Posted by: davepidgeon | September 14, 2009

Miss the trail

The east branch of the Neversink River freely flows through Slide Mountain Wilderness

The east branch of the Neversink River freely flows through Slide Mountain Wilderness

A tropical-like rain storm … a drenched forest without marked trails … the confusion of navigating an unmarked wilderness cloaked in impenetrable darkness … risky river crossings … erratic GPS units …

This weekend promised a challenging backpacking experience as 10 members of the Appalachian Mountain Club, myself included, journeyed to the trail-less portion of New York’s Slide Mountain Wilderness in the heart of the Catskills Mountain Preserve. Our goal was to reach the peaks of four mountains rising above 3,500 feet of elevation which have no marked trails. We endeavored to attain the peaks over three days and two nights, setting up base camp on the shore of the Neversink River’s east branch and slack packing to each summit.

I’m afraid I have to be disappointing. To be honest, I simply cannot write an objective narrative about the Catskills trip without raising questions and concerns about what happened and how decisions were made (or not made). The trip turned out successfully, if you define success as walking into a wilderness without marked trails for three days and walking out unharmed, but things did go awry in a way that put safety temporarily at risk.

I don’t want to use this forum purposefully or inadvertently to soil the integrity or reputation of those I went hiking with, especially since the trip ended Sunday on a positive note as we chose to change the plan and ascend a sun-washed Table Mountain with its bright, hazy view of the southern Catskill mountains and a respectful, friendly camaraderie among the group members. I also don’t believe one trip should spoil the impressions of people or the AMC, and a comprehensive blog post might do just that. That would be wrong.

‘Tis better, in my opinion, to handle the situation internally, which the group did. But I simply cannot write about what happened comprehensively or objectively without shining an unflattering light on people or the AMC, and I don’t believe that is fair in a blog. As I said, the matters were dealt with, everyone shook hands, and to me, Compass Points is not a place to resolve such issues.

So to Pointers who were looking forward to an entertaining narrative about last weekend’s trip to the Slide Mountain Wilderness, I apologize. During the days to come, I’ll provide some insight into off-trail bushwacking and information you might need should you decide to explore the Neversink River and the four trail-less peaks of Friday, Balsam Cap, Rocky and Lone mountains. Gear reviews to follow, as well.

What’s most important is the 10 member AMC team made it out safely Sunday and in good spirits.

More to follow this week.



  1. I just wrote something about the East Branch on my blog, and this link popped up as one of those “automatically generated” links. In an odd sort of way, I find it reassuring that the East Branch area is capable of giving people a bit of trouble–that it has that wild and unpredictable quality. I don’t know what happened that weekend, but I respect your decision to handle the subject this way. Hope you have more good adventures in the Catskills.

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