On Monday, August 21st, I decided I wanted to hike Slide Mountain as I had not been there is a year and it is close to home. I like to throw in a 3500 foot peak every now and then for the challenge and to prove to myself I can still hike elevation as well as distance. I asked Cindy if she wanted to go and was a little surprised when she said yes. The start of the day was very foggy and we decided to wait a little while before heading out. This was also the day of the long awaited solar eclipse but tat was supposed to occur in the mid afternoon. As we started to get ready Sheila was very excited and indicated she didn’t care where we went as long as we got out of the house. I headed out the DeBruce Road at about 10:00 AM and drove passed Round Pond and down to Route 47. I turned left and drove toward Frost Valley. After passing the YMCA camp, I watched for the parking area for Slide Mountain. The Biscuit Brook parking area had six cars in it and I wondered if Slide would be crowded. I pulled in just before 10:30 AM and found three cars in the lot. Another car pulled in just as we were getting ready to leave. I set my electronics and we got on the trail right away. Starting out on the main trail we immediately crossed the Neversink River which had some water flowing in it. This was the first time in a long time I had seen water there. The other small streams along the trail were also flowing freely. A crew from the ADK had done some work on the trail and I was looking for the results of their efforts. The e-mail said they had worked on a new rock staircase, drainage strictures and wooden steps but did not specify where. In just less than half a mile we turned right on the woods road and hiked passed the first piped spring which was running well. The trail was wet with some standing and some running water and some muddy areas. At .7 miles we turned left and started up the main trail to Slide Mountain which, according to the sign, was 2 miles away. The trailhead for Slide has a relatively high elevation so, although it is the highest peak in the Catskills, the elevation gain and grade are relatively modest. I was really feeling pretty good as we hiked even though I had been doing flat hikes on smooth trails. Sheila alerted and a pair of hikers passed us coming down from the summit. We said “Hello” as we passed and commented on the beautiful weather. This happened several more times along the trail until we were sure we would have the summit to ourselves. By the time we reached the designated campsite at 1.2 miles the grade was getting steeper and I was still feeling fresh although Cindy had slowed down a little. The trail was every bit as rocky as it ever was which makes ascending difficult and descending worse. We kept a good pace up the trail and I kept looking for the 3500 foot sign. Soon we started to enter the transition zone from Hardwoods to evergreens and OI asked Cindy if she had seen the sign. She told me she had and it was sometime back. The spring on the left had some water in it since I could hear Sheila getting a drink. The glimpses I could get of the sky showed bright blue with white clouds and the plenty of sun. At 1.7 miles the trail started to level some and was covered with fine quartz sand. The Catskills including Slide Mountain are a plateau that was once under an ocean and have been pushed up to form what are called mountains.
We continued up the trail and I began to notice that some of the blowdowns had been cleared from the trail. There were still quiet a few trees leaning over the trail which I do not think is a good situation. Some trees were low and had branches cut in such a way that the remaining pieces formed “spears” that pointed downward. I imagine some taller hikers may have had problems with these. There were several lookouts along the way bit most were not interesting and what I could see was very hazy. Soon the trail leveled again as we had done most of the climbing. At 2 miles we passed the Curtis-Ormsbee Trail as it came in from the left from the Denning trailhead. The trail leveled some here and I enjoyed walking along the path strewn with pine needles. The trail continued to be muddy which was unusual this high up on Slide. Soon we were approaching the last climb and I found a viewpoint that clearly showed Cornell and Wittenberg and the col between them. After taking a few shots, I returned to the main trail and at 2.6 miles we were at the viewpoint toward Panther and Giant Ledge. I decided to stop and take a few shots even though the trees in front of the lookout have all but obscured the view. Based on the number of cars in the lot and the people coming down the mountain, I judged that the summit would be empty. We passed by the highest point on Slide where a cement block marks the location where a fire tower once stood and continued to the rock outcropping to find it deserted. It was 12:20 PM and we had covered 2.7 miles. I made sure I hydrated although I wasn’t very thirsty. I tried to take a few pictures of the Ashokan Reservoir, Cornell and Wittenberg and found the views were more open than the last time I had been at the top. There was a haze hanging over the far peaks but I still took a few pictures. I decided I wanted to go down to the spring since I had not yet seen any of the work the ADK crew had done and I knew the only wooden steps were on the Cornell side of Slide! Cindy did not want to go so I left my poles with her since there are several rock scrambles and the poles get in the way. Sheila and I headed down the trail to the spring. We made our way through three or four rock scrambles and I bypassed several picture taking opportunities which I decided I would take damage of on the way back. We finally got to the wooden ladders and at first glance they seemed unchanged. On closer inspection, the had hewn logs which had been rotting away were replaced with new 4by4’s making it much safer. I had intended just to go to the steps but changed my mind and headed down to the spring. I could hear it running and I could hear Sheila getting a drink. When I arrived, Sheila was frolicking in the outflow and drinking the cool water. I took a few pictures and then we started back.
And the way up I kept looking for viewpoint and I found a few good ones with views toward Cornell and Wittenberg. I also took a few pictures of Sheila posed on the ladders and above me at the rock scrambles. Our last stop on the way up was a small campsite on the right where someone had pushed down a few trees to make a nice viewpoint. After taking a few shots, we continued up the main trail to the summit. As we approached the summit, I could hear Cindy talking to someone and I pout Sheila on her leash. As we cleared the trees, I saw a very large white dog above us and two young men talking to Cindy. We continued up to the rocks at the summit where the two dogs said “hello” in dog fashion. Cindy was ready to go but the hikers had a few questions about the other peaks. I gave them the distances and route to Cornell and Wittenberg and they decided to stay at the summit of Slide and wait for the eclipse. We said “goodbye” and headed back done the mountain at 1:00 PM. We knew the eclipse was supposed to start at about 1:45 PM and reach its peak at 2:45 PM. As we passed the viewpoint on the right there was a couple taking in the view. I had hoped to make quick work of the descent but the rocks make the descent difficult to accomplish safely. As we hiked own we met several groups of people headed up the mountain and some of them also had dogs with them.
I always hike with poles even when it seems I don’t need the. On this hike I was very glad I had them with me. Sheila decided that she would dash madly up and own the trail for no reason other than sheer joy! We passed the 3500 foot sign and continued down the trail. On the ascent I thought there seemed to be less rolling rocks than I remembered but they were all there on the descent. Near the bottom of the trail Cindy remarked that she hoped the intersection was coming up soon. It did! We turned right on the woods road and hiked along the wet and muddy trail to the left that leads back to the parking area. This last part of the trail seemed very rocky but we made good time back to the river bed. I stopped to take a few pictures of the water in the river before returning to the car. We had noticed that the light seemed odd and that the eclipse was in progress but we could not get a good look through the trees. We arrived at the car at 2:30 PM having covered 6.0 miles in 4 hours with 2072 feet of elevation gain. On the way home Cindy and I both caught a glimpse of the eclipse and I pulled over to take a picture. By the time I got the camera out, the sun had gone behind a cloud!