and support the clubs mission to promote non-motorized recreational opportunities throughout the Catskill Mountain Region. The CMC’s achievements continue to be based on the dreams, encouragement, monetary donations and volunteer hours from members. We look forward to seeing you at next years’ event in October 2015!
Hiking and enjoying the outdoors in the Winter
Hikes, cross country ski, and snowshoe trips can all be fun, adventuresome and beautiful, but they do require some advance planning. There is less room for mistakes and errors on a winter hike due to the temperatures, winds, snow, ice and limited daylight hours.

Keeping Warm - You should always be prepared on any hike, ski or snowshoe trip to keep warm and sheltered with nothing more than what you are carrying with you.  You should not count on a campfire or wood stove to keep you warm.  You must always stay alert to the dangers of hypothermia and frostbite - know the signs on both and learn how to treat them.

Daylight  - Unlike the long hours of daylight in the summertime, winter days are very short and darkness can easily surprise anyone in the woods with its quick arrival.  Always plan out your trips to maximize your use of daylight.  Always carry a flashlight and headlamp (and extra batteries!) in case you get delayed and must hike out in the darkness.

Skiing and Snowshoeing - Hiking in the snow takes a lot of effort since most often hikers "post-hole" their way along a trail.  That is, with each step, a hiker sinks into the snow creating what looks like a hole for a fencepost.  Cross country skis and snowshoes on the other hand keep you on top of the snow and let you travel further with less energy than trying to hike on your own.  Skiing and snowshoeing open up a whole new way to look at the trails of the Catskill Mountains too, with adventures around every corner.

Trail Markers - Luckily in the Catskills we do not have white trail markers, but even so, the familiar red, blue and yellow trail markers can be hidden by deep snows, especially on mountain summits.  Having a map and compass is always a good idea, but it is a necessity in the wintertime to make sure you do not lose your way.

Tips and Tricks - here are some additional ideas, tips and suggestions for winter hiking, skiing and snowshoeing trips:
  1. Stay dry and waterproof. Make sure you manage your core temperature while hiking to prevent sweating, which gets your clothes wet and limits their insulative value. Wear gaiters to help keep your legs dry, and pop your hood over your head when trekking through overhanging trees to prevent snow from getting in at the neck and getting you wet.
  2. Winter is the wrong time to think you need to pack lightly.  Carry many insulating layers including a spare set of long underwear tops and bottoms – putting on dry, cold clothes may shock the system initially but you will feel warmer quickly.
  3. Make sure your equipment works - finding out your water bottle is cracked when it is 10 below at lunchtime is the wrong time to learn about it.
  4. Be aware that solid food items freeze; cut up those snickers bars ahead of time, even cold cuts can freeze!
  5. Drink constantly because you will not feel as thirsty in cold weather.
  6. Learn how to repair snowshoe and crampon/creeper bindings.
  7. Don’t use those ski pole wrist loops – a downhill fall can wrench a shoulder if you go one way and your ski pole stays put.
  8. Ideally know your winter hike ahead of time; trail finding is tricky with deep snow so knowing the route well is a good idea.
  9. Favor hikes with few stream crossings; crossings are dangerous as both a water hazard and possibly soaking everything you are wearing and carrying. Even just getting your snowshoes wet can result in heavy globs of ice stuck on.
  10. If you’re hiking with a dog check their paws for icing, make sure they are staying adequately hydrated and are staying warm.
  11. Be especially careful if conditions are icy; crampons and creepers only work if you stay on your feet.
  12. If you are a beginner winter hiker, consider a group hike to learn more about trail conditions and preparation. 
With proper planning, the right skills and the right equipment, winter is a great time to get out and enjoy the Catskill Mountains.  One of the best ways to fight off cabin fever is to get out of the cabin and get into the woods!

