Buttermilk Hill – Rockefeller State Park Preserve

March 12, 2017 – Pleasantville, NY

Difficulty: easy

Length: approximately 5 miles

Route type: circuit

Map: Rockefeller State Park Preserve Trail Map

 

Buttermilk Hill, a high rocky ridge at the northeastern section of Rockefeller State Park Preserve, is said to get its name from the turbulent period of the American Revolutionary War, when local farmers hid their dairy cattle on the ridge to protect them from marauding soldiers. It also seems to be a lesser visited area of the preserve. It is tucked between the Saw Mill River Parkway and New York State Route 448, with Route 117 on its northern border and Old Saw Mill River Road in Eastview to the south. In an interview with the New York Times in 2002, David Rockefeller was asked:

Q. Of the thousands of acres your family has owned in Westchester, which places do you like the most?

A. Rockwood Hall, which belonged to my brother Laurance and was given to the state, is certainly a beautiful place. Buttermilk Hill would be another one of my favorite places. The carriage roads there, the earliest ones, were built by grandfather.

Previously we hiked to Raven Rock and Ferguson Lake which is on the same eastern side of Rockefeller’s so I decided to the rest of that section. We did not see many people along the trails there so we were hoping for the same on this day. Since we had a few inches of snow a couple of days before plus the snow that had still not melted from earlier in the month, I decided on Rockefeller’s for our hike. The relatively level terrain and wide carriage roads makes it a good spot for an easy hike when there is snow on the ground. It was in the low to mid 20’s with gusts up to 24 mph on this blustery Sunday morning in March. Still not fully recovered from Bronchitis, but on the mend, we headed out. We parked in the lot for the North County Trailway which is right on Route 117 in Pleasantville. The lot offers ample parking and on this day there were only a few cars in the lot when we arrived. We began at the connector trail at the southwest area of the parking area.

connector trail
connector trail

We walked on the footpath until we came to a t-intersection where we turned left onto Lucy’s Loop. We had our microspikes with us, but decided to wait to see how icy and slippery the trails were before we put them on. The footpath was a little slick, but surprisingly the carriage roads were mostly clear.

Lucy's Loop
Lucy’s Loop

When we arrived at the next t-intersection, we veered left and continued on Lucy’s Loop.

t-intersection - Lucy's Loop
t-intersection – Lucy’s Loop

We walked uphill and at the top of the rise came to some fenced off fields that overlooked Route 448. By looking at the trail map it appears that this is also the end of the Lucy’s Loop trail.

fenced off fields
fenced off fields

We stopped here briefly for a rest and I happened to see a hawk in a tree some distance away. It was very windy and it was hard to keep my camera steady as I zoomed in for a shot.

hawk in a tree
hawk in a tree

We then walked along the carriage road which paralleled Route 448. Upon arriving at a y-intersection, we veered left and began to ascend the Buttermilk Hill trail.

Buttermilk Hill trail
Buttermilk Hill trail

On the way up, a couple of runners passed us and they were the only people we saw in this section of our hike. The road levels off and then begins to descend. To the right of the road is the summit of Buttermilk Hill so we walked up what appeared to be a snow covered road and headed towards the top. At an elevation of about 716 feet, it is the highest point of the entire preserve. There are no views that I could find, but it was still a worthwhile visit to the summit. The Buttermilk Hill trail ends where the Laurance’s Ridge trail begins. We bushwacked along the summit with the Laurance’s Ridge trail just below to the left. We then walked down a small embankment and rejoined the trail. We then arrived at a y-intersection with the Goat Trail that veered to the left, we stayed to our right to continue on the Laurance’s Ridge trail then made another right at the Ferguson’s Loop trail a few feet ahead. We stayed straight and were now walking on what is listed on the map in several places as “RF” which are the Rockefeller Family trails. They are connector trails that run through or by private property and hikers are permitted to use them. Off to the right was a private home with a few barking dogs. They also had a teepee sitting close to the trail.

teepee
teepee

We walked past a gate and enjoyed a nice western view towards the Hudson River Palisades and beyond.

western view
western view

We then turned left where the Buttermilk Hill trail and Lucy’s Loop connect and now we began to retrace our steps, for the time being.

Lucy's Loop
Lucy’s Loop

As we were retracing our steps, we came to a y-intersection where Lucy’s Loop veered left and right. We originally came from the right at the beginning of our hike so we veered left to avoid walking back the same way. As the name implies, it looped us around and brought us back to the parking area where our hike began. It was a pleasant hike in the woods, but now it was time for some chow. Back at the homestead we had a Trader Joe’s Carne Asada in the slow cooker and we enjoyed some shredded beef tacos. For dessert we had some Chocolate Flan and Mexican Cheesecake. All was delicious and we feasted to our hearts content. I hope that you enjoyed the hike and please don’t forget to follow my blog and stay up to date on all my journeys. Now get out there and take a hike!

Pros: ample parking, secluded trails, scenic carriage roads

Cons: partially obstructed views

Take a hike!
Take a hike!

 

Cranberry Mine – Harriman State Park

February 26, 2017 – Stony Point, NY

Difficulty: easy

Length: approximately 2.5 miles

Route type: circuit

Map: Harriman-Bear Mountain Trails Map

 

There are numerous mines all throughout Harriman State Park. I have visited a few of them and some are easier to get to than others. Cranberry Mine is located near the Silver Mine Picnic Area along Seven Lakes Drive in Harriman State Park. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, extensive iron mining and exploration activity took place along the southeast side of Cranberry Hill in present-day Woodbury Township, New York.

Silver Mine Picnic Area
Silver Mine Picnic Area

It was a frigid Sunday morning with temps in the low 20’s and windy. We felt the chill as soon as we got out of the car. I had Bronchitis which had sapped my strength, but I was determined to get a hike in on this day. The hike I had originally planned was longer and included Black Mountain and Letterrock Mountain. My intention was to play it by ear and see how far I could go in my condition. We crossed the road and headed for the brown wooden sign just across Seven Lakes Drive. Just a few feet past the sign, in the woods, is an old woods road, where we turned right and began to head east.

old woods road
old woods road

This road was lined with telephone poles, which gave me the impression that at one time it was a main road, possibly used for transporting mining materials. This road is not maintained by the park and it appeared to be seldom traveled. It was swampy in some sections, with standing water about 6 inches deep in some other areas. We also saw fresh bear scat along the trail twice, which caused some apprehension. Black bears often travel along the same trails that hikers use and seeing the scat on the trail, we did not know if it was traveling in the same direction as us. Nevertheless, I try to always stay on point, but not being at full strength, I was hoping not to run into any critters. When we arrived at a small stream that ran from North to South, we turned left and headed North uphill along the stream.

stream
stream

From here we had to bushwack along the stream about .3 miles, although it seemed like more. There were plenty of obstacles along the way, but we kept on huffing and puffing up the hill.

bushwacking
bushwacking

We stopped frequently, not only so I could catch my breath, but also to keep an eye out for any bears. Yes, I was a little uneasy about meeting up with one in my weakened state. We tried to stay as close to the stream as possible as we bushwacked through the woods.

bushwacking
bushwacking

Then I saw what appeared to be an old woods road that ran West to East. I looked to my left and saw the mine adit.

Cranberry Mine
Cranberry Mine

It was a short walk to the mine, but I was running out of gas. We walked up the hill towards the opening and then took a rest as we captured some images.

