A Farewell to Fall along the Shawangunk Ridge

Vegan.Hiker

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Jul 5, 2014
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A night in Harriman State Park and a day on the Shawangunk Ridge
October 17th and 18th, 2015


This past weekend the Fall color show finally came to town. I was glad I wouldn't have to drive several hours north this weekend to find the colors. After weeks of patiently waiting, they finally came to me.

My car was already packed from the past 2 weekends of chasing the foliage around the northeast, so all I had to do after work on Friday was change out of my work clothes and pick up my dog Joey. The plan was pretty simple, I would drive the 20 minutes to nearby Harriman State Park, and find a spot to pitch my tent for the night. Then in the morning, I'd head to either the nearby Shawangunks or the Catskills. Each about an hour away (that might not fit your definition of close, but for me it does). I hadn't made up my mind yet and figured I'd mull it over that night around the campfire over a few cans of Yeungling.

So about my campsite... There are some really nice group campsites run by the park along Lake Tiorati. However, you need to show proof that you are a bonafide group (church, youth organization, etc.) to reserve those sites. However, on Columbus Day, the season officially ends and the Group Camp Office closes for the year and that's my cue to wander in, say "don't mind if I do" and get comfortable. The great thing about these sites is that since they gate the dirt road leading to the sites during the offseason, and the nearest parking is over a mile walk down the main paved road, you don't have to contend with lazy car campers. And since there are no trails around this area, you don't have to contend with hikers or backpackers either. So from my experience, nobody bothers going here in the off season.

Closed for the Season? Don't mind if I do!
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A view of my campsite early the next morning
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I stashed my gear behind the bushes near the main road and walked the mile down the road with Joey to get the car, then came back to pick up my stuff.

Seven Lakes Drive on the way to pick up the car the next morning
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So I decided the night before to head to the Shawangunks instead of the Catskills. The reason was simple, I've hiked in the Catskills during fall foliage season before, but have never made it to the Gunks that time of year. It took me about an hour to get there.

My hike started at Lake Minnewaska
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The area near the lake is a bit crowded with not really "hikers" but more like casual nature walkers for lack of a better term. But as soon as you get away from the lake area it quickly thins out.

From the lake, you have to take wide, nicely groomed "carriage roads" to get out to the actual hiking trails.

These carriage roads take you out to the hiking trails, are used heavily by bicyclers, and are about the equivalent of what they call "major highways" in Idaho but without the cow pies (Sorry @Ben and @Bob).


The carriage road I took eventually led me out to a nice ridge called Hamilton Point
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Ridgeline along Hamilton Point
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The view from Hamilton Point - Awosting Lake is in the distance
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Most of the rock in the Shawangunk ridge is a quartz conglomerate so it's a bright white


You can see the Catskill Mountains in the distance to the north in this picture
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The Gunks are 95% easy trail and about 5% steep rock scrambles up or down a ridge. This is some of the easy trail along the ridge. We had one steep scramble where I had to lift Joey a few times, but even that wasn't bad.
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The trail leads back out to the ridge in several spots. The ridge is adorned with blueberry bushes that turn a nice deep red in the fall
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Taking a break on the ridge
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Joey looked pooped. Even though it's easy terrain and it was nice and cool out, a 13 mile day is a long hike for Joey
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A panorama from along the ridge


We then headed up to a spot called Castle Point
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When the sun shone directly on the blueberry bushes they almost looked like they were on fire
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Then took a short scramble down from Castle Point
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Walking below the ridgeline
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From here on out it was mostly a walk on another easy carriage road back to the car


On the way back, we got some views across the valley of Gertrude's Nose which I had hiked earlier in the year
A Walk in the Gunks, Minnewaska State Park, NY
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Just a random shot looking straight up at some of the colors
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I had originally planned to follow the foliage south by heading down to Shenandoah NP in VA next weekend but a few obligations came up so I won't make it. By the weekend after that the foliage will be all but gone and I'll be taking a break until the snowpack develops up in the mountains further north.

So until next year, Fall colors! It was nice spending a few weekends with you.

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Last edited:

hikerboy

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Aug 31, 2015
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great stuff! i hike harriman and the gunks pretty regularly. i started climbing in the gunks back in the 70s and although i havent tied into a rope in a few years, still enjoy the scrambles on the long path out near lake awosting. its a spectacular setting, and your photos show it off well
 

Vegan.Hiker

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Jul 5, 2014
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Ahh! @hikerboy! I totally forgot you were from Long Island. I'm planning a winter backpack right near you. Expect a private message.. I need to pick your brain.
 

Ugly

Life really is better Here
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Really nice and all the colors are outstanding.
 
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