George Eliot wrote of a “Delicious autumn!” that meant nothing to me until I moved from Los Angeles to New York. To many East Coasters, this season of leaves dying beautifully is the most anticipated, yet in New York City, foliage at its best is missed. I decided to try out one of their new fall hiking treks in the Shawangunks up north, even as the weather started turning from warm to wintry. I called one of my transplant New Yorker friends to join me. We left the city on a 7am Adirondack Trailways bus from Penn Station to New Paltz.
We pulled out of the station as the blue sky brushed off the last of dawn’s yolky pink glow. In just over an hour-and-a-half we arrived in New Paltz, a small community situated against mountains and forests. Within a few minutes, we were in a new vehicle with Ian, our guide, driving up a swirly two lane road until we reached the entrance of the reserve.
The weather was still pleasant, mid 50’s. Our four-hour hike began on the yellow Cedar trail. We brought our cameras out at the first sight of an unfamiliar plant called milkweed, but our guide assured us the best was yet to come. He led us to a carriage path overlaid with zesty orange leaves, which we danced through on our way to a fork in the road and a formidable rock scramble to the height of 200 feet.
I was prepared for an adventure, but my super woman mentality weakened when we approached the portion of the hike that would require us to climb a steep steep boulder of rocks in order to summit. Ian assured me that he brought the necessary measures of security, and out came the harness. My breath steadied as I was lead by short pitch technique up my first advance onto the rocks.
It didn’t take long before I could find the grooves in the rock, turning my writing hands into gripping tools. Defying gravity, I ascended from one indented piece of granite to the next, attaching and reattaching myself like Velcro against each cold surface. After a few big advances aided by a billet, we heard others in our group shout, “We made it!” We walked the surface of the Shawangunk Ridge, our eyes darting back and forth over the 360 degree view of pitch pines, huckleberry, dogwood and birch, rolling hillsides for miles until it disappeared on the horizon.
How to get there: Take the Adirondack Trailways bus line out of New York Port Authority on 8th Ave and 42nd St. to New Paltz bus terminal. From the bus station in New Paltz, make a right and take a five-minute downhill walk to meet your guide at Rock and Snow at 44 Main St., on the left hand side. It’s the building with a peace sign on the front door. Although the fall weather has come and gone, Alpine Endeavors offers a variety of different hiking, snowshoeing, and overnight ice climbing trips in many locations, including the nearby Catskills. Check out the website or call for pricing and more information. (Alpine Endeavors, 845.658.3094, alpinendeavors.com)
Photo courtesy of Kurt Christensen.