Before the riotous colors of fall fade away, it's time to get out and see this natural canvas that only a painter could dream about. There's certainly no dearth in the American Northeast as it is blessed with abundant state parks. Depending on location, it could be anywhere from midpoint to peak to past peak in color change. Add an eight mile hike to that objective and we've got a perfect day hike combining great colors and calorie burn.
|Trail blazes either on tree trunks or rocks|
Two of my friends decided to join me on this day hike arranged by Outdoorbound. Completing our small group were two girls from Japan and a guy from Canada, all working in Manhattan. Our guide (and van driver) was Moselle who was still reminiscing her trip to the Philippines - and loving Coron much! Even though Moselle loves traveling everywhere, nothing makes her more excited than revisiting her favorite spot in New York state - in the Shawangunks (or Gunks as the locals call it), where we were hiking.
|Wildlife encounter : porcupine on the trail|
The Gunks is not new to me. Two years ago, I was there on a reconnaissance trip with the owner of another adventure outfitter and hiked a good part of it to a spot called Sam's Point. This time, our group is headed on the other side of what is officially part of the Minnewaska State Park Preserve. Located in New York's Ulster County, the park straddles the Shawangunk Mountain ridge, a geologic formation rimmed with sheer cliffs and ledges, not to mention lakes, waterfalls and miles and miles of wooded trails. It is undoubtedly one of New York's most scenic.
|Fall foliage as seen from Gertrude's Nose|
Travel time from Manhattan to the Gunks is less than two hours. Weather was predicted to be a mixed bag the Saturday we were there but I came prepared with a jacket and poncho. What I did not expect was the hail - and that really freaked me out. I've never experienced hailstorm before. When these pebbly stuff fell from the sky while we were deep in the trail, my immediate concern was covering our heads. Thanks for the poncho, it became an instant shed for me and my unprepared friends. The hail fell for several minutes. If there was a consolation, at least no one got hurt.
What we did was walked an 8-mile loop using old carriageways and hiking trails with some steep ascents and descents. From Lake Minnewaska, we walked towards the viewpoint on Milbrook Mountain (part of the Mohonk Preserve) following the red-blazed path. Vegetation is quite different up in this higher elevation stretching all the way to Gertrude's Nose. The sheer drop-offs gave us superb vistas. Moselle told us not to be surprised if some rock climber will just pop-out anywhere in the ledges. The Gunks after all, is known to offer some of the best walls to climb in the US.
Almost 7 hours later, we were back in the car park. I may not be a rock climber but hiking in the Gunks, with fall foliage now in full technicolor, was happiness enough for me. The Alaska series continues next....