NIGHT TRACINGS RAMBLES IN THE HUDSON VALLEY


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RAMBLES IN THE HUDSON VALLEY (page 3)

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Pleasant Valley

October 1987

A 9 mile loop between Bear Mountain and Brooks Lake

The last homes of Doodletown disappeared long ago in Pleasant Valley but occasional open lots filled with tall grass and scattered fruit trees remain. These are scars of sorts for they have altered the natural landscape, but they have not ruined it. These are yards and small farms gone native. Each one is an invitation to explore, to poke around deep in the back brush in hopes of finding an abandoned treasure if no more than a fine old bottle. But I am not prepared to carry anything and too tired to wander far a field. Further along I discover a cemetery. While there are signs of recent visitors I find this spot the loneliest I’ve ever come across. I do not linger.



Roe Dam

October 1987

A ramble along Popolopen Creek

While I have never met another soul out here the badly worn trail to Roe Dam testifies to its popularity. I move on to the smaller cascades upstream, far less dramatic but in a world of its own.



Cranberry Mountain

October 1987

A 9 mile loop between Bear Mountain and Cranberry Mountain

The boundaries between state lands and those of the military at West Point are sometimes blurred. Extensive postings have been placed at obvious points of entry but for those like me that often bushwhack one track of land can fade into the next. Today I tested these limits until I found myself atop a mountain gazing deep into unspoiled lands. The lakes and forests that lay before me in autumn color were tempting beyond belief, but I had pressed my luck way to far already and turned back.



Snake Hole

October 1997

A walk along Salisbury Meadow

The day was already darkening by the time I climbed up into the mountains and it became completely overcast as I walked around closer to their base. Hawks circled in silence high above the golden marshes behind Iona Island. A pair of small unsuspecting birds flew out into the open, and then realizing their mistake turned abruptly darting back to the safety of the trees.



Tomkins Cove

October 1987

A ramble out to Tomkins Cove

As I stepped out into the lot I suddenly remembered stopping at this very spot years ago when my father parked here to show me the mothballed reserve fleet anchored in the river below. I had been very impressed by the sight. Today trees and bushes block most of the river view, the fleet long gone. It is now just a place where forest meets man’s handiwork and is none the better for it.



Bald Mountain

October 1987

An 11 mile loop between Bear Mountain and Jones Point.

When I crossed over the summit of Bald Mountain a curious panorama awaited me. The rippling slopes below were in the peak of color dominated by a strong red rust. While not unusual for the season it was the light that was strange and extraordinary. It created a warm glow that filled the entire view, not like the cast of the setting sun, which was hours away but the air itself turned color.



Fort Hill

October 1987

A 16 mile walk between Cold Spring and Bear Mountain

The walk would have been a long enough without diverging from my course but my passion to explore got the better of me. It also got me lost. As I headed up a pathless wooded hillside I began to wonder how far my impetuous nature had taken me from a more walkable trail. Then suddenly a birdhouse appeared, tacked high to the trunk of a pine. I may have not known where I was but it was reinsuring that I wasn’t wandering deeper into the woods. In no time I came to a clearing atop the hill where the earthen remains of a Revolutionary War fort once stood. Life’s an adventure.



Fishkill Creek

October 1987

A 15 mile loop between Cold Spring and Sugarloaf Mountain

With most of the land rising abruptly on both banks of the river I easily forget how many marshy lowlands border it. These are lost areas that few others venture into, a sort of no-mans land between the homes on high ground and the railroad that follows the edge of the Hudson. But as a bird sings and a muskrat swims I am reminded this land is well used.



Breakneck Valley

October 1987

A 12 mile loop between Cold Spring and Breakneck Ridge

In Breakneck Valley under the leaves of successive autumns lay the remains of an old deserted village. While a few elaborate ruins are to be found, most of this community now exists as little more than hints. A few front steps will lead to nowhere, some decorative yard plantings will sit in a cluster, and even a few dangerous well pits can suddenly appear. These scars are not hideous but seem as natural as the trees and rocks around them. In this quiet I could hear the muffled sound of rushing water. I let my ears lead me through the brush until I came to a small cascade. While I remained close to the village I could not have been further away.



Redoubt 7

October 1987

A ramble on Constitution Island

The mists whirling above the river kept me from straying far from its banks all morning. Eventually I found my way to an ancient trail, made of stepping stones now thick with moss. Once clear of the forest I came upon a huge pile of stones rising high on a bluff above the riverbank. My heart raced when on closer examination I found it to be the remains of an old redoubt dating back to the Revolution. I was filled with as much awe in its presence as if I discovered a city of gold. Today this was a peaceful site; so still lay the air that I could hear a conversation drifting across the Hudson.



South Beacon Mountain

October 1987

A 17 mile loop between Beacon Landing and Schofield Ridge

The oak forests on the mountaintop create a particularly reddish landscape enhanced by the failing light of autumn. Color was everywhere today except out on wide granite outcroppings where nothing could grow. While these ledges opened up good vistas for shooting photographs I constantly had to pause to figure out where my trail continued. The summit of South Beacon Mountain with its tall fire tower provided an easy target. On arriving I was disappointed to find that a few stair landings had been removed to prevent visitors from going up. I got up anyway. At the top all was silence.



