by Miles Ross
(Brooklyn, New York)
The Timp, Cat’s Elbow, West Mountain, Bald Mountain and Dunderberg Mountain
On October 27th, 2012, Superstorm Sandy was heading for New York City and I was chewing a Kind bar, staring at the haze over the Hudson river from lichen coated slab on Cat's Elbow in Harriman State Park.
That day I walked 10 miles and gained 2,520 feet of elevation. Quite a few people were pounding the roots and rocks with me, most of them collected into large age or race specific groups.
I traveled solo on four different trails, and made five different trail changes, to form a giant figure-eight across the ridges and valleys between Dunderberg mountain and the Palisades Parkway.
From my car I couldn't find the 1777 trail and walked up and down 9W stubbornly avoiding beginning another trip from the dirt lot near Jones Point.
Two different times I climbed into the woods over the russet and yellow leaves, pulling on vines and branches to prevent myself from sliding back onto the road.
On the second attempt, I oriented myself with a faintly visible old woods road that would intercept the historical retrace of the 1777 British ambush on Fort Montgomery. It was marked on 9W by three blazes on a telephone pole which I had not seen from the driver seat.
A plaque standing a short distance into the woods displays some sketches and a brief history about the British soldiers, who during the Revolution came ashore and climbed from this spot into the pass above Doodletown.
I read in Guy and Laura Waterman’s Forest & Crag that in the early 1920s just before Harriman became headquarters for the Appalachian Trail project, longer trails had already been cut throughout the park (417).
Outdoor groups at the time reigned as the athletic occupiers of the woods and hills in the Northeast and many of their members devoted free time to hacking trail, that would best exhibit natural features (410).
The Ramapo-Dunderberg trail connected two railways that run vertically along Harriman's east and west boundaries. The Timp-Torne stretches north-south between two of the parks most prominent geologic features, The Timp and the Popolopen Mountains.
In the mild and calmly unstable air of the day, I descended into several luminous valleys, under the filter of the remaining autumn foliage, and trotted over a few fields and hills of uneven and broken rock, petting the vibrant rashes of moss and combing the knolls of long grass where fire has recently broken apart the hardwood’s territorial competition for a spot in the canopy.
On Bald Mountain I watched the light burn off the sun as it sank towards the profiles of Cat's Elbow and West Mountain. The rays diffused into the moistening sky, pink, peach and grey.
I slogged three miles over Dunderberg with earbuds in my ears, listening to gangster rap, Paul Simon and dixieland music. Then I drove to my grandmother's apartment and sat across from her at the living room table, eating stuffed olives, walnuts and sipping a Yuengling, still with the dried salts of my sweat breaking on my skin from the day.
Here are the statistics of my route reproduced in list form:
1777 trail - 820' elevation gain over 1.25 miles
Timp-Torne Trail - 260' over .45 miles (The Timp)
T-T Trail (descending Timp to Timp Pass) no gain over .75 miles
Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail - 400' gained over 1 mile (Cat’s Elbow)
Suffer-Bear Mountain - 140' over .55 miles
T-T - no gain over 1 mile (West Mountain)
R-D - 400' over 1 mile (to junction with 1777)
R-D - 260' over. 75 miles (to Bald Mt. Summit from 1777 junction) (Bald Mountain)
R-D - uncalculated gain of zero over 3 miles (additional .25 miles on 9W)
Guy and Laura Waterman. Forest and Crag. Boston: Appalachian Mountain Club, 1989.