Into the Woods: Reliving 'My Side of the Mountain'

The towering trees, swift creeks and fresh air of the Catskills remain just as Jean Craighead George described them in celebrated children's book "My Side of the Mountain."
By Steve Hendrix
Sunday, October 11, 2009

This was the forest of my childhood.

These hemlocks, towering over a deep vale of the Catskill Mountains, loomed larger still over the memory of my adolescence, when I would retreat again and again to the shelter of their filigreed shade.

These endless views down wooded slopes were my delight. These hidden gorges, shrouded in shadow and cut by hustling creeks, were my refuge. The nearby college town of Delhi, where I had gorged on New York pizza before shouldering the big pack and tackling this steep ridge trail, was a place I knew intimately as an accommodating base for nature boys.

And this crystalline air, free of city noise and rich with pine, this was the wind that whispered some of my deepest longings for escape and solace.

Yes, this rough, improbably remote corner of central New York State was the beloved wilderness of my youth.

And here I was, seeing it all for the very first time.

***

I hitched rides into the Catskill Mountains. At about four o'clock a truck driver and I passed through a beautiful dark hemlock forest, and I said to him, "This is as far as I am going."

He looked all around and said, "You live here?"

"No," I said, "but I am running away from home, and this is just the kind of forest I have always dreamed I would run to."

-- Sam Gribley in "My Side of the Mountain"

What debt do we owe to the best books of our childhood?


CONTINUED     1                 >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company