Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Gertrude's Nose

Well, my favorite hike was the Ricketts Glen Falls Trail, I need a least favorite, and this would be it. Well, to be fair, it wasn't all bad, let me start at the beginning.

First, DO NOT attempt to park on State property before 9 am (even if the gates are open). I know you hikers like to get out early, but since NY can't tax it; they prohibit it. And, I think the High Point employees were helping out in NY the day we hiked. Yep, just plain not nice!

So, finally allowed to park, off we went. The hike to Gertrude's Nose was amazing. It was relaxing and well maintained with spectacular views. That's L&O in the picture to the left, it was a perfect day!

Then we left the cliffs. GRRR! When Gertrudes Nose Path ends and the Millbrook Ridge Trail begins the hike turns deadly (okay, no one died, but I did fall back on my pack and like a turtle I couldn't get up! That could have been bad). Seriously, for most of the hike back to the parking area the trail is not really maintained. The path is overgrown, not well blazed, and follows a water run-off trail, which means a lot of rocks and moisture, a deadly mix for sprained ankles.

Wait, sorry to interrupt, but I have to tell you this! A few weeks ago I requested that the house I live in get real recyclable containers from the county, so I wouldn't need to make my own anymore. Well, the genius from upstairs just came downstairs, once again, to argue with me that not only is recycling a scam, but polystyrene (a.k.a. Styrofoam) is the most biodegradable material on earth. LOL, welcome to my world! This is why I like to hike, it's peaceful, beautiful, and no (or very little) people! Okay, back to the hike!

Before you attempt this 8+ mile hike (some guides claim 8 miles, some 9), remember that you actually hike down to Gertrudes Nose, so on the last end of the loop, it's all uphill. Had you been hiking the day we were, you would have heard me complaining about this for at least 2 miles .

A little background, Gertrudes Nose is a part of the Shawangunk Ridge (a.k.a. The Gunks). It's a ridge of mountains in Ulster County, Sullivan County and Orange County in New York extending from the northernmost point of NJ to the Catskill Mountains (and yes, High Point is included in the Gunks, it explains a lot, huh). Known for it's rock climbing, the ridge has also been designated by the Nature Conservancy as one of the "75 Last Great Places on Earth". I would agree with the last statement, it was beautiful, just not a great hike, there's a difference.

To hike the route we did, visit: www.nynjtc.org/trails/record/080703.html

Ricketts Glen State Park, PA

I'm not quite sure what to say about Ricketts Glen State Park, I'm still speechless from the experience. By far my favorite hike, the 7.2 mile, difficult Falls Trails leads hikers past 21 waterfalls ranging in height from 11-feet to 94-feet, all are amazing in their own way.
If you park in the trailhead parking on Rt.118, called the Evergreen Trail Lot, the entrance to the Falls Trail is directly across the road. For an added bonus, another waterfall, the 36' Adams, is located at the end of this parking area.
Ricketts Glen Natural Area is a National Natural Landmark comprised of 13,050 acres in Luzerne, Sullivan, and Columbia counties.
Bring lunch, a good camera, and sturdy boots (the trails get very wet and slippery). The hike itself is very challenging, but I didn't fall once, so that's a good sign!
For more info, visit:

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

High Point State Park, NJ

Well, where do I begin? The trip to High Point was disappointing to say the least. Granted, it was very foggy when we went so great pictures weren't expected, but a great hike was.
We ventured to High Point with the expectations of seeing three states (NY, NJ, & PA) from the highest point in New Jersey. The fog put an end to that dream right way. No worries, the AT passes right through the park, so we headed off to find our beloved trail. We stopped first at the visitor's center for maps and directions. The woman at the window did not share our excitement, and when asked about trails, she handed us a park map and told us we could find something on there. Hmmm...big difference between state park employees in New Jersey and every other state I've ever hiked. Okay, maybe she was having a bad day, off we went.
We paid our $10 for admission (a little steep!), and drove into the park. Unable to spot any trail heads, we headed to the monument to have a look and pour over the map. While there, we said, "Hey, why not go up?"
So, passing another state employee who looked to be drifting off to sleep, we entered the monument. Let me stop here before I get mad again to say, don't do it! The monument is hotter than Satan's den, the windows dirtier than a boy's locker room, and there is no viewing area, it just ends. So after reaching the top, we angrily headed back down.
Back at the bottom, now drenched in sweat without ever hiking even a foot, we pulled out the map. If I handed any 5 year old child some crayons and told them to draw me a map, we would have been better off! I know New Jersey is trying to save money, but come on! So L&O decided to ask a park employee who actually looked like they were breathing.
The employee (who was very nice), told us to get to the best views on the AT you need to go back out of the park. Hmmm...they must not get paid well. We already paid the ten bucks, so we found a green-red trail to follow instead.
Well, after following the trail for almost an hour, the trail markers just stopped. We retraced our steps and headed down an unmarked trail instead (the map was of no use). The unmarked trail brought us to a swamp area (which, actually, was very nice) with a long boardwalk over the swamp. We walked for a while, saw a beautiful buck and listened to the loud conversation of two other lost souls on our path. We followed this trail for at least another hour until it brought us back to where we started. Nice.
Well, a storm was rolling in, so we just decided to call it a day. We followed the original red-green trail back out and headed home.
As we drove past the visitors center we noticed a sign we hadn't seen before, Appalachian Trail Head Parking. To all High Point State Park employees, the AT is BEHIND the visitors center! Nice!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Come for the berries, stay for the hike!

