Sunday, May 31, 2015

Bear Mountain Appalachian Trail Loop

Bear Mountain State Park,
Rockland/Orange Counties,
New York

Hiking Trails:
Appalachian Trail: White blaze

Total Time: 1:15 hours
Estimated Distance: 2.5 Miles
Level of Difficulty: Easy
Level of Recommendation: Highly recommended for a relatively short hike with good views
Points of Interest: Views at Bear Mountain, Bear Mountain Tower

The weather had been awful with strong thunderstorms predicted throughout the day. It had rained in the morning, and there was a temporary lull in the rain. I checked the radar and I noticed I had a small window of opportunity to do a hike. I figured the top of Bear Mountain is a good spot since there are lots of people around, rock shelters, and the possibility of hitching a ride in the event of a storm. The weather was very humid with thick clouds, and towards the end of the hike I saw dark clouds rolling in and heard the thunder in the short distance. In fact, it started pouring only about five minutes after getting into my car.

I parked at the end of Perkins Drive on Bear Mountain in the dead end loop. This road continues past the summit and tower to a dead end with a scenic view facing the western flank of the mountain. You can park your car here at the end of the road in the dead end circle and pick up the Appalachian Trail. I headed for a short distance on the former road route where I saw the trailblazers hard at work rebuilding the new AT up to the summit. They were building some new steps out of large carved rock slabs. This new trail should be ready in 2016 and will connect the AT to a shorter route to the summit. If I have my fact correct, the original AT used to go along this route prior to its reroute more to the north several years ago.

I continued along this former road for a bit longer until meeting up with the Appalachian Trail again, on the western portion of the trail which ascends up to the summit. This route was also recently blazed and the intention was to provide some good views from the southern flank of Bear Mountain. I continued along the AT, past the views and past the connector route, where it goes in a roundabout way to the northern flank viewpoint of the mountain. Here there is a good view facing to the north with the Hudson River and Breakneck Ridge, but it was hard to see anything due to the thick cloud cover. I then continued along the trail along the wheelchair accessible route which passes the summit and goes to the tower.

Despite the ominous weather, there was a surprisingly large crowd. However, one could see the clouds darkening with the thunderstorm rolling in from the west. I decided I would make a quick dash along the AT back to the parking area. I continued along the old route due east (this route will be replaced in the coming year), crossing the road twice and going along the road where it meets up with the trail the third time. I got to my car just in the nick of time and was spared the torrential rain that ensued shortly. In fact these storms brought quite a bit of flooding to the region with flash flood warnings and several inches of rain.

Map of the Route. Harriman/Bear Mountain State Parks Northern Map

Big Sign at the Dead End Explaining Volunteer Work on the AT

Active Trail Construction Zone on the Appalachian Trail

Trail Volunteers at Work

Some of the New Steps Created Along the Southern  Flank
of the Appalachian Trail at Bear Mountain

At the First View Along the Trail. Facing Southwest.

Another View Along the Trail Facing West

Large Rockface with Glacial Rocks on the Trail

Lone Tree Above a Cliff

Facing Southeast from the View

Facing Southwest

Facing Southeast

View from the Northern Flank of Bear Mountain.
Not much of a View Here with all the Cloud Cover.

Bear Mountain Tower

The Main View at Bear Mountain.
Note the Ominous Storm Clouds Rolling In

View Facing Southeast; Hudson River and Peekskill

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Erie Railroad Rail To Trail Path Piermont to Sparkill

Rockland County,
New York

Hiking Trails:
Long Path: Green blaze
Erie Railroad Rail Trail: Unblazed
Joseph B. Clarke Rail Trail: Unblazed

Total Time: 1:10 hour
Estimated Distance: 3.1 miles
Level of Difficulty: Very easy
Level of Recommendation: Slightly recommended
Points of Interest: Old rail path

On the new Hudson Palisades Trail maps I had purchased, I noticed the rail trail of the old Erie Railroad going through Piermont. I did not have the time for a full hike and this was more like a walk. I parked in downtown Piermont on the street, and attempted to take the old railroad path which is a block south of downtown. However, when I took it, I noticed that it ends in private property in a backyard. There was a path which I thought would cut across to the rail trail path, but there was a 30 foot straight cliff wall blocking the way. So I turned around and headed north through downtown to the Long Path up Tate Ave, going up the hill on the road and then going along the path which takes you to the rail trail where it crosses Ash Street.

The old historical railroad station house is here, and I peeked inside and it was a mess in the interior. They should really clean it up and allow public access. From this point I headed south along the rail trail then continued southeast, eventually crossing under route 9W at the high bridge. I then took the Joseph B. Clarke Rail Trail for a short distance making a triangle through a small part of Sparkill, and then headed back along the Erie Railroad path. Getting closer to Piermont, I had noticed a well-worn path leaving the trail, and I decided to take it to see where it goes. The trail ended up on somebody's private backyard on Piermont Place, making me feel a bit awkward. I then walked on Piermont Place down to Ash Street, which I took all the way down back to Piermont and back to my car.

