Posts Tagged ‘Westchester’

Cranberry Lake Preserve and Kensico Dam

October 4, 2013

Cranberry Lake Preserve and Kensico Dam are so physically close together that I would recommend visiting both in one trip. It’s also appropriate to cover to two together because they share a history – the large amounts of granite dug up from the quarries around Cranberry Lake made the dam what it is today.

The lake preserve is about 190 acres, containing both a lake and several ponds. It has a good mixture of high and low terrain – grey cliffs give way to swamp in a concentrated area. Several trails provide a good introduction to the area. I’m going to guess that the purple trail is very popular because it leads you high up on the cliffs to survey the remains of a geological goldmine. But first, let’s highlight the views along the way…

Cranberry Lake itself is quite large and very peaceful.
Cranberry Lake Preserve

What looks like a stone shelter is really the remnants of a farmer’s storage shed.
Cranberry Lake Preserve

What would a forest be without a few moldering antique cars?
Cranberry Lake Preserve

At last we come to the quarry cliffs. I was told people would swim down there in the summertime. The water looks highly questionable though.
Cranberry Lake Preserve

Cranberry Lake Preserve

This large railroad wheel reminds us of what it took to get quarried stone from one place to another.
Cranberry Lake Preserve

The cliffs are everywhere – just a little rock scrambling up to the top will reward you with views of the hawks that live nearby.
Cranberry Lake Preserve

Kensico Dam is monstrous, to put it lightly. On one side is a flat park with a lot of lawn space. On the other side a gazillion gallons of water. The granite stone from Cranberry Lake is what keeps the water safely where it belongs. The dam has been in place since 1917.
Kensico Dam

Kensico Dam

Rather than just stare upwards from the foot of the dam, you should take a walk along the length at the top. To get to the top, you have choices on either end of the dam. If you choose the left side, you will encounter some steep steps. The right side has a gentle slope that’s good for bikes, strollers, and wheelchairs. There used to be car access at the top, but that is no longer the case after 9/11.

The view at the top is lovely. So much water! I’ve heard that people fish for trout here.
Kensico Dam

Cranberry Lake Preserve is in Westchester near White Plains. It is open from dawn to dusk and there is no entry fee. No dogs or bikes are allowed. Kensico Dam is a 3-minute drive away. It also has no entry fee. Feel free to bring your dogs and bikes here. The wide open lawn space is also ideal for kite flying.

Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens

June 22, 2012

An hour’s drive north from the city is a little-known sculpture park hidden away in PepsiCo’s world headquarters. The Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens is as much a mouthful to say as it is chock-full of 20th century art. It was created by the former chairman of the board and chief executive officer in 1965, when PepsiCo came into being after Pepsi-Cola merged with Frito-Lay. The park has expanded over time and now houses 45 sculptures scattered over 152 acres. This is, without a doubt, one of the most impressive office environments for any worker bee!

This place shares a lot of similarities with the Storm King Art Center (reviewed here). However, the two notable differences is that this place is the private property of a major corporation, and lucky for you, admission is free! The park is carefully landscaped with a mixture of lakes, ponds, grassy fields, and woods.  I suggest giving yourself at least 2 hours to explore.  Some of the sculptures are striking, others odd, while a few, decidedly creepy. Enjoy and bring a picnic!

Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens

Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens

Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens

Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens

Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens

Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens

Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens

Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens

The park is located at 700 Anderson Hill Road in Purchase, NY. The best way to get here is by car, but you can also use public transportation – take the Metro-North to White Plains and then a taxi or the No. 12 bus to the entrance.  In the summer, the grounds are open from 7 am to 7 pm. In the winter, they are open from 7 am to 5 pm. Dogs are allowed, but not bikes. For those of you who are planning a wedding, this is a great place for wedding photos! We saw a wedding entourage taking advantage of the backdrop of sculptures and lakes. Lastly, watch out for snakes – we saw a small one on one of the pathways sunning itself without any care of passerbys.

Stone Barns

November 6, 2011

Stone Barns

I would wager that a lot of folks from the city go to Stone Barns for the multi-course “Farmer’s Feast” at Blue Hill, the highly reputable restaurant on the farm that does away with a menu and instead, offers whatever was just picked for the day. There are several price points, ranging from $88 for the 4-course lunch to $208 for the 12-course dinner. The restaurant is only open on Sundays. Although we enjoy a good meal now and again, we did not go to Stone Barns on this particular weekend to partake in an extravagant meal. We went for the fresh air, open space, and animals.

