Harriman State Park – Almost Perpendicular, Elbow Brush, Claudius Smith Den, Black Ash Swamp

Park Site

Trail Map – official – I used the NY NJ Trail Conference Map 118

Distance: 6.61 miles

Trails:  Blue Disc (blue circle on white), Ramapo-Dunderberg (red circle on white), Kakiat (white)

Mountains:  Pound Mountain, Big Pine Hill

My Map:

It was 22 degrees at the trailhead.  I hadn’t been out in over a week due to rain, and I have re-hiked some trails over the past couple of weeks.  I wanted to get back into Harriman.  While it rained at home the night before, I did not consider the amount of snow that would be on the ground in the park.  This fact may, or may not, play into the hike.  None the less, I started with hat, gloves and jacket over the fleece.  In the shade, it remained cold; however the sun felt great.

Snow was still on the ground, and did not disappear until the sun was high overhead and above the surrounding mountains. I started out on the Blue Disc trail.

False Turkey Tail

The first stop of the day was Almost Perpendicular, a rock scramble to a cliff.  There’s nothing like scrambling before 9:00 in the morning.

The views, though, were spectacular.

The Reeves Meadow Visitor Center can be seen in the distance.  It’s (relatively) empty in this picture, I’m sure it was a madhouse later in the day.

Lots of Needle Ice, and it made a crunching sound when walking on it.

After Almost Perpendicular, it was a fairly level walk until Elbow Brush.  There was lots of icicles and melting snow on  Elbow Brush.

I liked Elbow Brush, it’s similar to the Lemon Squeezer, further to the north.  Here’s a picture looking into the rocks.  It’s not the best picture due to the position of the sun.  Ultimately, you enter where the middle shadow falls.

Here’s what it looks like inside:

Elbow Brush

After Elbow Brush, the trail heads to Claudius Smith Den. While rounding a curve I almost ran into this guy.

The Blue Disc trail junctions with the Tuxedo-Mt. Ivy trail at Claudius Smith Den.  Claudius Smith Den is allegedly where the outlaw Smith and his gang hid out during the Revolutionary War.  There is a cave a short way down the Tuxedo-Mt. Ivy trail, but I did not investigate.  There was a group that was camping (probably right in front of the cave) – and probably illegally – and I did not want any part of it.  If I do the hike again, I’ll go to the cave.  Here’s a shot of the rocks.  I scrambled to the top using the Blue Disc Trail.

The view from the top:

And here’s where I get in trouble.

At the top I stopped to talk with a group of women – we had been leapfrogging each other since the parking lot.  They were taking the Tuxedo-Mt. Ivy trail to the right for a more gentle trip back to the car.  Originally, I had planned on the Tuxedo-Mt. Ivy trail to the left, but looking at the map, that would get me back to the car in about an hour.  Too short.  Looking at the map, I could finish the Blue Disc trail then come back down the Ramapo-Dunderberg and add about another mile and a half.  That felt right.  The women at the top were not going to risk the downhill (off Big Pine Hill) but mentioned that since I had trekking poles, it “shouldn’t be that bad.”  Shouldn’t be that bad?  I’ve always gotten in trouble when I extend or change my plans.

Side note:  I am in the middle of reading Harriman Trails, by William J. Myles and Daniel Chazin.  If you have ever read the trail descriptions on the NY NJ Trail Conference page, they were likely written by Daniel Chazin.  The book is excellent (I highly recommend) but it is more a guide and historical reference.  Do not get the book thinking it will help plan routes.  It can add color, but it is not for planning.  It has an excellent history of the trails, roads, lakes that make up Harriman and Bear Mountain state parks.  Sure, there are trail descriptions, but there is so much more.  The following sentence concerning the Blue Disk trail stands out to me:  “Blue Disc now descends steadily, for much of the way over bare, sloping rocks that are often slippery in winter.”  I don’t know how I missed that, or didn’t retain it when I read it.

Here’s a shot looking off the back of Big Pine Hill, with Black Ash Swamp in the center.  This is before the downhill.  The swamp is right behind the bare tree in the center of the picture.

You’ll notice there is still snow on the ground.  And those rocks?  They were slippery.  Many coated with ice.  The leaves didn’t help.  In the summer, this is a great downhill.  Snow covered?  Not so much.  It was here that I remembered why I tend to head south during the colder months, to avoid this situation.  I have microspikes on the way.

The trail comes to the southern end of Black Ash Swamp.

Blue Disc ends at Tri-Trail Corner, where the Ramapo-Dunderberg and Victory trail all converge.

Tri-Trail Corner

I was going to take the Ramapo-Dunderberg back from this spot, but it looked like I would have to backtrack.  Ramapo-Dunderberg crosses a stream, and the rocks didn’t look inviting.  Neither did the water.  I fell a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t want to make that mistake again.  Conveniently, the Blue Disc trail uses a natural dam to cross the water.

The swamp is on the other side of the rocks.

A little spur trail connects the Blue Disc with the Ramapo-Dunderberg. I have been on the Ramapo-Dunderberg trail a bunch of times, though not in this section.  It was mostly a woods road.  The trail does go past the Black Ash mine, though I didn’t find the mind (and wasn’t bushwacking in the snow on a hill to find it.)

I junctioned with the Kakiat trail to head back to my car.

Not my car, but close.

This section of the Kakiat is mostly woods road.  Part of it is near Route 87, so there is some road noise.  It eventually turns away and heads back towards the Blue Disc trail.

Annoying Insects – 0

Blazes:

Hiked:  11/19/2022

Harriman State Park – Car Pond Mountain, Parker Cabin Mountain, Tom Jones Mountain, Black Rock Mountain

Park Site

Trail Map – official – I used the NY NJ Trail Conference Map 118

Distance – 7.07

Trails – White Bar (white), Triangle (yellow), Ramapo-Dunderberg (Red dot on White), Dunning (yellow), Nurian (White)

Mountains – Car Top, Parker Cabin, Tom Jones, Black Rock

My Map

After getting clobbered by chiggers last week in the Pine Barrens, I thought I would return to the mountains.  Certainly, I thought the temperatures would have killed off most of the bugs.  It was 37 at the trailhead, though I passed through areas were it was down to 34.  And, with the sun out, the temperatures rose into the 50s making for a perfect day.  There were sporadic groups of hikers out, though I saw a scout troop heading up Tom Jones Mountain, likely making for the shelter.  And there was a scout troop at the Bold Rock shelter.

The hike starts by going up Car Pond Mountain from the parking lot.

Then, there is a big descent that drops lower in altitude than the parking lot.  There is a nice view right off the back of Car Pond Mountain.

I took the Triangle trail east to head up Parker Cabin Mountain.  Right near the top was a solo hammock camper – he mentioned that it got near freezing at night.  At the top was brilliant sunshine.  (For the first part of the hike I was in the shade as the sun had not risen above the mountains.)  The view from the top of Parker Cabin is expansive.

From here I took a jaunt over to Tom Jones Mountain.  Between each of the mountains was a descent, which meant an ascent to the next mountain.  Usually, the elevation gain was not too bad.

The Tom Jones Shelter is at the end of a spur trail off the top of Tom Jones Mountain.

The view from the shelter is pretty nice too.

From there, I found the top of Tom Jones Mountain and had a snack.  The sun was pretty warm, and views were almost 360 degrees.

Walking across the top of Tom Jones mountain I could see where I was headed next, Black Rock Mountain.  This would be the only mountain where there would be significant elevation loss, and a climb back up.  The trail goes down to the road, then climbs back up Black Rock Mountain.  This picture sort shows the detail.  At the end of the rock, the trail drops down significantly.  In about a half hour, I would be standing at the top of the mountain in the center of the picture.

The climb up from the roadway is pretty steep in sections, with one or two rocks to scramble up.  At the top I reached my favorite viewpoint of the day, with 270 degrees of view.

After sitting for a while and having another snack, I had a decision to make.  The Nurian trail leaves from here and would get me back to my car in about a half hour.  However, about a half hour up the trail would be the Bold Rock shelter, and I could loop back to my car adding about two miles.

I took the long route.

Walking the top of Black Rock Mountain is walking mostly on exposed rock.  The Black Rock lookout is just as nice a view as the others.  This would be my highest point of elevation in the hike.  Most of the trail looks like this (until it heads back into the forest.)

I found the Bold Rock shelter.  It appears to be the same size as the Tom Jones shelter, though doesn’t have a view right in front.  A short hike to the back leads to a view, that will be better when the leaves fall.

Here’s a shot of the bear hang.  There was a bear hang at the Tom Jones shelter too.  Apparently, bears have learned to check the shelters for food.

Behind the shelter a scout troop was setting up camp.  And closer to the view, there were others that had pitched tents.  It would be busy at this shelter tonight.

Many many years ago I backpacked in the snow in Harriman, and we stayed at a bigger shelter.  I remember all of us fitting in the shelter, so it could not have been either of these two.

I picked a good weekend, the colors were out.  I’m not sure it is peak, but there were spots of vibrant colors all around.

Compare the views from two weeks ago to get a good idea of how the color has changed.

Ticks – 0

Lanternflies – 0

Chiggers – 0

Blazes:

Hiked:  10/22/2022

Bear Mountain State Park – Bald Mountain, The Timp, Doodletown

Park Site

Trail Map – official, though I used the NY NJ Conference maps

Hike Distance – 6.73 miles

Trails – Cornell Mine (blue), Ramapo-Dunderberg (red dot on white), 1777 (white w/red 1777), 1777E (white w/red 1777E)

Mountains – Bald Mountain, The Timp

My Map:

It was a balmy 49 at the trailhead, with not may cars at the pullout on 9W.  By the time I got back he temperatures were in he middle 50s and the pullout was packed.  A perfect day.  I took off my fleece on the way up Bald Mountain, for the steep section, but I put it back on up top.  It was cold and and windy at the top.

The trail starts out paralleling the Doodletown Brook which had some nice cascades.  I went off trail once to get a picture, but you could hear the brook until the trail turned away.

After a short climb, and turn away from the brook, you can see the mountains (and the steep climb) in front of you.  Dunderberg is on your left, Bald is on your right.

The climb up to the top of Bald Mountain is steep.  Yes, there are switchbacks, but even the switchbacks are steep.  I stopped to take off the fleece because it was such a workout.  It’s not quite the climb as it was up the Devil’s Path to the top of Plateau Mountain, but there were some steep sections.  Once you get to the junction with the Ramapo-Dunderberg trail, the climbing is mostly done for the day.

The top of Bald Mountain had some great views.

Anthony’s Nose on the right.  Bear Mountain Bridge in the center.
Bear Mountain. Perkins Tower is on the left.
West Mountain
Common Dittany

The trail off Bald Mountain was pleasant.

I wasn’t planning on climbing the Timp, but when I looked at the map, I didn’t realize it was as close as it was.  And I wouldn’t have to climb much.  I called an audible and decided to go for it.  The Timp is in Harriman State Park, which is connected to Bear Mountain State Park.  It WAS a short trip.  And the elevation gain wasn’t that much.  But the views were fantastic.  Again, it was colder and windy, but so worth it.  I could see people at the West Mountain shelter across the valley.

West Mountain

I made my way back to the 1777 trail, which is the path the British took when they headed to Doodletown to attack Colonist forts during the Revolutionary War.  The path is wide most of the time, and becomes a paved road once you arrive at Doodletown.

You’ll know you have arrived at Doodletown when you reach this structure, left over from a church camp.

Fall is coming.

In the middle of Doodletown, I found one of the old cemeteries. It was very quiet and peaceful, with not a lot of light.  This particular cemetery is still used, there are stones with modern dates on them.  There are some stones that go back to the middle-1800s.

American Astors

This was probably my favorite non-Catskill hike of the year.  The views were great, the climb was not too long, the weather was perfect.  I’d definitely do this hike again.

Ticks – 0

Lanternflies – 0

Blazes

Hiked: 10/8/2022

Indian Head Wilderness – Mount Plateau

Park Site

Trail Map – official, I used the NY NJ Trail Conference, map 141

Hike Distance – 6.6 or 7.4

Trail – Devil’s Path (red)

Mountain – Plateau Mountain

My Map:

There will not be a lot of pictures for this one.  This was another great hike with the Monmouth County Park System.  There are not many pictures due to:  the quick pace that we moved at, and the unrelenting uphill for the first part of the hike.  In my map, we started at the upper left.  The first 1.3 miles was uphill at a steep grade.  You can see that in how many contour lines we crossed, and how close together those lines are.

I’ve listed two mileages for the hike distance.  According to the hike leader (and the NY/NJ Trail conference map, the route we hiked was 7.4 miles.  I added up all the distances listed and came up with 7.4 miles.  However, my GPS track showed 6.6 miles, and lines up with other sites on the internet, including this one (see the Notch Lake description.)  I get that different GPS apps can arrive at different totals.  But how can GPS differ so significantly from the maps?  Anyone with information, please leave an answer in the comments.  All summer I have been baking off AllTrails and Gaia and have seen wildly different results.

The first picture comes from the first viewpoint, Orchard Point, atop the brutal climb from Notch Lake and Devil’s Tombstone Campground.  That climb is STEEEEP and LOOOOONG.  It is well worth the rest at the viewpoint.  And for my money, this was the best view of the day.  After scrambling up the rock, or climbing around it, the view you will see looks off towards Hunter Mountain.  It’s my favorite as there is nothing but trees and mountains.

From here to the summit is a ridge walk.  There might be 100 feet in elevation gain for the next two plus miles.  A typical view looks like:

We stopped for lunch two tenths of a mile past the summit at an over look that looks at Sugarloaf Mountain.

After lunch, it was back on the ridge retracing our steps.

We got back to Orchard Point overlook and rested for a few minutes before we started that steep descent back down.

Here’s a picture of the rock at the overlook.  On the way up, I went around it, since there was a nice trail there.  Going down, I shimmied down the rock.  It was much easier down than up; and I suppose if you are taller, it might be easier going up.

Back at the parking lot I took a couple of shots of Notch Lake.

Ticks – 0

Lanternflies – 0

Blazes

Hiked: 9/24/2022

Harriman State Park – southwestern

Park Site

Trail map – official, I used map 118 from the NY NJ Trail Conference

Hike Distance – 9.05 Miles

Trails – Pine Meadow (red), Kakait (white), Raccon Brook Hills (black), Poached Egg (yellow), Hillburn-Torne-Sebago (orange), Seven Hills (blue)

My Map –

This is going to be more of a picture dump then anything else.

I started out on the Pine Meadow trail, which starts out nice and wide.  It parallels the Stony Brook.

Whorled Wood Astor
Violet Tooth Polypore

This was a neat rock formation, with lots of little caves.  I explored most of them.  The trail climbs up behind it, and then gets lost due to a big blowdown.  I had to check GPS to find where to go.

At the top of the Raccoon Brook Hills, there is a great 360 degree view.

What really amazed me on this hike are the amount of leaves that are down.  Some trails were completely covered.  And many trees have already changed colors.

There was one steep section to descend.  You can see the ladder in the middle of this picture.  The ladder is rotten, I didn’t even attempt it, I went around.

It was clear enough to get this picture.

I ended by climbing up to the Ramapo Torne, which had some incredible views.

Coming off the Torne, I took a route that was basically straight down for 500 feet or so.  Not recommended.  Up wouldn’t have been much of a problem.  Down was kind of sketchy.

Finishing up on the Seven Hills trail, the path became wide, almost woods road-like.

Blazes:

Hiked – 9/3/2022

 

Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve – North and South Mt. Beacon, Lambs Hill, Scofield Ridge

Park Site

Trail Map: official, I used the NY NJ Trail Conference map, number 102

Hike Distance: 7.89 Miles

Trails:  Casino (red), Breakneck Ridge (white), Wilkinson Memorial (yellow), Fishkill Ridge (White), Blue, Yellow

Mountains:  North Mt. Beacon, South Mt. Beacon, Lambs Hill

My Map:

Going to this trailhead reminded me of the numerous trips I used to take to visit my grandparents.  Most of the landmarks are still there.

I knew this would be a bigger hike, just planning it out.  The distance was in my wheelhouse, the three big climbs were what would make it more difficult.  I got to the parking lot at 8:30 and there were plenty of spots to park, which is always a good sign.  It was nice and sunny with temperatures in the middle 70s to start.

The plan was to climb North Mount Beacon, head over to South Mount Beacon, then walk Scofield Ridge to Lambs Hill and come back on the Fishkill Ridge trail.  It all went to plan.

The Casino trail heads out of the parking lot.  The trail is so named due to the old “casino” that used to be atop North Mt. Beacon.  There used to be an incline railway at this location, that took passengers to the Casino – which had food and a dance hall.  All structures are now gone, only a few landmarks exist.  Before heading up the mountain, you pass the lower station from the incline railway.

After a short walk on a wide flat path, you come to the stairs, which get you a good way up the mountain – certainly not all of it.

After the stairs, the trail is wide and flat.  And, with a number of switchbacks, gains a lot of elevation quickly.

I couldn’t believe what I saw (in spots,) some trees have already started changing colors.  Mostly, I saw yellow on Birches and some Maples.

The picture below is not of a trail.  It’s where people have started cutting the switchbacks.  I don’t get it.  The switchbacks make it easier to climb.  The picture is looking down.  What doesn’t come across is how steep it is.  I’m not sure I understand why you would want to take that “shortcut.”

After a little more uphill, there is a spur trail off to the right, which has a nice view, and a path to the remains of the machine house for the incline railway.

The view is looking west.

Above this are the remains of the machinery and housing for the upper portion of the incline railway.  An organization is looking to preserve what is left.

Following the Casino trail to the top of North Mount Beacon will lead you to where the Casino used to stand.  Crossing that location is a big viewpoint looking west.  It was clear enough to see the Shawangunks in the distance.

The hike to South Mount Beacon is not long, but does involve some uphill climbing.  You will pass a small spur trail on your left that goes to the true summit of North Mount Beacon.  On the way were more trees already changing color.

There is an unmarked turn that shaves some distance on the trip to the fire tower and top of South Mount Beacon.  I, obviously, missed it; and walked until I took the newer White Trail (the back portion of the Breakneck Ridge trail) to the top.  Climbing up behind the tower had a nice view looking south.

The top afforded 360 degrees worth of views, some of which are below.

The tower is always open, and I watched many people climb.  I did not.

The next part of the trip was along Scofield Ridge, which had some nice views looking off the ridge.

One particular rock outcropping had a nice view looking east and included the Beacon Reservoir.

Walking the ridge is quite pleasant and mostly flat.

There was one nice scramble just before some viewpoints.  This was pretty steep, but not long.  My bigger concern on scrambling up was that there could be snakes sunning themselves on the rocks.  Fortunately, none were to be seen.  Though, while on top of South Mount Beacon I talked with one group that seen a black rat snake.

After the following viewpoint, the trail descends off the ridge, which felt good.  Though, that meant there was a climb up Lambs Hill.  This viewpoint was nice – and is just off the trail at a hairpin turn.

A quick jaunt on the Blue trail (not named on the NY NJ Trail Conferences maps) takes you through a nice forest.

I am so not ready for this:

Nooooooooooo

The Blue trail ends at Dozer Junction.  Yes, that’s how it is named on the map.  The intersection is with the Fishkill Ridge trail.  How a bulldozer ended up here, I’ll never know, and don’t really want to speculate.

The Fishkill Ridge trail climbs Lambs Hill, and at this point I was getting tired.  There are two nice viewpoints at the top which I took advantage of to eat.  From there it was time to lose elevation.  And the trip down had some pretty tricky spots.  After a stream crossing, I took the Yellow trail back to the parking lot.  Unbelievably, I had to climb a bit to get back to the Casino trail that would lead to the car.  I wasn’t really taking any more pictures.

What the….?

Have I been teleported back to New Jersey?

Just as I was coming down the stairs and heading back to the car I started to hear rumbles of thunder.  I grabbed some food from across the street of the parking lot and sat on benches under some trees to eat, and the rain started coming down good.  People were flocking off the mountain, and I suspect some got really wet.

Ticks: 0

Spotted Lanternflies:  0

Blazes:

Hiked:  8/20/2022

Sterling Forest State Park – Bare Rocks Vista and the fire tower

[Yep, no Kiosk picture.]

Park Site

Trail Map – the park’s, I used the NY/NJ Trail conference map, and the ranger gave me one too

Hike Distance: 7.78 Miles

Trails:  Sterling Lake Loop (blue), Bare Rock (orange), Sterling Ridge (Highlands) (light blue/teal), Fire Tower (red, white bar), Fire Tower Connector (red triangle)

My Map:

This was interesting.  Saturday was my only day to go out over the three day weekend.  I left the house and it was sunny.  Half way up 287 it started raining, but I figured I was prepared, I wasn’t stopping now.  It stopped raining by the time I reached the parking lot which was nice, and hopefully a promising sign.  I stopped into the visitor’s center, looked around briefly, and talked with the ranger.  She gave me (another) map.  She also said rain was coming, and showed me the radar.  It appeared that in about three hours severe storms would be moving in.  I told her I planned to go to Bare Rock Vista, then swing around to the fire tower.  She shook her head and said I wouldn’t make the fire tower with the rain coming in.  Challenge accepted.  However, with rain in the forecast, I don’t mind amending my plan as long as a) it’s a safety issue, or b) I can still get mileage in.  I don’t like driving a long time for three miles…(cough cough, Great Swamp or Storm King.)

I took off on the Sterling Lake Loop trail, which is pretty flat and wide, and ultimately goes around Sterling Lake.  And it started sprinkling.  Not far into the trail, I noticed the junction of the Lakeville Ironworks trail (yellow with a pickax) and I could see ruins.  I went about 15 yards down the trail to see the remains of the iron furnace.  I figured I would do the whole trail on my way back as that’s where the history and ruins were.

Thank You

Here’s a shot of Sterling Lake, there is a trail next to the visitor’s center that heads out to the lake I planned on hiking at the end, when I got back.

There is a small road walk on the Sterling Lake Loop, which bypasses some ruins, and the other end of the Lakeville Ironworks trail.

I turned onto the Bare Rock trail and headed up.  There was torrential rain the day before and you could see where the water ran downhill.  The Bare Rock trail is almost all uphill at this point, with some sections that flatten out in pine groves.

Ragged Robin
Red Eft

After climbing about a half hour on the Bare Rock trail, I heard what sounded like wind.  Looking up, I did not see the leaves moving…it was rain, and it sounded hard.  So, while under the pine trees I broke out the rain jacket and the pack cover.  I wasn’t going to get wet again.  It must have poured really hard.  I could hear it, but the rain wasn’t reaching me.  After a few minutes I headed off, but really didn’t get wet.  The worst part was the mosquitoes, especially in the muddy areas.  At least the jacket covered my arms.

Mountain Laurel is just starting to bloom.

