'Harriman SP' Category

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.

Popolopen Torne – Nov, 27th, 2011

Info

  • Map: Northern Harriman Bear Mtn. (NY/NJ TC)
  • Trails: Timp-Torne
  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 1+ miles
  • Time: About 1.5 hours.
  • Exertion: Moderate

Getting There

Take Palisades Interstate Parkway (PIP) to the Bear Mountain traffic circle, then take US 9W North out of the circle.  Right after you cross the viaduct over Popolopen Creek (about a quarter mile), make the left onto Firefighters Memorial Drive.  (This can be a bit of a dicey turn, so if traffic is too heavy, keep going and make your next left at the light onto the same road.)  Make the left onto Mine Rd–right if you chickened out of the first turn.  Follow the road up the hill for about a mile, looking for a small trailhead lot on your left.  There will be a gated dirt road entrance with a warning sign about entering USMA land at the back of the lot.  (If you run out residences, and start seeing other West Point signs, then you’ve gone too far.)

The Hike

This was a real quickie today.  It’s a nice climb up to a great view overlooking Bear Mountain and the bridge, Anthony’s Nose, undeveloped parts of West Point, and the Hudson River from Peekskill to Cold Spring.  You can’t miss Popolopen Torne on your way up the PIP to Bear Mountain–it’s that big, bald knob on the left that commands your attention as you head down to the traffic circle.  From its stony peak you can see quiet the Hudson Valley panorama.  There is a downside: except at the northern extent of the hike, you have to deal with the road noise from the PIP.

At this point in its path, the Timp-Torne Trail (TTT) that we visited on an earlier hike, meanders along the boundary between Harriman and the USMA (West Point), conjoined with the 1777W and 1779 trails.  The TTT takes a detour off these trails’ path at the base of the Torne, and climbs up and down the peak, then rejoins the Revolutionary trails until it hits its terminus at 9W, right by where we made the dicey left turn.

From the parking area, you can either pick up the eastern spur of the TTT or head a bit west to get to the other one.  My theory is to do the steeper climb on the way up, because it’s a lot safer going up a steep slope that coming down it, and the steeper climb is the western spur.  The eastern spur is right in front of the lot:  cross the street, go left about 50 feet, and lots of luck to you on the way down.  Instead, I walked west on Mine Road a few tenths of a mile and picked up the west spur for the big climb.  (You could also stay on the Revolutionary trails by walking past the USMA warning sign–don’t worry they haven’t shot any hikers yet–and following the blue blazes down toward the rushing waters of Popolopen Creek.  When you hit the western spur, you just have to go right and climb back up the hill, crossing Mine Road again.)

The TTT climbs quickly, but it’s a short distance.  With some moderate effort, you can hit the first viewpoint in under 30 minutes.  Be prepared to scramble a bit on all fours, and there is some friction climbing, but just enough to make it interesting.  The rock dome you see from the PIP has to be navigated with some care and effort, but it’s worth it.  There is a first obvious stopping point where you can take a breather and enjoy the view.  Bear Mountain is directly across the PIP from you–looking down at you a bit.  This is what you get to see near the very top, with the BMB in the center:

Atop Popolopen Torne

Atop Popolopen Torne

From the torne you have a limited 360-degree view.  There’s no one spot where you can stand to get the full panorama, but by stopping at various points at or near the summit, you can get the full picture.  There are several choice spots at the top that let you wander around, looking at different perspectives.  There is the big graffitti-ed boulder left here by the glaciers (the boulder, not the graffiti):

Boulder on the Torne

Boulder on the Torne

Somewhat more inspiring is this huge cairn built from rocks carried to the summit by West Pointers to commemorate their comrades:

West Point Memorial

West Point Memorial

A little closer look provides some more detail:

In Memory of Our Fallen Comrades

In Memory of Our Fallen Comrades

The text on the black rock at the top is tough to read since I took these pictures with my phone camera.  They are:

These rocks were carried from the bottom and stacked here as a tribute to American soldiers now serving on the Frontier of Freedom.  To their safe return.

Amen.

