A Summer Hike with the Mountain Top Historical Society. 5-24-24

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A hike to South Mountain

The Catskill Geologists; The Mountain Eagle, June 7, 2019

Robert and Johanna Titus            


The hiking season has arrived for the Mountain Top Historical Society (2019). The two of us have been members for decades and have long enjoyed going exploring with them. On Saturday, that’s tomorrow, renowned hiker Bob Gildersleeve will be leading a trek to the edge of the Catskill Front at South Mountain. That’s a remarkably scenic location that rises above Kaaterskill Clove and overlooks the vast expanse of the Hudson Valley.

It looks like most of the hike will be on or near the Blue Trail. That path rises up the slope just south of the old Catskill Mountain House Hotel site. That will take the hike up a slope that was carved by the glaciers of the Hudson Valley glacier. Participants can expect to see views of the valley from the tops of sizable cliffs. Today’s scenery is spectacular but try looking at the alley and see it filled with ice! That was perhaps 16,000 years ago.

The Blue trail will pass by ledges of rock called the Twilight Park conglomerate. That’s a thick mass of petrified gravel and cobbles. It will take us another 380 million years into the past. You look at the strata to the west of the trail, and then turn to the east. Now, rising high above you, towers the image of an enormous and ancient mountain range, the Acadian Mountains. Those cobbles and gravels formed as a mass of sediment, that was transported down the old mountain slopes, mostly by gravity. That range is nearly gone. Only the Taconic Mountains, across the valley, remain as remnants of what once were colossal mountains, rising between 15 and 30 thousand feet above the eastern horizon.

The trail and its environs are littered with enormous boulders, most of them left behind by the actions of glaciers. Does Druid Rack sound interesting? How about Boot Jack rock or Sphinx Rock? They are all there, near or along the trail. For the most part, they were yanked out of the ground by passing glaciers and then dragged to where we see them today.

This is a classic trek; it’s been a tourist destination for generations. People have been hiking these pathways since the early 19th century. Visitors to the old hotels enjoyed these trails. Countless postcards were made here. We remember our first visit and the impact it had on us. Have you been? If not, then you should not miss this hike; you will not forget it.

Contact the authors at randjtitus@prodigy.net. Join their facebook page “The Catskill Geologist.” Read their blogs at “thecatskillgeologist.com.”


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