Most of the trail to Slide, almost to the top from the Slide Parking Area, is like rubble, as if an ancient giant smashed the top with Thor’s hammer and a plethora of rocks tumbled down the side and piled up in the dirt below. You might appreciate the step aerobics-type exercise on the way up, but the descent can be precarious. Hiking poles are a great help on this type of trail. The hiker needs to be as nimble as a mountain goat in order to make good time, or take some extra time to make frequent stops on the way down to sit and ruminate amidst the ancient geography. The Catskills were once – millions of years ago – on the seabed in the Bahamas. You can find marine fossils, pebbles and small pieces of harder stone embedded in the rock. This is a good hike for dogs, because there are plenty of small, running streams to provide refreshment. There are some stone steps built into the rubble at various points to ease passage.
Slide is easier to navigate on foot in the winter when it’s covered in a thick layer of ice or snow and you can glide over the top in spikes or snowshoes, but the summer reveals its fascinating character. This is no ordinary hike and Slide Mountain Wilderness was a favorite of local legend, essayist and naturalist John Burroughs, a protégé of Walt Whitman. There is a plaque dedicated to Burroughs at the summit, on a rock under which the author frequently slept. He wrote: “Here the works of man dwindle, in the heart of the southern Catskills”. Be careful not to miss the plaque if you’re finishing your hike at the summit of Slide Mountain.
Once you’ve made it up the steep, rocky incline, to the balsam forest on the summit, the trails get thick with mud and you’ll encounter an epidemic of mushrooms: heavenly ghost pipe that is ordinarily rare and quite the miracle as it can’t be cultivated, russulas, boletes, collybia and much more. This rainy summer has made the going soggy, lush and fertile after the switchback to the summit and the balsam pines are loaded with cones that glisten with sap.
And then, at the summit of Slide, pictured top, a cozy, flat rock ensconced in a thicket of pines amidst the clouds like the pinnacle of nature’s skyscraper, is the reward for the weary hiker. Through the tops of the pines you’ll see several stunning views: the next two summits further along the trail (Cornell Mountain and Wittenberg), the Slide Mountain Wilderness and a partial view of the Ashokan Reservoir.
As there are now seven billion people in the world, mostly concentrated in the city areas, finding true solitude should be considered an extravagance. To sit atop this mountain, eating a sandwich with the dog, at 4080 ft completely alone is an unadulterated luxury.
For this hike, Trail Map 143 from the NYNJ Trail Conference was used for hiking directions.