Posts Tagged ‘bucolic’

Huckleberry Ridge State Forest – 12 Jun 2016

Info

  • Map: NYNJTC Northern Kittatiny Trails (Map 123)
  • Trails: Lenape Ridge (red) and Minisink Ridge (yellow)–but more on the colors later
  • Type: Loop
  • Distance:  4+ miles
  • Time: 2 hours
  • Exertion: Moderatly moderate

Getting There

Take I84 West to its last exit in NY, Exit 1 (not surprisingly) for Port Jervis, and take a left on the ramp for US Rte. 6 West.  At the next light make a very sharp right onto Minisink Ave, and follow that for maybe a half mile to the hiker’s parking lot on the left.  It’s easy to miss, but despite the notation on the map, it’s a legit parking area, and not simply on-road parking.

The Hike

So trying to figure a hike for a beautifully clear if somewhat windy Sunday afternoon, not minding a bit a of a drive since I was well sucked into yet another Steven King book on CD (Duma Key in this case), I picked this somewhat obscure destination because there were lots of stars (vistas) on the map, and I kind of like this funky part of Orange County where New York seeps into Pennsylvania across the membrane of the Delaware River.  (How’s that for a run-on sentence?)

Never having hiked HRSF (see the title), I’d no idea what to expect, but I’d done the AT here from High Point SP in NJ, which is just a quick drive up Rte. 23 from Port Jervis, and knew it would be, well, bucolic if nothing else.  This was a pretty straightforward loop hike, but it held a few surprises which I will go into some detail on shortly.  Perhaps part of this was due to the vintage of my map, 2009.  On that map, it clearly states that the Lenape Ridge trail is blazed white, and the Minisink Ridge Trail is blazed red.  But that is no longer the case.  The Lenape is blazed red and the Minisink yellow, although there is ample evidence as you walk along that they were indeed at one time blazed white and red respectively.

Now this raises some questions in my mind.  Say you’re the caretakers of HRSF, and you have two trails, one blazed white, the other red.  For some unknown reason you decide, “Hey I don’t like those colors, let’s change ‘em!”  Why do you want to do so?  I dunno, but ya do.  Yeah, I guess white’s not the most definitive of colors, and as the AT is in the vicinity, it might not be a bad idea to stay away from its totemic blaze color.  OK, so let’s lose the white on the Lenape trail.  What would you select?  How’s ’bout red?  Well, no because the Minisink trail that runs parallel to the Lenape, and intersects it at the beginning and end is red.  So what now?  Let’s change both!  Make the Lenape red and Minisink yellow so we’re sure to confuse anyone with an old map!  It’s not clear to me why any reasonable person or organization would embark on such a re-coloring project, but then again I don’t understand why Congress wants to allow people on the terrorist watch list to buy guns.  They just do.  Yes, there’s a nice kiosk at the trailhead properly identifying the trail colors.  Unfortunately, that kiosk does not fit in my pants pocket, and I was in a rush to get started on the hike, so I skipped it.  If I hadn’t, this is what I would have seen:

Kiosk with the Right Trail Colors

Kiosk with the Right Trail Colors

So OK, let’s move on…

This hike is a very simple, narrow loop, about two miles in each direction.  Since it is a ridge walk, as you can tell from the names of the trails, it’s a pretty easy-going journey with minimal ups and downs once you attain the ridge lines.  Based on the number of vista stars on the NYNJTC map, I decided to chose the Lenape Trail as my first segment because I find myself always more receptive to things at the start, as opposed to the end, of a hike.  The two trails are conjoined from the parking lot, and you walk a few hundred feet before they split here:

Which Way to Go?

Which Way to Go?

