Saturday, May 10, 2014

Climbers Lost in the Mist

Today we hiked over to Skytop to check out the tower and Foops. We didn't climb either, but it wasn't because they were dripping wet from the rain and mist. Both are off limits to climbers. Foops (5.11) rivals High Exposure for the most famous Gunks route. Its signature feature is a 10-foot, dead-horizontal roof. All the routes at Skytop are owned and controlled by the Mohonk Mountain House. It is possible to legally climb Foops, but to do so you have to stay and eat at the Mohonk Mountain House and you have to hire a guide. Considering that the room rates start at $600/night, this 100-foot better be outstanding! I wondered how often it is poached...

We hiked around the grounds of the Mohonk Mountain House and it was indeed impressive, even with the heavy mist limiting visibility to about 100 feet. The house is situated right on a lake and within 15 minutes of the cliff. It looks like a place for relaxation and quiet contemplation. The trails that ring the lake are seeded rustic benches perched on the edge of cliffs. I imagined Einstein and Bohr taking walks here and debating quantum mechanics.

Much like the absent-minded professors that ran through my head, we got lost on the way back to Trapps. While this is embarrassing, it is easier than you'd think. There are about 100 miles of trails within the 2000 acres of the Mohonk Mountain House grounds and few of the intersections are marked. I thought I knew what I was doing when we left the Mountain House, but we got off on the wrong trail almost immediately. In the mist and in the woods, there are no landmarks to guide you. We were reduced to trying to remember gullies or signs. I tried pulling up a map on my phone and it came up, but I couldn't find the trailhead where we started. Eventually I remembered that I was carrying a map. Turns out these archaic paper things are handy. At the next signed intersection I was able to determine where we were and which direction we were going - the wrong way. We corrected and turned our medium hike into a long hike.

We probably did more than 12 miles of hiking. I took some photos of the wild life. Instead of the bears, deer, and elk in Colorado, I saw many millipedes, a snail, and a few eastern newts in the eft stage. These newts are interesting animals. They start out as aquatic larvae and then enter the eft stage where they stay for 2-3 years and travel from their original pond to a new pond. Once there they transform into the aquatic adult and can live 12-15 years. I hope these little guys make their new pond before something eats them or someone steps on them. The weather all day long was either rain or heavy mist and it did not improve as the day wore on. Saturday is looking depressingly similar.

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