Continuing along the peak on the TTT in a northerly direction, you can view the under-developed periphery of the USMA, with Mine Road drifting through the swamps:

Mine Road Through USMA

Mine Road Through USMA

The return leg is unremarkable, so enjoy the top.  There is a stretch or two where you need to watch your step, but if it’s not wet or icy, you’ll be fine.  It goes without saying that I do not recommend this hike in the wet, snow, or ice.  The dry leaves on this day were challenge enough for the way down, thank you.

If you have some spare time when you return to the car, consider a drive continuing northwest on Mine Road through the USMA property out to NY 218.  (At the end of Mine Road, go left and head back to US 6 East and the PIP.)  Just stay out of the various USMA entrances.  As I’ve been to various parts of West Point over the years:  football games, concerts, and tours, it never ceases to impress me what a fabulous piece of real estate the Academy has.

Kakiat Co. Park — July 30, 2011

Info

  • Map: NY/NJ Trail Conference, Harriman Park, Southern Half
  • Trails: Mountain and unmarked
  • Type: Out and back (but easily adaptable to a loop)
  • Distance: Approx. 3 miles
  • Time: About 1.5 hours
  • Exertion: Moderate

Getting There

Lots of ways, depending on where you’re coming from. Entrance to the park is on US 202, just south of the intersection with Co. Rte. 80. The entrance comes up a bit unexpectedly, and is across the street from the Viola Elementary School. There’s plenty of parking around a circle, with rest rooms!

The Hike

This will be a quick report on a quick hike. I did not have a lot of time this day, so short was the word. I’ve done this a number of times because it’s a half hour uphill for a pretty nice view of the Ramapo Valley.
Kakiat Park is a nice little spot at the base of the mountains of Harriman Park. On a perfect summer Sunday as this was, the main area of the park along the Mahwah River is filled with families and dogs. In other seasons, it’s a very calm, quiet place. But as soon as you start to climb the orange-blazed Mountain Trail, you leave most of the crowds behind.
Right after crossing the bridge over the Mahwah, go straight and walk past the trailheads for the Old Mill and Kakiat trails. The Mountain Trail begins as the terrain begins to rise slightly. This will take you to the top of ridge in about 30 minutes, depending on how hard you push. It’s a short hike, but runs pretty much straight up the hill with few switchbacks, so although it’s a short hump, it’s a hump nevertheless. There are a couple of intermediate viewpoints on the way up, and it’s worth a stop at each. Here’s view from an overlook not quite at the top:

Ramapo Valley from Mountain Trail

The trail ends at the “summit” of the ridge, with sporadic bare spots and a boulder to mark the spot. In the photo below, you can see Suffern High School, a fire tower, and just the hint of the NYC skyline. (It was actually much clearer in person–not sure why my camera did not get it.)

Top of the Mountain Trail

Although the Mountain Trail ends at the summit, a clear trail continues beyond that will shortly take you out to the power line corridor. Since time was short this, day, I headed south for a little bit on the power line, looking for unmarked trails. (Found none.) I’d come through this corridor before, and while admittedly it’s not what you’d call pristine nature, it’s a nice walk as long as you don’t mind the hum from the wires. In some ways you can appreciate the contrast of this snake of modern life ripping through an otherwise wilderness:

Power Line Through the Wilderness

Now due to my time pressures, I just backed up down the power line corridor after about a half mile and then back down the Mountain Trail. On any normal day, you should follow the trail out from the trail end of the Mountain Trail, cross the power line, and continue on the woods road until you hit the white-blazed Kakiat Trail. Hang a right here and head back to the park. It’s not really much longer and lets you walk over new ground.

Cornell Mine Trail & Doodletown — May 1st 2011

Info

  • Map: NY/NJ Trail Conference, Harriman/Bear Mountain, Northern Section
  • Trails: Cornell Mine, Ramapo-Dunderberg, and 1777 (East) Trails
  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: Approx. 5 miles
  • Time: About 3 hours
  • Exertion: Moderate with one section of hard climbing

Getting There

Take US 9W South from the Bear Mountain traffic circle.  Drive past Hessian Lake and the main entrance to Bear Mountain SP.  Watch for a road coming in from the right (Seven Lakes Drive).  Shortly thereafter, you will see a parking area on your left.  If you hit the entrance for Iona Island Preserve, you’ve gone too far.  If coming up 9W from the south, the parking area is right after the Iona Island entrance on the right.

The Hike

This is a nice hike for several reasons.  First, it has a bit of everything, a nice panoramic view of the Hudson Valley below Bear Mountain, some good exertion, cascades and streams, less strenuous walking at the end, and a trip through the abandoned village of Doodletown.  From the parking area, cross 9W carefully and enter the Cornell Mine Trail (CMT–blue blazes) before you cross the culvert through which Doodletown Brook runs under 9W.  The brook forms a nice pool at this point, and as you climb the trail to the left, you can see more of the brook and the cascades it forms.  Here’s a video of a nice double cascade:

Double Waterfall

As you meander along the CMT, you stay near the brook for a while.  As I discovered, the trail seems to have been re-routed at some point a few years ago, so if you’re following the ground rather than the blazes, you’ll find yourself off-trail, but it’s OK, just head uphill to your left and you’ll pick it back up easy enough.  There are a few glacial erratics along the way, which is a fancy term for really big rock just hanging out on the ground.

Glacial Erratic

Glacial Erratic

About halfway through this first section, the map shows an unmarked road that is suppose to cross the trail, leading to something called the Edison Mine.  (Yes, that Edison.  Per the Myles’ book, Harriman Trails, TAE did own some land here starting in the 1890′s with the idea of getting iron for his magnetic experiments, but things did not work out.)  I’ve been over this ground several times, and have yet to come across this mine.  At one time, I did manage to follow a trail out of Doodletown that should have taken me across the CMT, but I recall getting very lost and having to bushwhack my way back to 9W.  No matter, this is not our objective today.

The CMT climbs very gently through Mr. Edison’s ex-property, but about a half-hour or so in, the trail will make a noticeable right turn, and before you will be a lot of UP.  As a tease, it will jog along the base of the mountain (Bald Mountain) for a little bit, but then the serious climb begins on a series of switchbacks.  This is one of the hardest climbs in the Harriman/Bear Mountain park.  Again, per the Myles book, you gain about 1000′ in elevation from where you parked the car to the top of Bald Mountain.  I have to say, except for the very last bit, the footing is good, and the switchbacks are well-placed.  It’s a hump, but not a horror.  About 2/3 of the way up, there’s a nice opening in the trees and you can see the river and the Bear Mountain Bridge.  A nice place to catch your breath and have some H2O.  (Truth be told, not the first stop, either!)

Hudson Valley From Cornell Mine Trail

When you hit the end of the CMT, you will be on the Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail (RD)–at 21 miles, one of the longest trails in the park.  Hang a right here, although there is still more climbing to do.  Somewhere in this neighborhood is the eponymous Cornell Mine, although I’ve not run into myself.  Every time I’ve been here, I’ve been just too shagged out to try to find it, but if you have some extra joules left in you, go for it; Myles said it was worth it.

The summit of the hike awaits you.  The top of Bald Mountain is the highest point of the hike as well as its visual high point.  It took me about an hour to get there from the car, but YMMV.  This is a good place to hang out and enjoy the view of the river, Bear Mountain, and the rolling hills of Harriman.  There’s a good 270-degree view here, and the top is rocky (befitting its name I suppose).  I suggest heading to the northern portion of the summit for the best views, and a nice place to have a snack, a drink, or just some quiet time.  Be a bit careful on the way down: the RD Trail does something of a hairpin turn on the top here, and if you’re not paying attention, you will find yourself backtracking.  Just be sure you don’t go past the CMT again, and you’ll be OK.

The second portion of the hike begins, with the RD falling off Bald Mountain fairly quickly.  You will go through a nice, flat path carved through a rhododendron field that will then start to go further downhill.  The unmarked Bockberg Trail comes in from the left and then leaves again almost immediately.  Stay on the RD, although the Bockberg will wind up in the same place anyway.  A fireplace is marked on the trail map with an “F”, and it’s very apparent.  A small stream flows from a swampy area to the left, and the Bockberg trail, which is really a dirt woods road, comes in as well.  Cross the little stream, and you can choose to continue on the RD more or less straight ahead, or you can take the Bockberg as a shortcut.  The map indicates that if you take the RD, there is vista, but the flat, rocky section at the top of the hill is surrounded by trees which, even at this early spring date blocked out just about any view.  So unless you have a problem walking unmarked trails, or need the extra steps, the Bockberg shortcut to the 1777 Trail is recommended.

If you take the RD, watch for the intersection with the 1777 trail, which has circular, blue-printed blazes.  Take a right.  (For you cheaters :-) on the Bockberg, it ends at the 1777, and you should hang a right there as well.)  This stretch of the 1777 starts out as an obvious dirt woods road, becomes gravelly, and eventually becomes a macadam road that leads into the abandoned village of Doodletown.  There’s really nothing left of Doodletown, a hamlet that had been occupied since Revolutionary War days; it was absorbed by Bear Mountain Park, and by 1965 all the populace was gone and the park razed the buildings.  (The primary source on this is Doodletown, by Elizabeth Salter, published by the Palisades Interstate Park Commission.  Most of the historical information comes from this book, as well as the signposts that have recently been added alongside the remaining foundations.)

The 1777 trail runs along what was called Pleasant Valley Road, an appropriately-named stroll on a gentle downgrade that takes you into the razed village.  As compensation for the rigors of the climb up Bald Mountain, the remainder of this hike is pretty much completely downhill, on wide, and sometimes even paved roads.   As I said, Pleasant Valley road starts as a dirt road, heavily eroded.   Pretty soon after the road levels off a bit, if you are really observant, you will see the unmarked Timp Pass Road coming in from the left.  It’s a little tough to pick up, but there is a small tree with a red ribbon tied on it that might help.

Timp Pass Road Comes into 1777 Trail

If you have some extra time and want another great view, this road will take you up to the Timp, which we visited here.  (Of course, if you really want to work the Timp into your hike, then you would stay on the RD and come back here via the pass road.)  Soon after this intersection, you will come to the first of the Doodletown ruins, the Moore home, which has a small shed, a pool formed by a dam, as well as the foundation:

Moore House, Doodletown

This is one of the more extensive ruins you’ll see on the way into the main part of the town.  The park did a pretty good job of knocking down all the houses, so don’t expect this to be like ghost town tour.  The signposts at each home site have pictures of the houses that stood there, although they are a bit grainy.  (If you want pictures, the Stalter book is positively chock-a-block with them.  If you want to play amateur archeologist, then bring the book with you.)

The road becomes mostly paved or gravel as you head into town, but of course it is heavily eroded.  You go past the intersection with a ski trail where a laminated 8 1/2 x 11″ sheet informs you that the You Are Here sign was stolen by vandals.  Way to go, vandals! :-( The ski trail, which was actually a bridle path for the town, makes for a nice side trip either way you decide to go left or right.  But we’re staying on the main road here.  We go past the purportedly 200-year old oak tree.  Looks a bit shabby, but then again, I won’t be so hot looking either when I’m 200 years old.

The 200-Year Old Oak

Pleasant Valley Road ends at Doodletown Road–one of only two other major roads in the place.  You can go left or right here, and the 1777 trail itself splits here as well into a West and an East branch, to mimic the movements of the British troops in 1777, where they did split up on their way up north to capture Forts Montgomery and Clinton near Bear Mountain.  Our journey will take us to the 1777E trail, which goes right into the main part of town.  The 1777W branch takes you past some more razed lots before the road ends.

The main part of Doodletown is very nice and quiet.  There’s a reservoir and dam there, and if desired, when you hit the reservoir, go right instead of following the main road over the brook, and stop by the June Cemetery.  (June being a Doodletown family name; a second cemetery for the Herbert family could be reached just before the end of Pleasant Valley Road.)  There’s a platform you can walk out on into the reservoir to get a closer look at the dam.  Depending on the time of year, this will be where you’ll run into the most people.

Doodletown Reservoir

Doodletown Reservoir

Shortly after you leave the reservoir and continue east on Doodletown Road, Lemmon Road comes in from the left.  This is a nice, secluded walk that will take you out to Seven Lakes Drive.  There’s not much to see on this road, however, until near the end.  After Lemmon, you will notice a trail coming uphill on your right.  This will take you down to the brook, which we were walking along at the start of the hike.  Although I skipped this on this day, it’s a nice detour, and if you feel adventurous on a nice hot summer day, you might want to take a swim in the town’s swimming hole, known as “Ten Foot.”  Expect some cold water!

The last stretch of the road is very badly eroded, likely by some of these very severe rainstorms we’ve had over the last several years.  The 1777E trail departs from road soon after the Ten Foot side trail, following the ski trail/bridle path to the left.  To get back to 9W, stay on the road and you’ll soon be back at the Cornell Mine trail.  Not a bad day’s work.

The Trail Ends--Or Begins!

The Trail Ends--Or Begins!

Harriman, Getting Lost for Fun — May 31st, 2011

Info

  • Map: NY/NJ Trail Conference, Harriman/Bear Mountain, Northern Section
  • Trails: Flaggy Meadow Mountain (unmarked), Red Cross, Beech, and some unknown trail
  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: Approx. 2.5 miles
  • Time: Under 2 hours
  • Exertion: Easy (physically), mentally a bit harder

Getting There

Palisades Parkway to the Lake Welch exit.  Soon after the exit, you will fork for Lake Welch Road, but stay to the right and take Tiorati Brook Road.  About a mile or so down that road there is a large parking area on the right–you can’t miss it.  You could park 50 cars in here if you had to.  At the eastern side of the lot, the Beech Trail crosses the road and turn east, so look for the blue blazes across the street.

The Hike

First off, I don’t recommend doing this.  I had some grand plans for the day to cover two unmarked trails that I had noticed were “new” on the 2005 edition of the NYNJTC map vs. the earlier edition I had.  The first was the Flaggy Meadow Mountain trail at the northern end, and the second was the Rockhouse Mountain Trail at the southern.  Mainly using the Beech and Red Cross trails I figured I could make a few hours’ loop out of these–but it was not to be.

Parking at the big lot mentioned above, that had exactly two other cars in it, I headed east (left) out of the lot down Tiorati Brook Road.  Technically you are now on the Beech Trail, and if you follow the blue blazes you can stay off the road for a tenth of a mile or so.  By the time you’re back on the road the Beech takes a sharp left, but I stayed on the road, looking for the entrance for this Flaggy Meadow Mountain trail, which is a couple of tenths more along.

There’s no missing this:  there’s a metal bar gate across the entrance, and a fairly clear outline of a woods road gently goes up the side of the eponymous mountain.  Following the trail is moderately challenging.  There are big stretches where the road’s path is obvious, but others where it’s overgrown with blueberry bushes and you have to try to follow your instincts.  Fortunately, there are some cairns along the way, a number of which I tried to improve as I went up.  (Note to cairn makers:  I really think 3 stones is the minimum for a cairn; 2 is way too possible to be an accident of nature, and always leaves me a bit suspicious.)  There’s one stretch about 3/4 a mile or so up where your eye leads you to the left, because there is some blow down that blocks the correct way ahead.  If you take the left, the road soon vanishes.  I made as big a cairn as I could at this juncture within the blow down so hopefully it will pull future eyes toward the proper spot.

After this, it’s more of the same for another quarter or half mile, and then–the road just ends in a morass of blueberry bushes.  Now if I’d done the smart thing and checked with the Myles’ book before I went, I would have read that this trail does indeed peter out, and you have to bushwhack to get out to the Red Cross Trail.  Instead, I was deposited in this cul-de-sac of flora, resorting to checking my compass for the proper way to start bushwhacking.  It does make one wonder how the trail map can show this as a clear shot up to the Red Cross, but this is the price you pay for taking unmarked trails!

But then a curious thing happened:  I noticed that to my left and right I could see what appeared to be dark, round blazes on the trees, about 50 feet away in either direction.  At first I thought perhaps I’d really gotten turned around, and these were the blue blazes for the northbound Beech Trail that Flaggy Mountain roughly parallels, but no.  These were not blue, they were dark green and round.  Closer examination showed them to be what appeared to be the bottom of tin cans coated with green plastic.  Now, you run into this kind of bizarre crap out in the woods now and again, but as I proceed to follow the left (west) branch of the trail, it was clear that someone had blazed a trail here with possibly the worst choice of color for trail blazes ever.  Dark green on brown bark is almost invisible until you’re on top of it.  But this color-challenge trailblazer had spent an enormous amount of effort to do this, including hammering two galvanized nails into the top and bottom of each lid, not to mention coating each one in green plastic before leaving home.  There were some points where I did worry that my invisible guide had given up, but a little extra diligence located the next blaze.  It was not until the very end where he must have stopped nailing the lids, but just following the dirt path in a few steps led to the Red Cross Trail.

