Appalachian Trail – NY Section 10 (Part 2) and Timp-Torne Ramble

Stone work on Bear Mtn

Stone work on Bear Mtn

Last weekend was the first time Fielden Stream and I were on the trail together, or hiking together for that matter, since we began this section with our final hike of 2015. We were proud to have not only finished the last section of trail in Connecticut last year, but also covered 53 miles of the trail in New York — from the northern boundary at the Connecticut state line to Bear Mountain. And so Bear Mountain was where we did our first hike this past weekend, to continue our trek across the New York A.T.

We celebrated that final trail night of 2015 at the Inn as it was her birthday, and did so this past weekend as well to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Our next hike together will be in about six weeks, when we finally finish section 10, and spend our first night of the season in our tent.

Views to West and Dunderberg Mountains

Views to West and Dunderberg Mountains

At over 14 miles, this section is at least twice as long as most of the New York sections and with everything we have going on at any one time right now, we’re lucky when we can get away for more than two days / one night of hiking. Regardless, it was a joy to be out there again together, passing white blazes in tandem for the first time in six months. As I’m sure you know, in between and nearly every weekend, I’ve been hiking — either solo as an AMC volunteer on the Connecticut section or other local trails, or on group outings. But these hikes together are extremely special to us and this was no exception. And I have more day hikes and volunteering in Connecticut to do to keep me busy until our overnight in April.

Moonscape on Bear Mountain

Moonscape on Bear Mountain

If you’re reading this regularly you may also recall that our first section hike together ever was in the fall of 2013 up the impressively steep Major Welch trail (once the A.T.) on the north face of Bear, and down the A.T. from the summit to the Inn. So this time we just needed to out-and-back up the south side of the mountain to connect the dots from our final section of 2015 this past October. We did the hike today northbound up, and southbound down.

Hiker humor

Hiker humor (not ours)

I was eager to see all the incredible new rock work volunteers had done on this section over the last few seasons, which was showcased with a ribbon-cutting last fall. We parked at the hiker lot just off of Seven Lakes drive, nestled in the gap between Bear and West mountains. It was a relief to start on a Friday vs a Saturday, as I didn’t stress over the parking being full by the time we got there. It’s about an hour drive from home, and we were waiting to leave until the end of the morning rush hour, to avoid turning it into a two-hour drive. Only once have we gotten to a lot and found it full, but it provided enough anxiety that I decided starting on a workday to have less crowded lots and trails was worth the vacation time.

Shortly after leaving the parking lot on the historic 1777 trail, it joined the A.T. and we headed north through one of many groves of mountain laurel. Soon after, the 1777 trail split off on its path down the old Doodletown road and the northbound A.T. crossed 7 Lakes Drive headed for the summit. Almost immediately we were treated to displays of fine stone work and even rebar handholds as the new trail wound up the hill through glacial erratics and over terraced stone slabs.

Linus & FIelden Stream with Northern View from Major Welch/A.T.

Linus & FIelden Stream with Northern View from Major Welch/A.T. intersection

After ascending the first crest we were treated to a symphony of (mating?) frogs in a pond nestled in a rocky valley, with the sounds of croaking filling the air. Unfortunately, despite two attempts to capture the audio, my GoPro’s lackluster microphone did not capture it and I wish I had just taken the second video with my iPhone. Audio is not something the GoPro excels at… but I use it for our video channel. Check out the ‘links’ section. So far we have made a video for Connecticut, though I didn’t get the GoPro until we were almost finished with that state so most of that video is stills. My son “Jiffy Pop” made the music in Garageband; it’s cool stuff. I’ve been working on and adding to the New York video as we go, and since we plan to finish the state by fall I will put up the New York video before the end of the year.

Vintage inscription on summit of Bear

Vintage inscription on summit of Bear

The trail then crossed Perkins Memorial Drive, the seasonal road that takes tourists to the top of the mountain the easy way, and then heads along an old unused portion of the road that was decades old. It was lined with impressive stone buttresses that were holding up the rock cliffs overhanging the roadway. Clearly, these were not preventing enough of the higher loose rock and debris from sliding into the road, and hence they took it out of service. That’s our guess anyway. A short distance past these, the trail ascended more well-hewn rock stairs up that rock face until leveling out and following the tops of those rocky ledges to a wide open vista facing southwest. Here there is also a short blue-blazed trail that follows these ledges a bit farther out to a view point on the western shoulder of the mountain. On our return I did explore about three quarters of the way out while Fielden took a break. We took a quick snack break here on the way up as well.

