Fugitives in the Catskills

| 07 Mar 2012 | 09:31

My husband Tom and I have long nurtured a fantasy about being on the lam. It’s not that we’re planning to knock over a bank or anything. We just like the idea of being on the move, dodging pursuers and living by our wits.

We decided we’d reconnoiter at the marble Curtis-Ormsbee monument on the back way up Slide Mountain. We picked it because it’s familiar and comforting. We could find our way there in the dark if we had to. It seems impossible that we could ever be frightened within the innermost folds of the Catskill Mountains.

And from there you can walk a very long way in any direction without crossing a road or seeing a house — perfect for fugitives, whether they’re running from the law or the grind of daily life. A section of trail is on the Long Path, which runs from Manhattan almost to Albany and connects with other long-distance trails like the Appalachian Trail and the Devil’s Path.

Slide is the tallest mountain in the Catskills, at 4,180 feet, it’s among the highest in the state.

But don’t let that intimidate you. Boy Scouts with pudgy thighs and old people leaning on sticks

make it to the top. Most hikers take the most direct trail up, but that way is boring. Save it for the way

down. I’m going to take you ’round the back, up the Curtis-Ormsbee trail, which is fi lled with delights. You’ll step out onto ledges with sweeping views you won’t get at the summit.

You’ll walk a path dusted with crushed quartz so improbable in this wilderness, so civilized, that early trailbook writers called it“the garden path.”

The trees stand tightly together on the trail’s higher section, casting a perpetual twilight. The shade and altitude will keep you cool when you’re breathing hard.

Take long, deep breaths because the best part is the balsam fi r that blankets the mountain starting at 3,500 feet.

The sun bakes the needles until they release their wild, pungent spice you won’t recognize from air freshener trees. The only way you’ll ever know it is to hike up the mountain on a day of radiating heat.

Sneak Peak The hike: Slide Mountain

Trailhead: County Route 47. Blazes: Yellow (Phoenicia-

East Branch Trail), Blue (Curtis-Ormsbee Trail), then

Red (Wittenburg-Cornell- Slide Trail)

Length: 5.1 miles