Sunday, October 05, 2008

Hiking at Sam's Point

So its been a while since I had a chance to get out of the city an explore the wilderness that makes up a good part of this state, so last Saturday I picked up Cheo and we headed up to the Shawnagunks to explore a small preserve just south of the main ridge named Sam's point. I always like to get out of the city a couple of times during the fall to catch the leaves changing, it is probably the best thing about having seasons. As you can see in the pictures on the left and right, this trip certainly did not disappoint. It took about two hours to get up there due to some unfortunate traffic, but who knew that the New Paltz apple festival was ... well, who knew New Paltz even had an apple festival?

After we parked, got our boots on and headed out, but because the incredibly poor signage and the fact that the terrible signage had arrows pointing the wrong direction, we immeadiately took the wrong trail. Still, this trail walked us up through a dense forest where the leaves were just beginning to change, and onto a large plateau covered with dense, red manzanita and dwarf pines. It had been raining when we left in the morning, but the sky was clear at this point, with small groups of white clouds highlighting the gorgeous blue.

Although we had an inkling that we were not on the correct trail when Lake Maratanza appeared on the wrong side of the trail, the constant stream of bonneted women passing us assured us that we were in fact going the right way. We spent a few minutes on the lake shore, enjoying the contrast between the pristine blue of the sky with the darker lake and the green and brown shoreline. Only later in the day, when we ran into a couple with an actual map (who had make the same mistake we did) did we realize that our map simply did not show the trail we were on, clearing up our confusion while at the same time explaining how we had gotten so turned around.

None of this really mattered though, as the preserve was really beautiful, with leaves changing throughout the lower forest and huge stretches of red manzanita highlighting the amazing views we were getting from on top of the ridge. We trekked around the lake and down into the forest, explored an ice cave (okay, really just a cave with ladders and bridges and lights, but in the winter I am sure there is a lot of ice) and finally found the right trail and headed down through the lower forest again until we got to Verkeeder Falls. The falls, a gorgeous 75 foot fan, tumbles in a single stream over a V-shaped rock wall at the base of a massive green valley, which had just started to dot with red as a few of the leaves changed. We spent about half an hour here, running between various overhangs to get the best possible view of the falls, then hightailed back out to get back to the car before it got dark.

Even though we did not get the distance we wanted, we saw caves and lakes and a waterfall and a ton of amazing scenery, overall a spectacular hike and well worth the trip.

Directions : To get to Sam's point from NYC, cross the Tappan Zee bridge and drive north up I-87 to exit 18. Head west through New Paltz, cross the bridge over the Wallkill river and turn left at Libertyville Road (CR 7). Go 15.5 miles (which is a longer way than you think) until you hit NY 52, and then turn right. Drive 6 miles on NY 52, then turn right on Cragsmoor road and stay to the right at each split as you follow the signs to Sam's point preserve. The parking lot charges a 7$ fee, but you can park just outside the lot for free.

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