Cranberry Mine
Cranberry Mine

The principal feature of this complex is a horizontal shaft that extends into the hillside for about 200 feet. This mine opening or adit is twenty-two feet wide and about twelve feet high, while the interior shaft is twelve feet wide. A cut stone wall, bonded with cement and containing an iron plate door, was built across the entrance to the mine around 1920. The mine was used to store dynamite by park officials until the 1930s. The iron door at the mine entrance has been torn open. The horizontal shaft extends into the hillside as a level passage for about 100 feet. Here, there is a branch shaft which goes off to the right for about 30 feet.

Lenik, Edward J.. Iron Mine Trails (Kindle Locations 1578-1583). New York – New Jersey Trail Conference.

Cranberry Mine
Cranberry Mine

The steel door has been replaced with a bat gate. Due to declining bat populations over the years caused by a disease known as WNS or White Nose Syndrome, some mines have been closed to visitors during hibernating months. We did not attempt to enter the mine. There are other remnants of mining activity in the area, but we did not seek them out as I was feeling worn down and decided it was best to head back. We retraced our steps along the stream and came out onto Seven Lakes Drive. We crossed the road and walked past the cable barrier onto Silver Mine Road which was built in 1934 by workers of the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration. We walked to the edge of Queensboro Brook and rested briefly. At this point I knew that I didn’t have much left in the tank and decided it was best to head back to the vehicle.

Queensboro Brook
Queensboro Brook

We walked west on Silver Mine Road which runs parallel to Seven Lakes Drive in this area. We passed a boarded up stone comfort station which sits alongside the road.

stone comfort station
stone comfort station

When Silver Mine Road began to veer away from Seven Lakes Drive, we bushwacked up towards the road and walked about .4 miles back to the parking area.

Seven Lakes Drive
Seven Lakes Drive

I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t do a longer hike, but I still enjoyed myself and we didn’t run into any bears. I hope that you enjoyed the hike and please don’t forget to follow my blog. Now get out there and take a hike!

Pros: Harriman State Park, abandoned mine, bushwacking, secluded, ample parking.

Cons: bushwacking, no marked trails, short road walk.

Take a hike!
Take a hike!

 

Lewis Mine and Stockbridge Mountain – Harriman State Park

February 19, 2017 – Stony Point, NY

Difficulty: moderate

Length: approximately 7.5 miles

Route type: circuit

Map: Harriman-Bear Mountain Trails Map

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This hike was on my calendar for quite some time, but somehow got pushed to the back burner due to weather and other priorities. With an unusually warm President’s Day  weekend upon us, I decided to tackle this hike on Sunday morning. I was hoping the warm temperatures would melt away some of the snow from the previous week.

Harriman State Park covers almost 52,000 acres in Rockland and Orange Counties. The network of virtually infinite trail combinations is unrivaled in the New York metropolitan area. It offers hikers more than 235 miles of trails, which include approximately fifty marked trails, more than three dozen woods roads and numerous unmarked trails. It also has a lot of history tucked away in the woods. From its cool rock formations and glacial erratics to the abandoned mines and ruins that dot the landscape, you can always find thought-provoking and visually stimulating sights along the trails.

I love exploring the lesser used areas of the park and tend to avoid crowds whenever possible. This turned out to be one of those hikes, at least on this day. We arrived at the Old Silver Mine Ski Center on Seven Lakes Drive at around 9am. The huge parking lot had plenty of spots available, on our arrival and upon our return. We brought along our microspikes and put them on as we began our hike. They came in handy because the trails were either covered with snow and/or slush or muddy and swampy.

We began by heading west, following the yellow-blazed Menomine Trail which led us through a picnic area with Lewis Brook on the left and Seven Lakes Drive to our right.

yellow-blazed Menomine Trail
yellow-blazed Menomine Trail

Just past a cable barrier, the trail turns right and climbs a slope then crosses the paved entrance road to the abandoned parking area for the former Silvermine Ski Area and enters a pine grove. To the right is the gravestone of James H. (“Scobie Jim”) Lewis and other family members, who once farmed the area now covered by Lake Nawahunta. We missed the stone, which lays toppled, but viewed it at the end of the hike. I am curious as to why the tombstone was never placed back on its base.

gravestone
gravestone

The yellow-blazed Menomine Trail crosses Seven Lakes Drive and continues north on a woods road, known as the Nawahunta Fire Road with Lake Nawahunta on our left.

Lake Nawahunta
Lake Nawahunta

In a short distance, we came to a fork where the Menomine Trail bears left and the Nawahunta Fire Road splits to the right. We stayed right on the unmarked woods road which was built by the park in 1954. About 750 feet up the trail is the Lewis Mine. The hike description that we were following stated that there was a cairn (pile of stones used as a marker) on the right side of the trail. Well, we walked right by it and the mine opening was not visible from the direction we were coming from. I had my eyes wide open as I searched for the rock cut that led to the mine, but somehow missed it. We stopped and decided to double back to search for the mine. As we retraced our steps we could see the adit of the mine as we got closer. It turns out the cairn was knocked over (we added several stones to make it recognizable) and why we walked right past it. Nevertheless, we found Lewis Mine which is an open cut that is 28 feet long and 8 feet wide. The mine extends into the rock hillside.

Lewis Mine
Lewis Mine

No information has come to light regarding the ownership and operation of this mine. An 1875 map of this area showing two structures indicates that the property was owned by J.H. Lewis. A subsequent 1909 map also shows the J.H. Lewis holdings, which consisted of 220.5 acres, two structures, and a road. The surface indications at the Lewis Mine suggest that very little ore was removed from this site. Source: Lenik, Edward J. (2013-09-09). Iron Mine Trails (Kindle Locations 1615-1616). New York – New Jersey Trail Conference. Kindle Edition.

Lewis Mine
Lewis Mine

We did not enter the mine, but did peer inside. I was a little wary that a bear may be hibernating inside. We then continued on the fire road which climbs gradually for about a mile, then descends for a quarter of a mile. In the image below Stockbridge Mountain is visible through the trees.

Nawahunta Fire Road
Nawahunta Fire Road

When we came to a t-intersection, we turned left onto the Aqua-blazed Long Path. As the trail descended a bit, it was somewhat swampy.

Aqua-blazed Long Path
Aqua-blazed Long Path

The Long Path began its ascent gradually then became steeper as we neared the summit.

Long Path - Stockbridge Mountain
Long Path – Stockbridge Mountain

Just before reaching the summit, we arrived at the Stockbridge Cave Shelter.

Stockbridge Cave Shelter
Stockbridge Cave Shelter

In 1922 while scouting a route for the Long Path, a 356-mile trail that passes through Harriman State Park, J. Ashton Allis found Stockbridge Cave. It officially became the Stockbridge Cave Shelter in 1928. (Courtesy of NYNJTC)

Stockbridge Cave Shelter
Stockbridge Cave Shelter

This massive rock formation has several natural caves that can accommodate quite a few people……and a few bears as well.

Stockbridge Cave Shelter
Stockbridge Cave Shelter

It even has a stone fireplace.

stone fireplace
stone fireplace

We relaxed here for a bit, all the while staring at our next steps on the Long Path which entailed climbing along the side of the Stockbridge Cave Shelter. We watched one couple descend, with the woman falling and another couple ascend while slipping and sliding on the way up. Luckily for us we were wearing our microspikes and that made all the difference getting the necessary traction during that short but steep climb.

Long Path
Long Path

We continued up the Long Path, finally arriving at the summit of Stockbridge Mountain. We planted our weary selves on one of the many glacial erratics that were scattered about like lawn furniture and enjoyed the partial views at 1,320 feet.

