Posts Tagged ‘trails’

Bushkill Falls

November 1, 2013

Known as the “Niagara of Pennsylvania,” Bushkill Falls boasts a number of  waterfalls deep in the woods. The trails are easy to do, since they are mainly wooden walkways, stairs, and bridges connecting one waterfall to another. This time of year, it looks like the Main Falls near the entrance takes the prize for most impressive in the waterworks department. Count on spending 3+ hours here if you’re as insane a shutterbug as I am.  We did the red trail and then the yellow trail – combined, these two trails cover the entire area.  A word of warning – we came here in the morning and the walkways were manageable.  By noon, the crowds picked up and traffic pile-ups became the norm.

Stairs, stairs, and more stairs!
Bushkill Falls

I wouldn’t say any of these walkways were scary. They felt sturdy with no gaps in the floorboards. This place is good for kids who are able to climb up and down stairs.
Bushkill Falls

Bushkill Falls

This was one of the more anemic falls.
Bushkill Falls

A glimpse of the Delaware Valley from a lookout point.
Bushkill Falls

Bushkill Falls

Standing on top of the Main Falls. The water here is supposed to be the cleanest in Pennsylvania. However, its yellow/brown tinge would give anyone pause to drink it straight out. The color comes from the tannin and tannic acids that come out of tree roots and tree debris in the water.
Bushkill Falls

The Main Falls from below.
Bushkill Falls

Bushkill Falls is a 2-hour drive from NYC. Take Interstate 80 to Exit 309, Rt. 209 north. Turn left onto Bushkill Falls Road at the blinking light in Bushkill, PA. The falls is open April through November, 7 days a week, from 9am to dusk. Admission is $12.50 for adults, $7 for kids ages 4 to 10, and free for kids less than 4. Dogs are welcome.

The Berkshires: Bartholomew’s Cobble and Bash Bish Falls

October 25, 2013

Bartholomew’s Cobble is named after the farmer who used to own this stony outcropping of quartzite and marble along the Housatonic River. It was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1971 for its unusual diversity of plants. The highlight of the Cobble is Hurlburt’s Hill, which climbs 1,000 feet before it plateaus into a meadow with vistas of the Housatonic River Valley. The hiking trail (called the Tractor Path) starts across the street from the visitor center and runs along a flat meadow before gradually climbing up. This climb may tax your strength, but what you are climbing is most definitely not a mountain, a fact for which you will be thankful when you reach the top. You are soon rewarded with a bench to rest yourself and a 180-degree view, mainly north. With your binoculars and a little luck, you can also spot some hawks going along their migration route. We had the binoculars but not the luck.

This picture doesn’t do the hill justice. It was hard to capture the height of this place because of the wide plateau.
Bartholomew's Cobble

The Cobble also has a number of trails by the visitor center. We did the short Craggy Knoll Trail but found it disappointing. The longer Ledges Trail is supposed to be more promising with some caves along the way. There is also the historic Ashley House that you can explore if you take the Hal Borland Trail.

Bash Bish Falls, located in Mount Washington State Forest, is Massachusett’s highest single-drop waterfall. At the MA/NY border, the water flows out of MA and into NY where it later joins the Hudson River. There are two ways to get to the falls, from the MA side or the NY side. We opted for the NY side and did not regret it.

Once we parked and started on the trail, we soon encountered a fast-flowing stream created by the falls almost a mile away. There were plenty of large rocks to scramble over.

Bash Bish Falls

We found this guy hula hooping in the middle of the stream with headphones on, clearly unfazed by the audience of hikers.

Bash Bish Falls

When we got to the falls, we were rewarded with this.

Bash Bish Falls

…and a view from below via stairs.
Bash Bish Falls

Bartholomew’s Cobble is in Sheffield off of Route 7A. The entry fee is $5 per person. No dogs or bikes. Bash Bish Falls is in Mount Washington and can be reached off of Route 22 – look for signs for Copake Falls or Taconic State Park. Parking is free and the walk to the Falls is a 3/4 mile of gradual climb. Dogs are ok, but no bikes and no swimming.

The Berkshires: Pleasant Valley Sanctuary and Mount Greylock

October 18, 2013

Mount Greylock was Massachusetts’ first wilderness state park. It also lays claim to being the highest point in the state at about 3,500 feet in elevation. You can hike to the summit from the visitor center or drive up the summit road, which is open from late May through November 1st. There are several lookout points along the summit road.

Mount Greylock

When you reach the top, you will find the Veteran’s War Memorial Tower. Normally, you can climb to the top and get an even more aerial view of the State, but unfortunately, it is closed indefinitely for repairs.

Mount Greylock

I recommend plopping yourself down near the edge like these folks for some silent contemplation.

Mount Greylock

Bring your binoculars!

Mount Greylock

Pleasant Valley Sanctuary near Lenox has an extensive network of trails going through dense woods, streams, and ravines. It is well-known for its beavers. Amazingly, these beavers are all descendants of three beavers gifted by the State of New York in 1932. Beavers are nocturnal creatures, so if you’re dead-set on seeing some, going close to dusk is probably your best bet. Here’s a beavers’ nest, probably with beavers sleeping inside.

Pleasant Valley Sanctuary

The easy, flat trail around Pike’s Pond is very nice and has a viewing platform with benches.
Pleasant Valley Sanctuary

I suggest taking the Yokun trail to the Old Wood Road trail to see some more beaver habitats. Although we didn’t see much in the way of beavers or birds at 11am, we did see droppings from a large-ish animal (bears and bobcats roam around here). We had to make do with sightings of turtles, catfish, and large colorful mushrooms.

Pleasant Valley Sanctuary

Pleasant Valley Sanctuary

If you’re up for a challenge hiking up a very steep trail to the top of Lenox Mountain, you can do so from the sanctuary – it’s 3 miles roundtrip and is north of Pike’s Pond. We opted not to do this hike.

Mount Greylock is located in Lanesborough. Overnight camping is permitted, and there is also paid lodging at the summit. Dogs and bikes are allowed. Pleasant Valley Sanctuary is located at 472 West Mountain Road in Lenox. It is open from dawn to dusk and the entry fee is $5 per person. No pets or bikes allowed.

The Berkshires: The Ice Glen and Monument Mountain

October 11, 2013

This will be the first in a series of posts about the Berkshires, which we just returned from recently with its vivid-colored splendor. We explored a number of interesting outdoor spots, so I plan to highlight two per post. This first post will give you two great things to do around the town of Stockbridge.

The Ice Glen is  a not-to-miss geological wonder of green mossy boulders and caves within a gorge. Once you park your car, you will first need to cross a bridge that deposits you onto railroad tracks.

Ice glen

Cross the tracks into the forest beyond – you will immediately start seeing giant rocks situated snugly among the trees. Pretty soon, you will come to a fork in the road. Take the path to the right.

Ice glen

As you climb up a bit, you’ll find yourself taking in the solid green masses of close-set rock as you enter the gorge. A damp chill sets in. They say that snow remains hidden in the caves in the summer. I can *maybe* believe it. Be prepared for some rock scrambling up and down the boulders.

Ice glen

Ice glen

There are a lot of red newts underfoot taking advantage of their moist surroundings.

Ice glen

This area is also known for Laura’s Fire Tower trail (the trail to the left at the fork in the road) The trail climbs 600 feet and deposits you at the foot of a metal fire tower that promises a view of three States. We did the steep climb to the fire tower, but when we got onto the platform of the metal contraption, we were sadly disappointed. The view was hidden by too many dense trees that had not yet shed their leaves! I would only recommend this climb when the trees have lost all their leaves and only under non-rainy/snowy conditions because of the steep trail.

