Monday, November 30, 2009

Blackhead Range Hike - Part 5

I collected this series of photos to illustrate the eerie, haunted look which is so often characteristic of Catskill forests. In this first photo, you can easily see how the dogs would quickly disappear into the fog if they ran too far on ahead:

The Catskill woodlands have long been considered mysterious and sometimes full of spirits and spooks. Recall "The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow," set not far from here:

I used to hike with a buddy who believed in the "little people," spirits who inhabited natural places. He noted that the little people seemed straightforward and even sometimes friendly in the Adirondacks but quite different in the Catskills. Here, if not malevolent, they were at least mischievous:

These wild lands go on for miles and miles and miles. They are filled with bears and bobcats and other wildlife. On a foggy day, it's not difficult to imagine more other-worldly inhabitants also:

The silence of the woods may sometimes seem ominous, but so also may a forest filled with screeching birds and other noises:

A phenomenon which is common in the Catskills but which I've seldom seen elsewhere contributes to their eerie reputation. That is the tendency for tree growth to stop at a certain height after which the growth branches out wildly into a "witch's broom:"

More haunted Catskill woodlands:

And "witch's brooms:"
Those red discs are trail markers. On a foggy day such as this one, they could be life savers:

Perhaps Fergus is wondering what mysteries await atop that next ledge:

Is there a headless horseman nearby?:

Imagine a pioneer lost in these woods and looking up into these trees. Surely a few new legends of hauntings would result:

C'mon up, Dad. I've checked it out and there's no spooks up there:

Eerie, misshapen trees:

Wild, contorted scenes of haunted forest. What a Halloween hike this would make!:

And I end this series of foggy forest photos by taking a break with Seamus:

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Blackhead Range Hike - Part 4

I took another rest stop along the trail. By now, Seamus was happy to lie down in the soft leaves and rest but as you can see, Fergus is resisting. He still wants to run and play:

We approach the top of another "step:"

Fergus and Seamus trot along the trail above me:

The photos are now more clearly indicating the increasingly thick fog. But right here the trail was level so I was happy:

C'mon Dad, hurry up!:

Another "step" to climb:

And another @%*~!#%^ step. The dogs seem to handle them with more grace than I do:

Are we there yet, Dad?

I'm no moss expert, but this rock seemed to be home to a variety of them:

A closer view of the mosses. Some of them may actually be leafy liverworts, but I'm not sure:

A sign of civilization. This sign indicates that we are in a State Forest Preserve:

Deeper and deeper into the wild forest:

If we had to sleep here tonight, Dad, I could curl up under this stump:

These two birch trees are commonly called silver birches for obvious reasons but I think are more properly referred to as gray birches, Betula populifolia. Their bark seemed to me to be as silver as old flatware:

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Blackhead Range Hike - Part 3

I continued hiking upward on the Blackhead Range Trail in the Catskill Mountains with my two dogs, Seamus and Fergus. The other dogs have all become too old to hike anymore. In this photo, I stopped for a rest, sitting in the soft leaves. It's too early in the hike for the dogs to want to rest. They're still anxious to run:

I tried to capture the look of autumn Catskill woodlands by shooting a photo down the hill we'd just ascended:

Sometimes the trail zigzagged from side to side so that the ascent would be less steep:

Seamus decided to explore but got tripped up in a fallen sapling and wasn't at all sure what to do next. I found him funny and watched as he tried to figure it all out. In the end, he just turned around and returned to me and the legitimate hiking trail:

We were actually headed upwards around this liverwort covered rock instead of descending. But the dogs had gone on ahead of me and, when they could no longer see me, returned back down the trail to see what was causing my delay:

Foggier and more mysterious the forest became:

This emerald moss covered rock is lovely but also demonstrates why there is so much wildlife cover in the Catskills. Holes, crevasses, ledges and caves are everywhere:

We'd reached the top of a "step" and the dogs looked down to see where we'd come from. Were they also watching for bears?:

Why are you always pointing that camera at us, Dad?

Let's go on ahead, Seamus. Dad is taking too long:

Another layered rock covered with emerald mosses:

And a closer view showing the spore capsules:

This "step" was steeper than it looks in the photo and there was a never ending succession of them. But we continued upward:

This colony of puffballs was picturesque. Clearly this is a different species than the giant puffball which makes such good eating:

Friday, November 27, 2009

Blackhead Range Hike - Part 2

I was hiking with both Fergus and Seamus in the Catskills and we were still near the beginning of the hike, perhaps less than a mile along the trail, when I took this picture. Seamus is wondering what the heck I'm doing:

As the dogs and I climbed higher up the mountain, the fog got more dense. It didn't seem to bother the dogs at all but it became eerier to me as we progressed:

A turkey tail fungus along the way:

Higher and higher we climbed up into the Blackhead Mountains which consist of Blackhead Mountain, Thomas Cole Mountain and Black Dome:

The rocks are layered and filled with crevices, caves and ledges for wildlife and a whole host of imaginary creatures:

Standing at the bottom of a tall ledge, we are preparing to climb straight up it:

We're approaching the top of the ledge:

Seamus tries a detour (he doesn't follow the trail markers):

I paused for a moment to admire and examine the liverworts. At least I thought that's what they were. I later did an internet search and decided that they were Thalloid Liverworts, a primitive and fascinating life form. I'm open to correction if anyone knows I'm wrong:

A closer view:

Higher and higher we climbed up into the foggy mountains: