Popolopen Gorge, Popolopen Torne

Here, mostly to see if i can do it, is a photo from a hike i’ve taken at least twice — once with Rachel and once with Tim. It’s really my favorite sign on any hike i’ve done so far.

It’s posted at the side of a road when you’re about halfway up Popolopen Torne (see the full description at http://bit.ly/1Cp4uBD).


Pretty great, right?




Save the Cliffs!

Millions of people riding the Amtrak or Metro North’s Hudson River Line have gazed up at the Palisades, those sheer cliffs on the west side of the river just north of New York City. But have you ever hiked it from top to bottom, and then back up again?

Well, you should. Tim and i did it last year and found it to be one of the most beautiful and rewarding hikes ever. Of course, there are some scary descents, but they’re not as bad as they look from the 8:07 from Beacon! In fact, despite what you would bet your life on while looking up at those cliffs from Yonkers, there’s no technical climbing at all. That’s right: No ropes needed! You  can park at a lovely parking area/restaurant with great hiking-related guidebooks and gear for sale, and following the blazed trails, you can do the entire down-and-up trip in less than 5 hours. Go to the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference website at www.nynjtc.org, click on “Find a Hike,” click on “strenuous” and then scroll down to “Giant Stairs/Long Path Loop” for complete directions. But MEANWHILE… that view — that magnificent view of the cliffs from New York — could soon be wrecked by the building on top of those cliffs of the headquarters of LG Electronics. (Never heard of them, you say? Look again at the logo on the front of your Verizon cellphone. In millions upon millions of cases, it will say “LG.” That’s them.)

Trying to stop LG from erecting a huge corporate structure there is the New York New Jersey Trail Conference, Scenic Hudson, and the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs. The latter is a group i’d never heard of until, half-way down the cliffs on our Palisades hike, Tim and i saw a turnoff for a small, castle-like stone building about 1/4 mile off the trail. It is a very cool place to visit, with great views (but of course, just about every step of that hike has great views.)  That little “castle,” which you can’t see from the river or even from the trail, was built to honor the NJ State Federation of Women’s Clubs (www.njsfwc.org).

Ayway, here’s the thing: If not for these organizations filing an appeal to a recent court decision, LG would be able to just go ahead and erect their huge headquarters atop the most beautiful site in our region. Pray that their appeal wins, and that these beautiful, ancient cliffs go unmolested.  Below is a snippet from the Aug. 28 issue of  Law360:


Groups To Appeal NJ Decision For LG Headquarters Building

By Martin Bricketto

Law360, New York (August 28, 2013, 7:16 PM ET) — Scenic Hudson Inc. and other parties are moving forward with their challenge to a ruling that upheld the approval of LG Electronics USA Inc.’s planned North American headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., which they frame as a threat to the Palisades region along the Hudson River.

On Tuesday, Scenic Hudson, the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs and two members of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference filed a notice of appeal over the Aug. 9 decision from Bergen County Superior Court Judge …

“Silent Spring,” 50 years later

Sept. 27 marks the 50th anniversary of the publication by Houghton Mifflin of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” surely one of the most influential books of the 20th century. It raised the alarm about the harmful effects of pesticides on a wide variety of life forms, including insects, birds and humans, and was the impetus that created the environmental protection movement.
First serialized in the “New Yorker” in the spring and summer of 1962, the book shocked the nation and was an instant best-seller. The chemical industry spent a huge amount of money and time vilifying Carson and trying to stop her warnings from spreading. She was portrayed as an “hysterical woman,” even a Communist. But Rachel Carson was simply a brilliant, concerned biologist who could both see the big picture of what was happening and put it into words that everyone could understand.
Anyway, both Carson and her book weathered the storm. Millions of people worldwide rallied to the cause. The Kennedy administration ordered an investigation into the book’s claims, and that investigation led to the banning of DDT in the United States and to the eventual creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Pesticides remain a threat to birds, humans and other life forms. The fact that her words, written half a century ago, still resonate shows the power of “Silent Spring,” and how it helped to improve our lives and ensure healthier lives for future generations.

Here’s how we can all help maintain the legacy of “Silent Spring”:

* Avoid using chemical pesticides, and then only in the smallest amounts needed;

* Dispose of chemical pesticides as instructed on their original containers, and never throw unused pesticides down a drain or a storm sewer.

* Donate to the Nature Conservancy, the Xerces Society or the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference to support their habitat creation and advocacy work;

* Keep Rachel Carson’s memory alive by reading or re-reading “Silent Spring” and recommending it to everyone you know.

Celebrate — and Visit — the Balsam Lake Mt. Fire Tower!

