My internship ended and I had 3 weeks before the start of my new job (yay adulthood!) so I flew back to the Northeast for an extended Christmas vacation. I spent close to an hour packing, repacking, then repacking my carryon suitcase so I could pack all my hiking gear in addition to other necessities like clothes. With lots of rearranging and patience, I was able to get my favorite ECCO boots, winter shell, down jacket, lots of winter layers, wool hiking socks, and my hat and gloves in my carryon.
Then I arrived in Syracuse and was welcomed with 50+ degree weather and rain.
Regardless of the weather, I was motivated to get outside for a hike while I was back home. My friend and I drove southeast to the Catskills to hike Hunter Mountain, one of the Catskill 3500 peaks.
The rain had melted nearly all of the snow (even at elevation) and all the trails and streams looked like it was mud season. We hiked through mud, high-flowing streams, ice-covered boulders, and frozen over footprints to the fire tower at the summit. Welcome home, Laurie!
These conditions were way more difficult than I ever would’ve imagined. It wasn’t cold. It wasn’t a long hike. Nor was it very steep. But the ever-changing conditions made it impossible to be fully prepared without strapping everything in your gear closet on your back.
Though this was the first time hiking in the Catskills range for myself, it’s definitely pretty similar to hiking in the Adirondacks. Oh, and not at all like hiking out in Colorado.
It seems that most people assume that the big peaks in Colorado are much more difficult to hike than those in the East. Sure, some things are more difficult like the lack of oxygen at higher elevations and the winter season, but that’s really it. Colorado boasts some of the most extensive switchbacks I’ve ever seen, wide open trails that’d be impossible to lose, and throngs of people to follow in case you’re looking for a crowd.
The northeast is an awesome challenge for any hiker. The boulders that require hand and foot climbing and throwing yourself over to reach the top are notorious in the northeast. As are the regular stream crossings, loose scree, slippery granite (bad memories with this), deep rooted tripping hazards, and dense forests that can make it difficult to stay on the trail.
As much as I absolutely love living and hiking in Colorado, this trip back home was an important reminder of why I love the outdoors. Hiking in the northeast is simply different than the west. And it’s these unique challenges that made me fall in love with hiking in the first place.