Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Castles In New York

So it has been raining an awful lot recently, but one needs to get outside, rain be damned, so last Sunday, despite an inauspicious start to the day, Aviva and I drove up to Eastchester, met up with Cheo and his son Danny, and then grabbed Joy in Garrison on our way to a hike in the Castle Rock unique area nearby. Castle Rock was originally built as an estate for central railroad president William Osborne, and is currently the center of the Castle Rock Unique Area (also known as Osborne Castle) basically a park with a funny name. The area is beautiful right now, very green and lush, like many of the hiking areas around the Hudson valley we have been to recently. I think that one of my favorite things about nature in New York is that going back to the same places at different times of year can yield incredibly varied landscapes and experiences ... yup, I like seasons ...

Anyway, the hike was supposed to be about 6.5 miles but ended up being more like 4 or 5 due to numerous stops to take pictures, gawk at the deer or large snakes or the many small ponds, eat lunch overlooking the hudson and bear mountain bridges, play with the dogs frolicking in Lake (more like a pond) Elizabeth and get lost a couple of different times. And to worry about ticks. A lot. We must have run into four or five different people who lived in the area and walked up there all the time, and everyone of them said, "Hi. Hope you folks are enjoying this beautiful place. Be careful, there are lots of deer ticks up here." We also passed fascinating mosses, lichens and funghi, including a particularly bright group of orange funghi covered with large black and yellow insects. And the whole path was dotted with cute chairs carved from stumps, or small gazebos, or little gardens on top of stone pillars designating the trail. Even though the signs of man's handy work were everywhere, they did not seem to detract from the wildness of the area ... the light and dark greens of the canopy closed us in and made the place feel much more distant than it was in reality.

The day had started off cloudy but tailed into a beautiful afternoon, and we all very much enjoyed frolicking in this surprisingly lush and secluded woods in the shadow of the old castle. At some points, like when everyone left me to take pictures of this pond, the woods got really quiet and the way the light filtered through the trees onto the water seemed almost mystical. It was a really beau just across the river from west point. After the hike, we dropped Joy off at the train station and Cheo, Danny, Aviva and myself stopped at a dinner for some good grease before heading home to end a satisfying sunday.

Directions : To get to Castle Rock Unique Area, take the Sprain Parkway north until it becomes Taconic Parkway, then exit at NY-100N/NY-9AN and then stay on NY-9A until you reach US-202/US-6/US-9. Turn left and soon after you will reach a traffic circle, from which you will follow Roa Hook Road/US-9 until you turn left and Cat Rock Road/NY-403. Follow 403 until you hit NY route 9D, turn left and find the entrance to the park about 0.3 miles down the road on the left between two large stone pillars.

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