I’ve been feeling a bit strange all weekend, dear reader. And I’m not exactly sure from what it stems. But more on that later. Maybe.
I’ve some interesting things I’d like to relate first:
I climbed Big Indian and Fir mountains this Saturday. Got to the trailhead around 11, which is WAY late for me, even though I’ve tended to sleep a bit past the alarm lately (and the alarm is no longer set for 5:30AM, the way it used to be). As I was finishing lacing my boots and strapping on my gaiters, an FJ Cruiser pulled up and two middle-aged dudes hopped out, remarking at how late “we all” were getting to the trail. Then they asked if I knew “this area really well,” or at least, if there was a gas station around. I said I didn’t know; that I’d taken a different route than they and certainly hadn’t seen any gas stations for quite a while. Then I asked if they had a gps in their car and suggested I might use mine to find the nearest gas station. The dude gave me a sour look which I interpreted as a negative for one or more of my queries.
As I was heading off, I heard them debating about whether to bring their snowshoes (there wasn’t much snow on the ground at the trailhead). I told them that even if they might not need them on the trail itself, postholing the last half mile bushwack to the canister at the summit wasn’t going to be a whole lot of fun. I think they brought their ‘shoes, but I never saw them again.
I suppose I got about a fifteen or twenty minute head start on them. The first three or so miles of the trail to Big Indian are pretty flat and I was making good time (about 2 miles per hour). As I was doing so, I wondered vaguely if I’d be able to hike both my mountains (they weren’t going to Fir) before they got back down from Big Indian.
When I was just about to the turnoff to begin bushwacking to the summit, I passed a little old lady coming back down. We stopped and talked for a minute, in the manner in which hikers do when passing one another on the trail. She was fucking ancient. I’m going to guess that she was 75 or 80 – maybe subtract a decade if she’s a heavy smoker, but being that I met her coming down one of the highest peaks in the Catskills at a pretty good clip, I kind of doubt that’s the case. She was wearing MSR Lightning Ascents – the same uber-badass snowshoes I was wearing – and had a smokin-hot French accent. And she had more patches on her pack than anybody I’ve seen on the trail yet – Catskill 3500 Club, Adirondack 46ers, winter patches for both, one that said “something 400” (I may have missed a zero and the patch refers to the 4000 footers in the White Mountains in New Hampshire), and a couple that I didn’t recognize at all. None of these were rainbow unicorns or care bears patches. This woman was seriously badass.
When we parted, she mentioned that she had to get back to the road because she didn’t have a car and had to hitchhike.
Last week I was talking to my friend Ed Pirone and I mentioned that I only had 12 mountains left to go in my winter peakbagging extravaganza, in response to his question of “what else has been up?” He then said something like “wow, and you’re doing those all solo? That’s pretty hardcore.”
Yeah, so hardcore a little old lady can do it.
So, needless to say I’m in love. I have a vague idea that her name is Merguerite (something)-Webster (I think) “known as IHY” (whatever tf that means). Her handwriting on the sign-in at the canister was pretty old-ladyish. When I got back to the trailhead, I snatched her digits from the logbook. Maybe I’ll give her a call this week and see if she’ll be hiking on Saturday.
Bagging Fir after Big Indian wasn’t all that hard – there was a trail broken by at least three people in snowshoes in the past week or so (I think one person was out there on Friday – or at least, that’s what the log indicated). I made it back down pretty quickly. So quickly, in fact, that by the time I was ready to leave – after re-heating my coffee and taking off my boots and such – the two dudes in the FJ Cruiser still hadn’t made it back. So I gps-ed the nearest gas station (13.3 miles away) and left a note on their car with the location and phone number. Not that there’s any cell service around there.
Meeting Merguerite was one of the coolest experiences of my hiking career. I hope I’m still bagging peaks when I’m her age – whatever that may be.