My story in today’s New York Times — “2 Days, 3 Nights, on a Path Named for a Devil” — covers the Devil’s Path, an east-to-west voyage along the spine of the Catskill Mountains in New York.
The 25-mile route, which I hiked with two friends in late June, is often cited as the toughest hiking trail in the East. In its 25 miles, the path ascends six major peaks, plunging into deep valleys between climbs to rack up more than 14,000 feet of total elevation loss and gain.
“From end to end the Devil’s Path is one of the more challenging trails around,” said Josh Howard, a director at the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, which publishes detailed maps of area trails, including the Devil’s Path. Backpackers hoping to complete the route face steep ascents, including terrain that is vertical enough at times to be confused with a mountain climb.
Most backpacking groups commit three days of hiking to complete the route, according to the trail conference. Backpackers can camp in lean-tos along the way and purify water from streams. My group went into the woods late on a Friday night, hoping to complete the trail in a weekend.
On the first night, shouldering about 20 pounds in my backpack, I thought I had lost the trail as it climbed up the side of a slope. “This can’t be right,” I shouted down, one hand on a root, the other clutching a crack in the rock. Brock Foreman, a friend from Maine, shined his headlamp above the outcrop. The glint of a trail marker sign sparked in the night, verifying our position to be correct on the precipitous path.
We camped that first night in the woods off the trail, having missed the lean-to in the dark. Karl Wiedemann, a friend from Connecticut, pitched a one-person tent. Brock and I collapsed into waterproof bivy bags. Before sleep I piled our food for the weekend into a nylon sack, clipping it closed and tying it high in a tree to keep a cache out of reach of the bears that roam the region.
Go here for the full story in the Times, “2 Days, 3 Nights, on a Path Named for a Devil”.