This is for that weekend you only have 24 hours to get in as many peaks as possible with a short drive. I was searching for more elevation than Ithaca has to offer and a shorter drive than the Adirondacks one place made these criteria. Off to the Catskills for the first time it is, only 2 ½ hours away from Ithaca.
The plan is to drive up Friday after work, stay at a the Woodland Valley Campground, run/hike the Slide, Cornell, Wittenberg loop (counter clockwise) and be back in Ithaca in time for dinner. No biggie just a quick micro-adventure. Who said you must have the whole weekend to get some fresh air and camp out are crazy folks.
We arrive at the Woodland Valley Campground with plenty of light to get the tent set up and hang out because it is only August after all. The staff at the Campground are seriously the nicest people ever, they ask about our plans for the next day. Look at us a bit skeptical when we tell them the plan of the full loop. After I assure her we are runner she seems to understand the 15 miles is defiantly doable. She points out the start of the trailhead and the parking for when on the trail, warns us about bears. I have a small moment of panic thinking a bear canister is required but it is not.
We get the tent set up in a haphazard way that will be good enough to get us thru the night. This is when things start to go wrong. After the tent is up we realize the tent is sloping down toward the head. Looks like we will squeeze in a 2 person tent the wrong way, might be a cozy night for Kristy, Pepper, and I. The next thing wrong is the fire; we have a bit of a hard time getting it started. Then we realize the local wood we bought at the side of the road for $5.00 an arm full is wet. Good thing we didn’t have to cook on it. In an effort to keep things easy we eat subs from Wegmans the first night when camping. I also suggest that Kristy get a 6 pack for us, she showed up with 12. Lets try to not be hung over for tomorrow. Some how we succeed at this, probably the 9:00 bed time.
In the morning I try not to be too much of a psychopath and realize some people are not morning people and make us coffee. Get the camp packed up and head about 30 second down the road to the trailhead, so convenient. The trail starts uphill of course. We are a bit slow in the morning and start hiking for an easy warm-up. My confidence level for ankle stability is still in the toilet, after a bit more time on the trail I realize I am much more comfortable hiking more of this trip than running. Lucky for me Kristy is always up for anything and doesn’t care about the slower pace.
At about 2 miles in we see the largest white fluff-ball bounding up the trail at us with his tongue hanging out, a super playful Great Pyrenees puppy. We stop and let the dogs play for a long enough for Kristy and I to both want a Great Pyrenees. It seems to be common practice in the Catskills to let dogs enjoy the wilderness with the wild unrestricted enthusiasm. Shortly down the trail we intersect with the road, at a parking area we ask a couple to make sure we head the right direction on the road. Finally we are able to stretch our legs out and book it down the road to the next parking area.
Not sure if the climb up Slide Mountain was actually hard for if it was just because we were tired form sprinting down the road but this is where it got ugly for me. At this climb I was tired, the bugs attacked me, and I couldn’t move as quickly as I would have liked. Shit at just about half way thru the loop what other choice did I have but continue. I got past my pity party and found a beautiful section of the trail with white/cream stones lined with mushrooms and starting running again. The worst part of the hike was over for me. We summit Slide Mountain the highest in the Catskills with a bit of confusion about if we were actually at the top. They have way more trees at the top of the mountains in the Catskills then I am use to. We stop for lunch of pb & j and a shirt change while enjoying the view. The shirt change made all the difference for me. Coming off of Slide Mounting I had the hardest spot to navigate with Pepper. I read about the Cornell crack being hard but this was much more difficult for me with Pepper.
We start to encounter more people on the way to Cornell. We past a couple that said the summit had no view and to skip it. Really? It is a little jaunt down the path; you have to go, on the top of Cornell I finish off the last of my water. Crapper. Despite having a filter we only saw one place to get water that was early enough we didn’t think to top off. Well I have a can of PBR and an apple to get me the rest of the way. We pass the Cornell Crack, which did not live up to the hype I read about. Onto Wittenberg for Kristy, Pepper, and I...this is where things get funny. We are asked by fellow hikers if we went to Cornell. I say yes of course. Kristy responds with no Ithaca College. Yes we are from Ithaca, can you tell?
On the top of Wittenberg is where the view gets good! At this point everyone on the rather crowded peak all turn to look at us. Who doesn’t bring summit beers? I know they are all are envious of the warm piss beer we are drinking, yum PBR. We hang out at Wittenberg, chat with some fellow hikers then proceed down to the campground. Going down is where I start to see some angry looking people that someone got conned into this by their present company. I am again thankful for my hiking companions that are always up for anything I drag them both on. Pepper and Kristy you are the best! At the end of the trail we are beyond happy to find a swimming hole for everyone to jump in. A quick modest change in the parking lot and we are back on the road to make it back to Ithaca for dinner. We have big plans of going to Two Goats or Redders but by the time we make it back we both just want some food and a relaxing evening.
New favorite things – Micro Adventures!