The client I’m currently working with was closed the past Tuesday, November 3rd for the election. We were voting for Governor here in New Jersey and my friends across the river were voting for Mayor. Nice of my client to give their employees the day off to vote, I not being an employee don’t get paid but it is still a nice treat to have a day off. My kids are in school and the spouse is busy, so I’m was free to go for a long day hike.
I decided to go to normally crowded Harriman State Park in New York, I figured most people don’t get election day off so the park would be empty. I was right. I spend about 5 or 6 hours hiking and saw no one, except a couple trail runners at the very start. The park is only about half hour or 45 minutes from my house depending on which access point I use. Harriman State Park is very close to New Jersey and New York City but is large enough to still give you a ‘wilderness’ feeling once you walk in a few miles. The park has 31 lakes and over 200 miles of hiking trails. Harriman connects to Bear Mountain State Park, so there are plenty of options.
This Tuesday morning I really wanted to do a long loop, so I started out at “Elk Pen” which is right off the highway, both the Appalachian Trail and the Arden-Surebridge trail have access points at Elk Pen. Even though I got a late start, it was still a cold fall morning, about 45 degrees. This time of the year, the newly fallen leaves cover the trail completely, making it a small challenge to follow the path in a few spots . I was in a bit of an odd mood and for some reason was listening to my MP3 player as I started to hike – this is something I never do. It was only about a half hour later when i shut off the music that I realized how loud my walking was. The constant rustling and crackling noise of the leaves beneath my feet was actually so noisy I thought about turning on the music again, but choose to just listen to the forest like I normally do.
I followed the white blazes of the Appalachian Trail up into the woods past Island Pond, through the “Lemon Squeezer” (Large rocks and boulders that the AT goes directly between – a tight squeeze and then a steep climb up the rock face) and up to Fingerboard Shelter. Between the Lemon Squeezer and Fingerboard Shelter the AT goes through some swampy areas, but today they were mostly dry. I did run into a small (2 1/2 or 3 feet) garter snake around there which got me to wake up a bit. Just before Fingerboard Shelter along the ridge, the AT intersects with the Ramapo-Dunderberg trail. I turned right and followed the R-D trail along the ridge, for the most part a pleasant walk on granite and soft earth along the mountain top.
After a few miles the R-D trail reaches “Time Square”, the intersection of the Ramapo-Dunderberg trail, the Arden-Surebridge trail and the Long Path ( a 350 mile trail going from the George Washington Bridge up to Albany NY). Since time was getting a bit short I turned right on the Arden-Surebridge trail and headed back to the Lemon Squeezer. I startled a nice size dear on the way back but wasn’t fast enough to get a good picture of her.
Harriman State Park Location: Latitude 41.238095626099998 Longitude -74.101096325699999