I think I have a new favorite way to get sweaty.
I went on my second hike in five days yesterday and it was absolutely glorious. I’m on a bit of a hiking bender actually — I have another one planned for Monday. It’s not like I’ve never been hiking before. My family always did outdoors-y vacations to places like Yellowstone and the Colorado Rockies. And I worked at a sleepaway camp for two years. And I liked hiking then, too. But it’s been a while since I’ve spent much time in the wilderness, or even the woods (DC isn’t exactly the world’s greenest city — the National Mall can barely maintain its grass!) and I’ve become totally, completely hooked on the thrill of clomping 3 hours at a brutally slow pace up a mountain, and then finally having what remains of my breath taken away by the view, and then scrambling back down again.
[Just a brief side note to reassure running: this is just a summer fling that will be soon cut short when I return to DC, where a lack of extensive public-transportation means that what green areas ARE nearby are totally inaccessible to drivers license-less me. Soon it’ll be back to pavement and Brooks Adrenalines, my friend.]
Wednesday’s hike was up Mount Taurus, a 1,400 foot mountain that N-, my ultra-outdoorsy, certified wilderness guide, going-to-spend-the-summer-leading-eight-day-canoeing-trips-in-Maine hiking buddy, scoffed at as a mere hill. (Fun fact: A mountain is a mountain if its summit is 1000 feet taller than its base. So Mount Taurus IS a mountain, even if it doesn’t meet N’s standards.) We took the Metro North to Cold Spring, NY, about an hour and 15 minutes outside the city. After a brief bit of wandering around the town trying to find the trailhead, we made it to the base of the hill/mountain and started to climb.
The path up the mountain was steep enough to keep our talking to a minimum, but it was well-marked and had several amazing views along the way. I only wish that it had been a less cloudy day — apparently on clear days, you can see the Hudson stretch on for miles in either direction.
Once we were near the top, the trail guide that I had printed out that morning said that there was an easily-missed viewpoint that offered a great panorama of the Hudson valley to the right of the trail. According to the guide, lots of people don’t even know that the viewpoint is even there, and it’s the real “money view” of the hike.
Well, we clomped around (clomp is the only appropriate verb to describe the forward movement of someone wearing hiking boots) looking for the viewpoint for about 10 minutes. We never got the promised “money view” but we did encounter two GINORMOUS snakes. They were thick and black and at least two feet long, maybe three. At the time, we had no idea if they were poisonous, but we scurried away as quickly and quietly as we could. In N’s words: “We can’t get bitten by snakes today. I only brought one benadryl pill!”
After some careful study of the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry webpage on the snakes that reside in the area, I believe that we saw a Northern Black Racer. Not venamous, but still totally terrifying.
We ate lunch close to the summit of the mountain, after walking a good 10 minutes away from the snake site. I had a peanut butter and banana sandwich that tasted 10 times better than any sandwich ever has when it was eaten at a table at sea level. Then we continued on. The way down had fewer views than the trail up, but there was lots to see at ground level. First we passed a fallen tree that hikers had covered with rock cairns (little piles of rocks that you leave as an environmentally-friendly marker that you were once here). We stopped to take pictures and built a cairn ourselves before continuing on.
The rock cairn tree.
Further along the trail, we came across an old abandoned mansion. The trail guide said the home had belonged to the Cornish family, but didn’t really say much about who they were. So we were left to wander around the dilapidated stone building, trying to imagine what it once looked like and the kinds of people who lived there.
I later found out that the Cornishes were a well-to-do but not particularly interesting NY family. Edward, the patriarch, was president of the National Lead Company.
So that was the hike! Garmin stats, because I’m obsessed with that gadget: 8.33 miles in 4 hours, 1,421 miles of elevation gained (then lost). Afterward, we headed to the local ice cream parlor and got big scoops of what their storefront claims is the best ice cream in the world. I’m not sure I can agree, but it was pretty darn good.
For those who are interested, here is the hike we did: http://www.nynjtc.org/hike/east-hudson-highlands. You should try it! Just bring your snake repellent!