Eventually, I came to the spur trail to Bare Rock Vista, which has a gorgeous overlook of Greenwood Lake.  Take these next three pictures and stitch them one next to the other.

On the way back down it got real dark.  I tried to take a picture while in a pine grove, but the picture doesn’t really do it justice.  I seriously contemplated getting out my headlamp.

I got to the junction of the Sterling Ridge / Highlands Trail which I had passed on the way up.  The skies looked to be lightening a bit.  The ranger had said I would never make the fire tower with the rain coming in, but I looked, and it was less than a mile to the tower, then about a mile and change back to the visitor center.  I risked it.

As I started off, the rain seemed to be pushing off.  There’s a nice viewpoint overlooking Sterling Lake.

I went over something large, it wasn’t named on the map.  At the top was a grove of Pink Lady Slippers.

After seeing the flowers, I could start to see shadows; the sun was coming out.  Just barely.  I reached the fire tower shortly and grabbed some evidence for the ranger.

Sterling Lake Fire Tower

It was closed.  I wouldn’t have climbed it anyway.

On to my last two trails to the bottom.  Along the Fire Tower trail I started to run into a couple of small groups of hikers and thought, they were heading up at the right time….nice sun, the breeze was picking up pushing away the mosquitoes.

However, as I reached the Sterling Lake Loop trail, I decided to forgo the Lakeville Ironworks trail – there were just too many mosquitoes and I had had enough.  As I reached the Visitor Center, it was starting to rain, so I decided against the short trail to the lake.  As I got to my car, the rain was picking up.  And when I shut the car door to sit and have lunch, it absolutely poured.  I could barely see off the front of my car.  Had I decided on either of those two trails, I would have been (more) soaked.  And I thought of those people I saw on my way down that were just heading up.

As I drove home I saw massive lightning before I finally drove out of the storm.

I really liked Sterling Forest.  I will definitely go back as there are whole sections to hike.  I could re-do this hike too, as I’m sure it is even nicer without the rain.

Ticks: 0

Mosquitos:  5,123

Blazes:

Hiked:  5/28/2022

Hiked: 10/29/2022  (full loop, 8.3 miles)

Hudson Highland State Park Preserve – Mt. Taurus (Bull Hill Full Loop)

Park Site

Trail Map – Official, I used the NY NJ Trail Conference map, 102

Hike Distance – 6.3 miles

Mountain – Mt. Taurus

Trails – Washburn (White), Undercliff (Yellow), Notch (Blue), Brook (Red), Cornish (Blue)

My Map

A perfect day.  Sunny, with temperatures in the lower 60s.  My only concern driving up was that the parking lot would be full by the time I got there, always my fear of late.  I did not have to worry, when I pulled in at 8:20, there were still plenty of spots left.  There were, though, a lot of people there.  It wasn’t until I started up the trail that I learned that the Breakneck Point trail marathon was being run – so much for solitude on the trails.  Fortunately, I lost the runners after a while.  I’m not naive…this is a popular trailhead, it gets packed.  When I finished up, there were cars all over 9D.  And there were cars idling in the parking lot waiting for people to leave.  Two different cars followed me to my spot.

This hike starts by climbing straight up Mt. Taurus before leveling out at the top and then having one long climb down back to the car.  The Washburn trail starts off on a gravel road, and climbs, climbs, climbs, taking a short break at the quarry.  This picture doesn’t do it justice, the picture make it look almost flat.

When stopping at the quarry, I got the feeling I was standing in the Serengeti, if not for the sheer rock walls surrounding almost three sides.

The trail would wind around onto the shoulder of the quarry and had a couple of really scenic viewpoints – made better by the fabulous weather.  The last viewpoint before the climb up the face of Mt. Taurus is where I shed the fleece.

Cold Spring
West Point – across the river

For the early part of the trail, it’s hard to get lost.  In fact, your can’t really get off the trail.  The park service is working on reclaiming some of the habitats and has erected fences to keep people out of sensitive areas.

After a blistering climb to the junction with the Undercliff trail, I stopped for a rest to take a look at my map.  The map shows two viewpoints a short way down the Undercliff trail.  Of course you want to go to the viewpoints.

The picture above is from the first viewpoint.  I thought it was the second.  Had I walked another quarter mile or so, I would have found the second viewpoint.  Oh well, reason to come back.

Back to the Washburn trail, then basically straight up the face of Mt. Taurus.  There are a couple of minor rock scrambles, nothing too difficult.  Just before the summit, there a rock outcropping that affords near-360 degree views.  This view is just as impressive – and actually, since there is no real viewpoint from the actual top, makes for a great rest stop.

If you zoom in on the picture above, you can just barely make out New York City in the middle.  The city is much easier to see in person.

Walking across the top is quite peaceful (without a marathon being run.)