Anyone within a shouting distance from Rockland County, NY come rediscover the White-Blazed Trail on Buttermilk Falls.
After not having been maintained in a year, L&O and I have been busy clearing the trail once again.
The White Trail begins at the south end of the Buttermilk Falls parking area and ends at the Long Path in Sean Hunter Memorial County Park. It can also be hiked as a loop by starting at the Blue Trail at the north end of the Buttermilk Falls parking area then connect to the Orange-Blazed Trail which ends at a fork in the White-Blazed Trail, be sure to turn right onto the White-Blazed Trail to complete the loop.
The White-Blazed Trail is a moderate hike with streams, swamp areas, a pine grove and did I mention wine berries? Yep, they're edible! Enjoy!
If you are interested in volunteering time to trail maintenance, please visit http://www.nynjtc.org/

Monday, May 26, 2008

Road Trip!

Caledonia State Park lies about 5 miles west of Gettysburg, PA in the town of Fayetteville, at the crossroads of US 30 and PA 233.
Boasting over 1,125 acres, Caledonia is in the northernmost section of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The park was named after Thaddeus Stevens' charcoal iron furnace, named Caledonia. Operation began in 1837 and ran until 1863, when the confederate army destroyed the furnace.
With over 10 hiking trails (including 1.8 miles of the Appalachian Trail), fishing, swimming, hunting, and picnic areas, there is something for everyone and every mood.
For more information, visit: www.state.pa.us

Monday, May 12, 2008

Almost Done

Well, first I hurt my leg, now I'm moving. Sorry for the lack of posts over this last month, all should be back to normal in another week. Thanks to L&O, the best hiking partner ever, for putting up with me. Once I'm back, I'll have a lot to say! Oh, the places I have been! See ya in about a week!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Shutdown Day 2008

Well, everything else has a day....now we have the 2nd Annual Shutdown Day!
What does that mean? Well, if you're reading this on Saturday, May 3, 2008, it means you already lost. Shutdown Day is 24 hours without gadgets of any kind. That includes pc, tv, mp3, ipod, and anything else that can be abbreviated. It means shutdown and get out! Get out of the house away from gadgets and enjoy the outdoors. Hey, that's not such a bad day after all.
For more info: www.shutdownday.org

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

John Muir Day April 21st

John Muir traveled most of his life. Born in Scotland on April 21, 1838, John's first grand adventure was as a boy immigrating to the United States. John fell in love with the Sierra Nevada when he first traveled to California in 1868. While making California his home, John also traveled extensively in Alaska and throughout the West, keeping journals and writing books and articles on the beauty that he saw and the need for mankind to preserve it.

One often wonders how their life will be remembered. John Muir had no such worries. Yosemite National Park exists because John Muir helped establish it in 1890. And if you travel to California, Alaska, Florida, Washington, Wisconsin, and Dunbar, Scotland, you will find geographic locations named after Muir. John also helped establish the Sierra Club as well as being the first president (a position he held unitl his death in 1914). And he happens to be the man standing on the back of the California State quarter. That's a hell of a legacy to leave behind.

So as you celebrate the National Park Week and Earth Day this month, remember the man who spoke for the trees well before anyone else, even the lorax.

Happy Day, John, thank you.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Beware of Hitchhikers

No, not the kind with thumbs....the ones with eight legs...ewww!

Yup, March actually marked the beginning of tick season and with all the rain we've had, the woods are ripe to pick a few of these guys up.

A few reminders:

  • Ticks do not fall from trees. They hitch rides from the ankle area and climb up.
  • Wear socks with long pants and long sleeve shirts.
  • Stay in the middle of the trail, away from tall grass. Avoid bushwhacking.
  • Use insect repellents containing DEET or Picaridin.
  • To remove a tick, use tweezers as close to your skin as you can, pull tick straight out. Do not leave the head in, if necessary seek medical attention.
  • Do NOT use matches to remove ticks.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

National Park Week

Celebrate National Park Week (April 19-27, 2008) by visiting a park today!

Visit http://www.nps.org/ to find a National Park near you!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Long Path: Blood on the Trail

The 326 mile Long Path begins at the Fort Lee Historical Park in New Jersey and ends at the John Boyd Thacher State Park in Albany County, New York (work is continuing to extend the trail north with a terminus in the Adirondacks).

Although every effort was made to keep the trail away from towns, the path travels through many, giving the hiker an intimate look at the heart of New York.

One such town that the trail passes through is the historic Nyack, the Gateway to Rockland County. Home to the Tappan Zee Bridge, a stop on the Underground Railroad, and the keeper of the Helen Hayes legacy, Nyack attracts many to its shore. Street fairs and celebrity sightings are as much a way of life to the residents as are the endless streams of tourists who overtake this small town every summer.

Following the Long Path through Rockland County will lead you through Tallman Mountain State Park (where the trail drops to the lowest elevation, a mere 5 feet above sea level), along 9W, through Blauvelt State Park (former home to a Nike missile launch site), then entering Nyack to cross the New York Thruway for the first time. It is at the intersection of Mountainview Avenue and Route 59, at the New York Thruway entrance ramp where blood was shed not so long ago on the Long Path.

