'Hudson Highlands' Category

A Photographer’s Delight — 4 Aug 2013

Info

  • Map: NYNJTC, West Hudson Trails, Map 114
  • Trails: Otterkill (Red), Trestle (White), unmarked
  • Type: Loop
  • Distance:  ~2 miles (if you cheat), about 5 if you don’t
  • Time: 2 hours (if you cheat), double that if you don’t
  • Exertion: Easy

Getting There

Get off the NYS Thruway at Exit 16 (Harriman) and go north on NY 32.  (On weekends the traffic for the Woodbury Common Outlet Mall might piss you off a bit.  There are alternatives.)  You drive several miles north with Schunemunk Mountain on your left.  In the town of Mountainville, look on your left for signs for the Black Rock Fish & Game Club, and take the left there at Taylor Rd.  Follow Taylor for about a mile, and when it ends at Otterkill Rd., make the left.  Go under the train trestle and watch for a nice hiker’s parking lot on your right.  From the lot, the trailhead is back east on Otterkill, right before the trestle.

The Hike

The “cheating” part of this hike is an unblazed woods road you can use as a short-circuit if like me, you spend too much time admiring the scenery and taking pictures.  The true loop, which I did over a year ago, has you taking the Otterkill to the Jessup (yellow) heading west, with a right to a short jog on the red Barton Swamp Trail, to the Trestle Trail back north.  For a decent day’s exercise, I do recommend the full loop, but truth be told, the cheating route gets you to the best views.  I’ve taken the Jessup Trail a few times, and have to admit there’s not much too see in this stretch of it.  There’s not much on the Otterkill after the nice valley overlook I’ll describe below, and so the full schlep only gives you some extra lookouts on the Trestle, which are nice, but don’t beat the three vistas you’ll see below.

How To Cheat: if you start on the Otterkill, you will walk for about 15 mins or less and might be able to pick out the woods road on your right.  (I built a cairn here this trip, so that might help.)  The NYNJTC trail map clearly shows this road, but it is a little tough to pick up.  Following it varies from easy to hard, but you just pretty much have to keep heading uphill, and sooner or later you will hit the Trestle Trail.  To get to Vista #3 described below, you will have to go left here for a few minutes up the hill and then backtrack, but it’s worth it.

The draw of this hike is the three photogenic spots:

  1. The train trestle on Otterkill Road/Trestle Trail
  2. Valley overlook on the Otterkill Trail
  3. Northward overlook on the Trestle Trail

Vista #2 is nice, especially for panoramas, but the the other two are the stars of the show, each worth a trip in its own right.

Vista #1: The Moodna Viaduct

The Moodna Viaduct is a single-track rail trestle that takes NJ Transit’s Port Jervis Line across the valley of the Moodna Creek.  The land right around and under the trestle is spectacularly unused.  I don’t know why–perhaps it is a farm that’s not being farmed, but the trail map shows it as private land, so you have to wonder how long it will be before some Orange County developer decides how wonderful it would be to spread a schmear of condos across these hills, so go now!

The Hills of the Moodna Viaduct

The Hills of the Moodna Viaduct

There’s a weird kind of industrial beauty to this structure spanning an otherwise pristine valley.  I can’t quite figure out why being a train track makes it better than a road overpass.  Maybe it’s the rust?

Moodna Viaduct

Moodna Viaduct

If you have seen the movie Michael Clayton, you might recognize this location as the place where Michael (George Clooney) pulls his car over to approach the (supposedly) wild horses atop the hill just before his car explodes.  (If you haven’t, I recommend you rent or stream it–tonight.)  Some interesting info on this structure can be found in the Wikipedia article.

The Trestle Trail starts just before the point where the viaduct crosses Otterkill Rd.  A short walk uphill brings you to the junction with the Otterkill trail.  If you take that, you will quickly reach the level of the train track and have the view over the valley.

The Trestle

The Trestle

BTW, the picture above was taken on my earlier trip in Jan 2012, and I prefer it to the shots I took this day.  The sign with the open mouth has since disappeared–not sure whether that’s an improvement or not.  Anyway, here’s a shot from the current trip.

The Trestle (Currently)

The Trestle (Currently)

I suppose that being a responsible blogger, I should caution you to mind the trains that might come down this track.  In a contest of Man vs. Train, Train always wins, so don’t do silly stuff like picnic on the track or try walking over the trestle.  I’d hate for someone to get killed or injured being stupid here and forcing NJ Transit to fence this place off.  Update Oct. 2015: on a return visit here last month with my daughter we discovered that NJ Transit, bless their utilitarian hearts, have erected a fence in this spot, making the snapping of the above photo today if not impossible, then certainly illegal.

Vista #2: the Moodna Valley

Resuming the southbound walk on the Otterkill, you soon reach an outcrop where you have a nice view of the valley through which Moodna Creek flows north-south before it turns to the west and goes under the viaduct.  There’s nothing particularly outstanding here, just some nice verdant hills and not a lot of civilization.  What there is blends in nicely with the terrain.

Moodna Valley

Moodna Valley

This location makes for a great panorama shot, however something was off for me with the lighting, so my stitched-together pic has some very oddly-lighted sections and does not look good.  Perhaps yours will work out better.

Vista #3: the Northern View

Continuing north you can either take the Otterkill to the Jessup and wend your way back to the northbound Trestle Trail (details above), or find the woods road that is no more than a 5-10 minute walk from the valley overlook.  If you take the short cut, hang a left when you get to the Trestle. and walk up the hill for another 10 minutes or so.  (If you do the full loop, this vista will be the 3rd star on the map, and it will probably take you 20-30 minutes of walking once you hit the Trestle.)

This outcrop has an interesting feature, a memorial bench for someone named Sharon Guilfoyle:

Sharon's Bench

Sharon's Bench

(Sharon seems to have passed away in 2007 at only 50 years old, but a Google search for her did not find any other information.)  The bench is a curious amalgam of natural branches and posts as well as some sawed boards.  The construction is quite skillful, with countersunk screws, albeit the raw branches in the back reduce the comfort factor to a degree.  But it is a welcome rest stop, particularly because it looks out on this wonderful scene:

The North View--The Gunks and Catskills

The North View--The Gunks and Catskills

The near range in the foreground is the Shawangunks, and the Mohonk tower can clearly be seen in the middle of the shot.  The Catskills lay beyond, and although this was a very clear day, they are a bit misty here.  My estimate is that this is at least a 50 mile view.  It was a midsummer’s day, so ideal air conditions were unlikely.  (My few shots from the Jan 2012 trip show haze as well, so…I will have to wait for a clear fall day, perhaps.)  You can see the Viaduct from here as well as Stewart Airport (if you dig that kind of thing).  It’s a 180-plus-degree vista, and warrants some serious hang time.  And there’s a nice bench to sit on to take it all in.  Another reason why it’s a bad idea to picnic on the train track–this is a much better spot!

Bull Hill — 21 July 2012

Info

  • Map: NY/NJ Trail Conference, East Hudson Trails, Map 102
  • Trails: Nelsonville, Undercliff, Washburn
  • Type: Loop
  • Distance:  approx. 5 miles
  • Time: 2 hours
  • Exertion: Moderate

Getting There

From the intersection of NY 301 and NY 9D in Cold Spring, head east on 301 though the village of Nelsonville.  Just before you get out of the village, make the left onto Woods Ave, which becomes Gatehouse Road.  (If you hit the fork where County Road 10, Fishkill Rd, heads off to the left, you just passed it.)  Gatehill Rd turns into a single-lane dirt road but keep going until you see the hikers parking on the right.  A kiosk with trail information will confirm you’re in the right spot.

The Hike

So today I made a wonderful discovery: how to get to the top of Bull Hill, AKA Mt. Taurus, in under an hour.  If you take the Washburn trailhead on NY 9D, you have more arduous climbing to do, and could be at it for half again, or even twice as long.  I made that from-9D hike for a second time last September, but never finished the blog post; I will incorporate some of that information here to atone for my sin.

The New York Walk Book considers the Washburn from 9D route the most strenuous hike in the Highlands region.  While I’m not up for arguing this point, the hike up Breakneck Ridge, just to the north across hollow of Breakneck Brook, is in the same ballpark and certainly the terrain there is more rugged.  This I also did last September and wrote about here.  As with that hike, getting to the top of Bull Hill provides you with a panorama of the Hudson, West Point, Constitution Island, Storm King Mountain, and several other points of interest.  From the summit you can clearly see Stewart Airport in Newburgh down to the Manhattan skyline, a distance of at least 60 miles.

From the parking area, head west on the green-blazed Nelsonville Trail.  It’s an easy, flat woods road that quickly hits the junction with the yellow-blazed Undercliff Trail.  You might be confused as I was because the diamond-shaped plastic blazes still say “Nelsonville” on them, but I think that’s just because you’re still in the Nelsonville Nature Preserve.  In any case, hang a right onto the yellow trail, and it will begin the noticeable but not gruesome ascent of the mountain.  After a short climb, the trail forms a little U to bring you out to a nice overlook that provides a view that is merely a hint of what is to come.

About 15-20 minutes later you reach a rocky outcrop that provides a great river view facing southwest, including a complete overlook of the USMA at West Point, across the river.

West Point from Bull Hill

West Point from Bull Hill

The land mass in the foreground on the east side of the river is Constitution Island, which is not open to the public, but which I have walked on an approved tour.  It’s nice, but up here’s better. :-)   As the photo shows, it was a wonderfully clear day, with temps back down into the 70′s and almost no haze.  It was simply a day where the outdoors just begged me to get out of the house.

Very soon after the outcrop, you hit the junction with the white-blazed Washburn Trail, where you go right.  (The Undercliff continues up to Breakneck Ridge.)  I recognized the junction from my earlier hike, and quickly realized what a short cut this way had been.  Yes, you miss some of the great views on the way up the Washburn, e.g., here is one from that earlier hike:

Cold Spring from Bull Hill

Cold Spring from Bull Hill

You do get a better shot of the town of Cold Spring on the river, and there is an old quarry you pass at the beginning, which is nice too:

Quarry on the Washburn Trail

Quarry on the Washburn Trail

In either case, right after the intersection of the Washburn and Undercliff trails, you hit a section of the trail where there are nice views across the river to the Crows Nest and Storm King Mountains.

Storm King Mountain

Storm King Mountain

Shortly after these vistas, you hit the Main Event, if you will.  Look for the letters “NYC” painted on a boulder, scramble to the top of a huge rock ledge, and you can see the Manhattan skyline with the naked eye.  Here’s what it looks like at 14x zoom:

Manhattan on Top, West Point on the Bottom

Manhattan on Top, West Point on the Bottom

Due to the long zoom and the twisting of the Hudson, you would swear that the person taking this picture was on the west side of the river, i.e. on the same side as the USMA.  But as you know, I was on the east side of the river.  I estimate this view at about 50 miles.  If this doesn’t make you want to come up here, nothing will!

Since at this point you’re pretty much at the summit, most of the serious climbing is done, it now becomes a ridge walk for about a half mile before you start the downward trek.  The map indicates you cross the Catskill Aqueduct at this point, but it’s not obvious to me on any of my three trips up here exactly where it is.  I have my suspicions, but that’s about all.  There is a dual vista up here where you can look south or north.  Look for a split in the trail and take the southern view to the right first.  It’s nice, but since you’re facing more easterly at this point, there’s nothing too impressive.  That’s reserved for the northern view to the left, where the trail turns out onto an exposed face and you get river views of Newburgh and Beacon.

Newburgh-Beacon Bridge over Breakneck Ridge

Newburgh-Beacon Bridge over Breakneck Ridge

Mount Beacon

Mount Beacon

You can see the agonizing trail of Breakneck Ridge before you and the river, bridge, and city of Newburgh behind it.  Turning right, you catch sight of the comm. towers on Mount Beacon.  The latter destination I last visited in August of 2011, but did not write up.  Great place to hike, especially if you like to walk uphill!

After these wonderful views, it’s time to wend your way back.  The Washburn Trail descends on the woods road it joined at the summit on a series of switchbacks.  Except for the rocky footing, it’s an easy way down.  It ends at the joint trailheads of the Notch (blue) and Nelsonville trails.  We return to our original path by going straight and continue the gentle exit off the hill, passing two smaller trails, the Lone Star (blue) and Split Rock (red), along the way.  When you cross the Catskill Aqueduct this time, it’s obvious and also a signal that you’re right around a bend from where you parked the car.

This is a perfect hike if you have the following goals in mind:

  • Great views
  • Under 3 hours
  • Not a lot of climbing
  • Great views

So wait for a clear weather day, and fit this into your busy schedule.  You can thank me later.

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.

Breakneck Ridge — Sep. 3rd, 2011

Info

  • Map: NY/NJ Trail Conference, East Hudson Trails, Map 2
  • Trails: Breakneck Ridge, Undercliff, Brook
  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: Approx. 3 miles
  • Time: About 2.5 hours
  • Exertion: Strenuous

Getting There

From the intersection of NY 9D and NY 301 in Cold Spring, head north on 9D about for about two miles.  When you go through a tunnel under Breakneck Ridge, look for parking.  While there is room for a few cars at the trailhead immediately after the tunnel, it’s unlikely you’ll find a spot as this is a very popular hiking destination.  Best to keep going north for a few more tenths and park in the large lot on the left.  People also park on the road on the right, but it can be tricky getting in or out.

The Hike

The aptly-named Breakneck Ridge might also be call Heartbreak Ridge.  It’s probably the steepest climb in the region, with sections where you will need all arms and legs to get up over the rocks.  It also has about 5 different summits, so every time you make it to what you think is the top, there’s another peak behind it.  I took this photo at the end of the hike actually, but it’s a good introductory look at what awaits you:

Breakneck Ridge from the South

Breakneck Ridge from the South

This is not one of my better photos, but what you don’t see is the start of the climb on the left at road level, as well as the two other peaks behind the top one on the right that cannot be seen.  This hike is a test of endurance, stamina, and, yes, balance.  There are a few spots where you might get a wave of vertigo as you scale up some of the dicier notches.

So there must be some reason why this place is so popular, and as you might have guessed, it’s the views of the Hudson Valley.  Almost every viewpoint on the trip is postcard-worthy.  On a clear day (which unfortunately, this day for me was not), you can see up the river to the Beacon-Newburgh Bridge and downriver to Constitution Marsh and West Point.  Directly across from you is the unmistakable hump of Storm King Mountain:

Storm King Mountain from Breakneck Ridge

Storm King Mountain

Just upriver near the east bank of the river is Pollopel Island with the ruined (and getting more ruined each year) Bannerman Castle:

Pollopel Island and Newburgh-Beacon Bridge

Pollopel Island and Newburgh-Beacon Bridge

(OK, I cheated, this pic is from another hike, on the west side of the Hudson, but it was a very hazy day!)  Not to mention the scenery of the Hudson Highlands SP itself in which you are hiking.  You could argue all day about which hike has the best vistas in the Valley, but this one will certainly be a candidate in any discussion.

I’m not going to do a blow-by-blow of this hike because the first part, on the actual Breakneck Ridge Trail (white blazes), consists of up, up, up, and more up for about a solid 60 to 90 minutes.  There are times when you will just stop, look up, and scratch your head, trying to figure out how in the world the trailblazer thought you would be able to get up there.  (Note to the more sane amongst us, there is a section of the climb where a less treacherous route is indicated by white X blazes and arrows.  In the past I eschewed this skullduggery, but on this hike, I did take the X path for some of the nastier bits.  You may also notice the occasional orange arrow pointing to a route that seems almost certainly fatal.  I’m not sure if these arrows were put here as a joke or to reduce the overcrowding on this trail, but be sure to ignore them.)  A Word to the Wise: DO NOT attempt this hike when it is wet or icy or very windy as there’s a chance I would have one less reader–and I need all I can get.  Another WTTW: DO NOT take this trail downhill unless you stuff a pillow down the back of your pants and intend to slide down.

In the past, I’ve taken the Breakneck Ridge Trail to the Breakneck By-pass to the Wilkinson, which gets you back to 9D just north of where you parked.  This day, I wanted to pick up the bit of the Undercliff Trail (yellow blazes) that I’d never been on, and given that it was a pretty hot and humid day, and I’d gone through half my water already, I figured it would be better not to hump over the last peak:

You Think You're at the Summit, but Turn Around...

You Think You're at the Summit, but Turn Around...

You've Still Got to Climb This

You've Still Got to Climb This

The last time I did this trail with a friend of mine and his dog, we almost killed his dog from the heat, so I was in no mood to play tough guy.

The Undercliff is an interesting diversion–out of the direct sun and into some cooler terrain.  There are some massive boulder fields where you have to scramble a bit, but it’s mostly maintained very nicely with lots of rock steps.  When it crosses over Breakneck Brook on a wooden bridge, you make a right onto the Brook Trail (red blazes) and head back to 9D.  This is mostly a woods road, although badly eroded for a good stretch.  (I did this right after Hurricane Irene, so I wonder how much of this was her fault.)  The brook has some nice dams and cascades along the way.  Here’s a pic of one:

Cascade on Breakneck Brook

Cascade on Breakneck Brook

You will also cross the Catskill Aqueduct on the way down.  It’s hard to miss:

Catskill Aqueduct (Breakneck Ridge in the Backgroud)

Catskill Aqueduct (Breakneck Ridge in the Backgroud)

Soon after this you cross onto a concrete road.  The trail goes to the left, and if you take the short detour to the right, you’ll go past a ruined house and cross over another dam.  You could keep going on this road if you wanted a few extra steps, and it would get you out to 9D in about the same place that the Brook Trail does.

Unfortunately, the walk back north on 9D is a little nasty with almost no shoulder and cars whizzing by you at 50 MPH or more.  Walk on the left and sit on the guardrail when you see cars coming.  You’ll also have to walk through the tunnel under Breakneck Ridge, which has ample walking space, but the noise is annoying, particularly if some asswipe decides he wants to blow his horn in the tunnel.

This hike can be varied almost indefinitely, depending on how much time, stamina, and water you have.  But even a modicum of each will assure you of some wonderful views.

Storm King SP, Crow’s Nest — Nov. 13, 2010

Info

  • Map: West Hudson Trails, Map 113, NY/NJ TC
  • Trails: Howell (blue), Stillman Spring (white)
  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: a few miles
  • Time: a couple of hours
  • Exertion: strenuous to start, then moderate afterward

Getting There

Take the Palisades Parkway to the Bear Mountain Bridge circle, then head north on 9W.  Take the second exit for Rte. 218 N.  (You can take the first, but you will have to slog through some town streets.  The first exit is for the West Point Visitor’s Center–a fine diversion on its own, but stay on 9W if you can.)  Once on 218, you’re actually going through USMA territory, so don’t be tempted to pull over and bushwhack.  Once you go past the Lee Gate on the right (blocked with boulders), start looking for a parking area on your right.  As I recall, there’s a small one first, and then the “real one” in a few hundred feet.  The start of the Howell Trail is directly across the street, as well as the start of the Stillman Spring Trail.  It looks like this:

Trailhead, Howell and Stillman Spring Trails

Be warned: as I found out on a follow-up hike a couple of weeks later, for a few days after a heavy rain Rte. 218 is closed because of the danger of rock slides.  There will be a sign as soon as you get off Rte. 9W that the road is closed.  I suppose you can find this out from some local resource, or else wait for a dry spell.

The Hike

Trying to reduce the backlog here, I dug out my notes and pics for a hike I took in the late autumn of last year.  This goes up a mountain known as the Crow’s Nest in Storm King Mountain SP.  Storm King Mountain itself is right next door, and has some nice trails as well, but this hike is a quickie and has some very nice views of the Hudson, looking north to Newburgh.  (You will not get a view of West Point, in case you were curious, but there are other hikes that will provide this.)

Getting to the top of the mountain is a a bit of a hump, but it is another good bang for the buck.  My time to get to the top was about 45 minutes, and I did take a number of pictures, so I was not racing.  Curiously, the views as you are going up are better than what you can see from the actual summit, so be sure to enjoy the scenery on your way up.  E.g. here’s a shot across the river with Breakneck Ridge from about halfway up.  (That big hole in the mountain is an old quarry.)

Breakneck Ridge on the Hudson, from Crow's Nest

A bit further up you get a nice look at Pollepel Island, upon which the ruins of Bannerman’s Castle can be seen.  (This is a nice tour my sister took us on a few years ago; it leaves from Newburgh.)  That’s the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge there, although only Newburgh is in the shot, on the left:

Pollopel Island and Newburgh-Beacon Bridge

Pollopel Island and Newburgh-Beacon Bridge

The Catskills are in the background.  I’m guessing about a 40 mile view here.  It was a very nice day as far as the air and temperature were concerned.  The foliage was well past “peak,” but I’m not primarily a leaf-peeper anyway.  As I said, getting to the top is a bit of a letdown, although I did get a nice shot of the park’s eponymous mountain and its eponymous highway (AKA Rte. 218) here from the North Point of Crow’s Nest:

Storm King Mountain and Highway

Storm King Mountain and Highway

There is also a nice big boulder, AKA a glacial erratic for those who want to confuse, right on the summit.  Comes in handy on a windy day if you want to sit and absorb the view for a bit.

Several years ago when I first hiked this mountain, it was soon after a forest fire, and the summit looked something like a moonscape, with fallen black and gray logs strewn all about and no real vegetation to speak of.  Now you can still see plenty of dead logs, and there are only a few small trees and bushes, but the entire summit is grass-covered, and on the way back.

Now of course the smart thing to do once you get to the top is to continue on the Howell Trail until it intersects the Stillman Spring Trail in the clove between Storm King and Crow’s Nest.  This will loop you back to the car in well under an hour.  It’s not a very scenic walk, but it’s quiet and secluded.  Since I already did this before, I tried to locate an unmarked trail that the map indicates should intersect the Howell Trail in the clove.  On the way up I had noticed that the Howell took a sharp left at one point to join what looked like a woods road.  The map indicates that this is the continuation of the unmarked trail, so it seemed like it would be easy to find its opposite end at the top of the clove.  But despite going back and forth a few times, I was unable to find any obvious trail junction or cairn.  So I went off the trail at some point that I thought might be a good way down, but I really could not find anything that indicated there was a trail, and I wound up bushwhacking the entire way down.

When you get to the bottom you can view the Stillman Memorial where the car was parked:

Stillman Memorial

Stillman Memorial

As mentioned above, a few weeks later I tried to get back and follow the unmarked trail from the lower point at the start of the Howell trail, but I was thwarted by the closure of Rte. 218.  My attempt to get into the trail loop from the parking area on 9W north of the 218 exit via the Bobcat Trail was thwarted by the cold weather and my inappropriate outerwear.  One of these days I will find this hidden route and place a cairn at the junction.