I admit to pausing here for a couple of minutes to translate the color scheme from my map to reality.  I figured they can always change color, but you can’t make left right or vice-versa, so I hung the right and assumed the Lenape was now to be blazed in red.  Shortly along the way, evidence of the transformation confirmed my theory:

Red Tag Overlays a White Blaze

Red Tag Overlays a White Blaze

Now I have to say that this trail is nice and all, but despite four vista stars on the map, they’re all pretty much the same, and all just show the ridge of High Point SP in NJ to the south and I84 climbing out of the Delaware River Valley:

The Way I Got Here--I84

The Way I Got Here--I84

Zoom in on the High Point Monument in NJ

Zoom in on the High Point Monument in NJ

I suspect in the winter this might be a much better hike because the leaves block everything to the west.  There’s a little peek down into something called Heinlein Lake, but I don’t grok what’s special about it–it seemed pretty swampy to me.  (There’s a pun in there; big ATTABOY if you can find it.)  When the Lenape Trail finally crashes into the Minisink Trail you’re at a power line that rips right through the ridge into the valley and beyond.  It does expose some scenic farm country, if you can overlook the high tension wires:

Farm Country

Farm Country

Pastures and Wires

Pastures and Wires

Now we switch over to the Minisink Ridge Trail, with its yellow, formerly red, blazes.  Here is the testimony to its transformation by the crazed caretakers of HRSF:

Yellow Tag atop Red Blaze

Yellow Tag atop Red Blaze

(I know it looks orange, but I swear it was yellow–I’d better check my new camera!)

For a trail with only two vista stars, I found this to be more scenic than the Lenape.  There was some variation in the valley below, from farm to golf course, with the buildings of Port Jervis and Matamoras PA to the southwest.  There were good stretches along the ridge where you would have an exposed view for a couple hundred feet.  To add to the natural beauty, the wind was blowing like an MF-er, up to 40 MPH I heard later on the news.  So it was a warm day in the 80′s, clear and sunny, with this beastly wind that almost blew me off the ridge a few times.  (Hyperbole alert!)  Here are some pics of the nicer of the two ridges:

Farm from Minisink Ridge

Farm from Minisink Ridge

Golf Course from Minisink Ridge

Golf Course from Minisink Ridge

Looking back North from Minisink Ridge

Looking back North from Minisink Ridge

So, now here comes the big shocker of the day…  One of the, um, challenges of walking this trail is that it’s a little hard to follow.  I can understand this to some degree.  Exposed ridges and escarpments have very limited tree coverage, trees being the primary recipients of blazing.  There seems to be a lot of deadwood hanging on by a thread up here, perhaps due to the winds, climate change–who knows?  So after a few minutes along the ridge I got a little lost.  There was actually a little diversion to the right off the ridge line that I missed–had to backtrack a little, happens to the best of us, no biggie.  After re-acquiring the trail, I continued on the crest and came to this obvious turn to the left:

Turn Left, Right?

Turn Left, Right?

I admit I was suspicious right then and there.  Going left would actually start me back on a northerly course, but OK, I’d seen this before–some jigs and jags and you’re back in the right direction.  But after I hung the left, I kept walking back along the ridge until I hit the spot where I had previously been lost with no further blazes to be seen.  Something was wrong.  I walked back to my “last known good,” looked on the other side of the tree and saw this:

Go Left from the Other Direction?  I'm Confused

Go Left from the Other Direction? I'm Confused

So if I were coming from the south, I’d turn left as well?  Does not make sense.  Since I’d just walked where the reverse blaze directed, I knew it was correct, hence the one on the opposite side of the same tree must be wrong.  I must pause here and say that I’ve seen lots of sub-optimal blazing in my hiking.  Sometimes they indicate a turn that’s not really a turn, or a straight ahead that’s anything but, but this was the first time I found a blaze that sent me in the absolute opposite direction of where I was supposed to go.  But, it’s OK because it’s just another reminder that you have to keep thinking out on the trail, and that blazes and maps are not always correct, so you need to apply your senses to the task.  I was a little shocked with this blatant misdirection, but not angered.  (I’m way more pissed off about the blaze colors!)

The remainder of the hike is without much to see.  The trail descends and stays in the trees, skirting the railroad tracks that occasionally come into view.  One impressive stone bank greets you near the end of the hike:

Rock Wall on the Descent

Rock Wall on the Descent

This was a little steep and mushy as I made my way down along side this rock beast.