Stockbridge Mountain summit
Stockbridge Mountain summit

Within feet of the summit is the stone Stockbridge Shelter which was built in 1928.

Stockbridge Shelter
Stockbridge Shelter

This stone shelter features two fireplaces with chimneys and a green tin roof.

Stockbridge Shelter
Stockbridge Shelter

From there the Long Path descended steeply and then leveled off a little. We came to a junction with the yellow-blazed Menomine Trail and there we turned left. Hippo Rock, a huge glacial erratic was just ahead on the Long Path, but it involved a small climb up the hill and at this point we were all tired. We just trudged along the Menomine Trail which led us gently back down towards civilization.

yellow-blazed Menomine Trail
yellow-blazed Menomine Trail

We followed the yellow blazes, coming to the section where the fork with the Nawahunta Fire Road is. From there we retraced our steps back to the Silver Mine Picnic Area. My partners in crime grabbed a picnic table at the edge of Lewis Brook while I went to get the vehicle. We then fired up the grill and enjoyed some skirt steak tacos, loaded with cheese, pico de gallo and guacamole. Homemade toasted coconut brownies and caramel chocolate cookie bars were on the menu for dessert. After an exhausting hike, we relaxed, ate and enjoyed the warm February weather while being serenaded by the sweet sounds of the brook.

Lewis Brook
Lewis Brook

Don’t forget to follow my blog and feel free to share my posts with your friends. As always, I welcome any comments or suggestions regarding past or future hikes. Now get out there and take a hike!

Pros: Harriman State Park, abandoned mine, cool rock formations, cave shelter, stone shelter, seasonal views, ample parking.

Cons: seasonal views

take a hike!
take a hike!

 

State Line Lookout to Park Headquarters – Palisades Interstate Park

February 11, 2017 – Alpine, NJ

Difficulty: easy – moderate

Length: approximately 7.25 miles

Route type: out and back

Map: Hudson Palisades Trails Map – Free map

 

Palisades Interstate Park in New Jersey is about 12 miles long, a half-mile wide, and encompasses 2,500 acres of wild Hudson River shorefront, uplands, and cliffs. There are more than 30 miles of hiking and ski trails, a boat launching ramp, a scenic riverside drive, a cliff-top parkway and overlooks, riverfront picnic areas and playgrounds, a nature sanctuary, two boat basins, historic sites — and mile after mile of rugged woodlands and vistas just minutes from midtown Manhattan.

This is my go to place when I don’t feel like traveling too far. Just over the Tappan Zee Bridge lies a unique geological formation offering stunning views of Manhattan and the Hudson River. We had about a foot of snow just days prior to this hike and I wasn’t looking forward to postholing for an entire hike. When I looked up the snow totals, I saw that Rockland County only got about 8 inches of snow. That is still deep enough to make any hike a lot less fun without snow shoes. I wasn’t about to stay in so I came up with a hike that wouldn’t include much elevation gain. This hike was atop the Palisades cliffs and an out and back, which meant we hiked to a certain point and retraced our steps back. A loop hike here would involve a steep descent down towards the Hudson River and then an equally steep ascent from the Hudson River back up to the top of the cliffs. Not on this day, we kept it simple.

We arrived just after 9am on this Saturday morning and the huge lot had a few cars in it. We made our way over to the scenic lookout and captured some images before we began our hike. First a look to the north……

view north up the Hudson
view north up the Hudson

then a look to the south.

view south down the Hudson
view south down the Hudson

We sat at a picnic table and put on our microspikes, which are essential for winter hiking. We then began our hike at northwest end of the parking area following the Aqua-blazed Long Path.

Aqua-blazed Long Path
Aqua-blazed Long Path

We followed this footpath which paralleled the entrance road until we came to a junction where the Long Path turned left. We should have continued straight ahead on Trail B (skiing and hiking trail), but I failed to check my map. Nevertheless, the Long Path led us out onto the entrance road. The Long Path crosses the road and continues along the edge of the cliff then descends steeply on some stone steps. I wanted to avoid any steep sections so we continued along the side of the entrance road towards the Palisades Parkway (where we entered the park). There we turned onto an unmarked trail that began between a gap in the stone wall that lined the road.

gap in the stone wall
gap in the stone wall

We were the first to hike this trail on this morning and the snow was deep in some spots. I was familiar with the trail so we just trudged along. This trail is short-lived and took us to the woods along the northbound lanes of the Palisades Interstate Parkway. There we took the Blue/White-blazed Forest View Trail which led us toward the Hudson River.

Blue/White-blazed Forest View Trail
Blue/White-blazed Forest View Trail

In a short distance, we came to a t-intersection where the Forest View Trail turns left and joins the Long Path. We turned left to check out the Women’s Federation Monument which was built in 1929 to honor the role the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs played in preserving the Palisades.

Women’s Federation Monument
Women’s Federation Monument

I’ve visited this spot several times, but never in the snow. Its design was meant to evoke the ancient watchtowers along the River Rhine in Europe: poets had called the Hudson “the Rhine of the New World” or “America’s Rhine” because of its scenic beauty.

Women's Federation Monument
Women’s Federation Monument

There’s not much better than visiting a castle perched high atop the cliffs overlooking the Hudson River.

view north from the Women’s Federation Monument
view north from the Women’s Federation Monument

As we were checking out the castle, a large troop of Boy Scouts came along and were having some fun in the snow. We decided to get moving and retraced our steps back to the t-intersection and continued south, once again following the Aqua blazes of the Long Path.

Long Path
Long Path

It was pretty much a straight walk along the cliffs from here on. I love the views from here as I can see Westchester County from a different perspective. The Yonkers Power Station just across the river is one of those sights.

Yonkers Power Station
Yonkers Power Station

Untermyer Park  in Yonkers, NY was also visible from across the way.

Untermyer Park
Untermyer Park

Alongside the trail we came upon Gray Crag, a concrete bridge span, about thirty feet long and supported by a pair of steel I-beams. It crosses to a free-standing pillar of rock that forms a tabletop, about two hundred feet long, but only a dozen or so wide. John Ringling (yes that Ringling) and his wife Mable bought two big properties here and merged them into the hundred-acre estate they named Gray Crag. It would serve as their summer home through the 1920’s. Back in the day, the I-beams and concrete were covered in a wooden veneer to make it look and feel like a rustic bridge. On this day it was just covered with snow.

Gray Crag bridge
Gray Crag bridge

We walked as far as the Park Headquarters and decided to turn around there. We were wearing down at this point. Hiking in the semi-deep snow was laborious and we had to go back the way we came. We stopped at the castle on the way back before we made the final push to the parking area. There we relaxed on a picnic table and enjoyed some hot chocolate and sandwiches. Upon arriving back at the homestead, I whipped up some Coconut Chicken With Pina Colada Dip and then we had Brown Sugar Bacon Cheeseburgers with a delicious homemade German Chocolate cake for dessert. Another successful hike in the books along with some scrumptious culinary delights. It was a good day.

Don’t forget to follow my blog and feel free to share my posts with your friends. As always, I welcome any comments or suggestions regarding past or future hikes. Now get out there and take a hike!

Pros: Plenty of parking, Hudson River views, cliffs, castle.

Cons: popular in warm weather, trails travel alongside the parkway at times.

Take a hike!
Take a hike!

