I don’t have a fear of heights. At least, that is what I thought until I met the fire tower atop Hunter Mountain. Now, there is nothing dizzying about Hunter Mountain itself. At 4,050 feet, its summit is the second highest in the Catskills, but it is flat and cliffless, covered in dense spruce-fir forest. It is utterly undramatic and viewless — unless you climb the tower!
The tower stands in a half-acre clearing. A wooden hut — once the observer’s cabin — sits beside it. I arrived at the hut a little after 9 a.m. on the Friday before Labor Day. Even for 4,050 feet, it was surprisingly chilly — 40 degrees according to the thermometer on the hut porch. A gusty wind blew through the firs too. I sat on the sunny porch to rest. Afterward, I told myself, I would climb the tower, high above the screening trees, and at its top drink in big views.