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
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.