Abandoned in Beacon

February 4, 2017 – Beacon, NY

Beacon, NY was originally settled as the villages of Matteawan and Fishkill Landing in 1709, which were among the first colonial communities in Dutchess County. During the 1960’s, urban renewal led to the destruction of some significant historic buildings. In the late 1970’s, a decline in the economy shuttered most of the factories. This decline quickly became an economic downturn that lasted from about 1970 to the late 1990’s, during which almost 80 percent of the city’s commercial business spaces and factories were vacant. Some buildings were placed on the National Historic Register and thus saved from the wrecking ball and some lay in abandon and/or ruins. There were a few such places that piqued my interest and I wanted to visit and photograph them. Since I reside about an hour away, I decided to visit multiple sites on the same day and work in a hike as well.

It was a cold January morning with temps in the mid 20’s, but sunny. A perfect day to do some exploring. Our first stop would be an abandoned cemetery that sits behind the Reformed Church of Beacon. Originally the Reformed Dutch Church of Fishkill Landing, is a congregation of the Reformed Church in America. It claims to be the oldest church in Beacon. The original church started out as a small and simple white frame structure. It wasn’t until the late 1850’s that a new church had to be built because it was outgrown. The 2 1/2 story Victorian Gothic church was completed in 1859 and made the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

Reformed Church of Beacon
Reformed Church of Beacon

According to their website, “The Holy Spirit is alive and moving at the Reformed Church of Beacon.” That doesn’t seem to be the case for the cemetery, which lays in abandon just feet away.

Reformed Church of Beacon Cemetery
Reformed Church of Beacon Cemetery

The family burial vaults that were built into the hillside are now empty and exposed to the elements.

burial vaults
burial vaults

Colonel William Few, a signer of the U.S. Constitution for the state of Georgia, was once buried in the family vault in this cemetery. Due to the condition of the cemetery, his remains were removed in 1973 and re-interred in Augusta, Georgia.

burial vault
burial vault

Its graves date from 1813 to the early 20th century, but some have been re-interred elsewhere in the years since the cemetery fell into decline.

burial vault
burial vault

I am not sure if the same can be said for those that were laid in the ground.

Reformed Church of Beacon Cemetery
Reformed Church of Beacon Cemetery

From the inside looking out.

burial vault
burial vault

Our next stop was an old school, located not too far away. In Historic Beacon Robert J. Murphy and Denise Doring Van Buren wrote: Designed by renowned architect Frederick Clarke Withers the building is unexpectedly churchly in appearance – and, in fact, it was once used as a chapel. Built in 1865, it is our oldest schoolhouse extant. Its long history even includes hospital duty: during the Great Flu Epidemic of 1918 the Red Cross used the school as an emergency hospital to treat the overflow of Beacon’s sick.

Tioronda School

I spotted this building on Google Maps while searching for the abandoned cemetery and at first I thought that the cemetery was here. Even after I pinpointed the location of the cemetery, I thought that this place warranted a visit as well. Besides the information above, I could not find anything else of note online.

Tioronda School

The school sits on a desolate section of town, a stone’s throw from Fishkill Creek. The property around it is overgrown and neglected. I took a walk around the building to get a better look and the back door which was a sheet of plywood, was ripped off and laying on the ground. I heard some noises coming from the inside so I did not attempt to enter. Someone or something was moving about and I did not want to come face to face with them. I was able to capture the ensuing image from the doorway.

school
school

The front entrance is on the west side of the building.

front entrance
front entrance

There is also a small outbuilding close by.

school
school

I’m not sure what the purpose of this building was for, but it had a small wood burning stove and a chimney built in.

outbuilding
outbuilding

A safety screen was peeled back and I was able to get a peek inside.

outbuilding
outbuilding

Within feet of the outbuilding there is a tennis court that has seen better days.

tennis court
tennis court

Tennis anyone? I would have borrowed a racket from whomever was lurking inside the school, but that was a terrible racket.

tennis court
tennis court

Once we were done checking out the school, we left the vehicle parked alongside the road and began to walk up the hill. Our next stop was The Craig House Institute which was just up the hill right alongside Route 9D. Originally built for Civil War General Joseph Howland in 1859, the Victorian mansion was the first American privately owned psychiatric hospital. The architect was Frederick Clarke Withers, once a partner of Calvert Vaux, better known as co-designer with Frederick Law Olmsted of Central Park in Manhattan. For decades it was America’s most prestigious rehabilitation home, the perfect haven for patients to be cured. In reality it was a place of great sadness and despair.

The Craig House Institute
The Craig House Institute

I had read about this place and it seemed like an interesting subject to photograph. As we walked up the hill I saw a paved road that led into the woods. It looked as it may have been a service road that led onto the property. I had read about numerous other buildings on the grounds that had either burnt down or had been torn down. I decided to take this route and see what may be hiding away back there. Not too far from where we entered, there were ruins of a building to the left. I bushwacked through the thorn bushes to get a closer look. I did not notice any remnants of any interior walls along the ground and it appeared to me that this building had an open floor plan. Perhaps a dining hall or a gymnasium?

ruins
ruins

I walked over to the doorway to get a look inside. The room sat underneath the road that we had just walked on and had a similar appearance to an old wine cellar although that would not be practical for a sanitarium.

ruins
ruins

We continued on the service road until it led us out onto one of the main roads of the property. We walked up to the front of the mansion to get a close up view of this palatial hospital. This is some information that I have gathered about its most prominent residents. Zelda Fitzgerald, the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, was committed in 1932, after years of struggling with mental illness. She died in 1948 during a fire in another psychiatric hospital in North Carolina. Frances Ford Fonda the wife of Henry Fonda and mother of Jane and Peter Fonda, committed suicide here in 1950 at the age of 42 by cutting her throat with a razor. Her suicide came just days after Henry Fonda personally asked her for a divorce.

The Craig House Institute
The Craig House Institute

Rosemary Kennedy spent time at Craig House after a lobotomy left her in a virtually infant-like state. Jackie Gleason used Craig House as a place to relax, recharge and dry out. It is rumored that he had donated a pool table for the residents to use. Marilyn Monroe checked in under an assumed name to deal with her many issues.

The Craig House Institute
The Craig House Institute

Apparently left over from a former renovation.

The Craig House Institute
The Craig House Institute

The once exclusive hospital closed in 1999, but the tragedy of the house doesn’t end there. It was bought in 2003 by Robert Wilson, a Wall Street hedge fund founder. In December of 2013 at age 87, he jumped to his death from a window of his Upper West Side apartment building.

The Craig House Institute
The Craig House Institute

“I love that the story can’t be changed again and one more place is haunted – old sorrows and a half-forgotten happiness are stored where they can be recaptured.” ~ Zelda Fitzgerald

The Craig House Institute
The Craig House Institute

It was an quite an intriguing morning in Beacon. So much so that I decided to pen two blog posts about this day behind the lens. I hope that you enjoyed the images I captured along with the information that I provided. I actually learn more during the writing of my blog than I do before my visits to these historical places. As always, please don’t forget to follow my blog and feel free to share this post with your friends. Comments and/or suggestions are always welcome as well.

See ya!
See ya!

 

 

 

Madam Brett Park to Denning’s Point State Park and Long Dock Park

February 4, 2017 – Beacon, NY

Difficulty: easy

Length: approximately 4 miles

Route type: circuit

Map: Denning’s Point State Park – East Hudson Trails Map

 

Madam Brett Park has a mile of gently sloping, gravel-surfaced trails that lead to a dramatic waterfall and tidal marsh; a short, narrow woodland trail provides access to the marsh observation platform. A boardwalk along Fishkill Creek allows universally accessible exploration of this important Hudson River tributary and the wildlife it supports.

