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Saturday, February 20, 2021

Hunter Mountain Virgin Forest - Catskills

Today, I hiked Hunter mountain for my second and final Catskills 4k footer. I broke trail all the way up, passing bear claw marks on a beech tree and clues of the “mountain’s” creation such as crossbedding in the 350 million year old sandstone geology. The Catskills as a range were not created by a mountain building event, but rather they are the product of millennia of erosion of the once level Allegheny plateau. My favorite part of the trail was finding virgin forest toward the top, as well as large sugar maple-ash forest below. 6% in counting of the Catskills are virgin forest, with nearly all of it reserved above 2,500 feet. Trees are contorted, gnarled and stunted from harsh winds, time ice and short growing season. In all my travels, I’ve never seen such large red spruce, yellow birch, and sugar maple in one place. I estimate the red spruce to be over 250 years old, and the other species over 400 years. The fire tower was closed for winter, but I climbed to the top without accessing the inside. The glissading (aka mountain sledding) on the way down was second to none! The imprint of hikers on trail contrasted with the height of deep surrounding snow effectively created a bobsledding course down the mountain. It always takes a couple strenuous hikes to drain the toxins and forget about work, and this was that hike for me. To top the day off, I finally got “The Catskill Forest: A History” by Michael Kudish! Off to the Adirondacks to finish the Northeast 115 4,000 foot mountains!