Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Slide, Cornell and Wittenberg Day

Slide Summit Rock -
our impromptu Wild Mushroom
and Pine Memorial to Jane
Life's tapestry is interwoven with many good and bad choices, emotions and "colors", so today's hike felt like a bunch of really important threads coming together. I had been anticipating this hike for a long time over the last few months and the Long Path thread started in January was now about to find me on top of the highest Catskill peak (Slide Mt at 4180').  I had my concerns about the day as I planned on multiple activities besides hiking.  I had to get up at 5:30 am, and drive north to Woodland Valley Campground. Once there at 8am, Chris and Andrea would drive  1+ hour back to the start point on Denning Rd.  Chris and I would walk the 12.25 miles over three rocky mountains with all peaks well over 3500'.  Moreover, I brought my bike because I wanted to finish the hike portion and then zoom down to Phoenecia NY on two wheels to conquer the 6+ mile Woodland Valley road section the same day.  Lastly, I was to drive my car across the Catskills to East Durham NY and attend the night time Catskill Mountain thunder Biker event and see Marshall Tucker band and Artimus Pyle Band (of Lynryd Skynryds fame as their drummer) and finally finish into the next day by camping overnight in a nearby friends field.  We planned on walking to the concert event and I would be on my feet all night at the concert as well.  This added more miles and hours standing and walking around. Could I do it all?
2.9 easy miles down, 9.3 harder miles to go
The start of the day was rough as 5:30 wake up didn't matter as I was already awake for the last few hours.  Nothing like a bad nights sleep before a big day.  I guess that is normal as I was anxious to get going.  I drove up and met Chris on time and we BS'd on the way to Denning.  I was very thankful that Andrea was willing to drop us off.  The shuttle is super far, and that saved me over two hours later since I was headed north to the concert afterwards.  As we approached the drop off at the end of Denning Rd, her car made some scraping sounds.  We figured it was grit from the dirt road in the brakes, but it was unsettling to send her off with a metal on metal scraping sound as she had to go down some fairly long hills to get out of the region.  We wished her good luck, while promising to answer our cell phones if she called us with problems down the road.  We all knew there was little we could do since we had no cell coverage at the moment, and slight chance any would be found in the bigger terrain ahead, but it sounded like the right thing to say.  In reality, Chris and I expected it was just grit from an unpaved road section and it would most fade away in short order.
Slide Summit "John Burroughs" Memorial
We set off at a brisk 3mph pace for uphill and ascended up the mountain trail.  After an hour we came to a trail sign and the Curtis & Ormsbee trail marker pointing us towards Slide Mtn. The monument was defaced on the lower part (in 1917).  I was sweating pretty heavily from the pace and it was cool out (about 50F) and the wind was picking up with 30 mph gusts along the ridge making it colder still.  We set off for the summit and continued the pace up some rocky sections. We made the summit in great time and paused to remember Jane at that moment as she was recently killed on her bike. We left a little pine and wild mushroom make-shift flower bouquet on the summit stone and after a moment of reflection and comment we set off again. The descent down Slide to the Bruin saddle area between Slide and Cornell was very steep and rugged.  We passed a spring with clean water running and eventually made the camping area below in the pines.  Chris told a few stories about his prior adventures here, like about fetching water from that upper spring and having to carry it in a pot while dripping half of it down the cliffs and also about some harmonica playing that attracted some eerily mewling porcupines.  We were in great spirits overall and were soon up to the Cornell summit.
Slide mt  in Background from
Cornell Mt
Chris demonstrating just how easy
and flat the trail is up here
We saw some nice views on the backside of Cornell just before the summit, but it was cold in the high wind and we found the North east side a better place to rest.  We found this place popular and people were there in small groups.  We still had no cell coverage and Chris was logically concerned about the car issue.  Someone loaned Chris a phone that had ATT coverage in the area and he found out Andrea had no issues and the noise stopped just down the road as we had hoped. [FYI - I later learned that ATT has the best coverage all over the Catskills from my buddy who lives in east Durham. Sprint and Verizon haven't made the same investments there.  I mention this as it may assist through hikers looking for better coverage during their journey]. 