Once back at the trailhead, I perused the sign I’d skipped on the way up then drove into Port Jervis to revisit this quaint little place with its most famous attraction, the old Erie Railroad turntable:

Railroad Turntable

Railroad Turntable

Rockefeller Preserve — Apr 17, 2011

Info

Getting There

Take the Saw Mill Parkway to Exit 23 for Rte. 100C (Eastview).  Take 100C westbound, and make your first right onto Lake Road.  Follow Lake until it intersects Rte. 448 (Bedford Rd).  Keep going straight onto 448.  Go through the village of Pocantico Hills, and when the terrain opens up into pastureland (about a mile), you’re close.  Go past the entrance for the Stone Barns at Blue Hill, and about a quarter of mile down the road, you will drive over a trail that goes under a stone bridge.  Park near here.  (If you leave the bucolic pastures, you’ve gone too far.)

Parking on this road varies quite a bit, so be careful–the signs are tricky, and the Town of Pleasantville likes to help its budget by writing tickets here.

The Hike

Rockefeller State Park Preserve is simply a spectacular enclave within the overbuilt suburbs of southern Westchester County.  Per its web site (http://nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/59/details.aspx), there are over 1400 acres of rolling parkland here.  One of its notable features is the wide gravel carriage roads that riddle the park.  You almost never find yourself slogging through muddy puddles or tripping over fallen tree limbs.  You can eschew the hiking boots and give your feet a break with sneakers as you stroll for hours.  Because of the intricate web of roads here, as well as lack of a really detailed trail map, it’s possible to get lost in the loops, but since you can’t really get stranded (you’re never more than 20 minutes from some sign of civilization), it’s a fun place to get lost on purpose.  Bring the map linked above, such as it is if you must, but because there are no deep woods here, you can almost always get your bearings without it.

Pastures at Rockefeller

This hike traverses a less-traveled part of the park on the east side of Rte. 448.  Unlike trails in the more “organized” sections, there are no trail markers, and most of the trails are unnamed–at least I don’t know what they are.  E.g. I saw the map linked above for the first time while preparing this post, and just learned that a good portion of this hike goes along the Laurence’s Ridge Trail.  There is also an older PDF map on the website, and it doesn’t even show this section at all!

From your car, get back to where the trail goes underneath the stone bridge.  Cross to the west side of 448, and at the north end of the overpass, look for a short, dirt footpath that will take you down to the trail.  Cross under the bridge, and you will start to climb a gentle hill through a pasture.  Much of this area is a working dairy farm, so if you don’t see any cows here, you will by the end of the hike.

After a few minutes, you will pass a carriage road going off to the left, which will can get you out to Rte. 117.  (There’s a legit parking lot there, so keep that in mind for entry point on another day.)  Keep on straight up the hill, passing another small road going off to the right.  You’ll keep climbing gently as the pasture transitions into a woody area.

A few minutes more will take you past a curiously flat and empty half-acre lawn on the right after which you will hit the top of the climb and the trail veers to the right.  You’re now at the ridge summit with views through the trees of the village of Hawthorne, and the rats nest of roads below that used to be known when I was a kid as the infamous Hawthorne Traffic Circle.  The traffic noise you hear is from that reorganized circle at the junction of the Saw Mill and Taconic Parkways and Rte. 9A.  As you walk along the ridge, the SMP parallels the trail, so for the next hour or so you’ll have to deal with some auto static, but it’s not too bad.

Proceeding here along Laurence’s Ridge, you will encounter some openings in the trees through which you can view Hawthorne, and later on, Valhalla, but it’s all commercial real estate, so the tree coverage is probably a blessing.  On a clear day, particularly before the leaves are out, you can see the couple of skyscrapers in White Plains, some water towers, and lots of corporate parks, if that kind of thing interests you.

Along the Ridge trail you will encounter a series of four intersections.  At each bear to the left, or make a real left to stay on the ridge trail.  If you go to the right at any point, you will head back down the ridge and eventually to Rte. 448.  The last intersection is actually a confluence of four paths.  As the Ridge trail turns to the right here, you will see the Raven’s Rock Trail come up from the left.  You might have noticed it beforehand as it paralleled your path before this point.  Feel free to take a detour here, but it ends in a cul-de-sac, and you will have to backtrack.  Walk past the junction with Raven’s Rock and then immediately up to another fork.  If you go to the left here to complete the ridge walk, it will loop back on itself, and you will return here in 20-30 minutes.  You will know you’ve hit the southernmost extent when you see the gate below:

End of the Ridge Trail for You

You’ll run into a lot of these in the Preserve, as a good chunk of the estate is still private property.  The good news is that every so often the Rockefellers turn over some more land to the Preserve, so I just think of these as a backlog of walks I’ll do in years to come here.

I was also curious when I ran into this sign before the gate above:

Keep Out of Where?

You see this on a tree to the left of the trail, but it backs up to the downhill side of the path, not the way ahead.  So I was a bit confused.  Did they mean, “Don’t continue on the Ridge Trail,” or “Don’t go down the hill?”  From a walk the week before on the bike path at the base of the ridge, I had noticed there were NO TRESPASSING signs all along the left side of the trail that I had not seen years ago when I last walked there and had bushwhacked up the ridge to this trail.  So I presumed they meant don’t go downhill, because if they really wanted to stop forward progress, they probably would have put up a barricade, or nailed the sign on a different side of the tree.

If you opt not to take the loop-around to the end of the Ridge Trail, or when you arrive back at the four-way intersection, take trail to the right of that second fork.  (If you took the loop, you’ll basically be going straight.)  This takes you on a short climb to a T junction.  If you go left, you hit a gate, so go right and start the northbound descent back to the car.  Below on the left you will see a reservoir (one of three in this section of the Preserve).

In a few minutes a trail comes in from the right, but it’s a dead end, so move on to the next juncture and make a definite left.  This trail is not one of the nice gravel roads you’ve been used to, but really just a dirt road that was, on the day I was there, very muddy.  It ends at a crossroads where you want to take the northbound, downhill choice on your left.

You are now in a section with a lot of roads running parallel to you.  There’s one to your right uphill, and two downhill on your left, two branches of the Ferguson Lake Trail.  Quickly you run into that trail obliquely, and you can bear right and take the long way down, but if you make a very hard left, you should see a dirt path through the trees that will short cut you to that trail’s other branch.  Go right here and you will see the pastures on your left.

Back to the Pastures

The Ferguson trail quickly ends at a T, so make a left and head back through the pasture to Rte. 448.  Cross that road and enter the walkway for the Stone Barns entrance.  Go over the small bridge at the end and make a sharp right, past the cattle pens, enjoying the sights and sounds and smells of livestock as you proceed.  A short, but very scenic path rambles over this last section of the walk, with impressive stone walls on each side.

Hard to Believe It's Westchester

Up ahead you can see the bridge overpass that you hopefully parked near.  Two or three trails will come in from the left as you proceed, just keep to the right.  Come back again and take these to the other parts of the Preserve.  Today you’ve probably only seen about a sixth of area.

In years gone by I’ve covered every trail in this park, on both short and long walks.  (My longest was about 4 hours when I looped the Preserve on the outermost trails.)  The number and apparent randomness of the trails can provide an almost unlimited set of hikes, so you never have to repeat yourself.  It’s a treasure for walkers.

P.S. One of the nice things for walkers, but bad for bikers, is that cycling is not allowed in the Preserve.  If I was a biker, I might be miffed because it seems like it would be a great place to bike.  However, I don’t intend to start petitioning for cycle access anytime soon.  One not-so-nice thing is that the Preserve is very heavily used by horses, and evidence of their passage abounds.  You really do need to keep an eye on the ground, lest you want to endure a somewhat odoriferous ride home.  Despite the volume of droppings, it’s not very common to run into horses, but just remember, they have the right of way, so pull over and let them go by.