In 1988, New York State acquired  Denning’s Point  to expand the Hudson Highlands State Park system. A 64-acre peninsula on the Hudson River at the mouth of the Fishkill Creek, the 1.2 miles of trails, a woods road makes a circuit of the heavily wooded point. Dennings Point is closed seasonally to protect the habitat of the bald eagle.

Long Dock Park has universally accessible walking paths that connect the park’s many amenities. There also is a link to the 1-mile Klara Sauer Trail (named for Scenic Hudson’s former president), which spans the waterfront from the Beacon train station to Denning’s Point State Park.

After our Abandoned in Beacon exploration, we made our way to Madam Brett Park for a short easy hike. I have been here numerous times to view the waterfall and walk around. It is quite an enjoyable place which is rich in history. From the parking area we walked east past the kiosk onto a gravel road which is marked with white blazes and were greeted with a stunning sight. Tioronda Falls with Mount Beacon in the background.

Tioronda Falls
Tioronda Falls

We walked on the gravel road, occasionally detouring down one of the trails that led to the creek in order to get a good vantage point of the falls. We arrived at the concrete platform and took in the awe-inspiring view.

Tioronda Falls
Tioronda Falls

We walked past the relief valve and onto the iron catwalk……

relief valve and iron catwalk
relief valve and iron catwalk

and walked across the narrow ledge of Tioronda Dam.

Tioronda Dam
Tioronda Dam

I walked quickly along the narrow surface, trying to keep my balance. As a kid, no big deal, but as an adult, a spill would be costly. We walked to the stone platform which was right alongside the falls.

Tioronda Dam
Tioronda Dam

We spent a little time admiring the beauty of Tioronda Falls then retraced our steps back to the parking area. We then headed west on the white-blazed trail which led us to a boardwalk that was sandwiched between Fishkill Creek and the ruins of the Tioronda Hat Works.

boardwalk
boardwalk

Right by the start of the boardwalk is the Tioronda Bridge which once carried South Avenue across Fishkill Creek. Built between 1869 and 1873 by the Ohio Bridge Company, it was demolished by the city in December 2006. The bridge had been listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, but in 2006 had deteriorated to the point that it had to be closed.

Tioronda Bridge
Tioronda Bridge

The Tioronda Hat Works opened in 1879 and later became the Merrimack Hat Company which closed in 1949. The brick buildings were used sporadically as warehouses over the following decades. Since about 2010 they have been undergoing a woefully slow demolition.

Tioronda Hat Works
Tioronda Hat Works

Just a few days before our visit, there was a fire here, but luckily the firefighters were able to keep it from damaging the boardwalk.

Tioronda Hat Works
Tioronda Hat Works

Like all the mills that used to dot the area, it was powered by Fishkill Creek and Tioronda Falls.

Tioronda Hat Works
Tioronda Hat Works

When we came to the end of the boardwalk we walked along the wide woods road and then came to a red-blazed trail on the left. This footpath is only 700 feet long and loops around Fishkill Marsh.

red-blazed trail
red-blazed trail

We walked along the edge of Fishkill Marsh and came to a clearing that afforded us a nice view.

Fishkill Marsh
Fishkill Marsh

The red-blazed trail led us back to the white-blazed trail where we turned left. We stopped for a moment and sat on a bench alongside the trail. There we saw a Red-tailed Hawk sitting in a tree just feet from the trail.

Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk

We continued on the white-blazed trail until its terminus and where the connector trail began. We crossed the bridge that spanned the Metro-North railroad tracks.

bridge
bridge

A nice view to the west from the bridge as we crossed it into Denning’s Point State Park.

view to the west
view to the west

Once over the bridge and crossing over the train tracks, we were then walking on the Denning’s Point Trail. In a few minutes we arrived at the ruins of the Denning’s Point Brick Works. There was a group of noisy youths inside which had passed us earlier on the trail. They were on one of the upper levels so we climbed in a window on the lower level and took a look around.

Denning's Point Brick Works
Denning’s Point Brick Works

The ensuing image looks like what used to be a restroom.

Denning's Point Brick Works
Denning’s Point Brick Works

Denning’s Point Brick Works was established around 1885. The yard supplied bricks for high profile projects including the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center.

Denning's Point Brick Works
Denning’s Point Brick Works

The brickyard operated until 1939, when it literally ran out of clay and was abandoned. We wandered around downstairs for a bit then we headed upstairs.

Denning's Point Brick Works
Denning’s Point Brick Works

This building is massive and structurally sound for being in such neglect.

Denning's Point Brick Works
Denning’s Point Brick Works
Denning's Point Brick Works
Denning’s Point Brick Works

Once we got our fill of the Denning’s Point Brick Works, we stepped back outside to continue our hike. We walked over to the edge of the Hudson River looking south towards Sugarloaf Mountain and Breakneck Ridge.

Sugarloaf Mountain
Sugarloaf Mountain

The trail around the point itself was chained off due to nesting eagles. We instead walked past the Beacon Institute building and onto a trail that led towards the river. There we saw what appears to be an old water tank.

water tank
water tank

After spending a little time by the river we retraced our steps on the Denning’s Point Trail and turned left when we arrived at a junction with the Klara Sauer Trail which leads to Long Dock Park.

Klara Sauer Trail
Klara Sauer Trail

We walked north along the abandoned railbed with the Hudson River on our left.

railbed - Klara Sauer Trail
railbed – Klara Sauer Trail

We ended up in the heart of the park with more views of the Hudson River.

Long Dock Park
Long Dock Park

We then retraced our steps on the Klara Sauer Trail, turning left at the junction with the Denning’s Point Trail which was pretty much a straight shot back to Madam Brett Park. We made our way back to the parking area and enjoyed some hot chocolate and sandwiches. I hope that you enjoyed the hike and don’t forget to follow my blog. As always, I welcome any comments or suggestions regarding past or future hikes. Now get out there and take a hike!

Pros: easy to follow trails, Hudson River, ruins, historical features.

Cons: can get crowded, partial closure due to nesting eagles during winter months.

take a hike!
take a hike!

 

 

Glenville Woods to Raven Rock and Ferguson Lake

January 29, 2017 – Tarrytown, NY

Difficulty: easy-moderate

Length: approximately 7 miles

Route type: out and (almost) back

Map: Glenville Woods map on site  –  Rockefeller State Park Preserve

 

Located in the Village of Tarrytown, in the Town of Greenburgh, Glenville Woods is a 44.7-acre nature preserve which connects to a 580-acre strip of unbroken parkland. The Preserve’s hiking trails enhance access to several local recreational sites, including the North County Trailway and the Tarrytown Lakes Trail. The property contains woods, wetlands, steep slopes and rock formations.

I noticed the sign one day while visiting the deli next door and took a short walk into the woods just to check it out. After checking out the location on Google Maps, I noticed that I may be able to walk all the way to the Tarrytown Lakes, cross the road by Eastview and enter the southeast section of Rockefeller State Park Preserve to continue hiking. I mapped out the hike and decided to give it a shot.

It was another decent January morning with temps in the mid 30’s and sunny. It had snowed in recent days so I decided to hike closer to home where there would be little or no snow on the ground. Since this hike included areas that I had not been on before, we spotted cars. By spotting cars that gave us the luxury of extending our hike in Rockefeller’s without having to retrace our steps through Glenville Woods. We dropped one vehicle at the Park and Ride by the Tarrytown Lakes and then drove over to Glenville Woods Preserve to begin our hike. Since it was Sunday, we parked in the lot for the Wedged In Deli which is closed on Sundays. We walked over to the kiosk which has a trail map and took a look at it. We would begin the hike by following the blue-blazed trail. We then proceeded into the park and crossed over a footbridge.

footbridge
footbridge

We stopped for a moment on the footbridge…..

