Monday, September 22, 2014

Hikes and bears on Giant Ledge

Someone was kind enough to clue us in. 
Hike name: Giant Ledge (on Panther Mountain)
Length: 7 miles, but we did about 7.5 due to a wrong turn/singing Disney tunes and not paying attention to trail markers
Peak elevation: 3,170ft (966m)

It was a girls weekend, something I'd never done! And of course we called ourselves "Team Bad" in homage to Michael Jackson. Eda, Rachel, and I drove up to Rikka's house and the 4 of us ventured out to the Woodland Valley Campgrounds near the town of Phoenicia in the Catskill Mountains. Saturday was for campin' and hikin'. Sunday we breakfasted in Phoenicia, and then rode jet skis in the Hudson River (a first for me!).

.75 left to Giant Ledge, after the first 2.75 miles.
I'd done the Giant Ledge hike twice previously with my family - it was where my family and close friends spread the ashes of a very dear friend in 2006. Usually it's been a easy, breezy 3 mile round-trip hike from the parking lot, but going from Woodland Valley Campgrounds more than doubled that. Worth the trek as the view up there. whether summer or fall, is breathtaking! The hike took us through the green, peaceful woods, up and down some steep stairmaster worthy patches, all the way to the views from the Ledge. You can hike further to the peak of Panther Mountain, but we did not, and I hadn't in the past. Since we had no idea how long the hike would actually be, we kind of mentally and physically overexerted ourselves thinking "We're almost at the top", singing at least 50 different songs at the top of our lungs the whole way up. 

The way down was slightly quicker, slightly quieter, and mostly providing us with the idea that soon we would be at the campsite cookin' up some hot dogs and s'mores. We thought the animal encounter highlight of the day was the sweet little chipmunk who dared to eat organic berries and fresh almonds from our hands. We were wrong!

Amazing sketch I did of what I saw. Amazing.
Not 8 minutes from the end of the hike, just after I had pointed out "You can see cars!" I froze when I saw there, not very far, maybe 30 feet away a black bear on our path. I am also pretty sure I saw mama bear to the left but because I am not 100% she is only half finished in my mystical sketch. Now before you get all, "Oh you shoulda made some noise", have you ever seen a bear in your path looking curiously at you? It stops your heart the first time. I've seen some bears out in Yellowstone from the safety of a car, this was different! Also there's a first time for everything, maybe next time we'll pile up on each other's shoulders and sing Disney tunes at the bear to scare it off. Maybe.

Although Rikka was in front of me, I saw the bear first and said "There's a bear." It took at least 60 - 75 seconds to convince her, she must have believed some part of me because she remained still, looking at me while trying to convince me to quit joking around. I could see this teen bear (bigger than a cub) behind her and all I could think was "Stay still, don't make eye contact, be cool." Rikka was convinced and we stepped back a few feet to meet Rachel and Eda. "There's a bear on the path," I said, and once again no one believed me!! Not until Rikka slowly, quietly peaked over and said, "There's a f**king bear" was everyone onboard. In the haze of adrenaline (panic, fear, excitement, shock), we forgot we were hungry and dead tired and quickly, literally slid down the rest of the hike. There were maybe 50 feet of  slightly damp leaves off to the side, and down we went. The bear followed us down too, slowly and curiously. We came out onto someone else's campsite and informed them of the bear, which I got one last good look at, and they all hopped in their cars to honk horns, and make noise.

Needless to say, we were pumped up the rest of the night and the park rangers came over to us twice to hush us up. We couldn't help laughing, singing, and being loud to scare off any other bears hoping to get some of our food! We got to learn some more information from the second park ranger who informed us that the teen bear and mama bear had been spotted around the campground after our hike encounter. He said that there are bear sightings on the campground at least twice a week because they're after food, but seeing the bears on the trail was a once in a lifetime experience. He also clued us in to a sad fact: the bear population in the Catskills is the highest it's been in decades at about 2,800, whereas not too long ago there were 500 of them. As a result, hunting season was opened for huntin' bears this month.

The signs posted in the bathrooms.
Most of the path looked like this.
Steep climbs, excellent for the bum.

Hi, there, chipmunk.

Goofin' off on the Giant Ledge 

Chipmunk who clearly hangs out on Giant Ledge gets all sorts of food from the passerbys.
Feeling alive...not have inkling of the adventure to come!
On to the camping portion of the day.
S'mores. Can't decide if they are delicious or disgusting, but I'm thinkin' delicious.
On s'more duty.
Rachel conked out early. We stayed up singing Queen.
Just in case you thought we changed since this video, we haven't.
Mornin' in Woodland Valley Campgrounds. 

Drinkin' in that mornin' light.

Wild flower heaven 1
Wild flower heaven 2
Then we jet skied and swam in the Hudson River with a view of this historical lighthouse and the glorious Catskills!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sconset Bluff, darling

Siasconset - or Sconset - is a village on Nantucket where erosion is quickly blowing away the bluff. About 3 - 4 feet of the bluff disappears every year, with storms increasing that rate. Homes have been relocated, and the site creates a tug of war of man vs nature. Is it worth saving these homes when ultimately the inevitable will happen - the island of Nantucket will erode and disappear one day altogether? While we, the locals, and the summer residents ponder this question, take a gander at how beautiful this little area on a little island is - it reminds me of a small village in France. The Bluff walk is a public walk but zigzags through the backyards of many homes so you sort of feel like you're intruding, but you also feel like they're intruding. Ah, man vs. nature, a long existing battle.

I am almost as tall as this house.

Interesting shape.
Down to the beach.
This path will lead you to the Bluff walk.

Freshly re-shingled cedar, soon it will weather and turn gray.
The most unique house on the island???

First time I tried a fresh rosehip. Tart.
We saw a seal in the water right there! I promise!!

Sconset bunny says "Bye!"

Monday, September 15, 2014

Nature Walks on Nantucket

Nantucket is beautiful - here is the proof! Lindsey took me on 4 nature walks during my 5 day stay, here are photos from 3 of them: One was to the Secret Island (Shh, it's a secret), the second was Mizzenmast, and the third was through the Moors - one of the longest walks on the island and along which, in a secret spot Lindsey and Aaron got married in May. The fourth walk was was along Sconset Bluff, which I decided to post about separately.

Secret walk to a secret island.

Hazelnuts live here.
Bayberry - used to make candles!

Glorious, truly. There were egrets in the water and deer in the distance. Peaceful and beautiful.

Walking along the Mizzenmast trail.

Must be lovely to live in a spot like this.

Swamp mallow plants.

Walking along The Moors

Thanks to my wonderful hosts, Lindsey and Aaron!