Friday, December 30, 2016

Silde Mountain 12/21/16

After our hike of Giant in some challenging weather conditions, I was glad when the forecast for Michael and I's Slide Mountain hike turned out to be pretty perfect. The plan was to meet at the Stewart's in Saugerties since he comes up from Jersey and roll to the trail head together from there. I'm listening through the Grateful Dead's performances at the Capitol Theater again so listened to 11/8/70 on the drive. The acoustic set was the perfect way to start my morning. The slowed down "I Know You Rider" and one of the few live performances of the Pigpen classic "Operator" are but two highlights of a set that's really the culmination of a year of stellar acoustic performances.

Michael hopped in with Koda and I and we got on the road. It was cool to travel a part of the state I've never spent any time in before (I hiked Slide many years ago but have few memories). On the winding roads Koda whined quite a bit at first but did eventually settle down. We listened to the start of the electric set with a well-placed Morning Dew inspiring us for our day ahead. A large meet up group was just gearing up to get going as we hit the trail head. They had a little dog with them who Koda was quite excited to meet. As we geared up, I watched as the group did a rather dicey water crossing of the Neversink along a snow-covered downed tree. I was not looking forward to it. Well it turned out to be OK but that's quite a way to start a hike. I imagine this firms up quite a bit later in the season but there was lots of thin ice and open water. I'm glad no one took a dip.

The weather was just as good as it can be in the winter and the trail was nice and mellow, especially in comparison to our last hike together up the very steep Giant Mountain ridge trail. There was around 8-12 inches of snow overall but lots of the hike had way less then that. Everyone before us had worn spikes and that appeared to be the correct tool for this trail. Of course I forgot mine like a noob after really making sure Michael had his. I survived. The trail is a nice inclined plane that moves you up steadily in elevation. We soon had lovely filtered views of the Neversink and Esopus Valleys and the feeling of getting high on the mountain.

I think one of my favorite parts of the hike was witnessing Michael noticing all of the interesting ice and snow formations and just how much winter alters the landscape. It gave me fond memories of discovering this unique beauty for myself and how much it inspired me to keep exploring in the winter months. We made the abrupt transition into evergreen forest and began to work our way along the ridgeline as the sun rose above the nearby mountains and began to illuminate the forest around is. It was truly beautiful and got me super excited to see some views. There are several stunning views north along the final push and we paused to soak them in.

By the end of my winter round of the Adirondack 46, I felt like I had the peaks pretty much memorized from most any standard perspective. I can honestly say that I'm a third of the way through the Catskill peaks and I still really don't know much at all. It's exciting and humbling to have a new world to get acquainted with. The final stroll along the top flew by after the initial views. We soon found ourselves on the big ledge with big smiles and some pep still in our step. I gave Koda a pig's ear and us dudes split a pb and j. Michael had noticed on the way up that Koda's paw was bleeding. For the first time in our 4 years hiking together, Koda had sustained an injury: he had broken a nail on his front left paw. At the summit I cleaned it up and put styptic gel on it. He wasn't favoring or worrying it so while it was disconcerting to see him bleeding, I tried not to worry too much. He happily munched a pig's ear and Michael shared some pb and j with him while we took in the summit view. From descriptions, I honestly expected it to be more grown in so the commanding view over the tops of pine tress was a pleasant surprise. We loitered in the bright warm winter sun for another pig's ear before beginning our decent.

In planning the hike I thought it might be nice to tack on the Curtis-Ormsbee loop to make the hike a bit more interesting. It actually worked out really well since it wasn't broken out and Michael was looking to get a little snowshoe experience. We broke out thickly crusted (it had rained quite a bit the previous weekend) snow along the subsidiary ridge, occasionally finding windswept sections devoid of snow. It felt almost like a different mountain then the one we had hiked up. I enjoyed being in snowshoes for the first time of the season and Michael got the hang of them fairly quickly after initial trepidation.

The loop adds an additional mile (which I had conveniently underestimated) and with the extra work of snowshoeing, began to wear us out a bit. When we hit the Phoenicia/ East Branch trail large portions of the old tote road were open, icy and running with water. Michael switch back into spikes I mumbled expletives about forgetting the critical gear piece. It was still a hella pretty place to be and a gorgeous day so my spirits weren't really crushed or anything. The time passed, miles were hiked and the crossing went much easier with the pressure removed. It was a pretty awesome hike and Michael mentioned wanting to hike all of the Catskill winter high peaks needed for the Catskill 3500 which is awesome for me as I want to do them all as well so we made loose plans to hike another one before the end of winter. Since the trail was so wet and snowy, Koda's nail hadn't really stopped bleeding on the way down. Michael helped me hold and calm him while I applied the styptic gel again. This time it worked with him passed out peacefully in the back of my CR-V and has since healed completely.

It was another great day in the woods, enjoying the unique experience of hiking mountains in the winter, in the company of a great old friend, and a mountain-loving German Shepherd.  I felt lucky and grateful for the experience.

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