Fielden Stream at the Perkins Tower

Fielden Stream at the Perkins Tower

We then followed the western ridges of Bear through some more laurel groves and past the blue-blazed summit shortcut we would take back. About half a mile later the A.T. runs concurrently with the steep Major Welch trail, with its sweeping views north up the Hudson to Storm King and beyond. We reminisced about our first big hike here together and took some photos. The combined trails traverse the summit to the Perkins tower. There is also a large handicapped-accessible loop around the top of the mountain here for those who drive up and want to experience some of the views but have limited mobility.

End of the Major Welch

End of the Major Welch

We had a nice snack and took in the views once again at the top. We were expecting the tower, the vending machines, and at the very least the restrooms to be open, but none of them were. I guess it makes sense since the road was closed at this time. But, it was a bummer. We took some more pictures, had lunch and observed the interesting mix of those who had also ventured up the mountain in various ways, including a small lapdog. It seems somewhere in the area you can rent a powered bicycle and ride it up the Perkins drive. We saw only one pair of backpackers this Friday morning, though we did see many heading out the next morning from the parking lot at the inn, as it was a Saturday.

CIty skyline close up

CIty skyline close up

We headed for the shortcut on the other side of the tower and headed back down the mountain to the car. It was a clear, warm and beautiful day and we were elated. We had a nice dinner down the road in Tomkins Cove, passing two or three other trailheads in the park on the way. The next morning we headed for those trailheads, which turned out to be for the 28-mile long Ramapo-Dunderberg trail as well as the beginning of the Timp-Torne trail, which also crosses the park, and ascends many summits. I hiked on both of these on my solo hike last summer.

Stone buttresses

Stone buttresses

We started on the merged trails from the lot and it ascended quickly and steeply. There were no stairs here to speak of. Just rough, steep trail. We split off on the Timp-Torne at the junction and it continued to rise and skirt the ledges, providing a challenging and exciting hike. We had just a few hours before we had to head back, so we climbed about a mile and a quarter up the mountain before taking a short break by a brook and headed back down. There were some really interesting features on this trail.

Fielden Stream making the steep climb up Dunderberg Mountain

Fielden Stream making the steep climb up Dunderberg Mountain

Along the road at the start was a tunnel from the abandoned Dunderberg Spiral Railway, and about 700ft up the mountainside was a graded path and a large cave-like opening in the rock. It looks like it was originally intended to be another tunnel, for this path, but they only blasted on one side before giving up. Seeing as how it was filled with water when we saw it, perhaps that was a problem at the time as well. So the graded trail skirted instead around this rock wall on an equally wide man-made path along the ledges. There was also an unblazed, unmaintained trail called the Jones trail that once led steeply up from the road and crossed the Timp-Torne trail near our turnaround point and continued up to the top along the Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail. I am guessing this was an old route for getting supplies up to this point. I will definitely look into it more.

Abandoned tunnel on Timp-Torne Trail

Abandoned tunnel on Timp-Torne Trail

On another occasion I will come back here and complete the climb over Dunderberg and Bald Mountains, perhaps spending another night at West Mountain with its glorious views to New York City. The only negative to this hike is the sweeping views to Indian Point energy center and it’s smokestacks and loud announcements. I couldn’t make out the words so I kept joking that they were paging Homer Simpson to wake him up from a donut-induced nap.

Bear Mountain and Harriman State Parks offer a lot of challenging, scenic, and varying terrain with hundreds of miles of trails and beautiful lakes. All of those make it a popular spot to come back to repeatedly. And I look forward to returning next month with Fielden Stream as we continue on our Appalachian Trail adventures. This weekend i will be joining my AMC club on one of their two Ives trail hikes in Connecticut, to finally complete that entire trail.

A.T. hike miles: 4.75

Timp-Torne hike miles: 2.6

Snake sightings: 1

Bear sightings: 0

— Linus

 

Appalachian Trail – NY Section 9

Lunch at Appalachian Market

Lunch at Appalachian Market

Where are all the owls? Several more nights on the trail later and still not a hoot. I’m no owl expert but that seems a little odd. Plus, I miss their songs at night. Crickets are great and all. But no coyotes lately either. I fear our planet continues to change for the worse, to the detriment of all its creatures.

Last weekend we finally made it across the mighty Hudson and to the newly-renovated Bear Mountain Inn where we planned to celebrate our second night on the trail in a lovely room on the occasion of Fielden Stream’s birthday!

We’ve done the section of Trail from the top down to the Inn so our goal was really to just make it to the Inn before the end of the season and anything more than that was just a bonus. We’ve now got only 28.8 miles left of trail in NY and about 60 in the state since April that we’ve traveled! This section also had some bigger ups and downs than we’d done in a while so it definitely got the heart rate up, but with views to match the effort.