This year marks the 125th anniversary of Balsam Lake Mountain Fire Tower in the Catskills — the first fire tower in New York State. Come celebrate at the awesome fire tower itself, or the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development in Arkville for an opportunity to “Meet the Authors” as part of the Central Catskills Great Outdoor Experience Festival.

Join a group hike this Sunday (Aug. 26) from the Millbrook Road trailhead at 8:30 a.m. up to the summit tower, where you’ll chat with authors Marty Podskoch (“Fire Towers of the Catskills,” “Adirondack Fire Towers,” “Adirondack Civilian Conservation Corps Camps”), Dave and Carol White (“Catskill Day Hikes,” “Catskill Peak Experiences,” “Women with Altitude”) and Diane Galusha (“Another Day, Another Dollar: The Civilian Conservation Corps in the Catskills,” “Liquid Assets: The Story of New York City’s Water System”).

To get to this trailhead — the highest in the Catskills, at 2,580 feet —  from Kingston, proceed along Rt. 28 west to the Hamlet of Arkville, which is east of Margaretville and west of Fleischmanns. Turn south on Dry Brook Road, which becomes Ulster County Route 49. Go about 5 miles, then make a sharp right turn onto Mill Brook Road. The parking area is on the right, and the trailhead is across the road.

Interested in the fire tower, but not up for a hike? The authors will also be at the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development office in Arkville from 3 p.m. until 5 p.m. on Sunday. Jeff Senterman, Catskill Region Program Coordinator for the New York New Jersey Trail Conference, will host the event and will provide information on the Conference’s stewardship efforts in the Catskills. There will be light refreshments and books available for purchase. For additional information, contact Laurie Rankin at laurierankin@hvc.rr.com.

Trailsfest in Kingston Coming Up Soon!

Don't miss "Trailsfest 2012," Saturday, May 19, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Kingston!

The New York-New Jersey Trail Conference and other outdoor organizations,
retailers and groups will celebrate hiking and outdoor recreation in the
Catskill Mountain Region, hosted by Kenco the Work and Play Outfitter.
Free and open to the public.
It will be held at Kenco, 1000 Hurley Mountain Road, Kingston.
For more info, email Jeff Senterman at jsenterman@nynjtc.org.


AAA, You Forgot a Few Places

The new issue of “Car and Travel,” AAA’s abysmal magazine for members, has a featured story on the state’s “7 Natural Wonders” that we all should, supposedly, make road trips to this summer. Only one of them involves the mid-Hudson Valley: a trip to “the Gunks and Catskills.”

That’s quite a conflation.

Assuming, as always, that their readers are driving from Manhattan, they tell us to take Thruway Exit 18 and head to New Paltz. What would be much faster and easier would be to just take the Metro-North to one of the the state’s much closer-to-the-City “natural wonders,” Breakneck Mountain. The trains stop right there on weekends.

And every day, the trains stop at another, even closer,  great place: Cold Spring. From the station you can easily walk up the village’s fun Main Street and across Rt. 9D to a wonderful hike up Bull Hill (also known as Mount Taurus). In Cold Spring, you can also rent a kayak and shoot underneath the train trestle (an adventure in itself, depending on the tides) into the wild and peaceful  Constitution Marsh, or just paddle around in the Hudson among the boaters and fishers. You can follow up your experience on one of the country’s great rivers with a beer and/or meal, ranging from plain to fancy, at any of Cold Spring’s many eateries.

Oddly, they also omitted the  swimming and hiking available at Rockland Lake State Park, from whose Hook Mountain you can see the skyline of Gotham; the world-famous Bear Mountain and Harriman State Parks; and the hiking on Storm King, Schunnemunk and Black Rock — all of which are way closer to NYC than New Paltz is.

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised at these goofs, though, in a publication that amounts, issue after issue, to nothing more than one long, typo-riddled advertisement for their latest cruise-line “partner.”

Minnewaska, Meet High Point

Introductions will soon be in order: High Point, New Jersey, meet Minnewaska State Park; Fahnestock State Park, meet Hudson Highlands State Park. And meet they will, after years of effort on both sides of the Hudson to create unbroken greenways linking one famous outdoor paradise to another.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Land Trust Alliance, on April 23 in Rochester’s Seneca Park, announced 53 Conservation Partnership Program grants, totaling $1.4 million. The grants, funded through New York State’s Environmental Protection Fund, will be matched by $1.2 million in private and local funding.
Notably among these gifts, a $27,000 EPF grant to the New York New Jersey Trail Conference will support a major project in the Southern Gunks. This project will create an unbroken recreation and wildlife corridor linking the Catskill Forest Preserve and the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

The Southern Gunks, part of the Shawangunk Ridge, stretch about 25 miles northeast from High Point, N.J., to the Northern Gunks, which comprise Sam’s Point Preserve, Minnewaska State Park and Mohonk Preserve. The Shawangunk Ridge, as it is called in New York, is a geologic feature stretching hundreds of miles. In New Jersey, it’s called the Kittatinny Ridge; in Pennsylvania and Maryland, Blue Mountain; and inVirginia, North Mountain. In all five states, the ridge is protected from development — except in the Southern Gunks.