It was on October 20, 1981 in the neighboring town of Nanuet, N.Y. where the unimaginable happened.

At approximately 3:55 pm, Peter Paige, a 24-year Brinks veteran, and his partner, Joe Trombino left the Nanuet National Bank, located on the second level at the Nanuet Mall. Exiting the mall, they used hand trucks to push the $1.6 million to their waiting armored truck. As they loaded the money into the truck, a red van drove up and the rear doors flew open. Masked men jumped out of the van, while one robber used a shotgun to fire 2 blasts into the bulletproof windshield, another robber opened fire with a M-16 automatic, killing Paige and wounding Trombino (Joe Trombino survived the assault and continued to work for Brinks until he was killed in the September 11 attacks in 2001, he was 68.). The thieves grabbed $1.6 million from the truck and fled the scene.

The robbery, which took less than 2 minutes from beginning to end, was not engineered by amateurs. The masked assailants were actually Mutulu Shakur, Mtayari Sundiata, Solomon Bouines, Chui Ferguson, and Kuwasi Balagoon, members of the Black Liberation Army.

A few miles from the mall, a U-haul truck, yellow Honda, and a white Buick parked in a Korvette's lot. In the U-haul were Weather Underground members, David J. Gilbert, Kathy Boudin, Samuel Brown, and Judith Alice Clark. The red van pulled up and money bags were tossed into the U-haul and yellow Honda. Meanwhile a college student studying at home, looked out of her kitchen window, witnessed the exchange, and notified police.

Responding to the call, Police Officers Waverly Brown and Brian Lennon along with Sgt. Edward O'Grady and Detective Artie Keenan, stopped a U-haul truck at the entrance ramp of the N.Y. Thruway. Guns drawn, Sgt. O'Grady told the driver and passenger to exit the vehicle. Kathy Boudin exited the truck and pleading innocence, convinced them to lower their weapons. The officers did, after all, they were looking for black men, not a white man and woman, they must have the wrong truck. Detective Keenan, not satisfied, walked to the rear of the truck and attempted to open the door. Before he could alert the others that it seemed something was holding the door closed, the men inside jumped out of the truck opening fire on the officers.

The robbers then scattered, some in the Honda, others carjacked a motorist, Boudin attempted an escape by foot. Boudin was captured, as was Weathermen David Gilbert, Samuel Brown, and Judith Alice Clark when they crashed the Honda. Police Chief Alan Colsey kept the three held up at gunpoint until backup arrived. Inside the car, police found $800,000 from the robbery. Others escaped that day, but in the end, all were captured.

As you hike the Long Path, you will pass this small memorial to Officer O'Grady and Officer Brown as well as Brinks guard, Peter Paige.

October 20, 1981 marked the end of three lives, the end of radical organizations, and the day blood was shed on the trail.

Monday, March 24, 2008


There's a new site in town that I wanted to give a big "Hello" to... http://thebackpacker.tv/ Please visit and support our fellow wanderers.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

William Brien Memorial Shelter

Located in Orange County, New York, the William Brien Memorial Shelter can be found at the junction of the Appalachian/Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail and the Menomine Trail atop Letterrock Mountain.

Originally known as Letterrock Shelter, it was built in 1933. William Brien, known naturalist and first president of the New York Ramblers (1923), died on October 12, 1954.

In his will, William Brien left money to build a new shelter in the park. The shelter was built in 1957 at Island Pond, but because of vandalism, it was demolished in 1973. The Letterrock Shelter was then renamed in his memory.

Ringwood State Park, NJ

"We can never have enough of nature. We must be refreshed by the sight of inexhaustable vigor, vast and titanic features." John Muir

Ringwood State Park, accessible from exit 57 off route 287, lies in Passiac and Bergen Counties near the town of Ringwood.

In 1740, the Ringwood Company owned a flourishing iron industry. The company harnessed enough power from the Ringwood River to operate a blast furnace and forges. The estate passed to Abram S. Hewitt, a well known iron master, in the mid 19th century. In 1936, Erskine Hewitt deeded the Ringwood Manor House and land to the State of New Jersey.

In 1966, the State of New Jersey bought 1,119 acres of the Skylands estate. The Skylands Manor House and Gardens were built in the 1920's by Clarence MacKenzie Lewis, a New York stockbroker and civil engineer, who made Skylands his summer home. An additional 1,190 acres were added to the Skylands section of the park in 1995.

For more information, visit http://www.njparksandforests.org/

From the Ringwood Manor House, continue south on Sloatsburg Road, then make the first left onto Morris Avenue. Follow Morris Avenue to its end at Skylands Manor, pass between two stone eagle statues and turn left into Parking Lot A.

Starting at Lot A, turn left onto the paved road and follow the white-blazed Crossover Trail. Follow the Crossover Trail until you cross over a stream. After crossing the stream, turn left at two concrete pillars onto the green/white-blazed Halifax Trail. Begin a steep ascent on switchbacks towards Mt. Defiance. An unmarked path on the left leads to an overlook at the summit.

