Harriman State Park is my favorite place to hike in the Hudson Valley. With 31 lakes and reservoirs, 200 miles of hiking trails and its close proximity to where I reside, I look forward to exploring all it has to offer. Some of the trails are very challenging without being overkill and the park is loaded with history. From the abandoned Civil War era iron mines to its historic trails, it’s like going back in time whenever I hike there. It’s a popular place for hikers of all skill levels and certain sections can become crowded on the weekends. I try to come up with hikes that see less traffic along the trails whenever possible. Coming up with these hikes entails using unmarked trails and woods roads at times. Since some of these trails and roads are not maintained, the conditions vary from easy to follow woods roads to trails that are overgrown and difficult to navigate. I carry a GPS device, but I rely mostly on the most recent paper map available and a map compass. I also do some research on the trails that I plan to use by reading recent reviews of those trails when possible. I also email or call the NY/NJ Trail Conference for information on the conditions of the trails that I plan to hike.
When I started hiking I would use just the trail descriptions I found online and didn’t bother with a map or compass. I got lost several times and sometimes the description of the hike can be confusing or resemble other areas which look alike. My point is that no one should hit the trails without proper preparation. A 3 mile hike can either be easy or extremely difficult depending on the terrain and the amount of elevation involved. Wearing the proper footwear and moisture-wicking clothing can make the difference between an enjoyable outing and a miserable one. Carrying a headlamp is a good idea as well. It gets dark earlier in heavily forested woods or if you get caught out there after sunset, it could make the difference.
I often see people on the trails wearing sandals or sneakers and I just shake my head. Yesterday I saw people hiking without water, backpacks and hiking boots. I tend to carry more fluids than I consume because I would rather bring back what I didn’t consume rather than running out. One never knows what could happen on a hike. If you become injured or lost you will need to stay hydrated until you find your way or help comes along. My shoulders are sore today from carrying my backpack yesterday as I write this, but I am intact. Along with fluids, I also carry a first aid kit, extra socks, work gloves, knife, food, camera and some other items which I deem a necessity. I also carry bear spray which is attached to my belt with a holster. It would serve no purpose if it was tucked away in my backpack and a bear appeared in front of me.
I love to hike as do others and it pains me to read about hikers that perish in the woods due to carelessness. Even those that have to be rescued due to poor planning or put others in danger. The first responders have to tackle difficult terrain in inclement weather and often times at night. Their lives are put at risk due to the negligence of others.
The summer months attract droves of people to Harriman State Park. Those that love and respect the outdoors don’t take it for granted or lightly. Careful planning, a little foresight and some common sense can go a long way towards having a successful and enjoyable hike.