Giant Ledge and Panther Mountain on 10/03/2013

Balsam Cap, Breath, Cornell, Cross, East Wildcat, Friday, Garfield, Giant Ledge, Hanover, Lone, Panther, Peekamoose, Pleasant, Rocky, Romer, Samuals Point, Slide, Table, Terrace, Van Wyck, Wittenberg, Wildcat, Woodhull

Giant Ledge and Panther Mountain on 10/03/2013

New postby rkugel » Tue Nov 26, 2013 8:48 am

On Thursday October 3, 2013, I managed to sneak a day off from work and get out hiking. After considering several options as to where to find fall foliage, I settled on Giant Ledge and Panther Mountain. It turned out to be a good decision. The weather was gorgeous. Mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the 60's. It was a perfect "Indian summer" day. I arrived at the "hairpin curve" parking area shortly after 8:00 am and began my trek.

I arrived at Giant Ledge around 9:00 am was greeted with solitude (almost unheard of at Giant Ledge) and spectacular, jaw-dropping fall colors. I spent nearly an hour exploring every ledge I could find and then reluctantly headed towards Panther Mountain. While taking a break in the col between Giant Ledge and Panther, I (finally) encountered another hiker. We exchanged a few words and then he headed on his way. After recharging my batteries, I began the assault on Panther Mountain.

Since my youthful days are long gone, I am a very slow (but steady) hiker. I reached the first "summit" view of Panther around 11:00 am. This location features a large boulder, the top of which offers a spectacular view to the north. KHP can just barely be seen - its distinctive summit slightly poking above the Devil's Range. Another hiker was enjoying the view from atop the boulder. We chatted a few minutes (I believe he was from New Paltz, NY) and then he said he was about ready to head back to his car. I told him there was another viewpoint a few hundred further up (north) the trail and that he really should check it out.

He decided to join me and we continued along the trail past the "true" summit of Panther (there is a viewpoint, but not nearly as spectacular as the others) and then we came to the "second" viewpoint. The fall colors were dazzling and he was genuinely appreciative that I twisted his arm to join me.

We enjoyed the view for a few minutes, took turns getting shots, and then turned around to head back. Back at the first viewpoint (with the boulder), we exchanged "farewells" as he needed to get home, while I chose to stay and enjoy a leisurely lunch and take in the views.

After relaxing and "dining" on my roast beef sandwich (work was a million miles away at that point), I started back towards my car. On the trek back to Giant Ledge, I encountered several small groups of hikers. Everyone was friendly and looking forward to seeing Panther. I told them they would not be disappointed.

Upon arrival back at Giant Ledge, I decided to "crash" for a while. I found a ledge with a rock in the perfect shape of a recliner. I settled into position, munched on a few cookies, and just pondered the spectacular view out into Woodland Valley. I am not certain, but I may have actually drifted off into sleep for 15 or 20 minutes. Regardless, it was one of the most relaxing hours I spent in a long time.

By the time I ready to leave, it was nearly 4:00 pm and Giant Ledge was actually starting to get crowded as more and more hikers arrived to enjoy the view. Once again, everyone was friendly and profoundly awed at nature's beauty. I couldn't help but be amazed by the number of international tourists both from Europe and Asia clamoring up to see Giant Ledge. Thinking how these folks travelled halfway around the world to see the Catskills gave me a newfound appreciation for these magical mountains and also reminded me to never take their beauty for granted.

The downhill journey to my car was both uneventful and reflective about what a great day I had.

One humorous note as I was getting ready to leave. A van pulled into the parking area and large family poured out to (presumably) begin a hike to Giant Ledge. There were 4 kids plus the two parents. The mother was somewhat overweight (I'm doing my best to be polite) and complained out loud to her husband for parking so far from the trailhead. "Couldn't you park a little closer so I wouldn't have to walk so far!" I couldn't help but chuckle at the thought for was what was ahead for the intrepid family. Obviously, they had no clue what was in store for them. Apparently, they were under the impression they would walk into the woods and Giant Ledge would only be a couple of hundred of feet ahead on a perfectly flat trail. If not for the fact that I was so tired and my legs were so sore from walking, I would have followed them just to enjoy the comedy that was about to unfold!

All in all, a perfectly great day!

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rkugel
 
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