Sunday, January 04, 2009

Back to Sam's Point

The last time that I went hiking at Sam's Point Preserve, a smallish, private nature preserve just south of the Shawangunks in Southern New York, it was mid-October and fall was in its full glory. A few months have made quite a difference, as these days the preserve is blanketed with a moderate dusting of snow, Lake Maratanza is frozen over and three quarters of the trails, including the one out to Verkeerdeer Kill falls, are closed due to hazardous conditions. Most importantly, the ice caves were closed because of hazardous trail conditions caused by too much ice ... I know, I know, with ice caves one would expect a lot of ice. It did not make much sense to me either.It was also a major disappointment to both Cheo and myself, as we had gotten out here pretty early so that we could spend the day playing in the ice cave and tromping around in windy, sub-twenty weather. However, we were quickly heartened when the staffer went on to say that even though the trails were closed, people were still hiking them ... so we quickly went back to the van, got dressed for the cold, and hiked the mile up to the central ridge and down towards the ice caves. Once onto the ice cave trail, we quickly discovered why the trail was closed ... the ice covering the steps was so thick that I don't think we could have gotten down it even with crampons. Fortunately, we had been here before, so after a bit of exploring we found our way down to the back of the caves and got in and around them. A few sections of the inside of the caves were intermittently lit by some flickering lights, but generally the caves were dark, quiet and covered in ice. The other end of the caves led us out to a series of really amazing winter constructions, huge icicles and ice falls and a beautiful wintry landscape. We spent serveral hours running around the snowscape, gawking at huge icicles and icefalls as we made our way back along the path to where we started, eventually running into the same mass of ice that kept us from coming down the front section of the trail.

Unable to get up through this massive ice fall, we returned through the cave and made our way back up to the trail and then out to Lake Maratanza. Cheo had guessed the lake would be frozen, but I thought not, as the lake is a pretty good-sized body of water. As you saw above, I was entirely wrong, and when we reached the lake we saw that there was in fact frozen, windblown snow atop hundreds of bright orange rocks fixed halfway into the frozen tributaries of the lake, making an otherworldly landscape. This was the windiest place we spent any time, taking pictures and wandering out onto the icy edges of the lake and the other frozen areas around the lake. It was really beautiful, and again reminded me why I really enjoy being on the East Coast in the winter despite the hassle and bad weather.

After hanging around the lake for a while, we walked back to the overlook above the visitors center, took in the gorgeous vista around the preserve, and I, being less used to winter landsacapes, commented on how the winter managed to make this very small preserve seem like an entirely separate place from the park we had visited two months before. Then, cold and happy, we made our way back down to the car and headed back to New York so that I could get into the city to have dinner with Aviva and Erez in Manhattan.

Directions - I gave directions to Sam's Point Preserve in the last post I wrote about going there, but since then I have discovered a much faster way to go. To get there from New York City, take I-87 north and cross the Tappan Zee bridge, then continue on to exit 17. Get off at exit 17 and take route 300 north to highway 52. Take highway 52 west for a while, going through Walden and eventually the tiny town of Walker Valley, before turning right on Cragsmoor road and following the signs to Sam's Point Preserve.

Update - Though my camera no longer has the capacity to take videos (such are the things you sacrifice to go to a digital SLR), Cheo was able to make this short video of us taking pictures on Lake Maratanza.

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