Monument Mountain offers much better views on top, but it is not for the faint of heart. You will also need to be in relatively good shape to make the climb up to the 1,642-feet summit, with places where you will be maneuvering along a 1-foot wide ledge on the face of the mountain. There are two lookout points to get to – The Devil’s Pulpit and Squaw Peak.

We decided to take the easy ascent up by way of the Indian Monument trail and then come back down on the very steep Hickey Trail. This worked out well for us. The hike up and down the mountain was also rewarding in its own way, with sunlight bouncing off some of the fuzziest green rocks I’ve ever seen.

Monument Mountain

Getting to the Devil’s Pulpit is scary. I will not lie to you. I am scared of heights and there were moments climbing up that made me freeze for a good 5 seconds wondering how I got myself into this mess. The view is worth it though. This is a tiny spot on a ledge, so I suggest you go when you don’t expect too many other hikers around.

Monument Mountain

The view from Squaw Peak is great as well, this one being a full 360-degree view.  You can see the Catskills to the west and Mount Greylock to the north.  In some places, it may be wiser not to look down the sheer drop.  There is not much space up here, so again, make sure you go when you’re not competing with other hikers.  I suspect the peak can’t take more than 6 people at a time, given the lack of elbow room…and you certainly don’t want to get elbowed off-balance here!

Monument Mountain

Both the Ice Glen and Monument Mountain have no entry fees and are open sunrise to sunset. Dogs are ok in both places, but not bikes. To get to the Ice Glen from Stockbridge, turn left onto US Route 7 and travel 0.2 mile to Park Road. Turn left onto Park Road until it ends in a parking lot. Monument Mountain is easier to find – it is along Route 7 between Great Barrington and Stockbridge.

Staten Island Greenbelt

September 27, 2013

The Staten Island Greenbelt is a large network of wooded trails situated in a what is undoubtedly the greenest borough in the city. Rather than being one cohesive park, it is comprised of patches of existing park and newly acquired parkland cobbled together by the Greenbelt Conservancy. Unlike regular parks in the city, this one includes a golf course and a country club, with numerous trails intersecting and running askew like a subway map. The shortest trail is 4 miles, while the longest is 12 miles one-way.

My initial reason for coming here was to visit the William T. Davis Wildlife Refuge. If it was anything like the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens, we were in for a treat. Unfortunately, the only trail they have there was not well-maintained, with the vegetation at some point threatening to swallow us up. So we doubled-back and decided to do a different trail towards the ruin of a colonial-era home on Heyerdahl Hill. The woods in that area is supposed to be haunted with the 200-year old spirit of a child on a pale horse. We didn’t spot any ghosts, but we did find the ruin with a surprise geocache!

This was the first weekend with temperatures in the 60s, and we were quite happy to see signs of fall approaching.

Staten Island Greenbelt

Staten Island Greenbelt

Staten Island Greenbelt

There are a few areas that are designated swamps, but the two swamps that we passed by were more like open fields that showed their swampy nature only around the edges.

Staten Island Greenbelt

The Heyerdahl ruin is not too impressive, once you find it. I was more interested in the geocache that was hidden there. My first one! If you want to see this place, make sure you have a map with you – it is a detour off the red trail, so you need to keep your eye out for a very narrow and unmarked trail. Because the red trail is a loop, you can access the unmarked trail from two different points on opposite ends of the loop.

Staten Island Greenbelt

Staten Island Greenbelt

Staten Island Greenbelt

We then headed towards another part of the Greenbelt called High Rock Park. We saw a garter snake and several frogs.

Staten Island Greenbelt

Staten Island Greenbelt

The park borders a lake and two ponds – all very nice to walk by with no danger of mosquitoes at this time of year.

Staten Island Greenbelt

Staten Island Greenbelt

Because the Greenbelt is smack in the middle of Staten Island, the only way I would recommend getting here is by car. When I stopped off at the Nature Center, I overheard some poor woman say she took two subways, the ferry, and then a bus to get here. That is insane! Entrance to the park and parking is free. Dogs are welcome, but no bikes are allowed on the trails. Ticks are an issue, as many of the signs are happy to point out. Wear light-colored clothing and knee-high socks.

