Land in the Sky: A Winter Idyll

Catskill-Mountain-Haunted-HouseI spent a solitary day climbing through the deep, unconsolidated snows on Black Dome Mountain. I was dropped off at the trailhead and planned to traverse a half dozen elevated miles across the range back to home, where the trail comes out. An easy enough hike in other seasons but a challenge in winter. Especially this winter.

Close to the trailhead, the abysmal snow was conveniently packed by the cordial snowshoes of those who had come before me. The path became less well-traveled the further up the mountain I went. Soon enough, telltale signs indicated only one other soul had gone this far. I could see that, for whatever reason, he had been traveling without snowshoes. Waist-deep blue cavities in the snow registered his plunge-steps. This went on for a quarter mile or so before he finally gave up. A conspicuous yellow stain in the snow marked the spot where he turned back. That was last sign of him. Or anybody else. It started to snow.

I continued my ascent. It wasn’t easy breaking trail, even with snowshoes. Higher up, the wind became bitter. I started feeling a little spooked. Certain mountains in the Catskills look like haunted houses, especially when you approach them by your lonesome through bare and blasted trees. Black Dome is one of those mountains.

By the time I got to Poetaster’s Ledge, not far from the summit, I was tired. I stopped and took a picture of Blackhead Mountain, another haunted house. Then I pressed on and made it to the topmost ledge of Black Dome. There I took another rest and another picture. In the vague distance, more haunted houses, as far could be discerned. It continued to snow.

I pressed on through mounds of white that looked like fresh-fluffed coffin pillows. I didn’t make it very far before I lost my balance and did a face-plant in a five-foot drift. With great effort I managed to extricate myself, but my drive remained interred in the snowy depths. I abandoned it there and turned back.

I’ll return to fetch it in the spring.