After enjoying the view, continue on the Halifax Trail until meeting the red/white-blazed Ringwood-Ramapo Trail. Make a right onto the RR Trail and follow the trail crossing the white-blazed Crossover Trail. Pass view on a rock face, then begin a descent. Turn left onto the Blue-blazed Trail and begin a steady climb. Bear left onto the yellow-blazed Hoeferlin Trail and the climb gets steeper. Where the yellow-blazed Hoeferlin Trail meets the white-blazed Crossover Trail, we are rewarded with a spectacular view, including the New York City skyline. This is a great spot to take a break and enjoy the view.

Hoeferlin joins the Crossover Trail for a while, then Crossover Trail turns left. Turn with the Crossover Trail. Once you descend the mountain, the trail follows an old carriage road, you will pass over a waterfall, as the trail turns left, a short walk through the woods will lead you right to the base of the falls. Continue to follow the white-blazed Crossover Trail as it passes an Eagle Scout camp on the left and the green/white blazed Halifax Trail on the right, back to the parking lot. This is a moderate to difficult 8.5 mile hike, but the views and the waterfalls make it worthwhile.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Longer Days Ahead

Just in time for nicer weather....longer days! Don't forget to turn your clocks ahead Sunday morning (or Saturday night before bed)! In hiker terms, that's one more hour of daylight.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Kelty Teton 2

The advantage of having no furniture is that you can set up your new tent, right out of the box, anywhere you'd like!
Not much of a post, I know, but I really just wanted to show my new shelter off.
I can't wait to hit the trail!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Hogencamp & Pine Swamp Mines

Just a short hike today, about 5.5 miles. But, we pass two mines, a memorial plaque to George Goldthwaite, and Times Square.
We start our little adventure by taking Route 17 north to Sloatsburg, make a right onto Seven Lakes Drive. Follow Seven Lakes Drive for about 8 miles to the parking area for Lake Skannatati, on the left.
From the parking area, find the aqua-blazed Long Path. The Long Path runs along the north shoreline of the lake for about ten minutes before crossing Pine Swamp Brook. After about a mile the Long Path meets a junction with the yellow-blazed Dunning Trail. The two trails run together for a while then split. At the split, begin to follow the yellow-blazed Dunning Trail.
When you reach the base of the descent, you will notice some stone foundations to the left, these are remains of the Hogencamp Mine village. To the right is a vertical mine shaft, 25 feet in diameter. The shaft is filled with water and seven inch cast iron pipe is sticking out of it. Opposite of this shaft you will see concrete with iron rods and a stone well, about three feet in diameter.
Following the yellow trail, further up from Hogencamp Mine, again we find an unnatural rock pile (we're getting good at this) on the right. A short climb off of the trail and we find a huge pit (much cooler than my description), which we assume is left over from the Hogencamp iron ore mine.
Continue on the yellow-blazed Dunning Trail as we pass Pine Swamp on the left. The trail inclines moderately at a fork in the trail, bear to the right and continue on the Dunning Trail.
After about a mile on the Dunning Trail and another moderate incline, we come to an area of a bare rock with huge boulders known as "Bowling Rocks". Follow the trail down a descent and up again, passing a tree planted in a rock-based planter, soon after we junction with the red-on-white-blazed Ramapo-Dunderberg (R-D) Trail. The yellow-blazed trail continues forward as the red-on-white blaze turns right.
We now follow the R-D Trail as it climbs over a huge bare rock known as Whaleback (watch out for little dogs here, just kidding, L&O, you know what I mean). If you are hiking during the winter months, this area is very icy and requires crampons. As you leave the Whaleback, there is a rock to the right with the plaque placed in memory to George E. Goldthwaite by the Fresh Air Club of New York. George E. Goldthwaite was said to have hiked the entire 21-mile R-D in less than five hours!
The trail now descends a rock face and crosses a stream over a log bridge (more like wood boards), passes a junction with the blue-blazed Lichen Trail, then passes under a overhanging rock, known as "Ship Rock".
The trail continues as we climb Hogencamp Mountain, a bare rock summit of 1,353 feet, one of the highest spots in Harriman State Park. The trail takes a sharp right turn and begins a steady descent, entering a forest.
At the base of the descent, you'll reach "Times Square", marked by a fireplace next to a huge boulder. Named so because this is the junction of three popular trails. Turn right at the boulder and begin to follow the red-triangle-on-white-blazed Arden-Surebridge (A-SB) Trail. The A-SB runs together with the Long Path, but within a few feet, turns left and begins a steady descent. In half a mile it reaches the northern end of the yellow-blazed Dunning Trail, where it crosses a stream (continue on the red-triangle-on-white A-SB Trail).
Just after crossing the stream, look to your left and you will notice a large cut-out in the hillside (pictured above). This is part of the Pine Swamp Mine. A search around the area will uncover more excavations and open pits, please be careful!
After playing in the area (L&O!) the trail bears right and descends into the woods as we pass remnants of a stone wall and foundations to the left of the trail. This was once the village that housed the workers of the Pine Swamp Mine.
The A-SB then passes the northern end of the Pine Swamp and begins a steady climb of the Pine Swamp Mountain (it sounds bad, but it's not). Just beyond the summit, a view overlooking the Lakes Skannatati and Kanawauke offers a Kodak moment. We pass a junction with the Red Cross Trail as the A-SB makes it's final descent back to the parking area where we began.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Ramapo Torne

L&O and I decided that hiking in blizzard conditions just wasn't enough for us on Sunday, so, we waited for the next storm to roll in on Tuesday and we hiked again (it didn't exactly happen like that, but it makes us sound tougher).

