Friday, September 30, 2011

The Last Leg Of The Windham Mountain Hike

The dogs and I had made to the summit of Windham Mountain in the Catskills and were on our way back to the trail head. I noticed that yellow Jewelweed grew along the trail at the higher elevations and orange Jewelweed at the lower elevations:

Jewelweed is an amazing plant. Besides its beautiful flowers and attractive foliage, its sap wondrously eases bee and nettle stings. The leaves, when held under water, look like shiny tinfoil. The ripe seeds, beneath their green skin, are bright robin's egg blue. And the ripe seed pods give the plant its other nickname, Touch-Me-Not. When touched, they explode and send the seeds flying in all directions. I wanted to take a video of this phenomenon but didn't have enough charge left in my camera's battery. So I decided to take a couple of stills. Here's a seed pod:
I touched it and it exploded, its walls splitting and curling back while the seeds were sent flying great distances in all directions. What a great way to spread seed and continue the species:
Well, that was fun but we had a long way yet to hike and I was sore and tired. Seamus too was weary. His legs were wobbly as he tried to cool off in this mountain stream.
Fergus and Papillons were less fatigued yet considerably slowed down from their great energy levels at the beginning of the hike:
The sun was beginning to set and I was beginning to have difficulty seeing those blue trail markers as it became darker. The night insects and frogs began their songs just off in the forest and a Barred Owl began hooting not far away:
This hike was only 6.6 miles but seemed more difficult than the 12 mile Jug End Ridge hike we'd taken just two weeks previously. Well, there was nothing for it but to keep on putting one foot in front of the other. We had to make it back to the trail head before dark:
We traveled back through the spruce forest. It doesn't show here because my automatic camera adjusts itself to the available light, but it was growing quite dark. :
And across those exposed roots which bruised the soles of my feet and caused me to feel foolish for wearing sneakers. The Barred Owl continued to hoot every now and then interrupted, I guessed, by short, silent hunting flights. I began to worry about tiny Clover running ahead of me with her bright white flag of a tail displaying over her back. One of the things I read about Papillons is that they often activate the predator instinct in bigger dogs. Would an owl be tempted? I didn't know, but it was growing darker so I put Clover and Daphne on leashes and told Seamus and Fergus to heel:
And we did eventually make it to the trail head. I let the dogs loose briefly and signed out:
But we weren't back to the car yet. We crossed the boardwalk and bridges built since Tropical Storm Irene:
And finally I could see the highway. I put the dogs back on leashes and hobbled and wobbled my way across the highway to my car. The pooches were also happy to lie down in the back of the car. They scarcely moved all the way home:

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Part 7, Windham Mountain

I was hiking up Windham Mountain with my four youngest dogs and getting mighty tired. Every time I figured we were at the summit, I sadly discovered that we were not - and the trail kept getting steeper and my feet kept getting sorer. But the mountainside was now so steep that it was allowing lots of sun through the trees and I snacked on ripe blackberries as I hiked upwards:

Again I thought we must surely have arrived at the summit until I encountered this sign saying we'd only reached 3500 foot elevation. Sigh. I knew the summit was still quite a way above that. By the way, you may have been noticing the blue dots on trees all along the trail. They were, as you can see here, trail markers. Other trails have different colors and there are also specially marked trails for snowmobiles and horses:

And just when I thought I might not make it to the summit, I saw this lovely view off to the south. These are the Blackhead Mountains, three Catskill peaks which are visible all the way to Albany:

The view was breathtaking and I was very happy that I hadn't given up and turned back:

And the view to the north was considerably different, showing a much flatter landscape:

Some smaller mountains were visible to the northwest:

The dogs took a rest on a rock ledge at the summit. The mountain dropped off precipitously just to the left of this ledge:

But the small, sharp rocks on the north slope prevented me from getting comfortable so I went back to the southerly view:

I reclined on a large flat rock where the Blackhead Mountains stretched out before me and the dogs got comfortable in the nearby grass:

But alas, I'd only come half way and still had miles to go to return to the trail head. Well, there was nothing for it but to start hiking downhill, back across the sharp rocks and hard tree roots:

My camera's battery began to falter so I severely limited my picture taking on the way down. We reached the marked trail junction. By this point my feet were very sore and I was walking like a ninety year old man:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Part 6, Windham Mountain