Jeff Senterman
Catskill Program Coordinator
New York New Jersey Trail Conference
CMC Board Member

Questions? Want to continue this conversation? Join Heather Rolland, Catskills Assistant  Program Coordinator for the New York New Jersey Trail Conference, at Spillian on Sunday 12/14 at 1 p.m. for Winter Gear and Gab – an opportunity to chat about winter hiking, gear, safety, and tips for getting started. Local retailers will have some great winter gear available for purchase too!
This Fall,  the Finger Lakes Trail Conference (FLT) opened a new trail to the last unrestored Catskill Fire Tower on public land. The Rock Rift Fire Tower is on Tower Mountain and overlooks to Cannonsville Reservoir on FLT Map 28. It was built by the CCC in 1934 and in service until 1987. Trail access to the tower can be found at the intersection of NYS Rte 10 and NYS Rte 268, just north of the Rte 268 bridge over the Reservoir.
Four years ago I learned that there was an unrestored fire tower on the mountain but had no idea where it was since Tower Mt. has a long sprawling ridge line with several communication towers. Finally with the help of Charlie Laing of the DEP, I was able to locate it. My next problem was to find the original tower trail and fortunately my GPS software showed a trail of some sort leading toward the tower, so I was off to find it. The GPS mapping must have taken its information from some very old sources because on the ground the trail was completely overgrown and difficult to find. However, after two attempts I did find and GPS a trail, which steeply climbs 1100 feet to the top of Tower Mt. Further research showed that the trail I found was the maintenance trail for a telephone line running to the tower.
Now to find a route off the mountain, in the opposite direction, to connect to the existing FLT and create a loop trail. Again, after several attempts, I came across an old logging cable drag line that was used to pull logs down the mountain to a landing site very close to the FLT. I estimate that the drag line was originally horse powered and was at least 100 years old. However, the telltale moguls created by the logs being dragged up and over obstacles  were still very evident.
Over the course of 4 days in June of this year, the FLT Alley Cat Crew and members of the CMC built the entire 5 mile trail. Together, with the loop section back to the Rte 268 bridge, the entire Fire Tower trail is 7 miles long. It is open all year except during deer hunting season, November 15th to December 15th. Along with the Rock Rift Rail Trail which starts just south of the Rte 268 bridge, the trails along and around the Cannonsville Reservoir now total 15 miles.
Come hike this newest addition to the Catskill fire towers and the newest Rail Trail.
Rick Roberts
CMC President and
FLTC Catskill Area Coordinator

Orange is the New Black
Or green, or purple, or whatever color your favorite hiking garb may be. Be sure to dress it up a little with some blaze orange to increase your visibility in the woods. This year, here in the Catskills, white-tailed deer “regular” season (i.e. firearms, not just bow hunting or muzzle loaders) is from November 15 to December 7. For details about hunting seasons, check out the New York New Jersey Trail Conference’s handy dandy guide online

Trails in the All Trails Challenge
Have you heard about the Catskills All Trails Challenge? If you needed a new excuse, uh “reason”, to go hiking in every corner of our beautiful Catskill Park, here it is!

The CMC is offering an opportunity for a different kind of Catskills hiking accomplishment. The new Catskills All Trails (CATs) patch will be awarded to individuals who successfully hike all of the 87 designated hiking trails in the Park, totaling 349.3 miles of trails. Upon completion, hikers will be awarded a Certificate of Completion, recognizing their accomplishment. They will also receive a Catskill Park All Trails patch and shirt to commemorate their feat. But more than anything, they’ll come to know and love all that the Catskills offer to those who enjoy the great outdoors. Three people have already finished their hikes and claimed their certificates and shirts: Dave White, Ralph Bressler, and Carole White are numbers 1, 2, and 3 respectively. Congratulations to our first few finishers!!!

The CMC is proud to encourage hikers to explore all parts of the Catskills. Indeed, one of the club’s most important goals is to expose the public to the tremendous hiking opportunities in our region, whether to the summits of the high peaks, on the many smaller mountains that offer equally spectacular and sublime views, or in the hollows and valleys with their streams, waterfalls and ponds. Every part of the Catskill Park and region holds great hiking experiences for hikers of all interests and abilities. This new award will honor the most intrepid hikers for their efforts exploring all that the Catskill Park has to offer. Really, what better excuse do you need?

