Snowshoeing Weekend in the CatskillsCatskills週末的雪鞋健行

I stood on the summit of Big Indian Mountain, snowflakes shaped as feathers landing on my head, my face, and my shoulders. I opened my palms, and looked upward. Those snowflakes were not those which were tired of resting on the branches and responded to the call of the north wind. They were new, from the far most end of the sky. A storm was coming.

Last weekend I was in the Catskills, participating in a two-day snowshoeing trip. The trip has become a tradition of the AMC Delaware Valley chapter. Last winter was my first time being a member of this festival, and here I was again.

I have loved snow ever since I witnessed the first snow falling on Christmas Eve the first year I was in the States. Snow has this wonderful power of purification; snow makes the most inclement winter bearable. Oh, I can write many poems to awe this white fairy. This indulgence at times makes me overlook what is hidden underneath or behind, and I really shouldn’t.

On Saturday, after bagging Big Indian, we bushwhacked and collected Fir Mountain. Dropping from the summit of Fir, right before we returned to the Pine Hill-West Branch Trail, there was a major river crossing. We crossed the river in the morning, by walking on thick ice and hopping on river rocks after we swept away the snow on top of them and carefully ensured that it was moss rather than ice hidden underneath.

In the afternoon, we again tried to cross the river. I heard a cracking sound, and the lady before me fell through the ice and her left knee was stuck in the hole for quite a while. While she was pushing herself out of the trap, I started to appreciate that her gaiters and her boots looked sturdy enough to be waterproof long enough. However, the sturdy gear didn’t stop her from another slip. Her left knee returned to the ground and stayed there for more than a century long. I noticed that my breath got heavier and my heart was pumping, and she remained low. What happened? Finally she stood up with pain and a brave smile; gladly she only had to hike out with a knee bruise. With no doubt, the whole group paid closer attention to the footing after the event.

On the trail back to the parking lot, the image of the icicle curtain kept jumping in my mind. That was the feature of today, which was spotted along the steep descent from the summit of Fir. Usually the springs would drop ledge after ledge with us, but when it was freezing, even the most determined molecule couldn’t touch base. Icicles of various lengths demonstrated how the cold temperature turned the struggle of the springs into haikus. These crystals looked harmonious yet predicted a battlefield waiting ahead of us – the river.

None of the group members used crampons or ice axes while crossing the river. We probably would not use them next time either even though an accident just happened, weighing the length of time they are needed against the hassles putting them on and taking them off. But I can’t help but wonder whether people would still pay more attention to river crossing given that humans are forgetful.

The second day, the goal of our group was Halcott Mountain. With the help of the snow storm, we were able to put on our snowshoes right at the parking lot. Halcott was the only mountain in our direction of travel, so our group shot right up towards the summit.

The ascent was steep. We tried to maintain a steady pace, and at the same time we worked pretty hard to select a path that would avoid as many as possible branches we had to pass through. Perhaps it was an overly bold decision that we didn’t shoot an exact compass bearing before we climbed. It was true that as long as we kept climbing up, we would hit the summit, but who would know that a giant ledge suddenly rose in front of us and forced us to detour.

We got to the desired altitude, but we didn’t see the canister. Sometimes it is very hard to find a peak canister in winter time, because it is not always in a bright color. With the fast-accumulating snow, strongly blowing wind, and around 15 Fahrenheit of temperature, nobody had the leisure to look for the canister and signed down his/her accomplishment. We wanted to go home; people had already started to worry about driving home.

The group seemed to have different opinions on which direction to go downhill. It was due to the fact that we didn’t take a direct path up here; we selected the path less traveled. The clock kept ticking while the group was trying to reach a consensus. My fingertips started to ache, and the ache was certainly contagious because a moment after the bottom of my feet joined in. I wanted to move; all I could think of was I still had extra clothing sitting in my backpack serving as my last resort.

We finally decided to backtrack a bit first to make sure we were on the ride side of the mountain before we headed straight down to the cars. The plan seemed to work fine, and everybody knew that we were getting closer but everybody was too frozen or too unpleasant to talk. We were like a troop marching in the dark with dead silence, and this troop has a simple purpose, which was to return.

I left the Catskills around mid-afternoon, but the adventure hadn’t ended. Driving south, I saw higher and higher snow piles at the side of the roads, and portions of the highways I took were not plowed well. The more than four-hour drive was more strenuous than any hike I’ve ever done. At least I got home safely. I therefore could conclude that I had a successful weekend-long snowshoeing trip because home is always the ultimate destination of any trip.

站在Big Indian的山巔上,大片大片羽毛狀的雪花,落在我的頭上、臉上、肩上。我打開雙掌,抬頭目試,這雪花可不是呼應北風到來,從樹梢颳起的殘雪。這,是新雪,從遙遠的天際冉冉紛紛地落下,預告一場美東風雪的造臨。

上週末,又到了Catskills山區,參加這場雪鞋健行行程。這行程,是有歷史的,早已成為AMC Delaware Valley Chapter的傳統。去年冬天是我第一次參與這雪鞋健行的慶典,而今天冬天,又回到了這裡。


星期六,登上Big Indian山頂之後,隊伍踩著雪,開發新路徑,繼續登上了Fir Mountain。回頭路上,在回到Pine Hill-West Branch Trail之前,得越過一條橫阻的河流,是隊伍的最大挑戰。當天早上,隊伍已有一次渡河經驗,隊伍抑或踩在厚實的冰層上,或是小心翼翼地移除河中岩石上已堆積數日的白雪,然後仔細檢查雪下所暗藏的是青苔而不是薄冰,再踩著石塊前進。


走在往停車處的步道上,早先目睹的冰瀑景觀三不五時地跳上心來。那冰柱美景可說是今天雪鞋健行的最大賣點了。隊伍和冰瀑相逢在初從Fir Mountain走下的陡峭坡度上。原本,該些小溪流會伴隨著我們順著層層階梯似的岩台,慢慢流下來,匯入河中的。但在冷冽溫度的煎熬下,最有活動力的水分子也只能不上不下地,楞懸在半空中。冰柱的不整齊,似乎闡釋著低溫是怎樣把溪流的掙扎鬥爭,轉換成漂亮的俳句。而這些水晶狀的透明體,看似和諧,卻早已預告等待在前的渡河考驗。


第二天的目標山頭,叫做Halcott Mountain。連夜風雪的吹拂,隊伍得以在跳出車廂之後,就開始使用雪鞋。由於Halcott是隊伍攀爬的大方向上,唯一的山頭,隊伍有默契地,就是努力往上爬就對了。






8 thoughts on “<lang_en>Snowshoeing Weekend in the Catskills</lang_en><lang_zh>Catskills週末的雪鞋健行</lang_zh>”

  1. 好羨慕可以在米國看到雪花紛飛的場景…

  2. 你喔, 愛極了雪!
    我呢, 討厭下雪!

    每次都覺得很累! 下雪,開車就得特別小心!


  3. 雪地渡河要小心碎裂


  4. Shihyen,

  5. Tillerman,
    Thanks! Winter hiking is a lot of fun, I wish I had started earlier.

    Your site looks very nice and I like your writing. Too bad that I don’t know anything about sailing. I only have little knowledge about kayaking.

  6. 小P我想跟你做聯結就是沒辦到三月十一十二我要到雪山屆時跟你分享心得

  7. hua,

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