Cornell Views North west
We exited the Cornell summit and were discussing our friend Jeff's past adventures in having been with a lost hiker at this spot who made the unfortunate decision to wander off trail to by-pass the "Cornell crack" (out of fear of it) and was later found the next day, far, far away after bushwacking down the entire mountain towards Ashokan and spending the night in the pitch dark "hugging" a tree without any supplies at all.  Jeff wisely did his best to find the lost hiker up top, but failing that after an hour of seaching, immediately called for help upon arriving in Woodland Vally in the dark.  The story is important because some people we passed on the trail obviously did not think about how remote and rugged the Catskills can be before setting off on a hike and often do not prepare for emergencies in their gear.  I always at least keep a lighter and a headlamp, water purification tabs and some form of emergency shelter and rain gear.  It increases the weight for a long day trip, but I couldn't imaging being stuck otherwise without it.

Wittenberg Summit Views
of Ashokan
Endless Views

Wittenberg mtn was last of the three from our direction and it provided an amazing view towards the Ashokan reservoir.  It was a popular destination and was full of hikers sitting on the ledges, resting and eating lunch after they (mostly) hiked up the long climb from Woodland Valley.  Chris and I ate our lunch as well, took a few photos and set off for the long and arduous decent.  My spirits were still up, but my knees took issue with the seemingly never ending 5+ mile trek downhill over rocks and more rocks.  I took an Aleive, stretched out a bit and continued on without the pain ever getting to bad.  It did slow me down some but not enough to be of concern.  We made the camp area at 5pm and it was simply late to add on the bike portion of the day.  It would have been too much.  I left Chris there alone as Jacob Franke was coming to join him and my hiking day was done.  We were out for 7 hours and 20 minutes, so the hiking portion was about 6 hours and the rest portions were about long enough for the overall scale of the hike.
    I drove through Phoenecia, Hunter, Windam and then into Cairo NY.  After a meal of delicous Mexican food, I made my friends place in East Durham before dark and pitched tents with my other friends who just showed up right on time.  We laughed, drank a few beers and headed off to the concert grounds.  It was full of thousands of bikers, RV's and bon fires.  People were in black leather and many were packing knives and other assorted chains and weapons that basically told me there would be no trouble at all there that night as everyone (but me) were armed. I was feeling pretty tired around 9pm and my friend Scott saw my energy dropping and he paid for me to get a 20 minute back massage at one of the booths in the tent city section.  What a great guy! The events fireworks were just beginning to be launched and it was kinda hard to relax with the explosions going right over head, but the massage worked out a lot of kinks and it somehow recharged me with positive energy. We walked back to the concert area and Shovelhead was playing a Foghat tune and they ripped out a classic set and the Artimus Pyle band playing indoors was fantastic.  The highlight concert was the Marshall Tucker band.  The keyboard player also sang, played a killer sax and the flute.  We then ate some great burgers at the stroke of midnight, drank yet more beers and finished with shots of Jamesons whiskey at the "halfway house" (the bar midpoint along our walk home). It was 40F out and we were way under-dressed and cold, a bit loopy from the drink and the stars and milky way were out like I've never seen before, so I guess the cold didn't seem to matter as much as if we were home.  Scott and I BS'd late into the morning and I finally entered the land of the Sandman after one of my best days I've had in a long time! Great day!
Trail Stats: ~11 miles on the LP, 12.2 miles in total.  Three mountains off my 3500' club list.
Conditioning:  Never better considering all!  It pays to play!

LINK TO NEXT ENTRY - Woodland Valley to Silver Notch


  1. Someone recently asked me if it was possible to hike up Slide in the winter and ski down (the easier side to the south-west). First my disclaimer: If you attempt it and get hurt (or worse), you made your own decision, solely on your skills or desires, not because of a comment here. That being said, I would think it is possible to ski most of it after a good dump of snow occurs and if you have the right skills and gear for this type of thing. I went up from the Ormsbee memorial and it didn't seem very difficult ascent. I would use a garmin GPS on the way up and mark out any potential problem spots to be aware of on the way back down and pack the skiis on any unsafe zones. Perhaps others have thoughts or experiences with Slide mt or similar hike/ski experiences they can comment on.

  2. I did some more research on skiing Slide, not only has it been done many times, there is a great video on it: