It’s about this time of year that cabin fever firmly seizes us in these mountains and we do impulsive things like go hiking up a mountain when there’s only two hours of daylight left. Spring seems like it’s just around the corner and we’re so used to the bitter cold that 20F seems nice and toasty. It’s not until we’re approaching our icy ascent (in our snowboarding boots, stupidly wearing wool and cotton), passing very sensible hikers on their way down using sticks and cramp-ons that we realise what a risk we’ve taken, but there’s a happy ending to this story, and a sandwich. Charles Dickens walked 20 miles a day in his prime, stalking around town in the afternoon after a sturdy lunch, no doubt conjuring up characters en route from his observations of 19th century Londoners. Writers love a good walk. First, the sandwich: corned beef brisket on toasted rye with a dash of mustard from Arkville Bread and Breakfast with a portion of chips (that were meant to go in the Fish and Chips, but that was yesterday’s lunch). Thinly-sliced brisket, lean, delicate and not too fatty on perfectly-toasted rye. This reasonably-sized portion, plus a cup of Twinings Irish Breakfast, got me to Giant Ledge in most unsuitable shoes and down again, occasionally sliding on my bottom because of the ice.
The hike to Giant Ledge is a rocky, uphill climb, a test even for the firmest thighs, but the view from the ledge itself is one of the best views of the mountains that you’ll get without being airborne. The mountains are looking a tad bald at this point, but the nook in which the Giant Ledge rests is like a little Winter grotto when the afternoon sun glows through the bare trees and bounces pink and orange light off the snow and ice. There were a couple of large, menacing ice patches, but it was easy to avoid them by going off-piste and walking through the snow that covers either side of the trail. The trail to Giant Ledge from the parking area is 1.5 miles uphill all the way to the top, taking roughly two hours round-trip for two fit people who work out regularly. The Black Labrador was unfazed, went up and down the trail many times, sideways, the wrong way towards Woodland Valley and is now comatose on the sofa, snoring loudly. Go here to learn more about hiking in the Catskills and always sign-in for your hikes.
Giant Ledge is a 2.5-hour drive from George Washington Bridge. Take I-87 to Kingston, Exit 19, then take Route 28 (West) after the traffic circle, following the sign to Pine Hill. At Big Indian, turn left onto Route 47 and drive 7.5 miles south on Route 47 until you see the trail head below.