The Good, The Bad & The Ugly of Devil’s Path

DSC02902The clouds play hide and seek through the Catskill mountains and New York State below me. Laughing, they glide past me spreading their cold mist around the short summit trees of Indian Head and covering me in fog. I follow the red trail blazes blindly as they lead me sloshing through puddles and gliding over waxy roots. The plateau is filled with the sharp scent of pine.

DSC02910Soon, wetness is soaking through my pants as I slide down rocks and crawl through the orange clay and dead leaf paste. My useless hiking poles hang from my wrists. The trail is a river.

DSC02901I push forward watching my footing until suddenly there is a cliff.Β  My muscles are shaking as I shimmy down safely. A grey cloud blows aggressively past me dragging hail and fear with it.

Out of breath, I reach the sheltered notch and pass a blue blazed trail to resume climbing. The summit of Twin Mountain is calling me and the sun is peaking through the clouds. “Maybe this section of the trail won’t be so bad” I think, even though I know the guide book description doesn’t give any idea of which sections are the most difficult.

DSC02905The peak is fresh, open and cold. I stop for a snack and to put my rain jacket back on for what will probably be a complicated and slow moving descent.

I negotiate loose rock only to come to an almost impassable cliff. Looking down, my stomach drops, there is a red blaze at the bottom.

DSC02907I am so tired by this point that I throw both my pack and hiking poles down first, without caring if my camera breaks or my water bladder tears. There is still a half mile to the escape trail and I know I have to get off this mountain. Sugarloaf, and it’s extra long descent, will have to wait for another day. I grab a large root and face the wet rock as I climb down like my father taught me, testing each hand and foot hold before trusting it.DSC02906

My heart beats out of my chest as I heft my pack on and continue the vicious descent. The devil holds my life in his hands as I weaken. It is like a horror movie. My knees ache and my muscles cramp but I know I can’t stop until I am down. It is the right decision to get to safety.

DSC02903I conquered two brutal mountains this Mother’s Day. Devil’s Path put both Mt. Washington and Mt. Katahdin to shame but they proved to me my strength and ability to know my own limits. The mountains don’t care if we give our lives to them. We win if we respect their indifference. We win if we enjoy their beauty.

DSC02896Special thanks to my husband, for driving me out; Clean Sweep, for offering to pick me up and Longhunter, for ultimately rescuing me from a seven hour bus ride home. If you are contemplating doing this trail, be thoughtful and careful. Here’s the topo map you will need to purchase and some websites to check out with trail descriptions: Trimble Outdoors andΒ  Two Heel Drive.

25 thoughts on “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly of Devil’s Path

    1. znara

      Thanks! It was a hard decision, but the right one. It was just too much for me under the circumstances. The hike will wait for another day πŸ™‚

  1. j Timothy Quirk

    thats quite the adventure. glad you respect the mountain and enjoyed the beauty and shared the photos!

  2. Angela Gilmore

    OMG I know that feeling of muscles wanting to give in and convincing them not to as my heart beat out of my chest. This is a great recount of your adventure, I felt like I was right there with you!

  3. Sue Cashman

    Wow, what a challenge this trail and mountain threw at you! Reading this and knowing that it comes from a girl who has hiked for almost as long as she has danced, I can only admire your courage and strength. Not many could come through this experience still loving the mountain’s beauty. Bravo!

    1. znara

      Thanks! I am determined not to let the mountains take my spirit or my life πŸ™‚ I want to see so much more of their beauty.

  4. Daniel Capilla

    I loved the words you wrote: “The mountains don’t care if we give our lives to them. We win if we respect their indifference. We win if we enjoy their beauty.” Great!

    The last time I climbed a mountain, I was chatting with a colleague about the relationship of our physical limits, hiking and sports. He insisted that the mountain teaches us to overcome our limits. I answered to climb mountains just helps us to know our limits, but not necessarily to overcome them.

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