Westkill Slugfest

Everything I touched was a slug. Everything.

I’ll come back to that later. For starters, I had to drive to the Albany area this morning to pick up 64 ballgowns for the g4g project. Yup: 64 gowns, donated to g4g. I daresay there is a gown for everyone.

My bright idea was to grab Westkill on the way home from Albany. Westkill is not on the way to or from anywhere. I was in the car with 3 hot and uncomfortable dogs for hours. Bad memories of late starts with a former hiking companion fed the bad mood. I changed my mind backwards and forwards a couple of times and got completely unpsyched for this late start hike. I thought about giving up and going home. I was hungry, tired, and fed up before I even hit the trail.

But having a list to finish pushes me in a way that is probably both good and bad. It was almost (but not quite!) like going to work. Or going to work out. I know I’ll enjoy this. I know I need it. I know I’ll feel bad if I don’t.

HOLY COW: Spruceton Road is in bad shape. I haven’t been out there in a while. GREAT job by the Greene County DOT in warning people about the crazy sinkhole. You could hide Mudhook’s truck in that thing. Yikes. The signage is awesome; I bet it is saving lives right and left. Parts of Spruceton Road further up are just falling off into the river. It is a mess. This is foreshadowing: there are trail issues too.

No cars at the end of the road lot. I pulled in and released the hounds. They were excessively grateful. It rained on me as I signed in at that lovely, newish, well-made register.

The trail to Diamond Notch Falls is in rough shape in spots too: parts of the trail are falling into the river. Dogs were very happy to try all the swimming spots and provide feedback via shaking on me. The pretty little waterfalls along the way up are pretty big cascades due to the recent rain. Two Adirondack 46er aspirants were at DN falls with their brainlessly joyful dog. This dog was so happy he just wagged his whole body and ran in circles around me and the dogs, until Cinder tried to insist he behave with decorum. I hung onto Cinder while providing trail info. It was kind of like chatting while reeling in a fighting marlin. Cinder is a really good dog. Really. She’s just 60 lbs of intense Malinois puppy.

We carried on. It was a little buggy, but not too bad if you keep moving. Cinder went to check out the waterfall from the top, and I screamed bloody murder. Nice quiet enjoyment of the woods continued.

There is a lot of blowdown on the Devil’s Path from the bridge to the summit. Some of it is old with well worn herd paths around it, and some is new. Either way, every time I placed a hand on a branch or trunk to steady myself as I went over or under, I touched a slug. EVERY time.

I hurried up the first half mile or so and then got completely out of breath and exhausted and had to stop. It was amazingly humid. I was getting in touch with my inner Sparty, sweating profusely and feeling almost woozy from the exertion. I rested, caught my breath, watched Iske pee on Lily’s head, and then moved on. For the rest of the hike I felt much better.

This solo hiking thing is interesting. I spend a lot of time with people all week – my husband, my kid, my patients… my alone time is limited during the average workweek. The humidity melted my brain a little and I got into the aloneness of my thoughts. The Kiss song “Plaster Caster” floated up into consciousness at one point. I thought about work. I hurried and thought about dinner (no, I did not pick any nettles despite the fact that they are delicious and nutritious). I remembered my last hike on that mountain, last winter, with some great people. I remembered bumping into Mountain Meijin years ago at Buck Ridge, and daLunartik last fall. I thought about hiker friends and g4g stuff and writing…

But the hike is always a little longer than all the surface stuff you think about. There is space and time to think about what you’re thinking about and start to think past it. I listened to a hairy woodpecker scold me vociferously. I touched a few more slugs. I sweated more than I would have thought humanly possible and thought about sweat lodges. I listened to the hum and buzz of flies and thought about how I was out there in the middle of the foetid, humid, sticky cycle of life, of birth and mating and eating and pooping and death and how incredibly rich and intense it all was. It is kind of disgusting and revolting, but also fascinating and wondrous. Human lifespans are like geologic time compared to bug lifespans. The woods smelled like Windex in a few places, and I realized that that’s a smell I’ve smelled before while hiking.

There was no one on the trail at all. No one at the lookout and no one at the summit. My aloneness at the lookout was undisturbed, thick clouds obscuring views and then rising and evaporating and offering clarity. A white-throated sparrow sang out loudly and from nearby in the oppressive humid silence. “Poor old Sam Peabody Peabody Peabody.”

I went back down and got an ice cream cone in Phoenicia on the way home. I think that’s 23/35.

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One Response to Westkill Slugfest

  1. Danny Davis says:

    LOVE IT! Know those thoughts and feelings and the repulsion and urge onward. Great writing.

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