The name of this place fits very well with the cluster of stone buildings in the center of the farm. The restaurant is here, along with a take-out cafe, a gift shop, and the farm market that sells fresh produce and baked treats. We bought lunch at the cafe and ate it under the eaves in the courtyard. It was quite chilly but the lunch was very tasty – we had a roast beef sandwich, a bruschetta-like open face sandwich, and butternut squash soup.

Stone Barns

You are free to walk the grounds, with the exception of some places that are closed off to the public. You can either do a paid guided tour or self-guided tour with a map. You will need to consult the program calendar to see what tours are available on any given day.  We opted to just roam around. Near the buildings are a cluster of immense greenhouses. They were growing kale, chard, and some other vegetables I could not identify in their native state.

Stone Barns

Stone Barns

We were very happy to see huge swaths of open space here. There are some hilly parts, but they are not that bad to climb. There are also some wooded trails that surround the farm.  In the interest of time, we did not do any of the trails but may come back another weekend to do them.

Stone Barns

Stone Barns

Stone Barns

The main attraction, at least for me, are the animals. Farm animals are entertaining, even the not-so-cute ones.  These pigs live a life of luxury in their hay-padded shelter.

Stone Barns

The sheep had the run of two pastures, one next to the other.  In each pasture was a genuine sheepdog guarding its flock.  This dog seemed friendly enough, but when I walked several yards away from it to take a picture from another angle, it immediately stood up, walked up to me at the fence and stood in front of me as if to say that if I wanted to steal any of his sheep, I would have to go through him first!

Stone Barns

I don’t know if you can see this very clearly, but some of these chicken have very sad bald spots.  I have heard of chicken plucking their own feathers from stress, but have never really seen it.  I don’t know why they would be stressed here.  This seems like comfy living to me!

Stone Barns

Our seasonal favorite, the turkey, times 200.  There was a fight among the turkeys where one would jump and flap its wings quite suddenly and then another would do the same.  At one point, one would gobble and the rest would gobble in chorus.  It was very odd and soothing at the same time.

Stone Barns

Stone Barns is located at 630 Bedford Road in Tarrytown, NY. You can either drive or take the Metro North to Tarrytown and then hail a taxi from there. Parking is $5, but it is reimbursable if you spend over $15 on food or at the gift shop. Just make sure to give the cashier your parking receipt. Dogs are allowed on the grounds, but not in all places. There are signs that clearly tell you when you can’t take your dog past a certain point. Also, note that the fencing around the animals are electrified, so keep a tight grip on the smaller ones around these areas.

Rockefeller State Park Preserve

June 5, 2011

As can be guessed by the park’s name, William Rockefeller (“the” Rockefeller) originally owned the land that the park sits on.  His estate, a 204-room mansion of exuberance, also sat on these grounds.  Over the next 100 years, the land and estate passed down through the family.  In 1983, an ancestor gifted the land to New York.  The mansion is now only a shell, but fortunately for us, the park is well-maintained with many winding trails for birdwatching, horseback riding, jogging, and hiking.

The park is immense and requires some careful planning to explore it.  If you are spending half a day there like we did, you will only be able to see probably a third of the park.  We hit only two of the highlights listed on the park’s website plus a third spot that sounded interesting on the map.

The park’s only lake, called Swan Lake, is close to the entrance. We circled the lake but did not see any swans, unless they were disguising themselves as geese.

Rockefeller State Park Preserve

As we walked the trail towards the Eagle Hill overlook, we encountered a number of animals, both domesticated and wild. Several folks on horseback took the trail with us.  You may bring your horses in, but there is no horse rental onsite for the horse-less.  The etiquette in these parts is that horses have the right-of-way.  You, the pedestrian, must stop and let the horses go by first.

Rockefeller State Park Preserve

We passed a herd of cattle along the Ash Tree loop.  It is always a joy to see cattle grazing on real grass rather than on modified corn from a trough.

Rockefeller State Park Preserve

We were walking along another trail when we spotted a rabbit that had frozen on its tracks upon seeing us.  We froze when it froze, and then it became a game of who moved first.  I did, with my camera!

Rockefeller State Park Preserve

We also encountered chipmunks everywhere.  Most scampered away when we came near, but some continued searching for food right in front of our path!  We jokingly said we could probably scoop up one or more of these stupid ones to take home as pets.

Rockefeller State Park Preserve

There were also plenty of squirrels, but they didn’t quite have the same appeal as chipmunks, since squirrels are a dime a dozen in the city.  This one just seemed picture-worthy because its tail mimicked the looping of branches on that tree.
Rockefeller State Park Preserve

We also came upon a few indications of other animals that we couldn’t find.  We think these are woodpecker holes.  We heard them in the distance making loud knocking sounds, but we never saw one.

