Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hiking in Garrison NY

In this day and age of long lines at the airport, TSA rules and regulations, and grumpy flight personnel, sometimes the best travel we do is what we can reach by car … or even better, within just 10 miles of one’s own house. This weekend I went hiking right in our own neck of the woods. The daily highs were a lot lower than that brief flirtation we had with the 70s, but even in the low 40s the weather was pleasant for hiking due to the crisp air and warm sun.

We have a surprising number of trails accessible within just a few miles of our home – including the Appalachian trail, Storm King and Manitoga (aka the Russel Wright Design Center) - but on Saturday I headed for Castle Rock, which the locals refer to as the “Osborne Loop”.

The Osbornes are an old family in Garrison, who at one point owned much of the land, and still own the large Castle that gives the Castle Rock area its name (although local rumors are that the Castle will be sold to a developer who is going to build a high-end spa there). A description from a hiking book on this trail states: "As you approach the Castle Rock Unique Area, the beauty of the castle that towers over this area is striking. Originally constructed by railroad magnate William Henry Osborne in 1881, the mansion is still privately owned and boasts more than 34 rooms and four interior chimneys."

We also refer to it as the Kevin Kline trail, since the start of the trail goes through a large field that borders the property of one of his homes. Kevin has not been around much since way back when his kids were little … who knows maybe he will decide to sell the place. Fortunately we have Patty Hearst in the neighborhood to take up the slack if he leaves. She bought a beautiful home with a view of the river on Upper Post Road, and has been renovating it for the past few years. At this point she has easily doubled the size of the house which was a mansion to begin with ... but I digress.

One of the benefits of hiking in the Hudson Valley is that pretty much every trail goes up. This has the triple bonus of being aerobically stimulating on the way up, providing the reward of views once one gets to the top, and then knowing that it’s all downhill on the way home :-) On the Osborne loop, the views tend to be seasonal, since once the trees fill in, the views of the Hudson are mostly obscured.

View of the Hudson from the Osborn Loop
On Sunday I hiked even more locally, literally walking off the back of our property. We border 180 acres of forest that were bequeathed to the Garrison School. From the school’s website: 
Beginning in 1956, the land comprising the School Forest was given to the Garrison Union Free School District by members of the Sloan, Osborn, and Gunther families. The Forest is to be kept wild and used for educational purposes.”

Blueberry Swamp is part of the school forest – not swampy at all actually, but a wonderful habitat for many different types of birds – and named for the fact that it is surrounded by wild blueberry bushes that bear fruit in the summer. The patches of white visible in the photo are snow - surprised to see it still there, but it can't last much longer.

Like most places, the trails in the school forest are marked with small painted color spots on the trees, and they are easy to miss. Fortunately I have a hiking buddy, who invariably races along the trail ahead of me, never missing a turn. He has a slight advantage in that he runs with his nose to the ground so he can spot a turn in the trail even if there isn't the slightest trace of it visible among the leaves and rocks.

My hiking buddy