Monday, September 12, 2016

Plateau Mountain from Notch Inn Road 8/26/16

Whittling away at the Catskill list has been a really enjoyable gearshift after the 46, Koda 46 and winter 46. With all the newfound responsibility of fatherhood, shorter hikes, quieter trails and a whole new region to explore has been just what I was looking for from my hiking hobby.

Hunter's daycare was relocating to a brand new building so they were closed on Friday the 26th for the transition. I figured it would be a perfect day to try out a more ambitious hike with him. We've been exploring all of the local preserves in the Albany area and steadily increasing mileage. I've gotten pretty comfortable with carrying Hunter on my back. I was able to find the older version of the Osprey Poco Premium from REI at a nice discount and find it to be very comfortable. We actually use it a lot in the city as well as on hikes as its a bit more convenient than a stroller.

Timing a hike with a baby is very different than solo. He wakes up between 5-6 every morning so I waited until it was time for his morning nap to drive down. I listened to the Grateful dead's performance from 9/3/88 at the Capitol Center in Landover, MD. This nights music had a very lovely airy,  but almost plaintive feel to it. This feel was especially apparent during the first set's Bird Song and Peggy-o and the second set's Victim or the Crime, Foolish Heart and Eyes of the world. Hunter slept the whole way :).

After a stunning drive through the many bucolic country roads of the Catskill park we parked at one of the pull offs on Notch Inn Rd. I got our stuff together and gave Hunter a snack before slinging him over my shoulders. He was well-rested and in good spirits as we made our way to the unmarked trail head.

The morning forecast was slightly iffy but I was optimistic. There was the lightest of drizzles for about 5 minutes right at the start but each moment after that got more lovely.  The pack has a sunshade which we keep up most of the time so Hunter stayed dry. The hike starts an a wide old tote road before breaking off onto a soft and seemingly lightly traveled trail. Climbing started gradually along the tote road and kept increasing as we climbed the ridge. The woods feel very different to me than the Adirondacks and this trail reminded me a lot of the Hudson Highlands. Certainly more of a downstate mix of trees and vegetation.

There were filtered views through the trees as we got higher. I imagine the early spring or late fall would be a pretty spectacular time to do this hike. It was a welcome break to gain the ridge and take a break from climbing. It was very humid and with the additional effort of carrying Hunter and my efforts to control my hiking to make sure I didn't fall or jostle him too much, I was pouring sweat and short of breath. Hunter continually looked around and babbled (to himself or me? No idea) while I climbed. He really loves being carried around in the pack and seeing the world. I feel proud that he is 9 months old and has probably seen a million trees already. While he may not remember, his little brain is forming and some of this must imprint.

The ridge was a lovely place to walk and was bursting with all the greens of late summer. The narrow trail wound through a pristine forest that doesn't appear to suffer from much human abuse. No erosion  or garbage anywhere along this path. At some point we entered the coniferous forest which is always more jarring in the Catskills compared to the Adirondacks. in a matter of 20 ft it seems like the forest completely changes. As we neared the end of the ridge, I noticed Hunter wasn't as active. I turned my camera around to selfie mode and saw Hunter peacefully sleeping.

Hunter continued to snooze as way as we came off this subsidiary ridge and started the steep climb up to the Plateau Ridge. Just before the down climb there is an absolutely stunning view out into a deep cleft between the surrounding peaks. Which Hunter slept through completely. I felt challenged by the climb up onto the Plateau Ridge. It was one of the steeper sections of trail I can remember in the Catskills. Luckily it was fairly brief. Once on the Plateau....plateau, the day went from partly cloudy to nice and sunny. It was a nicely timed pick-me-up as my energy was flagging a bit.

Whereas the lovely and isolated-feeling hike in felt atypical of the region, the hike to the high point was extremely typical of the Catskills. Hunter woke up for the muddy meander through tight pines until we reached the scenic overlook at the end of the ridge. I didn't see any indication of the exact high point but we obviously hit it at some point. We nestled in on the viewing ledge and had a bit to eat. Hunter was glad to be out of the pack and moving around. It was a bit nerve-wracking for me as there were drop offs on all sides but I just stayed right with him. I let him play and explore for 10-15 minutes before we packed up to head back

By the time we were off the summit ridge Hunter had passed out again. I have no idea how he can sleep so peacefully in his pack but am glad he does. I walked carefully but quickly through the woods on a beautiful late summer afternoon. It was very peaceful and calmed my mind. Hunter woke up for the last 10 minute of the hike out. We met the property owner who's house I had parked closest too and he was very excited to talk to me about hiking with his son when he was Hunter's age. It was a really lovely way to end the hike.

We finished the '88 dead show on the way home. In doing the research for this blog post I turned a neat little snippet about the second encore, a rare bust out of the American Beauty classic Ripple. Read a little more here if you're so inclined. It was a really nice hike and a terrific experience with my son, taking him out for a much bigger day than he's done previously. He did super well and it's always so nice to get to spend extra time with him. I love you so much Hunter.

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