To get started simply go to the CATs page on our website, download the list of trails, grab your boots and gear and GO!

map image by Jeremy Preston
Renew Now!
Dear Catskill Club Mountain Member;

I am writing to ask you to renew your annual membership to the Catskill Mountain Club. Your annual membership dues support the CMC’s most basic needs for trail maintenance and promoting club events and activities. It is my third year serving as the development committee chair for the Catskill Mountain Club. I grew up in Delaware County, NY, less than 10 miles from the blue line of the Catskill Mountain region, have hiked in 13 U.S. states, Canada, and the Philippines. And yet, it wasn’t until I was invited to a CMC meeting that I had heard of the CMC! In the last three years, CMC became a dues based organization and during that time I have lead hikes in Andes, Bloomville, and Delhi, built five miles of hiking trails in Delhi, NY and met wonderful people of all ages, abilities, and from all back grounds. This summer while leading a hike for 22 participants in the Cardio Club LiveFit Challenge on the Shavertown Trail in Andes, NY, I met a family from Paris, France. The family had flown from Paris to Los Angeles, rented an RV, drove from California to British Columbia, back to Washington state and then across the United States of America. This family saw the Catskill Mountain Club and the Shavertown trail listed on a website. They hiked the trail the evening before I met them, finishing by the light from their head lamps. They slept the night in their RV, and were awakened by our enthusiastic LiveFit challenge group at 7:00 a.m.! Imagine the fun and fitness they enjoyed, hiking in the Catskills and chatting with our group. The LiveFit participants were delighted to meet folks so enthusiastic about the American wilderness and the Catskill Park. It was an enriching experience for all of us to take a step back and look at the Catskill Park through the eyes of a visitor from abroad. What we saw was a fabulous place to hike, bike ride, swim, paddle, and play outside!

Your annual membership dues help fund purchasing of tools needed for trail maintenance, trail markers and signage, promotion of new trails and other club activities. Membership dues allow the CMC to continue in its mission for promoting non-motorized recreational opportunities in the Catskill Mountains. 

I am one of the  lucky few who grew up in, work and continue to live in the Catskill Mountain region and I thank you for your ongoing support and appreciation for the Catskills. On behalf of the board of the Catskill Mountain Club, thank you for renewing your annual membership, ensuring the Catskill Mountain Club can continue leading great events and teaching others about the Catskill Mountain region. Your gift to the club is tax deductible, to the extent allowed by law.

Happy Holidays to you and your family.
Amy Morse-Beveridge
From Andes, NY & East Meredith, NY 
Renew or Join! Click here to Become a Dues Paying Member!

Remember, the summit may be much snowier than the trail head!
Blizzard Survival Bag Review
Product: Blizzard Survival Bag
Manufacturer: PerSys Medical
Price: Approximately $40
Product weight: 385 grams
Unpacked size: 2.3 X 0.78 meters
Vacuum packed size: 21 X 11 X 4 cm
Temperature rating: 8 togs which translates to approximately 32 degrees F
Made in U.K.
We all know it is prudent to have some sort of emergency blanket or bag in your first aid kit to provide protection from wind and rain in the event of an unintended bivouac. These products are usually made from Mylar or other similar thin material.  By being windproof convective heat loss is minimized. Most emergency blankets are made of shiny reflective materials that minimize loss of body heat by radiation. These products generally have no insulative properties that would prevent heat loss through the material. These thin bags have the advantages of being very light, compact and inexpensive, although often at the expense of durability which can be a significant issue in very high winds or when placed against surfaces that can potentiate a tear.  Tears can spread in a fashion similar to what we have all experienced with potato chip bags.  

The Blizzard Survival Bag was developed to create a re-usable emergency bivouac product that would overcome some of the aforementioned shortcomings.  It is made from a three-layered material called Reflexcellâ„¢ which houses multiple air cells to provide insulation.  The outer layer is waterproof and windproof and comes in 3 color choices (orange, green or silver). The inner layer is silver colored to reflect heat back to the user’s body. The inner and middle layers have tiny perforations to allow moisture to move away from the body. The company claims that condensation is further minimized due to the insulative qualities of the Reflexcellâ„¢ material.  The product also has elastic running through it so that it conforms to the body to further reduce convective heat loss.  There is also a draw string closure at the top that permits the formation of a hood. The 3 layer construction design is said to minimize tear propagation.  The British use tog units to convey temperature ratings and the Blizzard Survival Bag is rated at 8 togs which translates to approximately 32 degrees F. The manufacturer recommends that the user also carry a sleeping pad to provide insulative protection from the ground.

The Blizzard Survival Bag weighs 385 grams and is vacuum packed in clear plastic material to the approximate size of a video cassette.  Directions for use are clearly visible from the outside of the packaging.               
Field review
I am very happy to state that I never have nor do I ever hope to have the need to do a true field review of this emergency product. With that said my curiosity got the best of me and I wanted to find out how effective this product is and in particular how well it insulates the user from the cold. In winter on longer hikes in the Catskills my family generally each carried a summer weight down (35 degree F rating) sleeping bag along with a Mylar survival bag that would act as a cover to protect against wetness and wind. We also each carried  a thin foam pad to provide insulation from the ground. Should the need arise I would not expect this system to be cozy in winter. Rather, it would hopefully provide enough protection for us to survive an unplanned bivouac when combined with the typical assortment of winter apparel that would be toted during that time of year.  The weight of this sleeping bag /Mylar bag combination totals approximately 25 ounces. The idea of the replacing this set up with the Blizzard Survival Bag intrigued me as it comes in at about one-half of the weight. Weight could conceivably be further reduced when one considers the relatively compact size that might on some occasions permit the use of a smaller and lighter pack. Of course we would still each carry a pad for ground protection from the cold.

As a side note while I strive to travel as light as possible I try to do so by careful product selection, never at the expense of safety.  With that said, travelling “light” in winter is virtually impossible considering that amount of clothing and equipment required for safe journeys.

So my curiosity got the best of me and I was determined to find out using simulated conditions how effective the Blizzard Survival Bag really is. I purchased four of these items (one for each family member) and decided that I would open one up (knowing that it is vacuum packed and that I would never be able to get it to the size of a video cassette recorder again).  My plan was to wait for a cold night, climb into it (when the neighbors weren’t looking) and hang out in it in a chair on the deck on the outside of my house.  I purchased a thermometer so that I could measure the temperature inside and outside of the bag.

The appropriate night finally arrived. It was 18 degrees F and snowing with windy conditions (although my house and the adjacent houses more realistically reduced the wind speed to more of a mild breeze).  I donned all of the clothing that I would typically carry with me on a Catskill hike that would project similar conditions. Instructions for opening and preparing the Blizzard Survival Bag were easily and effectively followed. The material was definitely noisy which I did not consider to be a deal-breaking factor considering the product’s intended use. There was plenty of room for me to get my 6 feet 2 inch body into it and the top cord when cinched definitely allowed for the creation of a hood and served effectively to minimize convective air flow. I was careful not to place my mouth inside the bag as this would predispose the system to the accumulation of condensation inside. I kept a head lamp with me to facilitate reading the thermometer. The inside temperature peaked at 57 degrees F during the 45 minutes that I remained in the Blizzard Survival Bag (before becoming stir crazy).  While I was slightly chilly inside the bag I felt that it definitely provided significant protection that would easily get me though the night in a pinch. I did not notice any clamminess or moisture on my clothing surfaces upon exiting the bag.

There is no way that I can draw definitive conclusions about “in the field” performance of the Blizzard Survival Bag based on the simulated conditions that I created. There are too many variables to consider. Would condensation have become a factor if I were in it for 8 hours? How would it feel in there after an exhausting long hike, or if I was hungry or dehydrated? With that said, I feel more confident about the potential performance of the Blizzard Survival Bag after my little test. I realize that in cold weather there is no substitute for a winter sleeping bag, tent and thick foam pad, and it would be irresponsible to recommend anything less in winter the mountains. I can, however state with confidence that given the choice, I would pick the Blizzard Survival Bag to be a more prudent option when compared to a thin Mylar type emergency bag in anything other than warm weather. In moderate temperatures the Blizzard Survival Bag would probably be relatively comfortable. Note that the manufacture recommends that for cold temperatures the user should consider doubling up by layering two bags one inside the other.