Glenville Woods Park Preserve
Glenville Woods Park Preserve

and then continued on the blue-blazed trail passing a small cinder block building as we began to head uphill.

blue-blazed trail
blue-blazed trail

A yellow-blazed trail came in from the left so we checked it out. The trail seemed to lead towards houses so we turned right at the next junction and began heading east, continuing up the hill as the blazes disappeared. We walked through a collapsed section of stone wall and then saw a  stone retaining wall off to the right. From what I read, this wall was built by the Emergency Work Bureau of Westchester County in 1933.

stone wall
stone wall

As we walked a little further north we passed some kind of guard rail made from stone and wood.

guard rail
guard rail

It looks as if this was once a woods road. Although the stonework was probably done in the 1930’s, this road may have been in use well before that. We continued on and came to what looked like some kind of stone overlook that faced the Saw Mill Parkway.

overlook
overlook

As we walked further north, the trail became more overgrown and harder to follow. We could see the Saw Mill Parkway through the trees so we just stayed parallel to it, semi-bushwacking through the trail.

overgrown trail
overgrown trail

The trail faded out and we encountered heavy brush as we neared the Eastview exit off the Saw Mill Parkway so we bushwacked towards the SMP. We walked along the parkway briefly and then ducked back into the woods. We were now bushwacking, but it was much easier and we were close to the Park and Ride, where we had left one of the vehicles. I happened to look down and found an old bottle.

old bottle
old bottle

I could see why it was named Cheer Up. One of the ingredients was Lithia.

old bottle
old bottle

We then proceeded towards Old Saw Mill River Road.

Old Saw Mill River Rd
Old Saw Mill River Rd

We walked down an embankment and crossed the road. We jumped on the North County Trailway which begins right here. The North County Trailway was constructed along the Putnam Division railbed of the former New York Central Railroad (“Old Put”). At its north end it becomes the Putnam County Trailway, which continues along the former railbed to Brewster, New York.

North County Trailway
North County Trailway

We walked up onto the NCT heading north and passing the tracks of the old railway.

tracks
tracks

Now we were looking for some sort of connector trail that led to Rockefeller State Park. I had called the park office and spoke to a woman on the phone. She told me that there was access to the park from here and that the gate was always open. The gate that we saw was locked and there was a fence between Rockefeller’s and the NCT. My GPS told me that the trail was about 100 feet away on the other side of the fence. As we walked, I happened to see a section of fence that was pushed over. We made a beeline for the opening and climbed up the steep hill towards Perry Road, the trail we were looking for.

Perry Road
Perry Road

Most of the trails at Rocky’s are carriage roads which makes for a nice gentle walk in the woods. This section of the park appeared to be seldom used as the leaves did not appear to have been trampled on. I feel lucky to have grown up in the area and have such a beautiful place to escape to.

Perry Road
Perry Road

After a mostly level walk on Perry Road, we came to a junction. Here we made a hard right and began walking on Raven’s Rock trail. It led us downhill and then leveled off.

Raven's Rock trail
Raven’s Rock trail

After a slight ascent, we arrived at Raven Rock. Washington Irving wrote in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow; “Some mention was made also of the woman in white, that haunted the dark glen at Raven Rock, and was often heard to shriek on winter nights before a storm, having perished there in the snow.”

Jeff Canning and Wally Buxton’s History of the Tarrytowns, gives some more details:
“Raven Rock is part of Buttermilk Hill in the northern reaches of the Rockefeller estate near the old Hawthorne Traffic Circle. Legend tells us that three ghosts, not just Irving’s lady in white, roam the area.

The lady in white was a girl who got lost in a snowstorm and sought shelter from the fierce wind in a ravine by the rock. The snow drifted in and she perished during the night. It is believed that the spirit of the lady meets the wanderer with cries that resemble the howling of the wind, and gestures that remind one of drifting snow, warning all to stay away from the fatal spot.

A more ancient legend tells of an Indian maiden who was driven to her death at Raven Rock by a jealous lover. Her spirit is believed to roam the area, lamenting her fate.

The third spirit is that of a colonial girl who fled from the attentions of an amorous Tory raider during the Revolution and leaped from the rock to her death“.

Raven Rock
Raven Rock

This massive rock formation dominated the hillside. We stopped here to take a break and see if any ghouls would make their presence known. I was bummed, not a ghost in fright…er I mean sight. To get an idea of how immense Raven Rock is, I included an image of me standing in front of it.

Raven Rock
Raven Rock

I took a walk between the two rock formations to check the place out.

Raven Rock
Raven Rock

From the top of Raven Rock, I could see White Plains and Hawthorne through the trees. I had fun scrambling up there and then climbing back down. What a cool place this was. I had never been here before nor do I remember hearing about it. When we were done climbing around, we headed back up Raven’s Rock trail and proceeded north on Perry Road.

Perry Road
Perry Road

As we walked along Perry Road, there was a green fence that paralleled the trail. When the fenced turned left, so did we. Using this unmarked road, In a few minutes we arrived at Ferguson Lake. There are four lakes real close to each other and they are all called Ferguson Lake. My guess is that at one time it was one body of water that was dammed off into separate lakes. These lakes sit just behind Pocantico Hills School.

Ferguson Lake
Ferguson Lake
Ferguson Lake
Ferguson Lake

We then walked pass the lake and ended up on Ferguson’s Loop trail. After a short while on this trail we saw an open field through the trees. We took a short footpath towards it and stopped to admire the scenery.

field
field

We wanted to take a break here, but there was a cow fence keeping us out. We walked along the edge of the field and saw a stone wall. Here we climbed atop the wall and out onto the field. We were right across Route 448 from Stone Barns. We found a nice flat rock to sit on and warmed ourselves in the sun. We then retraced our steps to the Ferguson’s Loop trail and made a right, now heading southwest. We came to another dammed lake (also named Ferguson Lake).

Ferguson Lake
Ferguson Lake
Ferguson Lake
Ferguson Lake

We retraced our steps once again until we got to the Flying Squirrel Trail and turned right, heading uphill. We came to the junction with Perry Road and followed it south, back to where we originally got on it. There we bushwacked down the hill and passed through the collapsed section of fencing and back out onto the North County Trailway. We headed south towards the Park and Ride where we spotted a vehicle. From there we drove back to Glenville Woods to pick up the other vehicle. We were now ready to dig in to some homemade Chicken Marsala with Wild Rice and Banana Splits for dessert. I hope that you enjoyed the hike and don’t forget to follow my blog and/or share with your friends. See you next time and don’t forget to get out there and take a hike!

Pros: cool rock formations, carriage roads, lakes, historical features, solitude

Cons: bushwacking

Take a hike!
Take a hike!

Turkey Mountain Nature Preserve

January 21, 2017 – Yorktown Heights, NY

Difficulty: moderate

Length: approximately 3 miles

Route type: circuit

Map: Turkey Mountain Nature Preserve

 

The 125 acre preserve, owned by the Town of Yorktown with its 831 foot summit offers panoramic views of the Croton Reservoir, Hudson River, Manhattan Skyline, Hudson Highlands, and Shawangunk Ridge. It has has 3.3 miles of hiking trails.

