Frum Outdoorsman: Rare but Possible

The wanderings and adventures of an orthodox Jew

Archive for the ‘Harriman State Park’ Category

Sunday afternoon rides that fueled my love for the outdoors

Posted by Frum Hiker on March 20, 2009

I can remember lying on the shaggy gray carpet of my living room on cold Sunday mornings watching the weather channel, even as a kid, before my love of jazz kicked in, I can remember being drawn to the funky yet soothing music of the weather channel. Sunday mornings where always started with H and H bagels, philly cream cheese, lox and red onions with the weather channel turned up and my father asking my brother and I if we wanted to take a ride.

A ride was not just a ride, a ride meant multiple things, it meant that we would leave the city behind for a short period and search for snow in upstate, I remember my father driving us over 2 hours north just to see some snow once, he truly loved the adventure of wandering the back roads of upstate, NY.

A ride could also mean going to the restaurant in the park, which was a small cantina Mexican restaurant located just off the Saw Mill River Parkway in Westchester County. It could have been in the middle of nowhere as we were concerned, for we would walk on this abandoned railroad track and look for old pieces of coal and rusty spikes. My father instilled the love of all things old and abandoned at this small county park just north of the city.

A ride could also mean a little farther drive to Harriman state park, where we would wander around, knocking over dead trees, checking out the ice fisherman and go sledding. In high school we would go shoot my BB gun and cross bow and later my .22 rifle. We never actually hiked, we parked and went into the woods, nothing was official. I don’t remember actually taking water with me into the woods until I got into my later teenage years.

We always ended up falling asleep on these long rides into the country with my father listening to the news or nothing, as we wondered why it was taking us hours to get home. He always took the “scenic” route, which sometimes meant going 80 miles out of the way. He would stop at the oddest of attractions. Old cemeteries were high on the list, as were abandoned railroad tracks, flea markets, main streets filled with old Victorian mansions and any time there happened to be a 57 Chevy in any condition sitting on the side of the road. I could tell my father longed for the days when he would own one of these beauties again, have a barn to store it in, in some off the beaten track barn in Vermont, and be able to walk out of his front door, with a piece of long grass in his mouth, humming Carlebach classics as he hobbled down the road in the dead of winter.

My father was what you would a call a four seasons man, but he loved the crisp cool air of winter. He would tell us random facts like, the clearer the night the colder it would get or how to tell how old a milk bottle was based on the way the glass was formed at the edges. He seemed to be a bottomless pit when it came to information and looking back on it now, it really formed who I am today.

Everything that he loved and that he shared with us, I took and went more extreme then he would ever have done. He instilled something I have grown to accept and this is what John Steinbeck has called Insatiable Wanderlust.
After those rides we would inevitably wind up at the Chinese Restaurant in Teaneck or at Ratners on the Lower East Side, with a warm bowl of French onion soup and melted butter dripping off of those incredible onion rolls they used to have.

Posted in general Outdoors, Harriman State Park, NY metro area, Rural America | Tagged: , , , | 10 Comments »

My encounter with a bear in Harriman State Park

Posted by Frum Hiker on August 7, 2008

At about 6pm last evening I had the sudden urge to be hiking along a quiet trail in the woods, so I headed to Harriman State Park which is essentially my backyard- merely 15-20 minutes away depending on how many people are blocking traffic at the intersection of route 306 and maple ave.

I decided for the first time ever to hike the trails accessible from the first parking lot, I haven’t hiked up these trails since I was a kid, mostly because being the first trail head its always crowded- and the last thing I want to see in the woods are people, or mountain lions.

I headed in and hiked for a little over an hour until I reached a flattened area with some wild blueberries- Harriman has the most wild blueberries I have ever seen and I know of some great raspberry patches as well. I davened mincha and headed back down the way I came, rather then making it into a loop. I had forgot my headlamp and didn’t feel like navigating a down mountain trail in the dark.

