Hiking Slide Mountain -- 06/29/00

What I've being doing lately (instead of updating my webpage)...

For the past couple months Jennifer and a group of her friends had been talking about celebrating their new status as high school graduates by traveling up to Canada for a week or so. Despite some natural parental concerns about having five or six 18 yr old girls wandering about Montreal and Quebec City on their own, Nancy and I said and did nothing to discourage them; nevertheless, we were somewhat relieved when Jennifer informed us that the trip wasn't going to happen. She then reminded me about our hike up Wittenberg Mountain (in the Catskills) two years ago and how we had talked about doing more hiking. She and two of her friends had arranged to have a few days off from their jobs because of the now-cancelled Canada trip and she suggested that it might be fun to go hiking again. So I phoned my brother (who lives in the mid-Hudson area) and arranged to crash at his house.

Getting packed up for the trip was an adventure in itself. Jennifer couldn't find her hiking boots (Nancy found them in the garage). I couldn't find my high tech thermal blanket nor my compass nor an emergency whistle -- items I'd purchased for our previous hike. Oh well, at least I had my backpack and my DEET (insect repellant). It was late morning, well past ten a.m. by the time we actually got started. Jennifer took first shift behind the wheel. In fact, she drove the entire two hundred miles to my brother's house. Jennifer has been driving for two years now. In my estimation she has always been a good driver -- I've never worried about her driving skills, only about the idiots and drunks that are out on the road -- but now she has the added confidence of an experienced driver. It was quite relaxing to be able to sit back and let her handle the driving and she said she was happier driving because it kept the trip from being boring.

When we got there we found that my brother and his family and assorted friends and relatives were either swimming in their pool or lounging around in the backyard. It was a hot day, temperatures in the nineties, and we quickly got into the pool.

On Monday we set out for the Catskills. I had been attempting to choose one of two possible hiking destinations:

  • Wittenberg Mt., which Jennifer and I had hiked two years ago, was easy to reach, good parking at a state campground (which mean real bathroom facilities available before setting off and upon return), and a beautiful view from the top, but it was a demanding four mile hike to the top, including a few spots where you had to scramble up some rock ledges using both hands and feet.
  • Slide Mt., the highest peak (around 4200 ft above sea level) in the Catskills, an interesting but not difficult hike, less than three miles from parking area to the top, but twenty years had passed since the last time I had hiked it and I wasn't sure if I remembered where to find the parking area for that hike.
I finally decided on the Slide Mt. trail and after we were a mile or so into the hike I was very glad that I had because the other trail would have been too much for Jennifer's friends (but not for Jennifer). The weather forecast had been for possible scattered thunderstorms. We kept seeing dark clouds pass overhead and hearing thunder, but it never rained on us during our hike. Eventually we reached the top. [Nancy and I had hiked Slide Mt. twenty years ago, a group hike with the professor and fellow students in a graduate course we were taking at Binghamton University: Heuristic Problem Solving (probably the very best course I have ever taken in my career!) -- it was late April, snow still on the ground at the higher elevations, easily six inches deep in the shadows of the trees, although the exertion of hiking had caused most of us to peel off our outer layers, but the wind chill at the summit quickly put all of those layers back on. The view had been magnificent that day, a panorama of the other rounded peaks in the Catskills.] Today, however, the air was hazy, the other peaks blurred by mist, the brisk winds replaced by just a slight breeze... and rows of evergreens had grown tall enough to block the view down into the valleys. We ate our sandwiches (having stopped at a Subway in Kingston to order four six-inch subs) and did not linger at the top, being chased away by fierce swarms of insects: flies, mosquitoes, gnats.

There are a lot of cellular dead spots along Rt. 28 because I attempted to call my brother's house a number of time but couldn't get a connection; and then when I finally got through, I reached his answering machine because everyone was out by the pool. So we showed up with tons of takeout (Sweet and Sour Chicken, General Tsao's Chickeng, Egg Rolls, Chicken Fried Rice, BBQ Pork Strips, etc.) from Eng's restaurant only to find that Donna (my sister-in-law) had made a ton of stuffed shells. Anway, nobody was hungry. (I also picked up a six-pack of Bass Ale which my nephew and I worked on.) That evening I got a call from my eldest to tell me that he has just gotten engaged. No date set, just sometime in 2001. That's good news; his fiance is a wonderful person and I think they make a great couple.

On Tuesday we visited the Catskill Game Farm... besides the usual zoo-type displays where you can watch various animals through fences or on the opposite side of walls and moats, they also have an area where you are surrounded by goats and sheep and llamas and deer... and I mean very closely surrounded because they sell special animal food crackers that you can feed to the them. There is also a nursery area with baby animals where you can buy bottles of "milk" to feed the lambs and fawns, etc. [Good business: charge admission and then have the visitors pay you for the food and do the feeding. Yeah, but it is fun.]

Although I did all of the driving around through the Catskills, Jennifer took the wheel again for the drive home. We were all pretty tired by the time we reached Rhode Island but I think we had all enjoyed our mountain expedition. I ended up not getting anywhere near as much sleep as I needed Tuesday night because Sean was working and needed a ride home. Nancy is not a late night person and she was asleep not long past eleven. Jennifer normally keeps late hours but she was in bed by then as well. I tried to stay awake reading but had dozed off probably fifteen minutes or so before he phoned (after one a.m.) for a ride. I'm quite sure that it is against the law for them to let a fifteen year old work such late hours but he enjoys the job (and the money) so I'm not going to complain... except since he is too young to drive that means one of us (i.e., usually me, but sometimes Jennifer) has to stay awake to give him a ride home.

And now a four day weekend is approaching... I forgot to send in my entry form for a four mile race on Sunday... I'll have to make sure to drop that off tomorrow.

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