Ashokan High Point at Winter’s Last Gasp

“Alright,” I muttered with deep concentration. “Everyone keep their eyes peeled.”

It was the third time Morgan, Ellen and I had driven down Peekamoose Road in Olivebridge looking for the DEC trailhead sign for Ashokan High Point, slowly passing residences while staring out the car windows like we were devising a burglary.

Oh, we had passed a trailhead sign, but it was for something called “Kanape Trailhead,” and we naturally assumed it wouldn’t refer to a trail leading to Ashokan High Point.

So we edged back down the road, Morgan now referring to his phone, which kept insisting — like it knew shit — that the Ashokan High Point trail’s head was called Kanape Trailhead.

And, as you’ve probably figured out by now, the goddamn phone was right.

I feel this could have been done more logically.

“K-“ I looked at the sign again. “K’NAP-ee trailhead? THAT could have been done more logically.”

“It’s pronounced ‘nap,’ I believe,” Ellen responded in her New Zealand-Australian-American lilt.

Morgan, who traditionally smokes Marlboros while hiking, put out one of the many rolled cigarettes he would bum from me during the trek.

“That’s what I love about rollies,” he said fondly, rubbing the butt between his finger and thumb until it blew away in the breeze. “No trash.”

“THAT’S BLEACHED PAPER,” I bellowed.

We started striding up the trail, which has only a slight incline at first, bouncing along a wide brook that sometimes gorged out deep gullies and sometimes ran gurgling alongside us. Ellen led, with Morgan and I trailing behind while arguing whether we had done this hike before (we hadn’t) and watching Ellen to avoid the mud pools she kept stepping in.

The trail’s incline cocked skywards as soon as we turned onto the lollipop’s loop, and we (well, I, anyway) started puffing as we ascended through the trees.

We reached a curious rock formation consisting of three massive boulders seemingly set atop each other in what some in the area would consider to be a megalith. A sapling sprouted through the topmost boulder.

The Catskills were yet to be alive this season. It was 50 degrees and sunny, but the rays had yet to penetrate the solid earth, and the trail dipped in and out of snow-glazed basins. The palette was brown and white, but it spun to cyan if you tilted your head back. About a third of the way up the loop, the trail rides along a long eminence while the trees drop in height and become more homogeneous so we could see the mountains slowly passing to our west.

ashokan high pointashokan high pointThere’s a large clearing at the mountain’s zenith consisting of two giant rock floors arranged like steps, and the view stretches out to the east. The Hudson River was obscured by distant hills, one of which Morgan insisted was the Shawangunks (it wasn’t) and we were quickly chilled by the wind as we broke out some food. I nibbled on blueberries and miniature bananas (which are better even than regular bananas), and Ellen gnawed on a large uncut cucumber.

ashokan high point

We headed down the same way we had come, cutting a mile and a half off the 8.5-mile lollipop (not that we couldn’t have done it). Morgan was able to take advantage of his treadless sneakers to ski down the steeper parts, and we made it back in about an hour and fifteen minutes.

I want to come back mid-summer to see more active biota, but I enjoyed being able to see Breath Hill through the nude trees. The Catskills have their beauty in every season.

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