Map of the Route. Hudson Palisades Trails

The Old Piermont Railroad station

Route 9W Bridge Over the Sparkill Creek

Close-Up of  a Wild Rose

Wild Rose Flowers

The Erie Railroad Rail Trail

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sparta Mountain at Sparta Glen

Sparta Township,
Sussex Co.,
New Jersey

Hiking Trails:
Blue Trail: Blue blaze
Green Trail: Green blaze
Yellow Trail: Yellow Trail
Unnamed Trail: Unblazed

Total Time: 0:50 hour
Estimated Distance: 2.0 miles
Level of Difficulty: Moderate
Level of Recommendation: Slightly recommended
Points of Interest: Lake views, good short climb

I had a tradeshow in Ogdensburg, New Jersey, which is in the rural highlands region of Sussex County, New Jersey. I wanted to find a short hike in the vicinity for after the show, and this seemed to be the perfect location. Sparta Glen is a stream that forms the headwaters of the Wallkill River that goes through a narrow valley. The area has some nice picnic areas and a short network of trails. There are several wide trails that meander up Sparta Mountain, and one shorter but steeper trail that goes almost straight up to the top and requires scrambling. The longer wider trails are all marked, but the short steep trail is unmarked.

I parked near the trailhead of the blue trail and took the blue trail alongside before it starts the more gradual climb to the top. I didn’t see the view on the top and meandered along an unmarked trail on the top of the ridge heading north, which just looped me back to a yellow trail which I took back to where I was before. From  there there is a short descent to the view, which faces south and provides and nice view of Lake Mohawk. I then continued from here on the unmarked trail down the mountain, which is quite steep, and took this down to the road in the glen which I then took back to my car.

Map of the Route.
Central Jersey Highlands Trail Map

The Green Path

Large Wild Turkey I Encountered Along the Hike

Approaching the View

Lake Mohawk from the Viewpoint, Facing South

Another View of Lake Mohawk

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Beacon Hill and Peters Kill Loop
Minnewaska State Park

Ulster Co.,
New York

Hiking Trails:
Lake Minnewaska Carriage Road: Unblazed
Beacon Hill Trail: Yellow blaze
Beacon Hill Carriage Road: Unblazed
Sunset Carriage Road: Unblazed
Awosting Falls Carriage Road: Unblazed
Red Loop: Red blaze
Peters Kill Connector Trail: Yellow blaze
High Peters Kill Trail: Blue blaze

Total Time: 3:30 hour
Estimated Distance: 7.75 miles
Level of Difficulty: Very difficult
Level of Recommendation: Highly recommended
Points of Interest: Lake views, rock formations, Waterfalls

Hiking Partner:
Eli Koegel

Minnewaska is one of my most favorite areas in the region, and this particular area is one of the most scenic in the park. This is a great hike and highly recommended. This was one of the hottest days of the season so far, with high’s in the upper 80’s.

We parked at the main parking area by Lake Minnewaska (you need to get here early on nice weekends as the parking lots fills up very fast), went down to the waterfront, and then went along the Lake Minnewaska Carriage Road. We walked through the picnic area and then down through some woods paths to the outlet of the lake, and then cut across to the short unmarked trail which provides a view. From there we took the Beacon Hill Trail along the ridge to the end, which leads to the Beacon Hill view. All along the ridge here there are rock formations from the rock that had fallen from the cliff, as well as excellent views to the east and northeast.

From the Beacon Hill view we went along the wide Beacon Hill Carriage Road to the Sunset Carriage Road descending the mountain. From there we cut across a short bushwack to the Awosting Falls Carriage Road, taking a short break by Awosting Falls. Awosting Falls is a very pretty falls with a large drop, though there are always a lot of people here due to the proximity of the falls to the parking lot.

We continued along the Awosting Falls Carriage Road along the side of Peters Kill, and then we crossed the road and went alongside the stream descending deep into the valley. Along the stream there are several more smaller and very pretty falls. We then met up with the Red Loop trail and the Peters Kill Connector Trail which go alongside the stream to the High Peters Kill Trail. We then took a western turn to the High Peters Kill Trail and climbed up the side of the mountain as it goes along the narrow valley made by the Peters Kill. We took the High Peters Kill Trail all the way back to the entrance of Minnewaska at the lower parking lot, then took the connector road to the Sunset Carriage Road up the mountain, and then back to our car.

Map of the Route.
Minnewaska State Park Map (Shawangunks)

Me at the Beginning at Lake Minnewaska

Lake Minnewaska from the Shore

Lake Minnewaska Overlook from the Picnic Overlook

Lake Minnewaska from the Picnic Overlook

Lake Minnewaska from the Picnic Overlook

Lake Minnewaska from the Picnic Overlook.
Looking West Towards Catskills

Lookout Near the Beginning of the Beacon Hill Trail

Me on the Beacon Hill Trail

Eli on the Beacon Hill Trail

View from the Beacon Hill Trail. Facing North Towards Sky Top.

View from the Beacon Hill Trail. Facing North Towards Sky Top.

Pine Tree on the Beacon Hill Trail

Me on a Ledge on the Beacon Hill Trail

Me on a Ledge on the Beacon Hill Trail

View from Beacon Hill. Facing North Towards Dickie Barre.

View from Beacon Hill. Facing Northwest Towards the Catskill Mountains.

Awosting Falls

Awosting Falls

Eli at the Peter's Kill by Awosting Falls

Peters Kill

View Along the High Peters Kill Trail,
Looking Towards Beacon Hill