Backpacker - - Contents - By Elis­a­beth Kwak-Hef­feran


Bee­line to the best of this 358mile long-dis­tance trail.

Step off the sub­way and into a wilder­ness sparkling with lacy wa­ter­falls and craggy sum­mits—all thanks to the Long Path, a 358-mile work in progress stretch­ing from 175th Street to John Boyd Thacher State Park up­state and link­ing the Hud­son High­lands, Shawan­gunks, and Catskills. The trail is inch­ing its way to the Adiron­dacks (72 miles to go), but that’s no rea­son to de­lay a visit (or five) to its top-tier bits, all aflame with the fall pal­ette this month. THE IN­SIDER

On a week­end trip in 2004, Andy Gar­ri­son dis­cov­ered the Long Path when his 9-year-old son won­dered what the “LP” icons all over their map meant. Cap­ti­vated by the idea of a long-dis­tance trip right in their own back­yard, the pair hiked the whole thing over the next two years. Since then, Gar­ri­son has be­come a self­made Long Trail ex­pert, vol­un­teer­ing thou­sands of hours with the New York-New Jersey Trail Con­fer­ence to main­tain, ac­quire land for, and pro­mote his home­town thru-hike.


Gar­ri­son fa­vors the north­ern Shawan­gunks for the far-reach­ing views: “It’s so dif­fer­ent from ev­ery­thing else in the area,” he says. “It has de­formed pitch pines, scrub oak, and berry bushes—but doesn’t, for the most part, have tall trees.” This 8.3mile loop treats you to an aerial per­spec­tive over the Hud­son High­lands, Catskills, south­ern ’Gunks, and the lofty out­crop­pings of Gertrude’s Nose and Cas­tle Point, plus a 187-foot water­fall and a se­ries of ex­plorable cav­erns called the Ice Caves. From the Sam’s Point Pre­serve lot, the trail passes spurs to the caves en route to an over­look above Ver­keerder Kill Falls. Turn north­west and hike to High Point, then swing south on High Point Car­riage Road to close the loop.


This four-day, 36-mile shut­tle hike is the one that kicked off Gar­ri­son’s love af­fair with the Long Path. A rol­lick­ing sine wave of a trek that tags six Catskills sum­mits (in­clud­ing the range’s high point), the trip of­fers vis­tas so big, you just might fall for it your­self. From Up­per Cher­ry­town Road in Ul­ster County, hike to 30-foot Ver­nooy Falls, then stump up and over Ban­gle Hill to tent at Sun­down Prim­i­tive Camp­site at mile 9.7. Day two roller coast­ers over 3,843-foot Peekamoose Moun­tain and Ta­ble Moun­tain to camp­sites in the flood­plain of the East Branch of Nev­ersink Creek. The third day traces a ridge of the Bur­roughs Range to 4,180-foot Slide Moun­tain, then bobs up and down be­tween cols and Cor­nell and Wit­ten­berg Moun­tains. Land at a camp­site near the sea­sonal stream .9 mile past the East BranchPhoeni­cia Trail junc­tion be­fore clos­ing with 9 miles over three more peaks (Cross, Pleas­ant, and Romer) to the town of Phoeni­cia.


This 7.4-mile sec­tion near the Long Path’s north­ern ter­mi­nus is all about the lit­tle things—quiet red pine and spruce forests, minia­ture wa­ter­falls and ponds, remnants of 1800s-era home­steads and ceme­ter­ies. Start at West Kill Road and head into the Em­i­nence State For­est, trac­ing old stone walls to Ross­man Hill Lean-to at mile 5.9. Day two, pass Look­ing Glass Pond and the cas­cades in its out­let on your way to Sawyer Hol­low Road.


With a south­ern end­point at a New York sub­way sta­tion, the Long Path is citi­fied by de­sign—but even its dens­est ar­eas hide nat­u­ral beauty, like the stretch be­tween the Hud­son River and New Jersey’s Pal­isades Park­way. From the Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Bridge north, the trail fol­lows the Pal­isades es­carp­ment, a blocky, 600-foot basaltic cliff wall where the views are both wild (swamps, hard­wood forests, the Hud­son) and civ­i­lized (NYC, the Met Clois­ters monastery, old stone home­steads). Gar­ri­son’s top sec­tion runs 13.9 miles up from the bridge, trac­ing the cliffs most of the way.


Phoeni­cia (pop­u­la­tion 309) is the kind of place where the hard­ware store sells hik­ing boots and quaint inns of­fer a chance for a hot shower and a gen­teel re­turn to civ­i­liza­tion. Gar­ri­son hits up Brio’s Pizze­ria for his posthike cel­e­bra­tions: “Af­ter a week in the woods, I go for the 1-pound ham­burger.”


SEA­SON May to Oc­to­ber at higher el­e­va­tions, year-round at lower ones PER­MIT None SHUT­TLE Cabs are avail­able across the Long Path. Pre­ar­range a pickup. CONTACT nyn­

Get an eye­ful along the Long Path in Hook Moun­tain State Park. From the trail­head on US 9W, hike 1.5 miles to this perch above the Hud­son (fo­liage peaks midOc­to­ber).

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