I spent Saturday in the Catskill woods with two friends, both experts, and historians on the life and writings of American naturalist and essay writer John Burroughs.
The three of us hiked up Woodland Valley following the same bark road path that Burroughs’s did in his essay about climbing Slide Mountain in 1885.
Even though I am lame a little today from the exercise, it was a moving and rewarding experience for me as I recounted Burroughs’s essay.
“What a forest solitude our obstructed and dilapidated wood-road led us through! Five miles of primitive woods before we came to the forks, three miles before we came to the “burnt shanty,” a name merely,-no shanty there now for twenty-five years past. The ravages of the barkpeelers were still visible, now in a space thickly strewn with the soft and decayed trunks of hemlock-trees, and overgrown with wild cherry, then in huge mossy logs scattered through the beech and maple woods. Some of these logs were so soft and mossy that one could sit or recline upon them as upon a sofa.”
Our destination was to hike to the remains of burnt shanty.
Our guide Paul Misko easily found it for he has been here many times before, in fact, he probably knows more about Burroughs, Woodland Valley, and the Catskills than anyone alive today.
With apologies to Burroughs, our little hike was a fraction of what he did with his companions so many years ago. But for me, it was a reliving of his trek and tale. The golden and crimson hues of fall were framed by the fading green leaves of summer. A variegated sunlight lit our path up valley. Trees five times older than me still stood sentry to the valley’s beauty as a timeless creek pushed its way to the lower valley below. Ash trees over a hundred feet tall. A rare black Maple, the forest floor festooned with Lycopodium Lucidulum or Shining Club Moss. It was wonderful.
My thanks to Paul Misko and Patrick McDonough for watching over the old guy and especially sharing their knowledge of Burroughs the man and his writings.