Colorado Hike August 2015

I’d often heard of the beauty of Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, but had no real reason to travel so far, what with the mountains in my own backyard. However, in this year of historic drought, we sought greener places. We knew that the flowers and grasses would be shriveled and even the streams would be dry in August in the Sierra this year. The drought had extended north to encompass the entire west coast, so we searched for water elsewhere. And we found it: All those storms which had forsaken the coast had migrated east, to Colorado.

But I knew nothing about Colorado, except that there were plenty of mountains. So I searched online for popular hikes. I also narrowed my search to southwest Colorado, so we wouldn’t have to drive as far. The most popular hike of all was to the Chicago Basin; not only was it beautiful, but you also had no choice but to take a romantic steam train to get to the trailhead. Nice! But upon further reading I discovered that the trails were far too crowded, and it wouldn’t be a wilderness experience by any means. I looked nearby, and found another, less busy trail that also happened to lead toward the Continental Divide. Hiking a section of the famous Continental Divide Trail? Oh, yes. That sounded excellent.

So I bought the Weminuche Wilderness Trail Map, and made some hiking plans. I tried to leave it as open-ended as possible, with no firm distances to be hiked or places to camp, taking anywhere from seven to nine days. My only requirement was to stand on the actual Continental Divide sometime during the hike. True, we were a bit sad not to be riding on the romantic steam train to get to the trailhead, so we booked a motel in Durango for one night and reserved our tickets for the train ride to Silverton. We’d do it all!

Vicki and the Weminuche Wilderness sign on the Pine River Trail

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Catskills 2015

Paul and I got ready to begin our hike at the crack of dawn. We knew that it was going to be a very, very long day. Our plan: Bag at least three of the trailless “bushwhack” peaks in the southern Catskill Mountains. We’d do a fourth peak if we had both the energy and the time. True, the days are long at the end of May, but we knew we needed to start early or we’d be hiking back in the dark.

We began at the Denning Road trailhead parking area, hiking on a well-maintained trail toward Table Mountain. Once the trail crossed the East Branch of the Neversink River, we turned left (leaving the trail) and followed a fairly well-defined fisherman’s path upstream along the south side of the riverbed. Mellow hiking, not steep at all, and it lasted for four and a half miles.

After that, things began to get adventurous!

Downclimbing steep ledges as we bushwhack down the south side of Friday Mountain

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North Cascades August 2014

This year we decided to avoid draught-stricken California when planning our big summer trek. We reasoned that the Sierra had received so little snow the previous winter that the grass would be brown and the streams reduced to trickles by early August. We wanted to go where the flowers would be blooming, so we headed fifteen hundred miles north to the Cascade Mountains in Washington. After some research online, we narrowed it to the Pasayten Wilderness in the Okanogan National Forest, just east of North Cascades National Park. We would be hiking on the final, northernmost section of the Pacific Crest Trail. This felt right to us, as we’d been hiking so many sections of the PCT these last two years. It was like visiting an old friend in his new home.

PCT sign where it meets Harts Pass road near the Brown Bear Mine

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Channel Islands July 2014

Many years ago, Vicki and I spent three days cruising around the Channel Islands on a friend’s sailboat, and had a great time. We anchored overnight, but never actually managed to land and hike on any of the islands.

We decided to change that this year. After searching online about other people’s trips to the islands, we decided to visit Santa Cruz Island, as it had established campsites, hiking trails, and less bureaucratic hassles than the other islands.

Looking toward Prisoners Harbor from the Del Norte Campground

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Catskills 2014

TR: Big Indian, Fir, and Doubletop in the mist

On my annual visit back home my brother and I always try to get in a bit of hiking in my old stomping grounds, the Catskills. I used to do quite a bit of backpacking there in my youth, but not nowadays. My brother gets more chances, and is currently up to 30 of the 35 peaks, with mainly the bushwhacks left to do. Bushwhacking solo can be a bit risky (it’s hard to use the Buddy System when you’re alone), so he’s been using my visits as a means of bagging these last few peaks. And I’m happy to help!

Anyway, this year we decided to hike to the summits of Big Indian, Fir, and Doubletop (if we had time).