Prepared for rain!

Prepared for rain!

The weather forecast was originally quite grim, with a hurricane potentially bearing down on us. But fortunately it moved east over the sea and took all the crappy weather with it. While it was still raining as we arrived at the trailhead the forecast at this point was for it to end by midday, and that it did. We were properly decked out in our rain gear and had our pack covers on, but as we enjoyed a quick lunch at the hiker-friendly Appalachian Market on Rt 9, it stopped raining and within the first mile we shed our rain gear. That’s definitely appreciated when doing a big climb like this one started with, as one tends to perspire more in rain gear and slippery rocks are a lot less fun.

Day 1 took us over a peak called White Rock and another called Canada Hill before crossing a mountain road and a well-flowing brook, slightly brown in color, just before our campsite. Turns out that brook is called Copper Mine brook, which would explain it. So many of the water sources were dry this summer so it was nice to see one that was flowing and reliable, even if it’s a quarter mile downhill of our campsite. Could be worse…

A-frame tarp shelter

A-frame tarp shelter

We had our first somewhat limited but not overgrown view of the Hudson, which brought us a thrill. Coming down Canada Hill the descent was on the steeper side, with a few of those steep wet rock surfaces that were not that much fun going downhill either. We also heard gunfire but this is not surprising as we were approaching the northern boundary of Camp Smith, a National Guard training camp. The camp has its own hiking trail which we would utilize partially for the climb up Anthony’s nose, which the A.T otherwise only skirts the side of.

Our campsite, Hemlock Springs, was a rather primitive one adjacent to a former military road that eventually leads (or lead) to the training camp. For .2 miles the road coincides with the AT and then later parallels it for a bit longer. There’s not much forest separating the trail from the campsite or road so you see hikers going by, and there’s an area right along the trail where it leaves the road that they ask you NOT to camp at, but its perfectly flat, on a ridge, and there is clear evidence that people have been. Though it looks like someone’s been scattering the fire rings there so I guess no means no here.

Looking north - Camp Smith Trail

Looking north – Camp Smith Trail

There is no privy here or shelter but this spot would be perfect for one of those and the spot we camped at would have accommodated a shelter as well. The old road past the campsite makes for an easy route down to the brook if it is necessary for water or should weather become severe or someone get injured. Its likely the proximity to the main road and a military property is why there is neither. Clearly the parking and easy access at the bottom of this section of road also makes it easy to party at and broken glass shards were scattered about the fire rings. Why must people be such idiots.

Anthony's Nose vista, Camp Smith Trail

Anthony’s Nose vista, Camp Smith Trail

But we had a great time at the campsite, which we had all to ourselves. A few section hikers did pass by but none were staying the night so we picked our top choice of the camping spots, which ended up being the one right by the campsite water source. That water source would be great if we weren’t in practically a drought for 8 weeks this past summer. It amounted to a puddle and a trickle, but that’s okay cause we were in good shape having brought extra water, didn’t have long miles, and oh yeah that brook down the road.

Crossing the Hudson

Crossing the Hudson

We set up our tarp in an A-frame pitch this time as there was no strong rain coming back or much wind to speak of so we just wanted another place to take shelter should it quickly sprinkle again. We set up some rocks around the stakes where needed as those lines we seemed to keep wanting to trip over. Yesterday at REI I bought some reflective line to employ in the future since it works so great on our tent and MSR groundhog stakes. Two stakes short for this pitch, I used rocks to weigh down the mid lines which also gave them a bit of flex if a gust did come along. And the final piece of the setup were our trekking poles which raised up the corners to a perfect height.

The biggest challenges at camp were getting the fire going since all the wood was still wet and my new sleeping pad confirming its failure on an unseasonably cold night. We did employ some drier lint for starting the fire, but that was no match for the wet wood and so another trick I learned – the hand sanitizer trick, brought success after much persistence. It is essentially the same as what you find in a sterno — gelled alcohol, and is quite flammable. We always have extra on hand for bathroom visits. I could see my breath on a later pee-break so a fire was a good thing. So much for a low of 49! I know temps are different in the mountains but we were only 500 ft up. I blame the closeness to the river.

End of section 9 - Historic!

End of section 9 – Historic!

Clearly it was sub-40, and my pad was indeed defective or damaged after the last overnight when it failed. I just wanted to confirm on this visit, and did. But this sucked because I was essentially sleeping on cold ground and if not for the fact that I brought my winter bag, fleece and base layers, I’d be miserable. Even with them it was still pretty cold. As much as I wanted to love that pad, I returned it when I was at REI yesterday and bought a foam one like Jiffy Pop has. I doubt it will be as comfortable, but it wont deflate!

