Friday, December 3, 2010

The Gunks

Maya yesterday after she flipped over
The Shawagunk Mountains (aka The Gunks) are a section of the Catskills on the western edge of the Southern Hudson Valley in NY. They are similar to mesas; sheer limestone cliffs and relatively flat on top. They are the favorites of rock climbers in the East.

In 1985,  I attended a meeting in New Paltz, NY. I had flown into Albany, visited my brother's family in Troy (which included newborn twins), borrowed his Rabbit and headed south. In the evening, it was time for a run. I could see the university's running track  but...boring. I stopped into the local running store to ask for advice. About 10 miles away or so, the store owner promised me I'd have the best run of my life on top of one of those Gunks. And no, it would be impossible to get lost. The Rabbit could barely chug up the grade to my starting point, the Overcliff/Undercliff trail in the Mohunk Reserve. He was right: the trail was beautiful hugging the edge of the cliff.One could see for miles. After about 2.5 miles, the trail seemed to split in two. Now I should have stopped and looked for a sign (there was one there when I retraced my steps on a different day) but I was in a groove and just assumed the larger fork was the correct one. Wrong...wrong. Now I was deep into a forest and I seemed to be going downhill. The loop was supposed to be about 5 miles and by my internal pedometer, time was up. The trail emptied into a field. By this time I had taken several forks. I was still fairly high up and I could see towns in the distance but I had no idea which ones they were. I could see a farm that was not too far away and ran down to it thinking it must be on a road. I found the farmer who was very busy and crabby. I asked how far Trapp's Bridge was (where the Rabbit was teetering on the top of a cliff-sure hope I set that parking brake)by taking roads. 15 miles he said. How could this be? I had been running only about 80 minutes, how could I get so far away? He said if I didn't want to run 15 miles, I could go back the way I came (which would be impossible to do in the fading light). I didn't ask for a ride and he didn't look in the mood to offer one. He asked what was the farthest I ever ran. A marathon. Well you shouldn't have any trouble with this.He pointed to a pump where I could hydrate. I was now on the roads slowly making my way back. At the end, I still had to climb that grade that the Rabbit could barely handle. Fortunately it wasn't as far as 15 miles away, more like 10 or 11 but still it was tiring. It was dark by the time I got to the  car.
Later in a restaurant in New Paltz, a group of climbers came to me and said they saw me running up to Trapp's Bridge and they were impressed I could run up such a steep grade.

Our company's policy was if there were dorms at a meeting site, that's where you stayed. There weren't many other women in those days at the meetings and I was given the lower level of a building for myself. It creeped me out. My room had one bare bulb no where near the bed so it was inconvenient to read. My room was in a basement level with no window coverings so anyone could look in. I had to get dressed in the communal bathroom. My friend was teaching at Vassar, not so far away, so I ended up staying with her.

Naomi and Maya came over yesterday. Naomi wanted to see movies of herself as a baby which she watched with interest. She was seeing what baby tricks she could do at which ages. Maya flipped over the more difficult way yesterday.

Shanna and her family made it safely back to Boston.

It is still cold outside but the dry, sunny, calm air made my run tolerable.

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