This is one of the fun things about hiking, particularly in Harriman, which has been trampled by hikers since the 1920′s, and by mountain people and Indians before then.  I can find no reference to this trail, which I will call the Green Lid Trail for now, but you follow something that the map says should take you out to one place and instead find something completely unexpected.  My first suspicion was that I was on something called the Bottle Cap Trail–an unofficial trail that is blazed by bottle caps nailed to the trees, but these were lids, not caps, and I was pretty sure I was nowhere near there.  (Which was completely true.)  It’s hard to say how long ago this trail was blazed.  While the lids do not appear rusted on their uncoated backs, the trail is completely overgrown with blueberry bushes (and unfortunately, it was way too early for them to have fruit).  There seems to have been no significant foot traffic here in a long time.  The trail is very tough to follow, although our pioneering lid coater did indicate a couple of turns in the trail with the proper two-blaze pattern.  There is a cairn with some sticks pointing out of it on the Red Cross Trail, so it should be easy to re-enter when I decide to find out where the other end of the trail leads to.  I suspect the fact that there’s no obvious trail to follow after the cairn for the first 50 feet or so, and no lids on the trees, discourages some would-be explorers.

Once on the Red Cross, I took a left, continuing west, and trampled through more bushes.  I have a special fondness for this trail, which was one of my earliest hikes in the park, however it has little in the way of scenery.  It’s only real positive point is its isolation, and it is fairly level.  In about a half mile you come upon the northern terminus of the Beech trail, indicated by a ridiculously large cairn, which is unnecessary as the triple blazes of the trail end are clear to see.

At this point I opted for the real slacker’s way out.  My original plans were in tatters: between the time spent tracking and cairning the Flaggy Meadow Mountain Trail, and trying to follow the Green Lid Trail, I was only about a quarter of the way through the original plan, and about an hour and half in.  There had been a constant swarm of bugs flying into me all day, and I was constantly picking spider webs off my arms and face, so this hike was not winning any prizes.  So, I took the Beech Trail and in about 20 minutes was back at the car.

You win a few, you lose a few, and a few get rained out.  I did add the last section of the Green Lid Trail to my TO-DO list, and maybe I might be able to figure out exactly what it is with some more research.  Hell, maybe I’ll even discover the name of the knucklehead to liked to coat lids with green plastic and nail them to trees so you almost can’t see them!  Pretty much this hike was a flop–no vistas, no pictures, bugs, missing cairns, short cut back to the car, but it was OK.  They can’t all be winners.

[Update 13Nov11] Traveled back today to take the eastern spur of the lid trail.  Got to the same dead end on the Flaggy Meadow Mountain trail as I did in May and hung a right instead of a left.  Curiously, the tin can lids on this trail are colored a dark blue, instead of dark green.  The trail is a little easier to follow, and sometimes goes along something that looks like a road, but there still is a lot of bushwhacking and I do not recommend this in shorts!  AFAICT, this part of the trail, which is about 2 or 3 times longer than the green part, meanders around Flaggy Meadown Mountain and then drops you off at the unmarked Pines trail right near the Palisades Parkway.  For a rogue trail, the lids are generously applied along the route right up until the very end.  Then you kind of have to follow the ground as best you can, with an occasional assist from a blue lid.  The actual end of the trail is indistinct, so I cannot tell you how to get to the trailhead.  I doubt that’s of much concern as it leaves you in a pretty awkward spot.  I had to trudge back over about a mile of Lake Welch Drive and Tiorati Brook Road to get back to the parking lot.  It was about a two hour loop, but I was slowed by the enormous amounts of blow-down from this freak snowstorm we had before Halloween.

