Wildcat Ridge: The Spring of Our Discontent

“I’m bummed out about the premature end the season.” In light of the exponential change in our lives, this sentence now seems selfish and self-centered. But in the time since I originally submitted this piece, a lifetime has passed. As we’re all hunkering down, I hope this piece gives you some respite from the news that surrounds us.

Split Rock Reservoir

During the second week in March, organizers cancelled the Lake Placid Loppet due to deteriorating ski conditions. I wasn’t surprised: the long-range weather forecast had been awful, with rain and high temperatures over 45 F on several consecutive days.

That was also the week that the you-know-what hit the fan with coronavirus. Since van Ho reported still having snow on around 15 km of trail, I considered driving up.

In the end, I cancelled my lodging reservation, even though I had to eat my deposit. Going by myself? I probably would have done it. But I was bringing my child up with me, and we’d be staying in a hostel full to capacity. That seemed irresponsible.

Bridge on Wildcat Ridge NJ

It’s probably just as well the race was cancelled. 400 people with depleted immune systems crowding the lodge post-race would have been an awesome virus breeding ground. Not to mention the people you encounter in the rest stops on the NY Thruway. Who’s rolled into New Baltimore when two charter buses stop for a Starbucks break?

Social distancing remains the buzzphrase of the moment, so on a Sunday a few weeks ago I tried to accomplish it in my local woods. It didn’t exactly work: I nabbed the last parking spot at the Wildcat Ridge trail head.

bat sanctuary on Wildcat Ridge
Revolutionary War Mine, now bat sanctuary

In the sunny weather, I encountered many more people on the Four Birds trail than I usually do, and I kept my distance. The farther away from the trail head I ran, the fewer people I saw. Until I was alone. A lone red-tailed hawk circled overhead, looking for lunch. I heard the jackhammering of a pileated woodpecker, too far away to see.

As I scrambled over ledges and pranced through rock minefields, I turned things over in my mind. After Sunday, Prospect Mountain would close. Should I have gone?

brook on Wildcat Ridge

Counterintuitive though it may seem, I really appreciate end-of-season spring skiing. Blue skies, mid 40s. Seeing the bare spots widen on Workout and Duke’s Loop each time you pass. For me, the last, warm day of skiing is time to reflect on all the good times I’ve had the past season. It’s a bittersweet way to close it out, and it’s been a tradition of mine for some years.

I’m bummed out about the abrupt end. Meteorologically and otherwise. During dryland season, I train alone, and I miss the camaraderie of skiing. Some of the pieces I’ve contributed to this space have been written or re-written in a coffee shop, when I just need to get out of the house. That ain’t happening for a while.

hawk watching spot

I’m bummed that if I head to the ‘Gunks or the Catskills for a run, my routine will likely change. No stopping for a coffee pre-run. No stopping afterwards for a meal and a beer. Travel restrictions may be imposed that will preclude upstate trips.

My wife will be telecommuting for the foreseeable future, and my child’s school is closed as they embark on a remote learning experiment. With all the gyms shut down, I’ll be training clients via Facetime. Personally, I expect schools, malls and movie theaters to be closed for quite a while.

You can still go outside for now. Do it. Soak in some vitamin D and be safe.

5 comments on “Wildcat Ridge: The Spring of Our Discontent

  1. Enjoyed the article. I am a downhill skier, and I can relate to that last run sentiment. In some way, they are usually memorable. The closures of ski areas were at the cusp of the complete lockdown that became necessary. I heard one commentator state that everyone will experience either the loss of someone they know, or the loss will occur to someone they are acquainted with. I have found this to be true. We will emerge, but it will be in a different world, and quite possibly our favorite activities will be changed as well.

  2. Great Write up! And the photo says it all.. WTF!!
    I would love to go for a hike.. or skin the last of the snow… but I am home.. and have been for 34 days in my NYC apartmart. The car is parked on the street with the Ski rack and Poles still mounted.. ski in the car…
    But.. this is the reality…
    Just stay home… Dont leave your ZIP Code.
    That it…
    Bummed.. ya.. but healty.
    I truly miss everyone!! My Platty Family Most!!
    See y’all at the summer concerts!
    Thanks All!!
    Miss Ya

  3. This coronavirus has certainly made me rethink living in a city, for a few reasons, but one of which is that my zip code is not the most inspiring. we are pretty locked down here with car traffic restricted to essential use and we’re not supposed to even leave our neighborhood. I wouldn’t think it’s a big deal to drive for half an hour to go look at some birds, but that will have to wait.

    When I do get outside for my daily walk, the difference is pretty night and day compared to last year. The air is so much sweeter tasting with the lack of traffic. Some of that has to be because i’m stuck inside, but not all. One positive moving forward could be a new balance between how we treat consuming, travel, production, and the environment. Covid19 stole the big story this year — the warmest winter coming on top of how many previous warmest winters in the last 20 years.

    Climate change is both undeniable and accelerating — unless you have a vested political or economic interest in it being obfuscated. The season would have ended early everywhere except for the heavily invested in the man made. Because these problems are intertwined, perhaps so too can be the solutions.

  4. I have never skied there but found you on the Internet, I used to be the Ski Patrol leader at Denten Hill (Pennsylvania) and at Greek Peak (New York). Thank you and have a Cool Summer and Pray for an early Winter.

    Paul H. Collin – #6976

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