The sun was giving off its brilliance as I ran and walked down the trail, I trail run uphill and walk downhill, to raise my heart rate. After dropping below the mountain line where I could see the sun it began to get pretty dark, it was already 8pm.

I have this fascination with the bracha asher yatzar, its one of my favorite things to say in the woods- I just like it. So I decided to take a piss even though I didn’t “really” need to. I finished draining the lizard and said the bracha. As I looked up at the trail I saw a medium sized black bear turn around about 50 feet up the trail from me and run away.

Oh man did that freak me out, I did let out a big “THANK THE LORD” but I stood there stunned for a several seconds and then looked where the bear ran, I thought I could see it standing behind a tree looking at me. The last thing in the world I wanted in the woods was a bear stalking me.

So I debated, I figured that I shouldn’t go down the trail I was headed, but it was getting dark and I needed to be away from that bear. I decided to bushwhack downhill to this creek I could hear and follow it out of the woods- I knew where it would take me.

I quickened my step and screamed out Mr. Bear every 10 seconds or so. How could this happen in Harriman of all places, this was the first time I ever met a bear on the trail. I have hiked all over in some of the most rural places on the continent and had never come in contact with a bear this close.

I saw bears on the trail in Alaska, but they were over a hundred yards away busy gathering berries for the coming winter, plus, I had a shotgun loaded with six 3inch slugs- way more then enough to take down a bear. I have seen Grizzlies in Montana, but also from several hundred yards away and that was from the road. The only other close call I have had with dangerous animals was when I was riding some ridge trail near Jackson , Wyoming when my buddy Jason and I came across several huge moose, moose are dumb and will charge and you don’t want a moose charging you.

So obviously I made it out, but I was scared- mainly because bears in such a crowded park are probably not as scared of people as they are in places like Alaska and Montana. In fact, its so unlikely to see a bear in these places because they smell you from miles away- depending on wind direction of course.

Anyway if I wouldn’t have decided to pee at that time or immediately said ahser yatzar which I sometimes forget to do, I would have walked right into the bear- which was obviously watching me- but I didn’t notice nor could I see that far in the fading light.

I find it good to document situations where Gods hand is present so we shouldn’t forget who is boss.

Posted in Harriman State Park, hashgacha prutus, Hiking | 23 Comments »

Beautiful Harriman hike yesterday

Posted by Frum Hiker on June 18, 2008

I was on my way north up the Palisades parkway after work yesterday when suddenly the traffic stopped and I saw emergency vehicles in the rear view mirror meaning an accident had just happened. I scrapped my plans for a hike of Breakneck Ridge or Anthony’s Nose across the Bear Mountain Bridge and pulled a sketchy u-turn on the grass divider and got off the Lake Welch Parkway exit that took me into Harriman.

It was funny because I had originally planned on hiking in Harriman and was kind of playing it by ear. I went to the Silvermine Lake area and parked. I looked at my map and decided to hike up the yellow trail on the right side of the lake and take the AT to Black Mountain which said had a view.

The weather was amazing, 70 degrees, a slight breeze, dry and very clear- no clouds. The woods were pristine, extremely green, I haven’t hikes in some time. I go through stages, I have been in this kayak/bike stage and now have gone into a hike and wander stage.

I hiked up this rocky trail until the AT and turned right following the white blazes and red dot blazes. Up and up and until a slight view, then down. I crossed Silvermine Road- which was amazing, this is coming from nerdy old me who is fascinated with old roads. This road crossed the trail and was completely green covered. It was graded and fully in tact. In fact from the side it looked like a causeway through the woods- I will have some pictures sooner or later. I walked on it for a while pondering when it may have been built and why. There weren’t many mines in the area according to my map and the road just ended up aways according to the map.

I continued on the trail up a steep hill to a marvelous view of Silvermine Lake and the surrounding hills. Then onward to the next view which was amazing, I could see the cement factories in Haverstraw and the Hudson river snaking along the Palisades. On the other side is was just green and hilly.

I met a guy thru-hiking from Georgia and chatted for a bit, then I went back down to Silvermine road and hiked it back to the lake and crossed the damned crees coming out of the lake and went back to my car for a total of 2.5 hours of hiking.

Posted in Harriman State Park | 1 Comment »

Kayak therapy

Posted by Frum Hiker on June 12, 2008

The sun is forcing me to close my eyes, and its great because that allows these shades of blue and red and fuzzy circles to form in my vision- which I don’t need at this juncture anyway. Open water so placid that it seems to part for my boat as would a crowd for a king, eyes closed I gently break the flat waters surface to propel my little red kayak along the glassy lake. Eyes still closed, I clutch my oar ever so slightly and glide smoothly across the blackened depths.

I open them squinting at first and then turn to the blue sky, cloudless casting its blue shades upon this glorious lake. The only noise is gentle lapping of water against my hull, nothing else disturbs the tranquil air. Dragon flies occasionally dart about appearing to be schizophrenic and drunk not knowing which way to turn, flying speedily along and suddenly changing direction as if they had no idea where in fact they wanted to go, all over a blank water mind you, with no shrubbery or insects in sight in which to appease their appetites.

The shrill of a motorbike breaks the silence momentarily and then I am thrust back into my own therapy. My oar allowing my mind to wonder with each of its dips. My thoughts are clear yet completely overpowering and my mind wonders all over the stratosphere.

I am beyond the suns glares now and can let my eyes adjust to the slowly fading light. I am in the shadows of the low lying hills surrounding the glassy lake, a fisherman casts his line and it gently breaks the surface, we nod in silent agreement of the peaceful scene still cloudless and orange with the setting sun.

I watch the muddy earth through the shallow water and try to find graceful fishes jetting around stirring up the mud and making small waves on the surface. I am in my happy place, one of millions of them. My legs are up and I am lying down looking straight up at the white moon. Gently floating in complete silence with a slight cool breeze.

Posted in Harriman State Park, Kayaking | 4 Comments »

Kayaking in Harriman State Park

Posted by Frum Hiker on May 27, 2008

20 minutes from my door lies 50,000 acres of streams, lakes and trails- I am a frequent visitor to Harriman State Park, its highest point being roughly 1300 feet above sea level, and its low points being graced with beautiful lakes for swimming and kayaking.

I have been meaning to kayak a couple times a week- because its a relaxed and therapeutic way to be outside. The dips of the paddle and the smooth gliding under open skies always allow my mind the spaced out time it needs. Kayaking is so easy and it is my only upper body workout.

I went last night to let go of my mind, which has been running at 100 miles an hour lately. My mind has been worked up over many things, and more then anything I needed to chill- so I chose this chain lake system in Harriman off of route 106 and seven lakes drive.

I like paddling these lakes because while the lake with the boat launch is crowded, you can paddle through a couple tunnels to this totally peaceful and serene lake with nothing on its sides and rarely more then one person fishing on the water.

Last night was special because immediately upon leaving getting out of my kayak the sun was casting this brilliant cloud blocked sunset- one of those massive pink and red blobs that beacons me to the high points in a flurry just to catch its last rays.

I quickly got my boat on my roof and drive to my favorite sunset viewing spot. I then ran up the sides of this rock ladden hill to my spot. I was huffing and puffing and my feet were all scratched up from just wearing sandals. But it was a sight to behold for the warn breezes and the sunset made for some great davening and meditation- it was good times and I stayed until the last rays were gone.

Posted in Harriman State Park, Kayaking | 6 Comments »

Urban Dictionary for Orthodox Jews and Monsey outdoors news

Posted by Frum Hiker on March 28, 2008

I have created with the help of a big fan of Frum Satire my other much more popular blog a site called Frum Slang which is in WIKI form and is intended to be a fully functioning urban dictionary for the frum community(yes it will be mildly offensive) but already it is becoming very funny and a pleasure to see which tersm people have added.

In other news I have been living in Monsey NY for almost a month and I think I am having way too much fun for someone in Monsey. Most people wondered if someone like me could handle such a community and you know what- I haven;’t noticed because I have been riding and hiking more then I have ever been able to do in Albany. While its not as good as being an hour from the Adirondacks. I have become accustomed to leaving work and being on my bike in sub 30 minutes time.

I have been actively riding around the Ringwood area which is 15 miles from my house. I have yet to figure it out, but Skyline Drive offers some great technical after work single track. I have ridden the small skatepark across from Ramapo College and the college itself has some great stuff to fool around on. Stewart State forest was ridden on Sunday (I fell head first into a thorn bush) and then I proceeded to ride a 40 mile road ride in Ulster and Prange counties. I rode Blue mountain reservation in Peekskill on Weds night- I found some great new stuff in there as well.

I have been really hiking big time in Harriman. I have done 3 full day 10+ mile hikes and already am planning on work-night backpacking- due to the fact its 15 minutes to my house. Insane man. I am ready to get my kayak into the water.

My work is awesome mostly due to the hours. I can work 12 hours days but in the middle I will go for a 4 hour bike ride. My boss actually likes what I do, it splits up my time, allows him to look at what I’ve done, and it lets me know I can skip out in the middle of a beautiful day.

If anyone wants to meet up in Monsey please contact me

Posted in Blogging, Harriman State Park, Hiking, Jews, Monsey, Mountain Biking, Road Biking | 2 Comments »

I moved to Monsey last week and I am loving it!!!

Posted by Frum Hiker on March 10, 2008

I know that may be paradoxical for someone of my age and marital status to say, but in a little over a week I have realized that the outdoor opportunities are endless within a half hour radius. Just 15 minutes from my door is Harriman State Park, 46,000 acres including 36 lakes- most of which have access for boats. Lots of trails including portions of the Long Path and Appalachian Trails both of which run right through the park. I am also very close to the Hudson Highland and Storm King areas which both have extensive hiking trail networks and I am a 20 minute drive from Ringwood state park which has some of the best mountain biking in New Jersey. To say the least I am pumped. Throw in a 40 hour a week job and the end of daylight savings time- I am going to be in amazing shape within 2 weeks.

To start things off I went hiking in Harriman last sunday, snow covered trails made for slow going, but I hiked up to a startegic sunset viewing spot and sat on a rock and contemplated life and the woods, like a regular Whitman type. Then on Monday I road 20 miles on my road bike on the poorly paved roads of the park, its beautiful riding, but rough with all the bumps.

Friday I took my mountain bike out for the first ride of the season. If I was still in Albany, I probably wouldn’t have ridden until next month. I went to Ringwood and road the cannonball trail off of Skyline drive. I still can’t figure the place out so well, and road until it started raining on me and decided to just go back up instead of finding a loop- it was erev shabbos anyway. It was great riding and would have been better, but I realized my rear shock was blown and needs some new cartridges or something.

Today I hiked for about 5 hours through Harriman and it was amazing. I ended up hiking twice as much as I had originally planned due to trail flooding and no way to bushwack around. I ended up at the Lemon Squeezer which is on the AT and is this huge rock formation that you squeeze through to follow the trail. I also ended up, due to my detour on the Lichen Trail- which took me into the Ramapo Dunderberg trail. These two trails followed this ridge that made me feel like I was above the tree-line somewhere out west. Dead trees and pine trees swayed in the wind and boy was it windy, 35 mph winds, maybe thats why I met only two people on the trail for a whole 5 hours.

This week I am already planning to hike and get to know the trails better in my area. When it gets a little warmer I will be backpacking on the weeknights camping out and hiking out before work, I am pumped.

Posted in Harriman State Park, Hiking, Monsey, Mountain Biking, Road Biking | 1 Comment »