Harriman, The Timp — Oct. 30, 2010

Info

  • Map: Harriman Park — North Half, NY/NJ TC
  • Trails: 1777, Timp-Torne, Ramapo-Dunderberg
  • Type: Modified out-and-back
  • Distance: a few miles; time: about two hours

Getting There

Park at the hiker’s lot on US 9W, less than a mile north of where Cty Rte 118 comes out.  The lot is on the right if you are going north, and there are no signs indicating this is a trailhead lot, but it’s pretty big as these things go, although I think there’s an abandoned truck or car there for keeps.  To get to the trailhead for the 1777, carefully cross 9W and head north for a little bit and you can see the red plastic blazes with 1777 on them.

The Hike

I like the Timp, which is a peak within Harriman that provides a tremendous bang for the buck.  By that I mean, with a little exertion, you can be at the top of this cliff in under an hour with a great view, and (depending on the weather and crowds) find a great spot to sit and contemplate your existence.  For history nuts like me, it’s also a chance to traipse through a path that those British lobsterbacks did in 1777, on their way to capture Forts Montgomery and Clinton on the Hudson.  When you first hit the trail, there’s a nice little sign board describing the history of this trail (as well as the 1779 trail, which is not part of this hike):

Historical 1777 Trail

This hike only goes over a small bit of the historic trail, so the first goal is to reach the blue-blazed Timp-Torne trail, so named because it runs over two major peaks in the park, the Timp and Popolopen Torne, for a distance of almost 11 miles.  Today we just want to get up to the Timp and back because we have food shopping to do later.

About a half mile up the 1777, there is an unmarked trail, the Jones Trail, that comes in from the right.  I’ve come down this trail a couple of times to hit the 1777, but on this day it seemed impossible to find, both on my way up and my way back.  It’s relatively easy to pick up from the Timp-Torne trail if you start from there further north on 9W, but it was not revealing itself to me this day.  There was a cairn on the 1777 trail approximately where the Jones should have been, but there was no obvious trail to see there.

After missing the Jones, you skirt above Tompkins Lake, which can only be seen when the leaves are gone, and just barely.  This looks like a nice little community pond, and there is a clear path that seems to lead down there, but I’m not big into invading other people’s private property.  After this point, the trail gets steeper and rocky, so it’s time to bear down and make some altitude.  If you push, you can probably hit the T-T in about 15 minutes.  There’s a big rock in the middle of the trails’ intersection, so you can’t miss it.  Hang a left here and take the T-T west over some more rocky stuff.

The trail map shows a vista star less than a half mile in from here, right around the junction with the unmarked Red Timp trail (which I’ve never walked since it leads into a Girl Scout camp which does not want hikers strolling through).  There is a viewpoint here, although on this particular day, it was a bit cloudy.  You can see NYC from here, but this is not the big view.  A little more plugging, and you’re at the top.

The Timp has about a 270-degree view.   The view to the south-east is blocked by trees, but you can see the river to the north, and all around counter-clockwise to the south.  Here’s the best shot I got on this day, when the autumn leaves were maybe a bit past peak:

Atop the Timp, Looking North

Through the trees on the right you can see the Bear Mountain Bridge.  Curiously, the BMB held the title of longest suspension bridge in the world when it opened in 1924.  That lasted for just over a year and a half, when the Ben Franklin Bridge between Camden and Philadelphia was opened.  (Both bridges I’ve had the pleasure of driving over many times!)  We’ll probably get a closer look at the BMB in future posts, but here’s a picture I took while walking over it this September (looking north):

Bear Mountain Bridge, Looking North

Like I said, the views from the Timp are worth stopping to enjoy.  You can see the Perkins Memorial tower atop Bear Mountain:

Perkins Memorial Tower on Bear Mountain from the Timp

Perkins Memorial Tower on Bear Mountain from the Timp

This day, the wind was a little tough, although moving to the north side of the peak and taking a few steps down into the rocks cut down the wind quite a bit.  The colors were nice, if not stunning, but that was mostly due to the light.  After a nice contemplative rest, I headed back down the T-T, but took the split for the Ramapo-Dunderberg trail to avoid retracing my steps.  This crosses the 1777, within sight of the T-T, so you just hang a right and pick up your return path.  If you are adventurous, you can go left on the T-T trail when when you hit it and then try to pick up that Jones trail on the right after a mile and a half.  But since I was on the express, I just backtracked on the 1777 and got back to the car pretty quickly.

This was a nice, short hike with some good views, and nothing too strenuous.