Thursday, August 16, 2012

Platte Clove Residency: Coastal Differences

View of Devil's Path Trail; Catskills; NY; July 2012
Five years ago, while traveling in South America, I met a young woman from the West Coast of the United States. After the trip, we corresponded for a while, and she related news of her move from southern California to New England. An outdoorsy sort, she prioritized exploration of the parks in her new neck of the woods, but she wrote that the eastern forests unnerved her. During the summer months especially, they seemed dense and suffocating, a patchwork of green that closed in around her.

At the time, her observation amused me. Having grown up on the East Coast, I was at home in the mixed deciduous and pine forests of eastern North America. By contrast, the Endor-like redwood and sequoia forests of the Pacific coast and the mixed coniferous forests of the continental divide and the American Southwest, environments in which I'd had little or no experience but with which my friend was very familiar, seemed otherworldly to me.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Platte Clove Residency: John Muir and the View From the Precipice

Winter view of Platte Clove's Bridal Veil Falls;
Catskills; NY
“Many people have been killed after falling and sliding off the edge. Especially in areas where there are pine needles. Dangerous conditions exist in many locations. The number of deaths over the years is staggering. Be overly cautious when in this region, and do not take un-necessary risk.”

- “Upper Platte Clove” page of Catskill Mountaineer website
I hesitated before deciding to investigate the unmarked spur of the Platte Clove Nature Preserve's Plattekill Falls Trail. Having recently read a bit about the geology and topography of the Catskill Escarpment, I knew that the preserve is located near the top of a deep ravine that tumbles suddenly down and eastward to meet the Hudson Valley (clove is the Dutch word for a mountain gorge). I’d also learned that each year a handful of foolhardy or unlucky hikers fall to their deaths on Platte Clove area trails. An online trail guide I’d browsed prior to the residency urged hikers to be “overly cautious.” Nevertheless, once I’d stepped off the main path and advanced a few steps down the spur, I was self-assured; I wouldn’t be one of 2012’s casualties. Prudent types like me don’t fall off cliffs.