Sands Point Preserve

May 24, 2013

I am not sure how I heard about this place, but once I found out there was a castle on the grounds, my interest was piqued. Castle Gould was built in 1902 by railroad tycoon Jay Gould and modeled after Kilkenny Castle in Ireland. His wife did not care for it, so it ended up serving as the stables and servants’ quarters. Imagine that! A castle just for the servants and horses! The Goulds, instead, made their home in a Tudor-style mansion nearby called Hempstead House. Jay later sold the estate to the Guggenheims, who kept it in the family until 1971, when it was willed to Nassau County as a museum site. The grounds are extensive and look out onto Long Island Sound. You can easily see how this estate was considered a gem along the “Gold Coast” of Long Island. Today, there are a number of trails on the grounds and the buildings are still in good condition.

This is Castle Gould, which is now the Visitor’s Center where they hold educational programs. The castle’s limestone facade contains fossils along its surface.  Quite interesting and worth the look!

Sands Point Preserve

One of the trails leading away from the Visitor’s Center skirts the freshwater pond nearby. It is a nesting place for ducks, but we did not see any that day.

Sands Point Preserve

If you keep walking past the pond, you will hit trail #5 – this will take you to the cliffs and beach along Long Island Sound. Unfortunately, the beach is in bad shape right now, possibly from Hurricane Sandy. There are signs not to enter and broken-up concrete litter the entire beach. You should heed the warning because even the stairs leading down to the beach are not safe.

Sands Point Preserve

This is Hempstead House, a mansion containing 40 rooms!  They were setting up for a wedding reception on the day we were there so we could not go inside. Normally, you can go in and look around, although it is not actually furnished anymore.

Sands Point Preserve

I would not say the trails are all that interesting, but at least they are well-marked and easy to navigate. They would be good for families with children.
Sands Point Preserve

The preserve is in Port Washington, Long Island. It takes about 45 minutes by car from Manhattan. Admission is $10 per car. Dogs are welcome, but bikes are not.  There is a third building that is on the grounds that you can visit called Falaise.  It is a Normandy-style mansion on a cliff that is still furnished appropriate to the period. We decided not to go since we were there very early and the tour hours did not work for us. If you are interested in visiting it, you are required to do the tour – tours start at noon and occur every hour on the hour until 3pm. They will pick you up at the Visitor’s Center and drive you to the mansion. Otherwise, you cannot go there on your own. There is a separate admission charge of $10 a person.

Rockland Lake State Park

May 17, 2013

Through much of the 19th century, Rockland Lake was a hub for ice harvesting.  The spring-fed water was ideal for creating clean ice, and many ice houses lined the lake. Today, people enjoy the lake for other reasons. There is a 3-mile bike and jogging path that circles the lake, with multiple vantage points and benches from which to commune with nature. You can also go fishing or boating on the water. My main enjoyment came from spotting the various birds that migrate here – Canadian geese, swans, egrets, and your run-of-the-mill ducks.

Rockland Lake State Park

 

Geese crossing

Rockland Lake State Park

 

Rockland Lake State Park

 

Rockland Lake State Park

 

Beautiful birds by the Nature Center

Rockland Lake State Park

 

Rockland Lake State Park

 

Rockland Lake State Park

 

Rockland Lake State Park

The park is west of the Hudson River in Rockland County – about a 45 minute drive from Manhattan. Admission is $8 per car. Dogs are not allowed in the park during the warmer months.

The Adirondacks (Lake Placid and Lake George)

November 18, 2012

Continuing our upstate NY trip, we drove from the Finger Lakes to the Adirondacks.  This region is huge with plenty of little towns to explore, but we decided to focus our last 4 days on Lake Placid and Lake George.  By mid-October, the crowds are thinned to a minimum and there is plenty of peace and quiet in the woods.