Our hike begins at the Reeves Meadow Visitor Center (it's closed from Labor Day to Memorial Day, so we didn't get to visit). Take NYS Thruway to exit 15A, turn left at the light onto Route 17 north. Just past the Village of Sloatsburg, turn right onto Seven Lakes Drive, cross over the Thruway. Takes Seven Lakes Drive for about a mile, the Reeves Meadow Visitor Center is on the right.

The red-on-white blazed Pine Meadow Trail begins at the end of the parking lot on the right side. In 0.02 miles, the Pine Meadow Trail makes a sharp right, turn left onto the blue-on-white blazed Seven Hills Trail. The Seven Hills Trail is a walk in the woods for a while, then turns left after about a third of a mile and begins a steep ascent. The trail then levels off near rock formations (don't poke your head into the caves, L&O!), before it begins another ascent. At the top, we pick up the orange-blazed Hillburn-Torne-Sebago (HTS) Trail. We will follow the orange-blazed trail to the Ramapo Torne.

Soon the trail climbs a very steep ascent, this ascent was my downfall (thankfully, not literally). If you choose to hike in nicer weather, this ascent is nothing more than slightly challenging, this was not the case on Tuesday. At the top of the first level (there are two) there is a rock step onto a boulder, this week, the step was solid ice. Somehow L&O scampered up onto the boulder before me. I, after looking down the mountain several times, was not as confident that I could make it. After about 7 minutes of encouraging words from L&O, I managed to pull myself up.

At the top of this first summit, there is level ground and an enclosed rock formation made by several boulders, it seems, from the burnt wood to be a good place for a campfire. The trail then follows another steep ascent, much more manageable.

At the top of the second climb, you reach the Ramapo Torne. We are rewarded with views of Torne Valley, Hillburn and Suffern. Follow the orange-blazed trail as it runs across the ridge and the views change.

You will follow the orange-blazed trail until you reach a junction with the blue-on-white blazed Seven Hills Trail. Continue ahead, now following the joint HTS/Seven Hills Trail blazed with both orange and blue-on-white blazes. After about 0.2 mile, the trails split, bear left and follow the blue-on-white blazes of the Seven Hills Trail (the trail is actually written out on a boulder, hard to miss). The blue-on-white trail descends into a gully. On the day we hiked, this trail was mainly ice which prompted us to slide down (on purpose) our bottoms. I rather enjoyed this part, L&O, not so much. Continue to follow the Seven Hills Trail as it ascends Thorne View. You can view the Ramapo Torne, which we just descended from here.

Just beyond the Torne View, you will reach a junction with the black-on-white blazed Racoon Brook Trail, ignore it and continue on the Seven Hills Trail, which soon begins to descend.

At the base of the descent, the Seven Hills Trail junctions with the white-blazed Reeves Brook Trail. Turn left and follow the white-blazed Reeves Brook Trail. This trail descends the mountain at first steeply, then moderately as it follows the brook. In less than a mile, the trail bears right and begins to follow a woods road. Continue to follow the Reeves Brook Trail until the junction with the red-on-white blazed Pine Meadow Trail, turn left onto the Pine Meadow Trail and follow it a few feet back to the Reeves Meadow Visitor Center parking lot.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Timp

With the weather in the Northeast turning bitter cold and forecasts of rain, sleet, and snow, L&O and I decided it would be perfect for a long hike.
We set our sights to the area in New York called "the Timp", located in Harriman State Park. This hike includes views over the Hudson as well as two tunnels from the never completed Dunderberg Spiral Railway of the late 1800's.
With challenging weather, cool tunnels to explore, the promise of awesome views, and no one to tell us not to go, we were on our way!
Take 9W north towards Bear Mountain. After passing the Stony Point Lighthouse sign on your right, you will come to an anchor monument on the same side. Past the monument, but before Bear Mountain, there will be a dirt parking area to your left. A sign marks this area as hiker trailhead parking. Once parked, walk 9W south about 50 feet and you will see three blue trail blazes marking the Timp-Torne Trail and red-on-white blazes marking the Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail on your right.
Begin the hike by following the blue-blazed Timp-Torne Trail. The hike begins on a level footpath, through an area of vines. It's not too long before we reach the first tunnel on our left. This tunnel was left by the Dunderberg Spiral Railway. Construction for the railway began in 1890, but by late 1890 or early 1891, the company ran out of money. The plan was to have rail cars pulled up the mountain by a stationary steam engine and the downhill by gravity (speed on the downhill descent was estimated at 60 mph). The complete history can be found at http://www.columbia.edu/~brennan/dunderberg/history.html
After playing in the tunnel, the trail bears right and ascends steeply on switchbacks and uses stone stairs in places. At the junction with the red-on-white blazes, bear left and continue to follow the blue blazes of the Timp-Torne Trail.
The trail continues to climb and you will be able to view the Hudson river during much of the hike through the trees. We viewed a bald eagle in flight while climbing, so keep an eye out while you're hiking.
After a very rocky switchback area you'll arrive at a graded section. This is left over from the railway construction and is a welcome break. Soon we arrive at another tunnel on our right. This tunnel is unfinished, but still a neat find for any explorer!
The trail continues past the tunnel and bears right. This will bring you to the back of the unfinished tunnel and crosses a stream.
After a very sharp right turn, the trail climbs through switchbacks. Once again at a level grade, you are rewarded with a panoramic view of the Hudson. Here, on a clear day, you can view the New York City skyline. If you look closely in the picture above (not taken on a clear day), you can see the skyline.
Pass the junction with the 1777 Trail and continue on the blue-blazed Timp-Torne Trail. While hiking in this area, we saw many deer grazing in the grass in the woods below us.
After passing the 1777 Trail, the T-T Trail climbs over a large rock, offering a good viewpoint, before joining the Red Timp Trail for about 200 feet. Soon after, we meet the red-on-white R-D Trail and the White Cross Trail at an intersection. Continue to follow the BLUE-BLAZED T-T Trail! This will lead you right up the Timp. At the summit, there is a beautiful view of Haverstraw Bay, and as you round the Timp, you will view Bear Mountain and the Bear Mountain Bridge as well as West Mountain and the West Mountain shelter. We viewed a bald eagle in flight here as well.
Unforunately, this is not a loop, so we leave the summit of the Timp, and begin our journey back the way we came. Follow the blue-blazed T-T trail back to 9W and the parking area.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Claudius Smith Den