I did this hike right after finishing Nelson Mountain Fire Tower at Salt Hill. I chose Turkey Mountain because of its close proximity to Salt Hill and also because I read that it is the highest point in Westchester County. After a foggy morning hike to the fire tower, it cleared up and turned out to be a gorgeous day on the trails. By the time we got there, it was close to noon and the parking area was pretty full. I’m not one for crowds when I’m out on the trail, but sometimes that can’t be helped. We began our hike by ascending on the white-blazed trail which is somewhat steep, but is only .7 miles to the summit. The blue-blazed trail is close to 2 miles long and was our return route. As it turned out, we saw more people passing us going in the opposite direction so I made the right choice. The white-blazed trail was relatively level to start, but in the distance through the trees I could see the summit and ultimately our destination.

White-blazed trail
White-blazed trail

The trails are pretty well kept and they have some wooden footbridges over wet areas which works out well.

White-blazed trail
White-blazed trail
White-blazed trail
White-blazed trail

Several trails intersected the White-blazed trail, but we ignored them as we continued on. The trail began to climb rather steeply and we stopped occassionaly to catch our breath. Normally I don’t take a lot of photographs when the trails become strenuous. I like to concentrate on the task at hand.

White-blazed trail
White-blazed trail

The final push to the summit.

approaching the summit
approaching the summit

Once at the top we encountered numerous hikers. A lot of them with unleashed dogs even though there are “no dogs allowed.” I saw more dogs on this hike than at a dog park. I mentioned the “no dogs” rule to a few people and I got some dirty looks. We hung out at the summit soaking in some rays and taking in the view of the Croton Reservoir with a sliver of the Hudson River visible just beyond.

view from the summit of Turkey Mountain
view from the summit of Turkey Mountain

The view northwest wasn’t bad either.

view northwest
view northwest

Looking east, Hilltop Hanover Farm is visible and the mountains beyond.

view east
view east

Also at the summit is a US Army Corps of Engineers stamped disk. There used to be a survey tower at this location and three concrete footings still remain. Survey towers were used by U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey surveyors from the mid-1800s through the 1980s to obtain the clear lines-of-sight needed to conduct the surveys that are the backbone of our nation’s spatial reference framework. One of the most enduring and widely used types of towers was the Bilby Tower, designed by Jasper Bilby in 1926.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Map Control Station disk
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Map Control Station disk

Two of the footings are visible in the image below.

Turkey Mountain summit
Turkey Mountain summit

The white-blazed trail ends at the summit and there is where we began our descent on the blue-blazed trail. It starts off under a canopy of trees….

blue-blazed trail
blue-blazed trail

….and over long flat rocks.

blue-blazed trail
blue-blazed trail

As we descended the mountain, we passed a few groups of hikers heading towards the summit. I can imagine how crowded this place gets on a warm summer day. The blue-blazed trail was steep in some sections and somewhat soggy, but quite picturesque with its stone walls and rock formations.

blue-blazed trail
blue-blazed trail

We then walked over another wooden footbridge with the parking lot now in sight. The lot was full when we got back and there were cars parked along the entrance road as well. Another successful hike in the books and we were off to feast on some slow cooker spare ribs and homemade mac and cheese. I hope that you enjoyed the hike and don’t forget to follow my blog and/or share with your friends. See you next time and don’t forget to get out there and take a hike!

Pros: Great views, well blazed trails, scenic woods, cool rock formations

Cons: Gets crowded, lots of loose dogs despite “no dogs allowed” rule.

 

Nelson Mountain Fire Tower at Salt Hill

January 21, 2017 – Town of Cortlandt, NY

Difficulty: moderate

Length: approximately 2.5 miles

Route type: up and back

Map: Google Earth or Google Maps

 

After publishing a post about Hudson Valley Fire Towers, I was contacted by a reader named Ben with information about a fire tower that lay in ruins alongside the Croton Reservoir. I was intrigued and knew that I had to check it out. Ben supplied me with enough information that I knew I could find my way to it. I wanted to do this hike the previous week, but some light snow fell and since we would be hiking on unblazed trails, I decided to wait until the snow melted. The weather for this Saturday morning hike was foggy in the morning, but sunny in the afternoon and in the mid to high 30’s, not bad for January.

The Nelson Mountain Fire Tower sits at the summit of Salt Hill and was was a 73′ Aermotor LS40 tower erected by the Conservation Department in 1950. This tower was placed in service in 1951, reporting 22 fires and 70 visitors. With the advent of aerial detection, this tower was closed at the end of the 1971 season. Some time following that date, the tower was cut down or pulled over by persons unknown and its twisted remains are still on the 540 ft. summit of Salt Hill. That was all the information I could gather about this fire tower along with an old black and white photograph courtesy of the Westchester County Historical Society.

Nelson Mountain Fire Tower at Salt Hill
Nelson Mountain Fire Tower at Salt Hill

I was also able to find a list of the keepers that were employed during its operation.

list of keepers
list of keepers

We parked alongside Croton Avenue and proceeded to the trailhead using the GPS coordinates that I was provided. Although we began there, upon our return I determined that a much easier way to the trail was alongside a stone wall which is visible from the road which leads right to the trail. Nevertheless, we bushwacked through the woods and up the hill looking for any sign of a trail. We came to a stone wall and walked through the collapsed section.

stone wall
stone wall

We continued pass the stone wall and veered left. Going straight would have been an extremely steep climb up the mountain so using common sense I figured any trail would have skirted around the shoulder of the hill. As we walked through the woods, we saw some red blazes on trees and I was pretty sure this was the trail we were looking for. I was told that the trail was unblazed, but as long as this red-blazed trail led us uphill, I knew we were going in the right direction.

red-blazed trail
red-blazed trail

Surprisingly this trail is well maintained, which was evident by the blowdowns being cleared from the trail. I noticed tire tracks on the trail so I guess that bikers use and maintain this trail.

red-blazed trail
red-blazed trail

The trail led up the mountain on switchbacks and steeply in some spots, but we kept huffing and puffing towards the summit. It was foggy, serene and quite scenic. We didn’t encounter another living soul during this hike. No wildlife was to be seen or even any birds chirping. It was eerily quiet and I loved it.

red-blazed trail
red-blazed trail

At one point the red blazes started to lead away from the summit and we stopped following them. The trail though unblazed was clearly discernible until we neared the summit. The trail petered out, but thanks to Ben I knew that would happen. We walked along the ridge hoping to catch a glimpse of what we were looking for. The dense fog made for poor visibility, but I noticed a rectangular shape through the woods. I thought it might be the ruins of a building, but as I neared it I realized that it was the top of the fire tower.

Nelson Mountain Fire Tower
Nelson Mountain Fire Tower
Nelson Mountain Fire Tower
Nelson Mountain Fire Tower
Nelson Mountain Fire Tower
Nelson Mountain Fire Tower

If a fire tower falls in the woods, does it make any noise?

Nelson Mountain Fire Tower
Nelson Mountain Fire Tower

It was pretty cool to see something that was pretty well hidden in the woods and that I had no clue existed. I grew up fishing in the area and have driven by Salt Hill countless times, never knowing what sat atop the summit. Thanks Ben. We explored the area and found a large cinder block building nearby. I do not know the origins of this building, but I can guess that it was possibly used for storage.

cinder block building
cinder block building
cinder block building
cinder block building

There was a lot of evidence of human activity in the immediate area that we checked out. There were a lot of steel barrels strewn about the area.

steel barrels
steel barrels

There were ruins of other small buildings as well.

building ruins
building ruins

When we were done exploring, we retraced our steps back to the red-blazed trail and headed down the mountain. When we got to the spot where we originally found the red-blazed trail, we stayed on it. Croton Avenue was visible through the trees and it was an easier route as well. The red-blazed trail began to parallel Croton Avenue and began to lead away from where we wanted to go. At this point we left the trail and bushwacked towards the road. We came to a lower section of the stone wall that we encountered at the beginning of the hike and passed through it.

stone wall
stone wall

We made our way to Croton Avenue, turning left and walked along the road back to where we had parked. We then drove over to Turkey Mountain Nature Preserve for part 2 of our Saturday hike. I hope that you enjoyed today’s hike and don’t forget to follow my blog. As always any comments and/or suggestions are welcome and feel free to share my posts with your friends. Until next time folks, now get out there and take a hike!