Constitution Island

October 1987

A short ramble about Constitution Island

The shore meets river so gently its tides and currents are all but forgotten. In my mind I am on a tranquil lake, the only disturbance my own footsteps as I attempt to compose.



Cold Spring Landing

October 1987

A ramble at Cold Spring

Just after dawn I am treated to a show at the river’s edge. I'm not sure if the wisps are gathering as they rise up from the river into the cold morning air or if the clouds like a pierced airship of old are falling into it. I remain mesmerized until the sky clears.



Breakneck Ridge

October 1987

A 6 mile walk on Breakneck Ridge

A train whistle calls out to me. I am not as far away from it all as it seems. And yet.



Sleepy Hollow Cemetery

October 1987

A short ramble in North Tarrytown

The fallen leaves of the Japanese maples stand out above all others as they litter the ground in puddles of red. It is not a celebration of death. They scream it has been great to be alive as they give their final farewells.



Ruckman Point

October 1987

A walk from Fort Lee to Alpine on the Palisades

A lone cedar sentinel stood watch high above the river on a point. I skirted about its massive fissures searching for views. Its crevices and sheer cliffs created a poem any Romantic would have been proud to compose.

Postscript: After a number of suicides in close secession these cliffs were fence off. This attempt to placate an angry community did nothing more than ruin a inspiring view with an ugly permeable barrier.



Stony Point

October 1987

A ramble about Stony Point

Distant sailboats darted about the Hudson under darkening skies. It felt like a true summer’s day when I would wait for the thunderheads to shed there burden. Today I would stay dry.



Black Rock Mountain

October 1987

A 7 mile ramble in Black Rock Forest

As I walked soaking wet past the sign warning of severe drought conditions it seemed like a bad joke. After a very dry summer the skies had let out all they had held back today, and mostly on me. Before the heavens broke loose I made it to the top of a mountain and found the valley in one of its darkest moods. The sky may have looked ominous but all I saw was the beauty of the filtering light.



Katterskill Falls

September 1987

An 8 mile ramble in and around Katterskill Cove

As I saw the roots of the young sapling I had climbed out on begin to pull out from the rocky crevice it held to I realized I had done something foolish. With every attempt to back off, the tree bent further over the gorge. I thought I had a better chance of going over the cliffside than I had getting back on firm ground. This was not the first time I’ve done such a thing to get a good shot but it was the only time I didn’t think I would inch my way back.



New Windsor

September 1987

A short ramble at New Windsor

As the day’s end drew close the rain stopped to put on a magnificent display over the river. It was a ballet of wisps twirling about the mountain tops. I watched the clouds dance until the curtain of night fell.



Black Rock Forest

September 1987

A 5 mile ramble between Rattlesnake Hill and Black Rock Mountain

The roads that made for easy walking also left a slight uneasiness in the back of my mind. They like the dams that formed the lakes and the symmetrical rows of tree trunks in replanted forest were a reminder of how heavily this land was once used. This was surprising to me for I have been in pastoral settings where man's presence was far bolder than here and yet felt quite comfortable. Perhaps it is because man and nature do not attempt to define what they are in the pastoral. The land I walk upon today is more reclamated than wild.



Storm King Mountain

September 1987

A loop around Storm King Mountain

The leaves were still green but the grass was golden. The water far below took on the semblance of a long mountain lake rather than the river it was. The view seemed more tamed than wild, but the spill I took on a worn out section of trail that nearly sent me down the steep mountainside reminded me of where I really was.



Ringwood Manor

August 1987

An 6 mile loop between Ringwood Manor and Mt. Defiance

Heat and dark haze, a typical summer day. Perhaps it was darker than what’s typical for all seemed to come in either dark or bright with little nuance in between. Thunder was soon rolling in.



Drum Hill

August 1987

A 9 mile walk from Montrose to Peekskill via Blue Mountain

I thought the highlight of my day would be shooting up in the mountains, that is until I reached the town of Peekskill. While making my way down to the rail station I spotted an abandoned structure up the length of a driveway and decided to investigate. A side door was ajar, which I took as an invitation to come inside. Plaster and paint chips littered the floor like snow. Despite suffering from apparent years of weathering the dark interior still glowed with elegance.

Postscript: This was the old Drum Hill School, closed since 1972. In 1999 renovations began to turn it into a senior living center.



The Dayliner in the Highlands

August 1987

A 6 mile ramble about West Point

I skipped the usual train ride today to take a trip up the Hudson by Day Liner. I appreciated seeing the Valley from a new vantage point but my compositions were suffering from a lack of interesting foreground. Not used to shooting from a boat it took me awhile to realize that it was also part of the landscape.



Croton Dam

July 1987

A short ramble about Croton Gorge

The passing rainstorm had filled the gorge with swirling clouds of mist. As they began to dissipate the landscape returned slowly appearing as if conjured up by some unknown spell.



North Tarrytown

July 1987

A ramble in Sleepy Hollow

The day is sweltering but I wander about until the clouds gather for thunderstorms. The smell of summer rain is in the air, it promises to break the heat. This is so much of what summer is about. I can bare its discomforts for moments like this.



Palisades

June 1987

A 14 mile walk from Alpine to Nyack

It is amazing how fast things can fall into ruin. That which we build and sometimes even love are often suddenly abandoned, only to become as nearly forgotten as a relic from some dead civilization. I sit in quiet contemplation where the river meets the shore, where others long gone once sat in their Italian garden. All must pass.




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