Tag Archives: near death hiking

Hiking in the Catskills

10 Oct

2013-10-06 11.46.57 Life in the city has been stressful. So to get away for awhile, my boyfriend and I planned a weekend in the Catskills. We got a room at a Bed and Breakfast in a no stoplight town called Fleishmann. We wanted to enjoy some quiet, some fresh air, take in a bit of hiking.

We almost didn’t survive.

We asked our innkeeper Ben for some advice on different trails. He pointed out his favorite one called “Giant Ledge.” Ben described it as an “aggressive” 4-5 mile hike which I found intimidating, but I ended up deciding I could take the challenge. The next morning, around 10:30, we bought water, chips, Ring pops, and Reese’s Pieces at the corner store and headed to the summit.

The weather wasn’t ideal. Crisp fall air in the 60’s with some sprinkling rain. Describing the hike as aggressive was the perfect adjective. There were some steep sections of the trail with high rocks to climb on. I’m not in shape and found myself out of breath for most of the hike. After an hour or so, we reached what looked like a Giant Ledge. The trail was self-explanatory with blue markers scattered on the trees and no other signage. So we only assumed it was the lookout point we had been promised. Because of the poor conditions, the view was underwhelming and bizarre. It was an abyss.

"View" from Giant Ledge.

“View” from Giant Ledge.

We spent some time resting, eating our snacks, and throwing Reese’s Pieces into the mist. We had no concept of how high we were. The light rain was making us chilly, so we wanted to keep going and get back to our inn to shower and rest.

We continued on the path which after a brief decline, became sharply steep with huge rocks to climb over. My legs were shaking with each climb. We assumed that the trail was taking us to a smoother descent than the rocky climb we had just done.

We seemed to reach another summit, but we were both so tired, cold, and wet that we opted to not stare into the mist but keep going. Finally the trail started to descend. It was steep and the trail seemed less defined. We walked through brush that scraped our legs as we tried to not step in mud or slip on the leaves. The path became so misty that it was difficult to see where the next blue marker was. After about an hour of descent, without seeing any other people, and not being able to see up or down the mountain, worry set in.

We began the hike just before 11, and it was well after 3. The trail was only supposed to be 4-5 miles, at that point we should have been done, we shouldn’t still be walking. We didn’t know what else to do but to keep following the blue marked trail. If we had turned around, we were worried that we wouldn’t make it back before dark. As long as we stuck to the trail, we weren’t too lost in the mountains. It was frustrating and a bit unnerving, but our only option was to keep moving forward.

At one point, I slipped on leaves and fell smack on my butt. I sat in the rain and the mud and began to cry. My boyfriend knelt down to comfort me.

“We’re going to die up here,” I told him through my tears.
“Do you want to rest a while?” he asked.
I thought about it and shook my head “no.” He helped me up, I wiped my tears, and just put one foot in front of the other.

A little while later, I heard an ESPN alert go off on my phone.

“The Seahawks must have scored,” my boyfriend said.
“Since I have service, maybe I should look up the trail.”

I googled the trail name and found a site that said in all caps, “WHEN YOU REACH GIANT LEDGE, TURN BACK. DO NOT GO STRAIGHT.”


We called innkeeper Ben and told him our predicament. My phone was almost out of battery and the call kept cutting in and out. He said he thought he knew where we were, but that we should keep walking, and he would come meet us. We had continued on to a 15-mile trail.

We had no idea how far into this trail we were, but we had been descending for a while and decided to continue on. After about 90 minutes more, we see Ben on the trail ahead of us. A light at the end of the tunnel. He breathed a sigh of relief as well as he had been hiking for 45 minutes to find us. My legs have never felt more strained. I took to counting to keep them moving forward. As soon as I saw the road, I wanted to throw myself upon it and sleep for days. It was past 6pm.

Back at the inn, a hot shower has never felt quite that amazing. We threw out our muddy, soaked socks and headed to a fancy restaurant up the road. We feasted. Beer, onion rings, steak, fish, apple cake. As hyperbole as it may be, I was happy to be alive. I was happy to not be lost in the woods, to be a news story of hikers gone missing. I’m not going on another hike for a long time.