Harriman Park in Autumn

November 9, 2010

Fall is one of my three favorite hiking seasons, along with winter and spring. The dry, once colorful  leaves blow off the trees and open up views of the distant hills and valleys. Hikers make the most of the cooler, often breezy weather, hiking longer distances than in summer.  There is adequate sunshine on your shoulder to make you happy, while cold nights have sent snakes to their cozy winter homes.

Fall is one of my three favorite hiking seasons

On a recent hike in Harriman Park on a sunny but cool day, I headed south on the Beech Trail from Route 106 to the trail’s end at the Long Path.  Last spring this section was alive with peepers looking for mates in newly formed small pools, but now it was dry and quiet.

I turned northwest on the Long Path, a long distance trail that starts at the George Washington Bridge, hugs the top of the Hudson Palisades and crosses the Ramapos, Schunemunk, Shawangunks and Catskills on its way to Indian Ladder in the Helderbergs near Albany, having traversed some 350 miles.  I followed it back across Route 106 until it turned west toward Lake Skannatati, popular with ice fisherman and some brave skaters in winter.

I continued north, skirting Lake Askoti, then followed an old woods road that will welcome cross country skiers in a month or so.  The rocky heights to the east block access to Rockhouse Mountain, the highest point in Rockland County.  Trailless Rockhouse is uninviting to hikers, but it can easily be climbed from the east.

I briefly picked up the Red Cross Trail and passed the Hasenclever Mine, whose muddy pond is home to some big frogs.  Just beyond, I left the trail and headed northeast, looking for the remnants of an ancient road that once carried iron ore on wagons down to Tiorati Brook, where the hikers’ parking lot now sits, and where the Beech Trail meets Tiorati Brook Road.  It was years ago that I first followed this road, struggling to get through the mountain laurel that had grown along and in the bed of the old road.  I was surprised at where I ended up, suddenly coming out on the Beech Trail at a point where there was no hint that the laurels hid an old road.

Loki in Harriman Park, fall 1995

I have taken this route from the mine many times with my dog Loki over the ensuing years, following landmarks into an isolated glen, one of the most beautiful spots in the Park.  Loki would splash through the babbling brook that coursed through the valley.  Far  from the nearest road, there was nothing to disturb the peace and quiet — the sounds of the outside world never penetrated.

This day I found that the old mining road was virtually obliterated by the thick laurel.   Without Loki to guide me, I mistakenly strayed west of the road and had to abandon my first attempt to get through the laurel.  My second attempt was more successful, and a moderate walk brought me to our favorite valley, this visit my first since her passing.  I remembered the little dog on her first hike to this spot — 15 years before.

Rather than continuing on along the stream, I retraced my steps to the mine, took the fire road east toward Lake Welch, then the Beech Trail south past the old cemetery.  Deep in thought I recalled the adventures we had hiking in the Park in autumn, Loki always in front of me, leading the way.


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