According to Joni Mitchell’s song “Big Yellow Taxi” the lyrics tell us that ‘you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone’…well I can attest to that. I grew up in the heart of New York’s Catskill Mountains, specifically in a valley referred to as Big Hollow that lies in the shadow of six mountains, three of them being some of the highest in the Catskills. I was a definite outdoors kid, from dawn to dusk the nearby woods and streams were my playgrounds. But, I never really appreciated the magnitude of the creation that surrounded me…until I left the area. College and employment opportunities pulled me away from this mecca of adventure, and soon much flatter farmland and a really big lake, some would even call it great, became my new surroundings, leaving a void that could only be filled by the majestic views of the Catskill Mountains.
I have always enjoyed hiking. At the age of seven with sleeping bag and toothbrush strapped to my back, my buddy’s Dad as our trail guide, and a half dozen kids all under the age of twelve, I went on my first overnight hiking trip. After nearly losing our friend Scotty to the current of a mountain stream, sleeping in an open lean-to, having breakfast cooked over the fire, it was an experience I would never forget. Growing up we’d continue to hike from time to time and probably made our way to the summit of about a half dozen mountains over the years. Climbing some of them multiple times. There’s something very cool about looking up at a peak far above the valley floor, and know that in a few hours, you’ll be standing on the top looking back down to where you started. It’s the perfect mix of adventure and workout, where nature’s obstacles and terrain provide the challenge and the view from the top delivers the reward.
In the late ninety’s, my brother and I started making an annual trek back to our hometown to do a little camping and hiking. It started out as a pretty casual event, with no real goals, other than to get out in the woods for some exercise, and spend time around the campfire. After a couple years, a buddy of ours started hiking with us for what was soon to become an annual tradition. It wasn’t too long before we learned about the Catskill 3500 Club and the 35 peaks above 3500’ that must be climbed to gain membership. That’s when everything changed. What was once a casual fall weekend had turned into mission to climb all 35 of the 3500’ Catskill Mountains. With only 6 of the 35 peaks left, we can see the finish line.
Over the next few issues of Relatively Random, we’ll tell you about the peaks we’ve conquered and the things we’ve learned. We’ll talk a bit about the gear we’ve tried, what has worked, and what has not.
If this ‘peaks’ your interest, pun intended, check in next month as we talk about the Escarpment Trail.
Check our our full series on hiking in the Catskills…