Monday, May 19, 2008

Up Around Bear Mountain

So last weekend, Aviva and I picked up some of our friends and headed out of the quality time in the woods. Aviva picked up Jess andcity for some Sharon at the E. 180th street station while I drove up into Eastchester and picked up Cheo and Daniel. We all met up on Seven Lakes Drive, just off exit 19 on the Palisades Parkway. The Parkway, winding up through northern Jersey and paralleling 87 through southern New York, is incredibly green this time of year, and was a pleasure just to get to the park.

Cheo, Daniel and I arrived first, about fifteen minutes before the girls got there. The parking area was muddy but reasonable, and the surrounding forest was extremely lush. By the time the girls showed up I had put my boots on and packed everything up and even though the day was a bit grey and cloudy and the weather report said it might rain, we decided to chance the weather. We headed off soon after they arrived. We were planning on hiking the Doodletown Loop, but we actually started off in the wrong direction so in the end we an extra bit of the 1777 and Timp-Thorne trails first.

We finally picked up the part of the loop that is part of the AT and hiked about 2 or 3 miles, climbing West Mountain before reaching the West Mountain Shelter. Most of this section of the trail was up along a ridge, providing incredible views of the both sides of the valley and the hudson river in the distance. Before we switched trails we stopped for lunch and spent a some time eating lunch and absorbing the views, it was truly spectacular.

As we finished lunch it began to drizzle so we started to move a little more quickly, fearing that it would begin to rain harder. The rain did let up a bit, just long enough for us to turn away from a shorter trail so we continued along to the Suffern-Bear Mountain trail, which split off just after the shelter. This part of the trail was very up and down, with a lot of rocky drops and some good scrambling. With the wetness and the slight background noise from the rain, it felt very remote and wild, but still quite safe. We saw a number of salamanders and a frog, all of which blended in with the ground very well. We passed a few small waterfalls as we walked along the trail, giving the area a sense of wild beauty. As the rain let up, the light, soft drizzle, the intense color of the forest and the bright grey sky combined to make the whole area seem like it was a bit thick and glowing green.

The hike ended soon after this, with the us switching back onto the 1777 trail to finish the hike on the trail we were supposed to start on. By the time we got out of the forest the rain had let up almost completely, and everyone was grinning with the beauty of the hike. We capped off a great day by dragging our way through some terrible traffic on NY-87 to stop at Stew Leonards for some incredible ice cream ... fabulous day ...

To get to this hike from New York city, take the Tappan Zee bridge to the New York Thruway (87 West). Get off the Thruway at exit 13N, Palisades Parkway, and follow the parkway to exit 19, Seven Lakes Parkway. Drive up about 1/2 mile and park in the small parking area on the right ...

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