Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hiking Mohonk….

By Jim DeLillo
Start by driving up the NY thruway to Exit 18 – New Paltz, stop for breakfast in this quaint college town, pack a picnic lunch and head up to the Mohonk Preserve.

You can’t miss it…aim for the tower set atop the alabaster cliffs of limestone.

 The preserve is a world-renowned Mecca for rock climbers.  As you make your way up the winding Route 55, keep your eyes on the road.  It is hard to resist the temptation to watch the colorful climbers on their precarious routes.  Park at the West Trapps Trailhead Lot, our stepping off point for the Undercliff Carriage Road where our hike begins. You’ll be up-close and personal with the rock rats – Men, women, and children weighted down heavily with a variety of packs, clinking climbing gear strapped to every part of their body, looking more like walking hardware stores than outdoorsmen.  Coils of rope swung bandolier style across both shoulders complete the uniform. 

However, we are here to hike.  As you march further along Undercliff, you will soon lose sight and be out of earshot of the shouting … “On belay!”, “Climbing!”, “I can’t go any higher” (fearfully), “Bring your left foot up”.
Two miles from your start, you will come to a junction –
Left takes you to the heavily travelled Overcliff Road

The right leads you off to…
Stay straight which leads you through the cool valley of Laurel Ledge a canyon that immerses you in a blanket of greenery…mountain laurel and rhododendron.  The cool damp air embraces and refreshes you.
After some smaller cliffs on your left you will come to the road less travelled – the Old Minnewaska Trail.  A gradual climb brings you to a middle level of the ridge.   Invisibly above, The Overcliff Road parallels your trek.

The air is decidedly warmer as heat radiates off the rock slabs and the scent of pines float on the wind, like dragon’s breath.  Two miles later, you reach Split Rock, a cleaved limestone that channels the ----creek----.  It was once used a sluice for a sawmill.

Turn left onto the Red Trail for a short, but steeper uphill hike back to your starting point at the parking lot.
This 5-mile hike is just one of the 70 miles of carriage roads and trails available at the preserve.



About the Mohonk Preserve

Hours of Operation:
Open 365 days a year, sunrise to sunset
$10 for hikers and bikers
$15 for climbers
Children 12 and under free with adult
You can download a Mohonk Preserve membership form now, or you can buy a day pass or membership at a trailhead or at the Visitor Center.
Getting There:
Take the New Paltz exit 18 off of the NYS Thruway. Go 7 miles west (through New Paltz) on Route 299 to the end: make right on Route 44-55

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