Speaking of imagination: I DID see Sasquatch appear out of the mist, but he vanished, too.

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Catskills 2012

Well, it had been two years since our last bushwhack in the Catskills, as last year’s attempt in early September 2011 was called off due to the too-recent devastation of Hurricane Irene. When we got there this September, we saw that some of the washed-out bridges were still being repaired on Spruceton Road.

We got to the Spruceton Trail Parking Lot before midnight and crashed in the back of the van, hoping that we wouldn’t get in trouble for it. Luckily, nobody cared. We woke up about an hour before dawn (it was just getting light), ate some cold breakfast, and downed some caffeine. We had many miles of hiking ahead of us, much of it off-trail, and the days were getting shorter. On our last bushwhacking adventure, we barely made it out by dark.

Today our plan was to summit four peaks: Three of them were bushwhacks (two of those with canisters), three of them Catskill 3500 Club peaks, one of them over 4000 feet, and one that really wasn’t an official peak at all.

Multi-Shot Panorama View West from the Hunter Mountain Fire Tower

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Banff 2012

This trip to Banff National Park was entirely Vicki’s idea.  She wanted to visit what is arguably the most beautiful place in Canada, and that was fine by me.  The main drawback was that it was 2000 miles away, not to mention being in another country.  So she started her research a full six months before the hike.  And she found out plenty:  The park didn’t make backpacking easy, as they insisted that you stay only in certain campsites, and each night’s spot had to be reserved beforehand.  Meanwhile, I had to upgrade my mapping software to the latest version to view and download the Canadian topo maps, and also had to upgrade the firmware on my GPS to use the new software.  We created a map online and had it printed on waterproof paper.  Vicki called the ranger station in Banff, received some great advice, and made reservations for ten days of hiking.

And her plan was ambitious.  Due to the spacing between allowed campsites (typically ten kilometers, or six miles), there were many days when she intended to hike twelve miles!  This was WAY beyond her normal amount.  I was impressed.  I didn’t say what I thought, however.  I knew that if it had been MY plan (to hike this many miles per day, day after day), she would have shot it down in a heartbeat.  Instead, I simply smiled.  More hiking!  Sounds great!  I just hoped that I wouldn’t be carrying both her and her pack by the end of each day.

Me, standing on the edge of the Bonnet Glacier, Banff National Park

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Catskills 2010

My brother Paul and I decided that we were going to spend a day hiking in the Catskills during my yearly visit to New York. But not merely hiking on a conventional trail – our plan was to summit two (or even three!) of the notorious trail-less “Bushwhack” peaks of the Catskills. I had my outdoor skills, as well as a map and compass, so I wasn’t too worried about getting lost. Of course, I also had a topo- and waypoint-loaded GPS, but let’s not dwell on that…

We drove up on a Thursday night, and parked the van at the Mink Hollow trailhead at the west end of the Devil’s Path on Spruceton Road in West Kill. We slept about six hours and woke up just before dawn; it was going to be a long day, so we needed to hustle. We had some oatmeal for breakfast, got our gear and clothing together, and still didn’t get started until well after 8 AM! But that didn’t bother us, as we were strong hikers; this bushwhacking thing was sure to be a “Walk In The Park!” In fact, when we were finished bagging North Dome and Sherrill we were figuring to still have plenty of time to run up Halcott or Rusk, thereby checking off a third “bushwhack” peak on our scorecard for the day. Like I said, a Walk In The Park.

Ready for a Walk In The Park at the trailhead kiosk for the Devil's Path at Mink Hollow on Spruceton Road

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Catskills 2009

My brother and I drove up to the Catskills for a dayhike, starting at the Prediger Road Trailhead (the eastern start point of the Devils Path). We headed uphill to Jimmy Dolan Notch, then turned right on the Devils Path and climbed both peaks of Twin Mountain. After enjoying the excellent views from there, we headed back to the notch and then climbed Indian Head Mountain. After more excellent views we headed down to the Devils Kitchen area. Then we headed back to the car at the trailhead. We hiked 8.3 miles and climbed about 2500 feet.

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