Early this year, I decided to take a more serious look at my '111er' summit list. The '111er' list is, of course, composed of the 111 peaks over 4000 feet in the Northeastern US (actually, its now been corrected to 115, but 111 sounds better). Anyhow, as I was saying, I took a more serious look at the list... and noticed that I hadn't made much progress recently. I've since been more mindful about climbing 111er peaks that I haven't done before - the result being that so far this year I've managed to climb seven more.
I've mostly been focused on the whites in New Hampshire; however, two modest peaks in the far south of New York state have recently been calling to me. These two peaks are the two highest peaks in the Catskill mountains - a place I'd never been before. All throughout this year I'd made mental plans to go, but for one reason or another things fell through. This weekend, however, a combination of good weather, some free time, and a car part that I wanted to get rid of all came together nicely. It was settled: the Catskills would be visited this fine first November weekend of 2006. Even better still, Luke and Sophie were able to join us, meaning that we'd travel with company and we'd be able to do a traverse!
The Catskills are a good six hour drive south of Ottawa. The weather was still good enough, so we took this as one last time to drive the S2000s for this year. We left on Friday afternoon and drove down to the towns just east of Catskill park. We stayed at an economical but clean little place - the Wenton Motel, in Saugerties, NY. We even got a five-dollar discount for staying two nights. wooo!
Wake-up call at the diner
Heading off to the mountains
Beautiful Catskill Morning
The Catskills are a relatively low range (actually, the're more like a high plateau dissected by erosion), with only two peaks above the requisite 4000-foot line: Mounts Hunter and Slide. The plan was to hike the higher and longer of the two, Slide, on Saturday, and finish off Hunter quickly on Sunday morning, with a return drive home in the afternoon. Seeing that we had two vehicles, I convinced the group that an interesting traverse of Slide Mountain would be preferable. The traverse would cross over two other lower peaks, Wittenburg and Cornell Mountains, and was reputed to be quite scenic.
Getting up at a reasonable hour on Saturday morning, we drove through quaint and twisty residential backroads, through the musically famous town of Woodstock, and to the Woodland Valley trailhead to Slide Mountain. It was fun to imagine where the famous Woodstock concert field was, or where the famous "Sleepy Hollow" of Rip van Winkle was; it was neat to see all of the strange looking dutch-derived names for things: 'everything'-kill; and words with lots of 'aa's, like Klaat and Plaat.
Woodland Valley Trailhead
Since our S2000s are two-seat vehicles, we needed to strand two people at the trailhead while the other two did the car ferry work. We decided to put this to our advantage and get Luke and Sophie to start hiking ahead of us, so that Luke could go easy on his prone-to-be-sore knee. I gave Sophie my extra GPS, my topo map, and an overview of both, and an FRS radio, and then off Jenn and I went to ferry a car to the far end. In the back of my mind, I hoped that I'd given enough directions.... I'd noticed that there were two different trails leading away from our trailhead.
The car ferry around to the far trailhead took quite a long time - an hour, to be exact. Well, I thought, at least Luke and Sophie will have a good long headstart on us!
We arrive back at the trailhead, and, as expected, Luke and Sophie are gone. I call out on the FRS radio, hoping to get a faint comm-check with Luke and Sophie. Surprisingly, Luke's voice comes in very loud and clear, as if he were nearby: "Yes, we're only about ten minutes above you", Luke said in an exasperated tone, "we went the wrong way after you left.". Oops... I should've heeded my inner voice. Luke and Sophie had taken the trail leading off in the opposite direction (which, unfortunately, did say 'Slide Mountain' on it). In the process, they'd wasted almost an hour and had needlessly climbed and descended several hundred feet.
Sunlight-dappled mossy rocks
Well, nothing to be done about it now. Jenn and I got suited up and started up after Luke on the Wittenburg-Cornell-Slide trail (the trail that traverses over all three to Slide Mountain). The trailhead is at the corner of the woodland campground, on the opposite side of the road from the trailhead parking. It starts off up reasonably steeply through open forest with large boulders and rock outcropping. Pretty. Our starting elevation was about 1450 feet.
We caught up with Luke and Sophie at about the 1900-foot level. They seemed in good spirits despite their "pre-hike", and we all continued onwards in the sunny-but-crisp morning. The trail continued through open forest, eventually levelling out before reaching the junction with Terrace Mountain. We stopped for a snack break here.
Snack and GPS-learning break