Just over the top is a small viewpoint with plenty of rocks to sit on and view facing north.  You can just make out the Newburgh Beacon bridge.

Heading down the backside you will encounter many switchbacks.  But the trail is wide, though very rocky.

Eventually the trail comes to an end and the Notch (blue) trail will go left with a green trail heading right.  I went left.  The Notch trail continues down as well, though there are more streams and I saw more signs of Spring.

Eastern Skunk Cabbage
Rue Anemone

At this point you are heading west, right towards Breakneck Ridge.

Garlic Mustard

The lower area of the Notch trail (and much of the Cornish trail) wander through lands that were originally built up by the Steins, then later bought by the Cornish family.  Many of the ruins still stand, and with many hikers finding them and exploring them an association has been created with an attempt to preserve them.  This site tells much of the restoration story.  It was pretty neat to walk around.

I first came upon some stables and an old barn-like building at the junction of the Notch and Brook trail.

Blue Violet

The Brook trail follows along Breakneck Brook, which has some really nice cascades.  I wasn’t on the trail long before turning onto the Cornish trail – and this trail will take you to the heart of the ruins.  If all you want to see is the ruins, take the Cornish trail from the parking lot – it will only be about a half mile or so to the ruins (and you won’t go over a mountain.)

First up is the pool (I think.)

Next is the greenhouse.

The ruins of the mansion are clearly visible from the trail.  And, you are able to walk around.  A great fire destroyed all of the wood from the mansion, but the stonework is still there.  There are interpretive signs about, with plenty of old pictures.

Finally, I walked up to a replica of the gazebo.

Japanese Pachysandra

On the way to the parking lot from the ruins on the Cornish trail are some sweeping views of the Hudson River and the mountains on the western side.

Storm King

The park is huge, I barely scratched the surface.  I know I have an upcoming trip to come back and climb around North and South Beacon mountains, and I look forward to that.  Make sure you come early to get parking.  You may want to check if there are any trail marathons taking place as well.

Ticks – 0

Blazes

Hiked: 4/30/2022

Bear Mountain State Park – Popolopen Torne

Park Site

Trail Map – official, though I followed along using the NY/NJ Trail Conference map 119

Hike Distance – 6.6 Miles (5.5 on trails, 1.1 around Fort Montgomery)

Trails – Timp-Torne (blue), 1777W, 1779, Popolopen Gorge (red)

Mountain – Popolopen Torne

My Map:

Another great hike with Andrew and John and the Monmouth County Park System.  On a mostly cloudy day with temperatures in the middle 40s, we took the shuttle up to Fort Montgomery Historic site in order to climb Popolopen Torne and hike through Popolopen Gorge.  Unfortunately the historic site parking lot was closed, and we drove almost a third of a mile north to the hiker parking lot where we were one of the first cars.

After gearing up, we started on the combined Timp-Torne 1777W 1779 trail.  The 1777W and 1779 trails follow the routes that both the British and the American troops used during the Revolutionary War.  Specifically, the 1777W trail follows the route taken by British troops under the command of General Clinton.  The 1779 trail follows the route taken by American  forces led by General Anthony Wayne.

Our path was nice with a gentle rise along most of the way.  Parts of the path were more a woods road following the aqueduct, with Popolopen Creek to the left.  Eventually we arrived at Brooks Lake.

Brooks Lake
Christmas Ferns
Garlic Mustard

The trail pops out onto the paved road a couple of times, but is not hard to follow.  When you get to the Camp Shea Road parking lot, things will really start to rise.  I took off my wool hat and gloves at this point as I knew we were to start climbing.

There were these ominous carved figureheads along the road, just before we turned into the woods for good.

And up we went.  It was pretty strenuous, over leaf-strewn rocks all the way up.  We stopped at a great viewpoint a little below the summit.

Looking left:

And looking right:

Very few leaves at this point.  Most were on the ground.

From here it would be a few minutes to the summit.

The summit is one big bald rock.  From the trail we were on, there were two rock faces that someone had hooked up ropes to assist climbers.  I found the first rope necessary.  The second rope was a nice luxury.  Here’s a shot of the group at the second rope.

Yes, it’s pretty steep.

Needle Ice

Once up, it was a nice walk along the ridge to the summit.  Fortunately, the wind was not blowing, or it might have been a bit dicey.

Once upon the top, the views are are 360 degrees.  When you look west, you see West Point.

And south-easterly looks at Anthony’s Nose, the Bear Mountain Bridge, and Bear Mountain.

At the actual top is a monument to the fallen, those serving overseas, and to 9/11.  There are rocks, painted bricks, ammo cans commemorating many; with a large POW and American Flag.

