How quickly the phrase “failure is not an option” turns into “let’s find the nearest pub” when faced with an extended trip down an icy rock face. Pictured above is part of the trail down Slide Mountain on the way to Cornell. Yes, that’s the trail up the middle of the picture, completely filled in with ice. If you had been there you would have found me clinging to some of this rock face, stuck and hyperventilating, even wearing crampons, wondering aloud, why, why, why, am I here again? Have I learned nothing? You would have observed my dog looking at me quizzically, wondering, why doesn’t she just trot down like I just did?
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. Continue reading
A return to the stunning Slide Mountain for the second time this year, ascending into the seductive clutches of a dense forest of snow-laden conifers, with a copy of John Burroughs’ In The Catskills. A commemorative plaque to Burroughs is affixed to a large rock at the summit under which the writer frequently camped. Slide is so named because of a landslide that occurred in the early nineteenth century on its north face where the scar is still apparent after having been refreshed by another landslide in 1992 and the entire area was thoroughly traversed by the writer.