The Brewster Peninsula Trail behind the Howard Johnsons takes you to a fine view of Lake Placid. Surprisingly, we found out the hard way that if you are not staying at a hotel or vacation home on Lake Placid, you will not have access to the lake. All roads around Lake Placid are private. This was one of the few places that let you get a glimpse. The other place we discovered that allows public access, although we didn’t have a legitimate reason for being there, was a boat docking area.

Brewster Peninsula trail

Brewster Peninsula trail

Lake Placid

Mirror Lake, the smaller lake that sidles up against Main Street in the town of Lake Placid, is far more easily accessible and is quite stunning. We enjoyed watching this lake change color throughout the day. Aside from the outdoor spots right off of Main Street where you can view the lake, there are two hidden locations that provide amazing views, complete with comfortable seating. The library on Main Street has a sun room with rocking chairs and a large window framing the lake. This is a great perch for when it’s cold. The coffee shop in the mall on Main Street has an outdoor balcony with cafe seating. The view here is worth a panoramic shot (my photo-stitching skills are not quite there yet).

Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake at sunset

If there is only so much you can take of lakes, there is one excursion outside of Lake Placid that I highly recommend called High Falls Gorge.  The treetop walkways and bridges give you a view of the Ausible River churning angrily below.  The place has a feel of a mining operation (it actually does have a “mining for gems” feature for kids).

High Falls gorge

High Falls gorge

After a couple of days, we continued on our way to Lake George, about a 2-hour drive south. We stopped off at a taxidermy shop in between. Taxidermy seems to epitomize the Adirondacks for me.

taxidermy shop in Keene

Lake George has a different feel to it than Lake Placid. It is much more casual and we felt the off-season atmosphere more clearly here. We only spent one full day here and got busy seeing what there was to see. Here is a view of the lake and surrounding area from the top of Prospect Mountain. There is a fee to drive up this mountain.

Prospect Mountain

Prospect Mountain

The lake is also quite beautiful from the ground.

Lake George

Lake George

Lake George

I can imagine the Adirondacks being beautiful in the winter with snow on the ground and in the treetops.  There is plenty to do in the winter, especially in the Lake Placid area.  I don’t believe the lake is full of activity in the winter, but there is skiing and snowshoeing in the nearby mountains and woods.   For a place to stay, I recommend the Winterberry Bed and Breakfast right outside the center of town.  Our room was inexpensive and breakfast was delicious.  For Lake George, we stayed at the Inn at Erlowest, a grand old mansion right on the lake.  If you want luxury in a rustic setting, this is it!  The drive from Lake George to NYC is about 3 hours.  If you are planning a trip just to Lake Placid, the drive will be 5 hours.

The Finger Lakes

November 4, 2012

My little blog won’t be able to do this northwestern part of the state justice.  I barely scratched the surface during my 3 days here, but what I can give you is a little flavor to whet your appetite.  On the map, you can easily see how the Finger Lakes got its name – deep grooves left by glaciers resulted in long slender bodies of water side by side resembling fingers. There is an abundance of gorges, waterfalls, forest, and of course, lakes in the area.  Perfect for nature lovers!

We came here to see the leaves change and at mid-October, we were in time to see the colors peak.  It’s absolutely gorgeous at this time and with the summer crowd gone, the perfect time to explore at leisure.  Here are a few highlights from our stay.

Taughannock Falls is at the bottom end of Cayuga Lake, close to Ithaca.  It can be seen from two vantage points, from the top at a parked lookout point and from the bottom of the falls itself.  Here is the view from the lookout.  What I saw didn’t match the pictures, possibly because there hadn’t been enough rain in some time.  Its height is still impressive though.

Taughannock Falls

The hike to the falls itself is an easy 20 minute walk through a partially dry river bed (or you can follow the official trail that is completely dry above the river bed).  We saw hawks nesting on the gorge wall.  Pretty amazing.