So what’s the bottom bottom line? I think the Blizzard Survival Bag is worth checking out and experimenting with as you endeavor to refine your emergency system.
By Ira Orenstein

Dear Prudence

One part Dear Abby and three parts Catskills hiker wisdom and wit, Dear Prudence is brand new to the CMC newsletter. Got a question about hiking? General or specific, gear or navigation, leashes or lore, “Prudence” will be happy to provide the best answer she can, relying upon the combined wisdom and experience of a team of prudent hikers. Safety first, you can rely upon Prudence for the best suggestions to keep you hiking safely and having fun in all seasons. Email your questions to Here’s Pru’s first letter:
Dear Prudence,
That other hiking club says that I have to bring snowshoes and crampons to the trail head for every winter hike. I don’t even know what crampons are! Do I really need all that stuff just to go for a hike? There’s hardly any snow at all at the trail head!
Sincerely, P.H.

Dear Post Holer,
Your short, sweet, and prudent answer is yes, but I’ll elaborate and qualify that. It depends where you’re hiking. Conditions change radically from the trail head to the summit of a mountain over 3500 feet in elevation. If you are hiking on a rail trail, or a short trail that does not change elevation very much, you may be able to hike without any special gear at all. But on the higher peaks of the Catskills, there is already snow now, in November, and ice won’t be far behind.

Here are my suggestions for what you need to enjoy the Catskills in winter.
  1. Snowshoes. These aren’t a choice. If you walk in the snow without them, and you sink in (which, unless you are a feather, you will), you do damage to the trail for everyone else. The holes you make might not seem so bad to you, but in the warmth of the day they melt a little and then overnight they freeze solid. A misstep into a frozen hole could mean a broken leg, especially for someone less competent at dealing with uneven footing (for example, children or dogs) so don’t post hole. Just don’t do it. Some places will rent you snowshoes so if you don’t want to buy a pair, you don’t have to. But if there’s enough snow to sink in, don’t bare boot.
  2. Gaiters. If you’ve ever post holed (we all did once. It’s cool. I won’t tell anyone about you if you don’t tell anyone about me.), you know that besides the tiring slog that walking becomes, your pant legs get soaked pretty darned quick. Good gaiters (I love the Outdoor Research ones because they are Velcro – easy on easy off – and they have an embroidered flower on the ankle) are worth their weight in gold. Put them on over your boots before you strap your snowshoes on.
  3. Microspikes. These non-crampon traction aids burst onto the scene a few years ago and holy cow are they perfect for the Catskills in winter. Less aggressive than crampons but infinitely easier to put on (you can stand on the trail, strike a yoga pose, and put your microspikes on. Practice it. You’ll be the envy of all your friends.), microspikes offer just enough traction to be all you need in most situations. 
  4. Crampons. If you are willing to admit defeat when hiking a high peak, then you do not need crampons. You just need to not mind driving all the way to the trail head, walking halfway up the mountain, and then being unable to continue on and turning around and heading back down. If you are working on your Winter 35, you need crampons. I cut up a pair of old blue jeans and use the pant leg as my crampon bag. I stick them in my pack in late fall when I switch my pack over to “winter season” and there they stay til May. You might only use them 2 or 3 times but when you need them, nothing else will do. Some places you are most likely to need them: the Escarpment Trail ascending Blackhead Mountain, the Cornell Crack, the Devil’s Path on the west side of Sugarloaf, the northern ascent of Kaaterskill High Peak… and anywhere else where ice takes over the trail. Heck, a few years ago I needed them on sweet innocent little Vly!
Thanks for the great question, P.H., and remember, you can rent pretty much any gear before you invest in buying your own.

Won’t you come out to play?

For more information about these exotic items, and becoming a winter hiker in general, please come on out to Winter Gear and Gab on Sunday December 14, at 1 pm, at Spillian in Fleischmanns. Prudence will be there, presenting a short slideshow and chat about becoming a winter hiker. Local outfitters will be on hand to answer questions and yes, they will have cool stuff for sale so you can learn and shop all in one cozy Sunday afternoon.
Wilderness – what does that word conjure for you? Jack London stories, grizzly bears, and endless snow? Or for trail maintenance volunteers in the Catskills, perhaps the word calls to mind regulations and restrictions. Maybe while hiking in the forest preserve you’ve noticed signs indicating either Wild Forest or Wilderness Area. For years, I hiked along, noticing those signs and never really giving them a second thought, assuming that the designation of Wild Forest or Wilderness was some unimportant bureaucratic name that didn’t mean anything much to me as a hiker.