We enjoyed our dinner under the tarp and got to bed after the fire went out. We went to sleep to train sounds from the nearby metro-north and the CSX train across the river that I heard all night on West Mountain a month ago on my solo trip.

A 2,000 mile-plus trail?

A 2,000 mile-plus trail?

The next morning the trail put us right to work with a steep down and then an even steeper up back to a point just a few feet shy of the old road again — which took a much gentler route up the mountainside. If I wasn’t such a purist for every step of trail, I’d have had us follow the road up farther to get back on the A.T here!

The trail continued to climb mercilessly up a challenging but fun scramble to additional views of the Hudson and then followed another old jeep road. The sky was clearing and warming, and soon we came to the intersection of the Camp smith trail, with the A.T turning to descend.  This side trip is more than worth it, with several sweeping lookouts over the Hudson. It eventually turns back into a more rugged and steep traditional trail down to the camp on the other side of the mountain. But that is after the summit views we were seeking. And, a wrong turn if proceeding down that trail can land in you in trouble for trespassing.

Finally a bear!

Finally a bear!

We were first treated to views north to West Point, Storm King and Gertrude’s Nose upriver. And then to the view atop Anthony’s Nose, down to the Bear Mountain bridge and the Inn at the foot of Bear, with most of the lower Hudson valley laid out before you in glorious fashion. I could see every mountain I had traversed on my solo trip as well as much more of Harriman and Bear mountain state parks, Fort Montgomery, Iona Island, and our friend the 100-car-long noisy CSX train. Also atop Anthony’s Nose is a military memorial with an American flag and beneath it a P.O.W flag, some P.O.W bracelets for soldiers missing in action, and a memorial stone at the base for a soldier killed in 2013. Very moving. I believe there is another further up at the top of Breakneck Ridge, though I am less clear on the connection there since this one is on an actual military camp trail.

Tough truth

Tough truth

We met a nice local hiker who snapped some photos for us and then suddenly the peak the 3 of us had to ourselves was inundated with day hikers that all arrived at once. So we made our way back from our snack spot to retrieve our packs from the rocks above and headed off to finish the hike and relax over some cold ciders at the Inn and begin the celebrations.

After the steep knee-hating descent down the A.T. from the Camp Smith trail and the bridge crossing, we strolled through the trailside museum and zoo, swearing to come back and enjoy it in more detail when we didn’t have large packs on our backs and little energy. But we made sure to visit the coyotes and of course, the bears. Our first on the trail! (the joke of many a thru-hiker who miraculously didn’t encounter any in Shenandoah or New Jersey!)

White Blaze on the playground

White Blaze on the playground

The bear den is also the lowest point on the whole A.T at 124 ft.  We got a few choice looks from tourists visiting the zoo, who apparently didn’t bother to read the multiple signs all along the path about the A.T. and how it goes right through the zoo and got started here. One older gentleman in a blazer and cravat gave me a rather puzzled look – perhaps wondering why anyone in their right mind would want to carry all their things on their back for days or more on end, or dress the way we were dressed in public!

This section officially ends at the western end of the Bridge so the trip through the zoo and the path up past the Inn are part of section 10, as is the ascent up to the summit which as I’ve mentioned we’ve already done. And I’ll probably mention this again when we complete and write about section 10, cause I’m so anal about these things!

Bear Mtn Inn with Anthony's Nose in distance

Bear Mtn Inn with Anthony’s Nose in distance

We had a great time at the Inn, with a marvelous dinner and shrinking crowds, as everyone was heading home from hikes and Oktoberfest by midday for their lives and jobs in the city. So we got to enjoy a quiet Sunday night. My only complaint about the stay at the Inn is that it didn’t have a fireplace going that night, and the ones in the rooms were those fake electric ones that don’t even put out heat.

 

Old Doodletown

Old Doodletown

The next morning I also did a nice 3.5-mile loop-hike of the Bear Mountain-Suffern, Doodletown Bridal Path and 1777 trails while Fielden was being treated to a birthday massage. A steep initial climb halfway up Bear Mountain started the hike but then it was a beautiful stroll through the old roads of this once-active mountainside community. There are old foundations of the homes to see though I didn’t manage to see them all this time around. To return to the Inn I took the 1777 trail, which traces the route of British troops on their way to storm forts Clinton and Montgomery that year.

This may be the end of our overnight season, but let’s hope for an Indian summer. If it is the end of the overnight season, we accomplished our goal, and there will be day hikes for sure!

Next weekend I’m volunteering to help re-blaze a portion of the Connecticut A.T. with my local AMC chapter and then enjoying their BBQ for A.T. day. I can’t wait!

— Linus