Pros: Scenic area, historical features, fire tower, ruins, secluded and quiet.

Cons: Limited views

Take a hike!
Take a hike!

Pocantico Hills Loop – Rockefeller State Park Preserve

January 15, 2017 – Sleepy Hollow, NY

Difficulty: easy

Length: approximately 6 miles

Route type: circuit

Map: Rockefeller State Park Preserve

 

Rockefeller State Park Preserve is an 865-acre park that was established in 1983, when the Rockefeller family donated a portion of their Pocantico Hills estate. The preserve is criss-crossed by a network of carriage roads, constructed by the Rockefellers in the 1920s and 1930s, and this hike follows these delightful gravel roads. It traverses the lesser-used western portion of the preserve and follows a portion of the Old Croton Aqueduct. Because there are many intersecting trails, not all of which are marked with signs, it is strongly advised to take a trail map with you.

I have been hiking Rockefeller State Park before I even knew what hiking was. Back then we would just say “let’s go take a walk up in Rockefeller’s.” I have wandered many areas of the preserve mostly without a map, mainly because years ago the trails weren’t marked and I don’t even know if a map existed. I have even gotten a bit lost up there as well and often wandered the area at night. Growing up nearby, it was always a place that as a youth, one could go to get away from the prying eyes of a small town. Recollections of parties and bonfires come to mind whenever certain parts of Rocky’s property is mentioned. We all have many tales to tell of the times that we spent in those woods. That is why hiking in Rockefeller State Park holds a special place in my heart.

With the uncertainty of the amount of snow that would fall this weekend, I had several hikes lined up. The original hike I had planned necessitated walking on unblazed trails in an unfamiliar area. Although we only got a light dusting, it was enough to make an unmarked trail harder to follow. After tossing the idea around, we decided to do a longer, but easier hike at Rockefeller State Park Preserve which I found on the NY/NJ Trail Conference website. The weather for this Sunday morning hike was sunny with temps in the mid to high 30’s. Enough snow fell the previous night to leave a layer of white on the ground, so we brought along our microspikes to help with traction along the trails. We parked on Gory Brook Road in Sleepy Hollow which is within feet of the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail, where our hike would begin.

Once geared up, we made our way to the OCA and proceeded north, with Gory Brook Road on our right. We walked on the elevated section of the OCA where it passes over the Pocantico River, then came to the Sleepy Hollow Weir. The weirs along the Old Croton Aqueduct were structures that were built right over or next to the aqueduct, enabling direct access to the aqueduct tunnel. This allowed for maintenance and repair by diverting the waters to a nearby waterway.

Sleepy Hollow Weir
Sleepy Hollow Weir

We dusted off a bench and sat down to put on our microspikes. Once our traction devices were firmly in place we shoved off. Just after passing the weir we came to a junction. Here we made a sharp right onto the Big Tree Trail which curves to left as it heads downhill. There are no signs at this junction, but it is easily discernible. At the bottom of the hill we came to an H-intersection where we made another sharp right at the blue sign post.

H-intersection
H-intersection

Although no sign marked the trail, this was the Pocantico River Trail, which would be our route for the next two miles. We crossed the Pocantico River on a stone triple-arched bridge with the high embankment of the Old Croton Aqueduct to the right, where we crossed over moments earlier.

stone-faced triple-arch bridge
stone-faced triple-arch bridge

 

Pocantico River just before it passes under the OCA.
Pocantico River just before it passes under the OCA.
high embankment of the Old Croton Aqueduct
high embankment of the Old Croton Aqueduct

After crossing the bridge, we turned left and began walking alongside the Pocantico River, now on our left. When we came to a stone bridge which we did not cross, we turned right to continue on the Pocantico River Trail.

stone bridge spanning the Pocantico River
stone bridge spanning the Pocantico River

In a short distance we came to a concrete bridge. This bridge is part of Old Gory Brook Road. This road used to run from New Broadway to Old Sleepy Hollow Road. Most of the road now lays in abandonment.

concrete bridge
concrete bridge

We continued along the Pocantico River Trail until we came to another stone arch bridge. After crossing the bridge, we continued on the Pocantico River Trail with the river now on our right.

stone arch bridge
stone arch bridge
Pocantico River
Pocantico River

We passed beneath the Route 117 overpass still following the wide carriage road.

Route 117 overpass
Route 117 overpass

The road led us gently up the hill where we turned right onto the 13 Bridges Loop Trail.

13 Bridges Loop Trail
13 Bridges Loop Trail

The 13 Bridges Loop Trail like the name implies, is 1.9 mile trail that leads to 13 bridges over the wandering Gory Brook.

13 Bridges Loop Trail
13 Bridges Loop Trail

Legend has it that Gory Brook got its name after a Revolutionary War skirmish left the stream red with the blood of British troops. According to Henry Steiner, Sleepy Hollow Village Historian, The brook passes through a part of the Rockefeller Preserve known as Hulda’s Glen and it is the largest tributary of the Pocantico River. He has a great book titled: The Place Names of Historic Sleepy Hollow & Tarrytown.

Gory Brook
Gory Brook

We again passed under another section of the Route 117 overpass, a little further west than we did earlier.

Route 117 overpass
Route 117 overpass

The Gory Brook Trail began after passing beneath the bridge and we followed it briefly then turned right onto Witches Spring Trail and then right again onto the Spook Rock Trail, which was the steepest section of the hike, but short lived. A large boulder sitting atop a hill, now graced with its own trail, it was a gathering place for Indian councils where leaders of the tribe would gather. Council rocks were chosen in part because they were believed to hold sacred powers. Hulda the witch is said to have had a hut not too far from the boulder.

Spook Rock Trail
Spook Rock Trail

The Spook Rock Trail leads straight into the Big Tree Trail and we began following it.

Big Tree Trail
Big Tree Trail

We stayed on the Big Tree Trail until we reached the H-intersection that we encountered towards the start of the hike. Here we turned left onto the Pocantico River Trail, briefly retracing our steps from earlier in the hike. Once again we crossed the stone triple-arched bridge, but this time we went straight after crossing. The trail climbed briefly with the high embankment of the Old Croton Aqueduct visible to our right through the trees. Now heading south along the abandoned Gory Brook Road, we made our way back to where we began our hike.

abandoned Gory Brook Road
abandoned Gory Brook Road

Another successful hike in the books and we were off to fill our bellies. I had some Cuban Beef Stew in the slow cooker along with a smorgasbord of other culinary delights. I truly hope that you enjoyed the hike and please don’t forget to follow my blog. Feel free to leave a comment and/or any suggestions. Until next time folks, now get out there and take a hike!

Pros: convenient location, scenic and historic area, wide carriage roads, easy hiking, network of trails to either lengthen or shorten the hike.

Cons: trails only marked at intersections (mostly), gets crowded in warm weather, haven for unleashed dogs (despite park rules).

Take a hike!
Take a hike!