Rockefeller State Park Preserve

Here is a large cocoon by a bug that I am glad I didn’t see!

Rockefeller State Park Preserve

The forest was primarily a constant green.  Mossy logs, mushrooms, and the occasional watering hole kept things interesting.
Rockefeller State Park Preserve

Rockefeller State Park Preserve

Rockefeller State Park Preserve

We made our way up to Eagle Hill lookout, but instead of seeing a panorama of the Hudson River and the surrounding farmland that was promised on the map, we saw a tiny sliver of the Hudson River.   Perhaps the views are better in the winter when the leaves aren’t in the way?  I do NOT recommend doing the loop for this lookout in the spring or summer.

We next made our way to the 13 Bridges loop.  Guess how many bridges we passed?  This is a typical view of the brook that meandered underneath the bridges.

Rockefeller State Park Preserve

By the end of this 2-mile loop, we were exhausted.  We had meant to see the remains of the mansion much further out, but realized the distance was too daunting for our tired feet.  That will be for another day when we return to visit nearby Stone Barns.  We turned around and took a different trail back, where we encountered this interesting underpass.  Does this remind you of the Noguchi Museum?

Rockefeller State Park Preserve

Rockefeller State Park is located near Pleasantville in Westchester. The drive from the city takes about 45 minutes.  Click here for directions.  The park is open from 8:30 to 4:30 every day except Christmas.  The vehicle entrance fee is $6 per car.  You can bring your dogs and horses, but no bikes.  Apparently you can go fishing and hunting too, and those require a permit.  In the winter, you can go showshoeing, cross country skiing, and sledding.

Westmoreland Sanctuary

July 9, 2010

Westmoreland Sanctuary was established in 1957 as a not-for-profit organization focused on environmental education and wildlife preservation.  The sanctuary offers 13 hiking trails, one branching off into another, so that you can tack on as many trails as you want to customize your hike.  Virtually all of the trails are less than a mile long, so you will want to do at least three.

The area is full of meandering stone walls and thick forest.  You can come here at high noon and still be in shade for much of your hike.  The abundant chipmunks appear to live in the stone walls, hopping in and out between the cracks with ease.  There are also several lakes to visit, although on the day that I was there, the bugs had the same idea, so I steered clear of the wet areas.

For this post, I came up with a different idea about how to portray this place.  I realized after awhile that taking pictures of trees wasn’t cutting it.  Because the forest is so thick and green in the summer, its real beauty is in the details.  Below is a composite of images that should give you an idea of what’s in store for you.

Westmoreland Sanctuary

Westmoreland Sanctuary

Westmoreland Sanctuary

Westmoreland Sanctuary

Westmoreland Sanctuary

Westmoreland Sanctuary

Westmoreland Sanctuary

Westmoreland Sanctuary

Westmoreland Sanctuary

Westmoreland Sanctuary

Westmoreland Sanctuary is located on Chestnut Ridge Road in Bedford Corners.  It is open 7 days a week from dawn to dusk, and there is no admission fee.  Dogs are not allowed.  Click here for the most current trail map.  For driving directions, click here.  You may also want to bring bug spray if you plan on visiting the lakes.

Mianus Gorge

March 13, 2010

This is one of the most scenic hikes you will find close to home.  If you don’t have a car, it is worth convincing a friend who has a car to do this hike with you.  The 5 mile round trip hike is of medium difficulty (for a city dweller) and will take you about 3 hours to finish going at a slow pace.  It involves a good amount of uphill and downhill work that requires sneakers that fit snuggly.  When you’re done with this one, you’ll be a bit sore, but it would have been worth it.

There are several colored trails that intersect with each other.  You will definitely need to pick up a map at the start of the trail.  The more scenic route going in is the Green trail, which runs parallel to the Mianus River.

The forest provides plenty of shade along the hike…

…enough so that colorful mushrooms may surprise you underfoot.

This is a very quiet forest with no intrusion of city noise.  You may even find yourself the only hiker in the mornings.  It’s a bit eerie not to see civilization, but you are reminded of it when you see how the trail has been carefully maintained for you and then come upon a stone fence that was built ages ago that has now been left to its own devices.

I would recommend coming here in the fall when the leaves are changing color.  To get here, drive up the Hutchinson River Parkway to CT until it turns to Merritt Parkway.  Take Exit 34 onto Route 104 and drive a bit over 7 miles.  Turn left on Millers Mill Road, cross the stone bridge over Mianus River, and turn left onto the unmarked Mianus River Road.  Go less than 1 mile and turn left into the parking lot.

Hiking is free and so is the parking.  No dogs or bikes are allowed.  For current information on hours, click here.