Because it was early, we only stayed for a short snack, then descended the other side of the Torne.  This path was markedly steeper.  (Personally, I would rather climb this section then descend it.  It was fun no matter what.)  Here are some shots looking back up after I had descended.  The pictures don’t do the steepness justice.  To get an idea, look at the angle of the trees compared to the rocks.  (The steepness is more noticeable in second picture.)  You can see the blue blazes to follow.

We followed the Timp-Torn trail as it crossed over Popolopen Creek.

Eventually, we turned left onto the Popolopen Gorge trail which parallels Popolopen Creek.  There were many views of the Torne, this picture gives you an idea of what we climbed and came down.

The Popolopen Gorge trail is relatively flat, and while it parallels the Creek, also parallels Route 6, so there will be some road noise here.  We stopped right by the creek for lunch with the only sound of rushing water.

After lunch it was a short(ish) walk out.

However, we came across a group that had strung up high wires over the gorge and were crossing at various locations.  Of course we stopped to watch, and it was pretty neat to see.  There is NO WAY I would have gone out on those wires.  Not a chance.  You could see this activity well from the trail, and in one section the trail came right up to one of the sections they staged their gear.  In most of my pictures the people on the wires are obscured by the branches.  Look closely in the following picture to get an idea of what was going on.

We finished the trail and headed over to Fort Montgomery where we walked around for a bit looking at the foundations of old buildings, redoubts, and gardens.  We took a small walk to the Popolopen Creek pedestrian suspension bridge, which was really neat to walk.  On the other side were some great mushrooms.

The trail, though, continued to Bear Mountain, and we were not going to attempt that.

Monmouth County Park System, and Andrew and John, put on a great hike.  I look forward to other hikes with the group in the future.

Ticks: 0

Blazes:

Hiked: 12/4/2021

Storm King State Park – Butter Hill and Storm King Mountain

Park Site

Trail Map – though I used these, highly recommended

Hike Distance: 2.44 miles

Mountains:  Butter Hill, Storm King

Trails:  Butter Hill (orange), Stillman, (yellow – Highlands trail follows this), Bypass (white)

My Map:

Note:  I would call this the Mt. Tammany of New York.  This is a good workout, with some early scrambling, and some amazing views.  It’s not a long hike, clocking in at 2.44 miles, with a long descent after the view.  My only drawback is the length, I would have loved to have done more, and maybe with a little more planning, I could have found a connector to extend the trip.

That said, I had a gorgeous day to hike; though it started out cloudy.  The temperatures were in the upper 70s to start, and by the time I finished they were in the upper 80s.  I got up extra early because I feared not getting a parking space – and after my drive, I found that I didn’t have to worry.  There were plenty of spaces upon my arrival.  Even when I finished, about two and half hours later, there were still spaces.  Though, the lot was mostly full.

To start this hike, you climb Butter Hill, which also happens to be the highest elevation.  Right after your first ascent, you are greeted with:

Oh good morning….

That wasn’t too bad, though a good workout.  Right off the bat I was presented with a view looking west off Butter Hill.

Feel free to catch your breath here, because the next section is:

It’s too early for this

Two big scrambles and I wasn’t at the top of Butter Hill yet.  However, it was less than a half hour’s climb.

After the first two scrambles I came to some ruins.

Before the final ascent of Butter Hill I saw some small Striped Maple growing.  I would find this all over the park (at least on Butter Hill) including some big groves.

The beginning of the final scramble to the top:

With some great views:

There’s a large rock on top of Butter Hill, and a marker so you know you found it.

From the top of Butter Hill it is a nice walk to the eastern face (and viewpoint) of Storm King.  The walking is pleasant, on mostly soft trails with plenty of rocks sprinkled in so that you pay attention.

Striped Maple grove

I passed a couple of viewpoints that were partially obscured by foliage, but eventually came to THE viewpoint.

There were a couple of other people sitting here, but you could tell this spot gets very crowded.  It’s easy to see why.  That’s the Beacon bridge in the top of the picture and that is Pollepel Island (with Bannerman’s Castle) in the middle.  I sat here a while just to take it all in.  In fact, I had lunch, though it was only 9:30.

Bannerman’s Castle

It felt noticeably warmer, and with the sun coming out, I figured I would descend before the crowds started to arrive.

Cyprus Spurge

I took the Bypass down, and right at the junction of the Bypass and Stillman, there is a great view south.

The walk down was fairly straight forward on a wide rocky trail.

Violets
Greater Calendine

When I got back to my car, I couldn’t believe how early it was.  Though, this was a great hike, and on a great day to boot.  The trails were all well marked and are easy to follow.

I couldn’t believe I was on top of these rocks two hours ago.

Ticks: 0

Blazes:

Hiked:  5/22/2021