Taughannock Falls

Taughannock Falls

For our stay here, we decided to base ourselves at the upper tip of Canandaigua Lake.  This was so we could drive to Niagara Falls without spending too much time on the road (separate post on that coming up).  Canandaigua also happens to have a nice little main street and a historical attraction called the Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion.  This estate houses a 40-room mansion and several different styles of gardens.  You can tour the grounds and mansion by yourself, but I recommend the free guided tour of the mansion – you get more out of it than just reading the signs.

Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion

Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion

Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion

The real highlight of the Finger Lakes, at least for me, was the gorge at Watkins Glen.  Something about the 800 steps carved into the rocks, forming a meandering and moderately-difficult trail with gushing water and dripping caves, reminded me of Lord of the Rings.  You forgive this man-made intrusion into nature because otherwise you would not be able to experience the sights and sounds of this place.

Watkins Glen gorge

Watkins Glen gorge

Watkins Glen gorge

The drive to the Finger Lakes takes about 5 hours from NYC.  To keep your sanity, I recommend you break up the drive somewhere along the way, like in Binghamton.  The Finger Lakes is a huge area and you have many options for where to rest your head.  We stayed at a Victorian bed and breakfast in Canandaigua called the Inn on the Main, which I recommend wholeheartedly because we felt very pampered.  The Finger Lakes is also known for its impressive number of wineries.  For more things to do, especially when the lakes are open for water sports, click here.

Duke Farms

June 29, 2012

This was a farm that tobacco built, although you would be hard-pressed to believe that this vast 2,000-acre estate is simply just a farm. Created by J.B. Duke in the late 1800’s, it started out as a purchase of a single farm by the Raritan River. The estate quickly expanded as 40 other farms in the surrounding area were added to the property. In the beginning, Duke Farms was meant to be an actual farm with cattle and horses, but J.B. tried his hand at it and changed his mind, opening up the land as a public park instead.

The landscaping is diverse, ranging from waterfalls to hills to a large number of lakes, with sculptures dotting the landscape almost randomly. This work is attributed to the design firm of Frederick Law Olmstead – the same firm that designed Central Park.  Given the size of this place, you will probably want to explore by bike to get the most out of your visit here. On bike, you should probably give yourself 2-3 hours to look around.  On foot, you ideally would want to spend half a day here.

The Coach Barn was the first of several barns to be built. It’s clear from the expensive finishes that they were meant to be more than just barns. In fact, they look more like mansions to us ordinary folks!

Doris Duke Farm

While the other barns seem to be in good shape, this one is being reclaimed by nature. The old hay barn is now a home for these lovely ladies.

Doris Duke Farm

I saw two conservatories, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more to be found elsewhere on the property. This is the major one, called Orchid Range. As you would guess by the name, it housed orchids. J.B.’s daughter, Doris, had a passion for them. The conservatory still has orchids on display today, along with other tropical plants.
Doris Duke Farm

Doris Duke Farm

This foundation was meant for yet another mansion that was planned.  It remains a mystery why they stopped building it.
Doris Duke Farm

Had they completed the mansion, this would have been the view from the backyard.

Doris Duke Farm

While water plays a large role in the landscape design, the lakes and waterfalls that I saw were not that attractive – they were covered with green algae!  Fortunately, there were plenty of streams where the water ran clear and the trees gave plenty of shade – perfect for a picnic!

Doris Duke Farm

Duke Farms is located at 1112 Duke Parkway West in Hillsborough, NJ. It is best to drive there and is about 1.5 hours from the city. However, you can take the N.J. Transit Raritan Valley Line to the Somerville Station and taxi the remaining 1.5 miles to the entrance. The grounds are open 8:30 to 6:00  every day except for Weds, July 4th, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Admission is free, and there is plenty of parking space. No pets are allowed. There are a number of environmental workshops and tours being offered right now – costs vary, and you should register in advance.