All three of the above meanings are accurate to one degree or another: wilderness certainly is a grizzly-filled fantasy of somewhere far away and Jack London-esque. In addition, it does relate to a set of restrictions on what may occur in those areas labeled wilderness here in the Catskills. And it is a formal designation by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) – a category and a name placed upon certain lands within the forest preserve that afford those areas the strictest protections available here in the Catskills.

But as Catskills hikers, what does wilderness mean to us? Several years ago I had the good fortune to hear an administrator from the DEC talk about the wilderness designation – not in terms of regulations or a litany of “do nots” but in terms of the beauty and wonder of nature and the incredible power of experiencing the Catskill forest preserve unmediated by other people. The idea behind wilderness is that in such an area, visitors have a unique opportunity to experience solitude and nature in a relatively untouched state. Relatively being the important word here – there are trails in wilderness areas, signage at trail junctions, and even a parking area at the end of the trail. But wherever possible and to the greatest degree possible, the hand of man should not be visible in a wilderness area.

Stop here for a moment and let that sink in. New York State has set aside large tracts of land and designated them as wilderness, placing a clear value upon an experience of nature. Not just “get outside, here’s a park, swing on some swings, and play some tag” style outdoor recreation, but something more. Something special. Something unique. Something intangible. Valuing a place that humans don’t alter is pretty wild, eh?

The idea that there is a benefit to being out in nature is not a new one. Poets, philosophers, essayists, and even medical researchers have touted the benefits of enjoying the solitude and serenity of nature. Whitman, Emerson, Burroughs, Thoreau … they all expressed this sentiment way better than I can. In fact, the DEC has shared some information about the benefits of
“absorbing” the wilderness – real medical benefits to simply being outdoors in a forest.

Most good maps of the Catskills indicate whether an area is designated Wilderness, Wild Forest, or something else. The
NYNJTC map set has these areas clearly indicated and the DEC also has a comprehensive map of the Catskills that shows each area. Next time you hike in a wilderness area, take a moment to appreciate it! It’s a pretty nifty opportunity to experience something as wild as it gets so close to a large urban center.

And do your part to ensure that you leave the wilderness as free from evidence of your passing through as possible. Pick up and pack out ALL litter (yes, that includes pistachio shells and orange peels. Compost them at home – the wilderness is not the place for hiker waste, even if it is biodegradable). If you must use the rest room (so to speak), dig a hole and bury your waste. Keep your group sizes as small as possible. A large group can’t help but have a greater impact on the area, and you may also impact other hikers’ wilderness experience. Imagine chilling in silence atop a trailless peak, totally soaking in the experience… when 15 strangers show up. It’s a buzzkill. Avoid it if you can. Don’t build a fire unless it’s a bona fide emergency. If you adore fires, stop by one of the local watering holes that has a fireplace or one of the local joints that has a big outdoor bonfire on your way home.

Understand, appreciate, enjoy, and protect the wilderness. And reap the benefits!

by Heather Rolland


The CMC would like to brag about, and thank, all these fine folks who are supporting the CMC's work by becoming dues paying members since our last newsletter.  A big thank you to all of you.   And if you haven't become a member yet, please join the club!

Steve Berg
Chris Olney
Jeff Ditchek
Gale Kabat
Edie Mesick

Frank Silagy

John and Sally Dyce
David and Carol White
Polly and Jay Armour
William R. and Barbara Krisak
Bob and Terry Moses
Carmen and John G. Tucker
Adam Turner

Glenda Hoffman
Craig Nunn
Richard Bennett
Jim Gebhard
Barbara Hagstrom
Ronald Loeber
David Lucas
Paul Martin
Thomas Miano
Brenda Miller
Jonathan Mogelever
Pramod Sharma
Brian Wheaton

If you are on Facebook, be sure to 'like' the CMC and to 'like' events and other posts from the CMC to be alerted through Facebook of newly added events and other CMC news. If you are not on Facebook, check our website often as new events are added throughout the year.
Check the CMC website often for newsupcoming events and pictures and reports of recent outings!

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