Monday, October 15, 2007


[Left] Elevation Marker,
Panther Mountain,

Shandaken New York

[Below] View from Giant Ledge,
Panther Mountain,

Shandaken New York

“Many come to the wilderness that they think will save them from the evils of a more crowded world.” –Sheila Nickerson, Disappearance

Last minute trip to Panther Mountain in the Catskills yesterday.

Seems like everyone in the state of New Jersey had the same intentions. We just wanted to get out for the day, nothing more. There were no agendas, no heavy bags of cameras and lenses, no lighting logistics, no racing the sun, and no stress. I took along an old 35mm, just in case.

The parking lot was full, and the trail to Giant Ledge and Panther Mountain was well worn from a weekend’s traffic at peak foliage. Everywhere humans go, there is trash, this is a universally true statement. The trail to Panther is evidence.

I am used to heading out midweek, so the crowds took a little adjustment: people in jeans and sneakers on a muddy rock garden trails, people smoking cigars and cigarettes on the rocks on the upper mountain, the usual assortment of weekend warriors in crispy, new gear from their local EMS, a few through-hikers with backcountry packs, and one scary guy with a brand new knife in a hard plastic sheath that reached from his belt to just above his knee. As we passed him, I wondered what he thought we was going to encounter on a crowded trail up a pimple of a mountain. People want to get out and use their toys, no matter how ridiculous that look.

The weather on Panther was an mix of cold wind and spitting rain, but the sun in the distance painted the fall colors in vibrant oranges and yellows. There was a warm autumn day somewhere, but not where we were standing. As we reached the picnic table sized rocky summit of Panther, a Japanese man appeared. Wearing thousands of dollars of spotless, new gear, he looked as though we was plucked out of the pages of Rock and Ice and airlifted to the summit of Panther Mountain. He stood for a minute, contemplating the view, before pulling out a cell phone and placing a call. As he started shouting in Japanese, we turned and left. I kept repeating Sheila Nickerson’s quote in my head as we passed group after group of sneaker clad hikers asking directions and moving far too sluggishly for 4:30PM on an October afternoon.
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