This hike brings us back to a time of outlaws and hideouts.

Claudius Smith and gang (including his three sons) terrorized southern Orange County, NY during the Revolutionary War from 1774 to 1779. The British sympathizer first stole horses and cattle to sell them to British troops, then began raiding homes and farms. At times they even burned the homes and murdered the occupants.

They hid out in the rocks in what is now Harriman State Park. The upper chamber was used as their den and the lower chamber (pictured on the left) was used as a horse stable.

As traitors to their country, the gang hijacked the arsenal trains of the Continental Army and was suspected in the murder of Major Nathaniel Strong on October 6, 1778. This act prompted then NY Governor George Clinton to offer a $1200 reward for the capture of Smith (www.northjerseyhistory.org/history/smith/claudius.htm). Smith was indeed captured and hung on January 22, 1779. Nope, crime never pays.

And so we begin! First, take the NY Thruway to exit 15A, at the end of the ramp turn left at the light and continue on Route 17 North. After about 4.5 miles you will see the Tuxedo Train Station on your right. Continue past and make the next right over the railroad tracks and park in the left commuter parking lot (this is free parking on the weekends and holidays).

Now, you might hear that this is a moderate hiking trail, well my friends, after hiking this loop twice, I'm here to tell you it isn't. But while it is a hard 8 miles, the views are spectacular and extremely rewarding.

When you're ready, walk out to the road from the lot and turn left, you will see a red-dot-on-white trail marker (Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail) on a wooden sign. This is where we begin. Follow the winding road as it passes through a tunnel under the highway. Follow the RD trail markers as the road turns left and continues to the base of the mountain.

Follow the RD trail as we climb the mountain over a rocky trail on switchbacks for a 500 foot vertical climb (aren't they all in NY?). After the trail levels off, you will see the yellow-blazed Triangle Trail continue straight, but we want to bear right and continue on the red-dot-on-white blazed trail.

Our first scenic stop comes soon after we make that turn. On the left you get a spectacular view of the town of Tuxedo and the NY Thruway. But, we have a lot of trail ahead of us! Continuing on the RD trail, pay close attention, on the right you will seen an unnatural pile of rocks (see right picture), if you leave the trail and walk around the rocks, you will find the Black Ash Mine!

After leaving the mine, keep following the RD trail until you come to signs for the blue-disc-blazed Victory trail. At this point, look to your left and continue to follow the RD trail sharply up the mountain.

After hiking for awhile, you will cross the White Bar trail. Keep going until you once again meet with the yellow-blazed Triangle trail. Here, turn right onto the yellow trail and work your way down the mountain. Soon after you turn onto the yellow, you will come to a spot where you turn right and have to step down a rocky natural step. If you look right, you will see a bear den, best to leave it alone (right L&O!!).

Follow the uneventful yellow-blazed trail until you reach Lake Skenonto. Relax and take a well deserved break, we are now more than half way through our loop!

When you are ready, follow the trail back out, but this time, turn left onto the blue-blazed Victory trail. This vintage looking trail is an old service road, yet it is anything but easy. Continue on it until you reach the point of intersection with the RD trail. Once here, follow the blue-disc-blazed trail to the left and over a stone bridge across the small stream leading from the Black Ash Swamp.

The blue-disc-blazed trail will lead you to the Claudius Smith Den overlook. Soon after the overlook, the blue-disc ends and we pick up the red-blazed Tuxedo-Mt. Ivy trail. It is the red-blazed trail that will lead you right into the den.

