Like many people, when I think Hunter Mountain, I think ski slopes. Unlike other people when I think ski slopes, I do not envision myself swooshing down a mountain. The simple fact is that Dominicans don’t ski, or at the very least this Dominican will never ski. The only Dominican I have ever known that ski’ed broke his leg twice doing so. We are warm blooded and caribbean, it’s just not in our nature. Hunter Mountain though has the distinction of being the second tallest peak in the Catskills. There are two different ways to get up to it, a short brutal way and a long not brutal way. I chose, a short 5 mile up and back route, that was BRUTAL. Yes, I do feel the need to yell that.
Here’s why. Up until now most hikes are a combination of climbs followed by a reprieve, then more climbing. Hunter though, was just climb. You start off easy enough, with two huge pillars welcoming you into this beautiful mountain. You start the hike off following a beautiful stream and crossing over a nice wooden bridge followed by a small old dam. Sounds peachy, right. After the dam though, you climb, you climb until you reach the top with the only reprieve being when you stop to breathe.
On this particular climb, on this particular day, the moment I hit 3500′, the trail turned into an icy and snowy mess. I was hoping to not bring out the microspikes but, better safe than sorry, when it’s all climb and you run into this:
As I climbed in this ice and snow, I asked myself, how the hell is this going to be going down? Microspikes or not, ice is ice. I stopped and reconsidered a couple of times, turn around or not. I persevered though, even if I doubted myself the whole way up. Sometimes I do idiotic things, but this did not feel like one. This felt right.
Am I glad I did. Once you get to the top of Hunter, you are immediately greeted with a huge fire tower, a building and not sure what that was but a semi sitting area. The wind up here was brutal though, I literally had to hold my phone with two hands at all times in order for it to NOT fly away. As I climbed the fire tower the wind got worst and worst, at one point I decided I needed to forget about everything else and just at all times when I move, hold on to multiple places. While the top of the fire tower was locked. Oh my god, I did not have to get to the top to see these beautiful views.
The last picture are the slopes for hunter mountain or the ski side of the mountain. I love how the slopes look like fingers from afar. At this point though the wind and the cold were killing me. I mean, it was a cold day to begin with, at 4000+ feet, the wind made it nearly unbearable. So much so, I almost considered putting on another layer of clothing. Instead, I departed the top of the mountain and took a roundabout way to get to this amazing little view on the other side of Hunter.
After the view, I decided to concentrate on coming down the mountain. The first 500ft of so of descent were ice and snow covered so all my concentration and attention went on footing. Once I passed the 3500′ mark, I took off my spikes and it was a rapid descent to the bottom.
In the end though, it was a quick 5 mile hike that included two miles of the hardest ascents I have done in the Catskills, not because it was difficult, but because it was incessant.
I left the hike wanting a bit more though, so I opted to stop for a bite at a local restaurant and hit Kaaterskill Falls as a quick 2-3 mile add on. I attacked it from two places. I did the new trails that cover the top of the falls and the traditional trails from Haines Falls.
Kaaterskill, even in its dry times is a sight to see, so the whole side trip was worth it just to awe at it. On a day like today, there were very few people there, so enjoying it in tranquility, without the usual crowds was great.
“While people are struggling unhappily in the cities against the cruel authorities, a waterfall happily and cheerfully flows in the nature; there is happiness only if there is freedom!” (Mehmet Murat Ildan)
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