This, as I've said, was undoubtedly the longest 6.6 miles I've ever hiked. It seemed to me that we should have arrived at the summit a very long time ago. But we kept hiking uphill, over sharp rocks and hard tree roots:

The "Silly Sisters" were still having a grand old time, running in big circles and wrestling and chasing each other:

But Seamus and I were getting mighty tired as we entered into another spruce grove:

Seamus took a drink:

And then he plopped himself down in the water, exhausted:

But of course we had to press on. Daphne and Clover have now taught Fergus to climb rocks with them. These boulders would, I believe, be good examples of glacial erratics, debris left behind as the glaciers retreated:

I passed this amazing fungus on the side of a tree. It was quite ornate and intricate. But I've searched Google Images and found no hint at what it may have been. As is so often the case, I just had to content myself with admiring its beauty:

I was contemplating giving up and turning around. But just then the trail turned sharply uphill and the forest to the right of the trail dropped off precipitously - so steeply, in fact, that it was letting in much sunlight and I began to worry about the possibility of a landslide:

But all the extra sunlight had at least one very beneficial effect:

Up ahead I thought I could see sunlight and hoped that meant we were reaching the summit:

And to our right I began to see glimpses of the nearby Catskill mountains. Now I just had to keep going, though I was also secretly afraid that this was as good a view as this mountain provided. I'll post more tomorrow:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Trees, Rocks, Roots And Fungi On Windham Mountain

The hike from trail head to the summit of Windham Mountain was reported to be only 3.3 miles. That's not very far, but it also had an ascent of almost 1800 feet. I was getting unusually tired and moving more slowly. The green Catskill forests, however, were lovely and I made it a point to watch them and try to appreciate their beauty:

And the forests were ever-changing. From mixed hardwoods we entered a spruce forest. Someone had placed large flat stones on the trail for use when the ground was muddy:

And after walking over many rocks, many of them with sharp edges, we passed through a long section where the tree roots were exposed. As I walked across them, I more and more regretted my decision to wear sneakers:

And there were spruce seeds on the ground in small clusters. Apparently a squirrel or bird had dined here:

The trail turned sharply uphill once again:

Up, up we climbed - and I was moving slower and slower:

I'd just been wondering about all the beautifully colored mushrooms I'd seen on the Jug End Ridge trail and wondering why they were so dull here. I began wondering if there were any green mushrooms and there in front of me was this specimen. I know it isn't very green, and what part of it is green is probably from algae. Nevertheless, I counted it as a sort of milestone - my first and only green(ish) mushroom:

Higher and higher we climbed, my aching feet stepping on sharp rocks and exposed tree roots:

And while they were not particularly colorful, this pair of mushrooms was by far the biggest I'd ever seen, perhaps 10" tall:

And this tiny golden fungus. I thought it must surely be coral fungus, but after a Google search I've decided that it was Yellow Staghorn, AKA Jelly Antler. What wonderful, descriptive names!:

The trail leveled out again and we were walking right across the bedrock. It makes one wonder how on earth those trees can find a place to take root:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Onward And Upward On Windham Mountain

The trail up Windham Mountain in the Catskills was becoming steeper. Seamus decided to rest on a hill and Fergus joined him. But the rest was very short and we continued our ascent:

The dogs love to climb rocks and strike poses. I think it is an instinct which enables them to better scan the surrounding area, probably an evolutionary adaptation which helped their ancestors find food:

We continued onward. Fergus ran back to check on my progress every few minutes:

And we passed many glacial erratics, random stones left behind as the glaciers retreated:

And many mushrooms, though nothing so colorful as those we found on the Jug End Ridge hike. Alas, I doubt I'll ever find such odd and beautiful mushrooms ever again. Nevertheless, this hike had some very large mushrooms:

The trail continued to narrow:

And it continued to get rockier and steeper:

Daphne perched atop a small rock to greet me as I passed by:

Onward and upward through the rocks:

And through the forests:

I could sense that we'd gained significant elevation and the bedrock became more evident when the trail for a while consisted of solid rock. The passing of untold numbers of hikers had worn down the thin layer of soil to expose the rock beneath. Seamus again took a rest on the soft, mossy soil on the side of the trail: