Looking for the Lichen Trail – May 6th 2012

Info

  • Map: NY/NJ Trail Conference, Harriman Bear Mtn Trails, Northern Section
  • Trails: Dunning, Lichen, Long Path, et al
  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: Approx. 5-6 miles
  • Time: About 3 hours
  • Exertion: Easy

Getting There

From the Palisades Parkway, take Exit 14 for Cty Rte 98 West (left at end of exit ramp).  Rte. 98 leads into Cty. Rte. 106 which then enters Harriman SP.  Go past Lake Welch and when you get to Kanawauke Circle, take the 12 o’clock exit to stay on 106.  Shortly thereafter there will be a parking area on the left.  (Probably have to pay on summer weekends.)

The Hike

It’s been a while since I’ve posted any new hikes.  The winter, while weirdly mild, was busy with other things.  I did a lot of short hikes, more like long walks, around Rockland Lake, the Old Croton Aqueduct, and even some in Harriman, but nothing, as they say, to write home about.  Today I decided to do a real hike, and was tossing a few different routes around in my head even as I drove up there.  The still seasonally-closed Tiorati Brook Road (dudes, it’s friggin’ May already!) and a full parking lot at Lake Askoti made me go to Plan C as described here.

My target for the hike was a short interior trail, called the Lichen Trail.  According to the Myles book, it was first blazed in 1933 and so named because of the variety of lichen on this very short (0.46 mi.) trail.  I don’t know a lichen from a liking but I’d gone over this once several years ago and remembered that I though it was a nice little trip with a decent view at the summit of Surebridge Mountain.  Because it’s not close to any parking and there are many other trails in the area, it’s easily overlooked.  So I decided to return to see if it was as nice as I remembered.  (Short answer: I think so.)

The parking area at Kanawauke Circle has a lot of picnic tables and grills, plus a boat launch, so it’s a popular spot.  Fortunately, it’s a pretty big lot, so even though today was a pretty crowded one in HSP, there were plenty of spots to be had.  Plus, as compensation for roads being closed, the ticket booth was not (wo)manned, so it was free.  The one bad part about this lot though is that it’s not really next to any hiking trails, so you have to do some road walking to get to the trailhead.  When you come out of the westernmost driveway of the lot, cross the road and walk on the lakeside of the guard rail.  This will get you a fairly protected walk right until the tip of the lake.  I suggest crossing back over a little before you hit the turn because there’s a very narrow shoulder, and you don’t want your back to traffic here.  There are a couple of pull-outs right around the bend here aside Little Long Pond, but they’re often taken and technically not legal parking, but you might try to snag one of these instead of the picnic area to reduce your chances of being mashed by a car or motorcycle.

Once walking along the pond, you’ll notice an iron gate across a dirt road entrance, but this is not where you want to go.  A short way further west along the road reveals another gate, and this is the path you want, the unblazed Crooked Road.  (As I found out on the return trip, you can take the first gate, just keep to the left at the first fork.)  It’s easy to follow Crooked Rd. because a lot of the macadam is still in place.  After a minute or two it forks, but you can take either as it will rejoin a few minutes after that.  I took the right fork.  It’s less than half a mile up to the intersection with the Dunning Trail (yellow blazes).

Taking a clockwise loop today, I made a left onto the Dunning, which is a nice wide trail (still technically Crooked Road) and a pretty easy climb up around Hogencamp Mountain.  About a mile into it the trail breaks out of the woods onto an interesting terrain of bare rock with scattered boulders called Bowling Rocks.

Bowling Rocks

Bowling Rocks

The bare, moss-or-lichen covered rock will be a motif which will stick with us until we’re off the Lichen Trail.  It can be a little tricky to follow the trail here because there are few trees.  (Remnants of a forest fire some time ago are still evident.)  There are also a few spots where water flows over the bare rock, making for some slippery conditions.  But it’s a nice little spot, and although there are no great vistas, the scenery is still quite nice.

After a few twists and turns the Dunning intersects the Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail (red dot on white).  Here we’ll take the RD to the right (northward) and continue on with the bare rock with strewn boulders.  At some point within a quarter mile or so is the Goldthwaite Memorial, a plaque attached to one of the boulders to commemorate George Goldthwaite’s hike of the 21-mile RD Trail in 4 hrs., 51 mins, which is over 4 MPH–a pace I can do only on flat ground.  Of course he did this in 1929, so I imagine some must have bested this by now, but, hell, I think George still deserves that plaque!  Unfortunately, I was unable to locate said plaque.  I’d seen it before, and I think it’s easier to catch in if you’re traveling north to south, but perhaps I got distracted.  Next time.

More Rock

More Rock

The Lichen Trail has blazes with a dark blue “L” on a white background.  The trailhead is easy to pick up from your RD walk since the terrain is pretty wide open.  The Lichen continues on with a similar look.  It’s a nice rolling ramble, usually quiet, although on this day there were three people in two groups that I ran into.  The summit–if you can call it that, because the climb is so gradual–is a nice view with a glimpse of Island Pond to the west.

Summit from Lichen Trail

Summit from Lichen Trail

I have to admit that I got a bit off-trail at the top here.  There was a section which seemed to have suffered from a fire where I could not find the next blaze.  The summit is fairly expansive, and there are stray cairns in various spots, so I was unsure of where the trail was.  By the time I thought I’d detected a blaze on a remote boulder, I saw one of the three hikers coming from the north, so I re-oriented myself quickly.  No worries–it’s not like you can get lost here!

The move off the top descends rapidly, and at this point we lose the bare rock+boulders motif we’ve come to enjoy.  The route back to the car is not exceptionally visual, but sometimes you just have to appreciate the isolation and unspoiled woods.  The Lichen trail drops you onto the conjoined Arden-Surebridge Trail (ASB–red triangle on white) and the teal-blazed Long Path.  (The only reason why I even know what color teal is, BTW.)  The right turn at Surebridge road leads you into the intersection known as Times Square.

Times Square

Times Square

If you look closely, you can see the TIMES SQUARE painted on the boulder.  Its notoriety comes from being the intersection of three major trails in the park: ASB, Long Path, and RD.  The boulder contains some painted indicators which way to go for the RD vs. the ASB (which someone has manage to scratch up so it looks more like ASS) because the blazes are very similar: red circle vs. red triangle on white.  Other than this, it’s a pretty dreary place!

We let the ASB drift off to the left here and stick with the lovely teal blazes of the LP.  On this trail, we will start heading back to the Dunning Trail, around the other side of Hogencamp Mountain.  This takes us into the ruins of the Hogencamp Mine.  If you pick up Lenik’s Iron Mine Trails book, you can meander around the area and identify old foundations and mine shafts.  E.g. here’s one:

Mine Shaft #1

Mine Shaft #1

Note the pipe in the pool.  Iron mining was a big deal in this area until the late 1800′s, and Harriman is loaded with these old holes in the ground.  Hogencamp is one of the bigger complexes in the park, so if you’re into this kind of thing, I advise you to buy Lenik’s book (deets in the References) and at the point where Crooked Road hits the Dunning Trail, make a right instead of the left I took.

Now this little mine shaft:

Mine Shaft #2

Mine Shaft #2

As I stared into the pool below, I realized that should anyone accidentally fall in, you’d better hope fellow hikers would be close by, because there is NO WAY you could ever climb out of that hole.  So, be careful when you go exploring round here.

Not being into archeology this day, I picked up the Dunning Trail again, hanging a right and leaving the LP.  On the way to pick up the Crooked Road intersection, I walked past this snake, just lying across the trail:

Snake on the Dunning Trail

Snake on the Dunning Trail

Hanging a left onto Crooked Road, I kept to the left because I’d noticed another dirt road coming up from the east side, so I wanted to see where that went.  I had an idea, which turned out to be correct that it just fed into that first gate we passed on 106.

I thought about following the left turn as this other road neared 106.  The map indicates it goes almost all the way around Lake Kanawauke, but I was not up for the exploration.  Save something for next time.

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