On Friday night I mentioned that Saturday’s hike would probably be a short one. It wasn’t. Here’s the story:
Let me begin with a digression, though:
All that stuff I talked about last week in my Inventory & Priorities posts – the things I’m looking to get out of moving toward my goals (emotionally, spiritually; that sense of accomplishment) – they’re happening. Besides sticking to my goals in the big ways (e.g. climbing mountains on the weekends), I’m also sticking to my goals in little teeny ways, the realization of which (by me) are quite possibly more fulfilling than the completion of the big ways.
I went to bed around 11 on Friday night, after talking for a few minutes with a handful of other dudes who were staying at the same hostel about their hiking plans for Saturday. They figured they’d hike Street and Nye – two bushwacks with no views – because Saturday was going to be rainy and overcast and not a good day for seeing all that far from the top of a mountain. They offered for me to join them, which I declined, even though they figured they’d be done by noon, which worked out well with my plans to get back to NJ by 6PM.
Even though it was tempting to hike with other people and possibly make some new friends, I figured I’d stick to my original plan. Good move on my part. And one of the aforementioned “little ways” by which I achieved a sense of accomplishment (in almost immediate retrospect).
My blackberry alarm (who knew they had those?) I set for 7AM, figuring that would give me enough time to get coffee for the 40 minute drive to the top of Whiteface. I woke up at 4 – wide awake in a bed that was not my own, so it was kind of weird going back to sleep – and then again at 6. I figured this was close enough to my planned wake time and got my ass a-movin’. Another good move.
One of the guys from the hostel mentioned that he thought the road to the top of Whiteface might be a seasonal one and therefore closed. If it was, that would mean that my hike would be just about doubled, because I’d have to start from a different trailhead (at the base of the mountain). The road was closed.
So I started from the next closest place, which was near the Atmospheric Science Research Center on Marble Mountain Lane (about 2000 feet elevation):
I followed the trail from the ASRC for about a mile to the top of Marble Mountain (2753 feet), and then proceeded on for another 3 miles to the summit of Whiteface Montain (4867 feet elevation), passing the turnoff for Esther mountain on the way. Though it was overcast, I didn’t stop to put on my raingear until after the turnoff for Esther.
There was a little bit of snow in the lee between the trail and the embankment for Route 451 where they just-about intersect, and small patches of ice on the rock here and there for the rest of the way up to the summit. The last bit of the trail on the way to the summit (maybe 300 or 400 yards), I walked along a rock ridge with a very steep dropoff to my left (south-southeast). This elevation was right in the middle of the clouds, and I was able to watch the wind blowing the clouds into the side of the mountain, where it then swirled back on itself. Pretty fly. The wind was heavy, but not strong enough to blow me around all that much, thank goodness.
I summited Whiteface and took a couple of crappy pics of me with my crappy phone (the wind kept blowing my hand around – and it was cold, so my fingers pretty much turned into claws), and sent the best pic I could take to pretty much everyone in my text-message recent contacts list. Make a note, dear reader: don’t forget to text Ted just before he climbs a mountain, and you might get some crappy picture mail.
On the way up the trail, I noticed I was following someone else. My tracking skillz ain’t all that great, but it had rained on Friday night, so it was pretty easy to tell fresh boot prints. They were small – right around my size (8.5), so I figured it might be a chick. That was a nice thing to think about on the way up the mountain.
It turns out it was a dude – I didn’t meet him, but I caught a glimpse of his back for a second when I reached the summit of Whiteface. No time for love anyway, Doctor Jones.
I passed three people on the way back down Whiteface – one dude just below the summit wearing nothing remotely waterproof (pity that fool), and two dudes just before the Esther turnoff. One of whom was a fellow Catskill 3500 Club member, and the other was a forty-sixer. I talked to them for a few minutes and headed back down. The forty-sixer was pretty old and kept saying stuff to us that included “your club”. Whatever. At least our bushwacks are, in fact, bushwacks, and not total herd-paths.
I summited Whiteface at around 10:30 and hit the turnoff for Esther at 11:24. On the way to Esther (4239 feet), I had to first climb Lookout Mountain (4085 feet). Lookout isn’t labeled on the map – it’s that little bump just to the south of Esther. I summited Esther at 11:58 – which makes 4 peaks before noon.
It was 1:30 when I got back to the car. By my calculations, I figure I was slip-sliding my way down the mountain(s) at about 3 miles an hour – which is a pretty good clip, especially in the rain.
As much as I poo-poo the herd path aspect of my ascent of Lookout and Esther (one part of the Esther trail actually had a 20-yard log causeway over a swampy section!), the fact that the trail was so well-travelled was a big help. That said, it’s only fair to mention that this convenience is not present on more than one or two of the bushwacks in the Catskills. To that extent, the 46ers have it kind of easy. I’ll not speak too soon, though, as Esther was my first bushwack in the ‘dacks; I certainly don’t expect the rest to be that easy.
It’s getting late and high time I wrapped this up. At the end of the day, I ended up hiking about 12 miles or so in a total of 5.5 hours, with an overall elevation gain of just under 3000 feet. I believe I called that ‘ludicrous’ in Friday evening’s post. I’m not even going to do the math on the total elevation gain (up and down and up again), but I’m sure it was a lot. I can’t wait to update my Peakbagger.com page.
The 4.5 hour drive at 80 mph home in the pouring rain was uneventful. I was glad for the couple of asshole drivers I had occasion with whom to duel on the way back, as they kept my wits sharp and didn’t allow any time for me to fall asleep while driving. I ate and ate and ate on the way home, and then ate like a horse at my parents’ anniversary celebration – for which, I might add, I was on time.
Everything about the trip – the hiking, the driving – was beautiful. I am so glad I set that goal and accomplished it. And I’m glad I digressed in the beginning of this post to talk about the fact that the little bits of determination were the most rewarding. I could have tagged along with the other hikers from the hostel. I could have skipped Esther and played it safe time-wise. In the end, it all worked out. But it all worked out because I planned in advance as much as possible and kept track of where I was geographically and temporally the whole time. These are just some of the little things that add up to a great sense of accomplishment.
Again, all that stuff I talked about moving towards in my Inventory and Priorities posts, I’m getting. The sense of peace I felt on the drive home on Saturday and for the whole day on Sunday has not yet left me. Work and other things have conspired to take it away here and there, but I’ve thusfar been able to return to that peace with barely a thought. It’s a wonderful feeling. I’ve been laughing louder, harder, and more often in the past couple of days than has been normal for me in the past few months. This is exactly where I want to be.