Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Hiking - Panther Mt. - Catskills

Several friends were hiking Panther today, so I decided to join them. It was raining heavily when I rolled out of bed, but the forecast and radar looked promising, so I hoped for the best. By the time I drove to the meeting point, the rain had mostly stopped, and it looked like the day would be OK. Things got even better as we drove south to the Catskills.

At 3720 feet, Panther is the 18th highest of the Catskill summits. The usual approach from the south first climbs and crosses Giant Ledge, a minor summit with spectacular views from its eastern cliffs. The clouds were mostly just above us, and wisps of cloud were hanging around and over some of the other nearby summits.

In true Catskill fashion, the trail was a series of steps, first a steep rocky climb, then a flat section, followed by another steep rocky climb.

Like Saturday's hike to Balsam Mt., wildflowers were everywhere today. On Balsam, the real stars of the show were the spring beauty and red trillium. Panther had some of each as well.

But far overshadowing the spring beauty, today's star was the trout lily, named for its spotted leaves. They were everywhere, both singly and in clumps or even carpets.

Reaching a viewpoint near the summit that has obviously been both created and improved by illegal cutting, we stopped for lunch.

After lunch, we made a quick trip to the true summit, and then headed back toward Giant Ledge. By now, the clouds were rolling over Giant Ledge, and the views of the morning were all but obscured. We descended down the steep and rocky trail and reached the car after another fine day in the woods.

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