Once you are finished exploring the "Cowboy of the Ramapos" former hideout, continue to follow the red-blazed TMI trail until its terminus, then make a left onto the RD trail once more, taking it back to the parking area.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sterling Forest Fire Tower

Just a short hike for today! A moderate hike of 4.3 miles to the Sterling Forest Fire Tower.
Take the N.Y. Thruway to exit 15A. Turn left onto route 17 north. In about 1.4 miles, bear right onto the exit for Sterling Forest. Follow Sterling Mine Road west for 3 miles, then turn right onto Long Meadow Road. Follow Long Meadow Road for 3.5 miles, then turn left onto Old Forge Road and continue on for .5 mile until your reach the Sterling Forest State Park Visitor's Center on the right. Park in the lot across from the visitor's center, then cross the road to the center.
After a look around the center and gift shop, we begin our hike at the front entrance. Walking out of the center turn right and follow the dirt path, following the blue-blazed Sterling Lake Loop. We pass the remains of a church on the right before entering the wooded area. Follow the blue-blaze through the woods and over a footbridge. If you pause on the bridge and turn left, you can see the remains of the Sterling Furnace through the trees.
Continue to follow the blue-blazed trail over a woods road and then as it turns left and descends onto a footpath. Soon we reach the paved West Sterling Lake Road. Turn right and follow the trail pass the brick ruins on the left and Sterling Lake on the right.
Shortly, the road curves to the right, as we continue, a sign marks the beginning of the Bare Rock and Fire Tower Trails. Turn left off of the blue-blazed trail and then immediately right onto the orange-blazed Bare Rock Trail. Follow the orange-blazed trail as it ascends the woods road, climbing steeply for about .75 mile. At the crest of the ridge, a sign marks the junction with the blue-on-white-blazed Sterling Ridge Trail.
Turn left and now follow the blue-on-white-blazed Sterling Ridge Trail and the teal diamond blazes of the Highlands Trail. This a an easy hike with many viewpoints.
About a mile from the trail sign, you'll reach a ranger cabin and the Sterling Forest Fire Tower. The tower is open on weekends and holidays when a ranger is present. Call ahead or ask at the visitor's center if it will be open.
The Sterling Forest Tower is a 60' Aermotor LS40 with a 7' x 7' steel cab. It was erected in 1922 and operational in 1923. It ceased operation in 1988 and closed in 1989. It was held as a "stand-by" tower until 1999, when it was put back into active service. Today, it is the only active fire tower in New York State.
There are picnic tables at the base of the tower if you would like to take a break, or just hang for a while.
When you are ready to leave Rough Mountain and the tower, head east on the red-blazed Fire Tower Trail (do not take the joint Fire Tower/Sterling Ridge Trail marked on the sign). The red-blazed trail follows a service road. After about a half mile, the road levels off as you come to a junction. The rectangle red-blazed trail turns off on the right, but instead, continue ahead, now following the red-triangle blazes. The road continues to descend until you reach a locked gate ahead and houses in front and on the right. Walk around the gate and turn right onto the paved road. Here we pick up the blue-blazed Sterling Lake Loop Trail, this time following it back to the visitor's center.
Although this is a short hike, the views are incredible and the hike is relaxing and enjoyable. As always, this Sterling Forest State Park Trail does not disappoint.

Lemon Squeezer/Boston Mine Loop

Last week, Law & Order and I hiked a 7.5 mile trail that included Green Pond and Island Pond Mountains, the famous Appalachian Trail rock formation, known as the Lemon Squeezer and the historic Boston Mine. It was a great day for hiking!
Our adventure begins at the parking area next to a meadow known as the Elk Pen (named so in 1919, when about 60 Elk were brought from Yellowstone Park in hopes of populating this area.). Walk the unmarked trail through the meadow and turn right at the end. In about 100 feet you will come to a wooden mileage sign for the Appalachian Trail. Turn left and follow the A.T. up the Green Pond Mountain. The climb is a moderate, then strenuous 500 foot ascent. After the summit, the A.T. descends the mountain at an easy pace.
At the eastern base of Green Pond Mountain, the A.T. turns left onto Island Pond Road, a dirt road built by Edward Harriman about 1905. Shortly after, the A.T. turns right and crosses a gravel road built in the 1960s as an access to Island Pond. You then cross an outlet of the pond over a small wooden bridge.
Continue to follow the A.T. through a knoll overlooking the pond. You will pass a large metal object on the right (this was once used to sort gravel). Shortly after passing the metal sorter, the A.T. turns left and climbs to a junction with the A-SB Trail (red triangles on a white background). Turn left at the junction and follow the dual trails to the base of a large rock formation where the two trails split.
Continue on the white blaze trail through the rock formation, known as the Lemon Squeezer. This narrow passage is one of the most famous landmarks of the Appalachian Trail. After squeezing through (I'm not kidding) the rocks, you will walk right into a steep rock face (again, not kidding). This is definitely a challenging obstacle to navigate yourself over. Those who cannot maneuver this, can bypass it by taking a short side trail to the left.
After the Lemon Squeezer, the trail levels off to a nice hike to the summit of Island Pond Mountain. The stone ruins right after the summit are remains of Edward Harriman's cabin. Take a break and enjoy the view.
The A.T. descends the mountain and passes through a hemlock grove before reaching a junction with the Long Path. The junction is marked by a wooden signpost (seen at the top left of this post). Say goodbye to the A.T. (by the way, you have just hiked the first few miles ever blazed on the Appalachian Trail...pretty cool...). Now follow the aqua-blazed Long Path. The Long Path follows the Dismal Swamp edge (nope, not kidding, and yes, it's pretty dismal). After what seems to be a long, dismal walk, you will come to a woods road marked by three horizontal white blazes. Yell "hallelujah!" and turn right onto the White Bar Trail.
After about a mile, the yellow-blazed Dunning Trail joins the White Bar Trail from the left. Continue ahead, following both trails, but when they separate about a quarter of a mile later, turn right and follow the yellow-blazed Dunning Trail.
Once on the Dunning Trail, there are a lot of ups and downs over rocks. When you descend from what seems to be the largest (also the last) the path bears right. Turn again right and enter the Boston Mine. SO COOL! Although the mine is filled with water, it is definitely reward enough for the climbing we just did! This mine was last worked around 1880.
We sadly leave the Boston Mine and continue back on the yellow-blazed Dunning Trail, but only for about 500 feet. We reach a wide woods road and turn right onto it. Follow the unmarked Island Pond Road through hemlock and laurels. When you come to the A-SB (red triangle on white blaze) continue ahead and bear right at the fork. At the next intersection, again bear right. After a short walk you will arrive at the remains of a stone building. This was once a ranger station. Hang out, eat a snickers bar, and explore the area. There are great views of the pond from this area.
When you're ready, retrace your steps on the unmarked road, this time bear right at the intersection with the A-SB Trail. Now follow the red triangle on white trail across the southern end of the Green Pond Mountain. After an easy hike through the wooded area marked by many felled trees, we begin our descent. By far the least enjoyable part of our adventure. The path down includes many switchbacks over rocks. The descent feels more like a rock quarry than a mountain. Use extreme caution and the use of hiking poles is recommended.
When you are safely off of the mountain, continue to follow the A-SB trail until you reach a grassy woods road (Old Arden Road), turn right and follow this road to the end of the A-SB marked by a triple blaze. Turn left and follow the path through the meadow back to the Elk Pen parking area where we started.
To get here take N.Y. route 17 north through Sloatsburg, Tuxedo, and Southfields. About two miles north of Southfields, turn right onto Arden Valley Road. Cross the bridge, then make the first right at the sign for hikers' trailhead parking. Park in the dirt lot next to the meadow known as the Elk Pen.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Tallman Mountain State Park- The Long Path