 The announcement of the grants came just 20 days after the Conservation Alliance, a national group of outdoor-industry companies, announced its own grant of $35,000 to the NYNJTC for the Southern Gunks project.
The biggest unprotected areas of the Southern Gunks are in their most southerly 10 miles, between High Point and Otisville. Now, the acquisition of just 13 parcels and/or easements is needed to complete a continuous protected corridor.

The NYNJTC sees its 1,600 members who live in Orange County as an important asset for the grassroots advocacy needed to purchase, and thereby protect, these parcels.

Another grant of local interest was a $16,000 grant to the Hudson Highlands Land Trust, a local land conservation organization based in Garrison, for its Jaycox Park-to-Park Connection Project. Those monies will facilitate a joint effort between the HHLT, New YorkState, and other partners to permanently protect a 50-acre parcel of land and create a long sought-after link between Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve and Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park.

Recent research underscores how investments in land conservation and open space boost property values, support local businesses, save taxpayer dollars, and protect public health. A study released in February by the Trust for Public Land found that every dollar of investment fromNew York’s Environmental Protection Fund generates seven dollars in additional economic benefits from tourism, reduced government costs and improved public health. A 2010 report on the economic benefits of open space from the New York State Comptroller recommended the Conservation Partnership Program as a model for public- private collaboration because it leverages substantial resources for local efforts to preserve clean air and water resources, agriculture, and outdoor recreational.

The Hudson Highlands Land Trust is a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the natural resources, rural character, and scenic beauty of the Hudson Highlands. For more information on the HHLT, call 845-424-3358 or visit www.hhlt.org.

Join Me at Trail U!

Here’s something we all should have taken in college but somehow overlooked: “Trail U 558 – Intro to Trail Maintenance.”

Offered by the wonderful New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, the group that procures and protects some of the best hiking trails in the Northeast U.S., it’s a FREE one-day training session covering the skills needed to maintain hiking trail so they’re easily passable and harmonious with their surroundings. Students will learn assessment of trail conditions, clearing, blazing, proper use of tools, and how to report trail problems.

The description at www.nynjtc.org says no previous experience is necessary, and beginners are welcome. That’s me! Students will spend the morning in a classroom and then head out into woods for hands-on instruction. The Trail Conference advises that students wear boots, and bring work gloves, water, and a bag lunch.

Date: Saturday, May 12, 2012 – 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Place: Port Jervis Public Library, Port Jervis, N.Y.

Maximum Number of Attendees: 25

Level: Introductory

Coordinator: Larry Wheelock; instructors: Jakob Franke and Andy Garrison

To register or to get more information, email Larry Wheelock wheelock@nynjtc.org or call him at 201-512-9348 x16.

You don’t have to be a member of the NYNJTC to take this course (for some of their offerings, you do), but consider joining anyway. Your $30 tax-deductible membership fee goes to help this great nonprofit save open space and map, clear and maintain trails throughout New York and New Jersey. It also gets you discounts on their excellent, waterproof topo maps; hiking books; and cool gear.

Hope to see you in Port Jervis on May 12!


New Maps from NYNJ Trail Conference Arrived!

YAY: The two new maps (which come as a set) i ordered from the New York New Jersey Trail Conference arrived in my mailbox yesterday. They’re the brand-new (2012) edition of “North Jersey Trails,” and they include some places on my Bucket List, such as Mount Defiance in Ringwood State Park. There’s one Defiance hike, i see already, that involves passing right through the grounds of the New Jersey State Botanical Gardens. On the NYNJTC website the hike’s listed as “5 miles, moderate,” which should be a piece of cake for me and Tim, but there are a few tricky parts, I could tell from the online description by my impeccably accurate hero, Daniel Chazin. And there’s a comment by someone who did that hike using his directions last fall, and she confirms that it gets confusing just where i suspected it might: right in the parking lot of the Botanical Gardens!

Ah, well: i still look forward to this; it’ll be a new adventure. Too bad it’s such a shlep from Newburgh: it’s in the northeasternmost part of Passaic County, N.J., adjacent to Rockland County, N.Y., where to get there, you have to head west on Rt. 287 ’til everyone’s sick. But i still can’t wait to give it a try, and am hoping i’ll be able to talk Tim into a “side trip” through the Gardens. How bad could that be during, let’s say, the week after Easter, in the Garden State?