The Long Path starts at the George Washington Bridge and currently ends at John Boyd Thacher State Park in Albany County. The history of the Long Path begins in 1921, when Major Welch, General Manager of the Palisades Interstate Park, proposed a hiking trail from Fort Lee to Bear Mountain. Nothing was done, but similar hiking trails were proposed every few years. In 1933, W.W. Cady of New York City began blazing a trail from the George Washington Bridge to Lake Placid. Cady soon gave up a few years later, never passing Route 23 near Windham High Peak. In 1943, Alexander Jessup picked up the trail and blazed to Peekamoose Mountain in the Catskills. The trail was abandoned again, when Jessup died in 1944. The trail changed again in 1961, when Robert Jessen, Kurt Ramig and Michael Warren of NYC planned a 350-mile route from the GWB to Whiteface Mountain. The Trail Conference adopted the path in 1965, with some more changes. Then on September 28, 1971, the Long Path was dedicated as a National Recreational Trail.

I hiked the section of the Long Path that crosses through the Tallman Mountain State Park located in Rockland County off 9W. It's an easy hike, only about a 4 mile turnaround, but has nice views of the Hudson River for much of the trail.

Following 9W toward Piermont, continue until you pass the Tallman Mountain State Park entrance. Continue for another .25 miles, on your left will be a small parking area for the park. If you miss the lot, there is an easy turn around further along the road on the left side (it looks like an abandoned gas station).

Enter the trail on the gravel road, following the aqua Long Path blazes. Shortly, you will see the ruins of brick structures on your right, here, turn left and follow the Long Path. You will follow the path along elevated earth (or berms), through marshy areas. When the wide berm abruptly ends, turn right and continue on a narrower berm, following the aqua blaze.
The berm ends at the wide gravel bike path, cross over to continue the hike. The trail turns sharply left and offers views of the Hudson, Tappan Zee Bridge, and the Piermont Marsh. Cross a small stream and follow an old road marked by a stone wall on the left.
Exiting the wooded area, turn right onto the road and come to a picnic area with a comfort station. If you walk toward the back of the station, you will again pick up the path on the left with descends down steep stairs and over a bridge.
After the bridge, you will see the swimming pool and a wide view of the Hudson. After a picture opportunity, turn around and walk up the paved ramp leading to the traffic circle. At the circle, keep to the right to once again follow the path. The trail climbs steeply to the North Picnic area. Here, you will find amazing views of the mile long Piermont Pier and Tappan Zee Bridge to the north and the towns of Irvington and Dobbs Ferry across the river, with the Piermont Marsh directly below. Continue along the paved road for views of the village of Piermont below and Hook Mountain jutting into the river past the Tappan Zee Bridge on the left.

The Long Path bears to the right of the picnic benches and descends steeply. At the bottom, you can bear right and walk along the reeds of the Piermont Marsh on the Tallman Bike Path. Or you can turn around (like I did) and climb back up the stairs to follow the Long Path back to the start.

The park is well maintained and the trail is well marked. The 4 mile hike is moderate and enjoyable. Bring a lunch to enjoy the view at the North Picnic Area.