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Ulster County – trails and tribulations


Sunday 06-14-08

getting bit by mosquitoes and other insects (and ingesting a few), climbing up incredibly steep rock and boulder covered trails, a downhill descent  on an extremely steep, mud slicked trail, sliding nearly out of control, facing danger of injury and … LOVING IT!

  What is it about us, the long time avid cyclist, that makes us velopedic masochists? What we do to travel the rocky, and wet, roads less traveled, to see the ruins of a lost village, and to take in an awesome view, sometimes defies logic. Ohhh … what a view though! It was worth the effort.

I had ridden into this preserve in Highland NY, named after a local environmentalist and former Scenic Hudson chairperson, last year from a trail that led from underneath the FDR Mid Hudson Bridge. There are stairs leading down to this trail. To get to this trail with my ATB, without walking down the narrow stairs with my bicycle, I would ride down to the river just a bit north of the RR bridge. (the soon-to-be Walkway OTH) then underneath that bridge to the FDR Mid Hudson bridge. Actualy a few years prior to this outing in 2008, with my ATB, I had ridden the lower, dirt road section, of this trail with my ROAD touring bicycle – I think I had read about an old abandoned village just south of he FDR MH bridge, and the surrounding acreage being turned into a preserve / park and wanted to see if I could find this abandoned hamlet. I had turned around, without seeing any of the ruins of this "gohst village" on that earlier outing. With my ATB I can now be quite a bit more "adventuresome". To get to the trail, I would have to ride up someone’s driveway a bit then left under the bridge. I had presumed, at that time, this was the "main trail" for this relatively new Scenic Hudson preserve. (and maybe a future fully developed state park) This trail starts out as a dirt / gravel road, up a steep grade of course, then turns sharply to the right and deteriorates to a near vertical jumble  of rocks and boulders that had me doing some rock climbing with my mountain bike. I did not see any SH markers at this point, and kind of wondered, at the time, if I was  on the right trail. I was relieved when I spotted a white SH trail marker on a tree. I finally made my way up to a trail intersection. To the left there were the ruins of an old house along another trail. I had arrived at my planed destination, the abandoned village. I did not have a good, working camera, and so was not able to take pictures at that time. I continued straight up the trail, now "improved" a bit with just small rocks and "only" a very steep grade, emerging out of the dark woods into thick low vegetation that covered the trail. The ride was much softer now and after a bit I was in a more or less open field under some power lines.

  There seemed to be a main trail that may have been an old road. To the right seemed to go back in the general direction I had come. I went to the left following a vegetation covered trail that improved into an actual unpaved road. This led me out to suburban tract homes. The trail head was next to someone’s driveway and had to ride alongside on a portion of this person’s well manicured lawn to get to the paved side road (Mack’s La.) which led to US rt. 9W.

     I now have my new digital camera and of course I would have to return to take some pictures of the ruins, and perhaps explore more of the trails in the preserve. This time I would use that Mack La. entrance in the southern end of the preserve. I had wanted to get a map of the trails beforehand. I checked Scenic Hudson’s website, but the link for this preserve only had a nice picture and a text narrative about the preserve. There was no obvious link for a trails map. I therefore set out, from Poughkeepsie, with no map of the preserve showing me the trails and most importantly, the ruins of the "lost village". When I arrived at the FDR MH bridge walkway access ramp, I had noticed the lower gate was closed but not locked. "this is odd" … I had thought. At the same time, a walker appeared on the other side. He opened the gate just enough to get by. He passed me without saying anything, like letting me know that the bridge walkway, for whatever reason, is closed. I squeezed through the partially open gate. I stopped on the other side to fully open the gate for my return (and anybody else who may want to use the bridge walkway – to maybe take in some "Bridge Music"?)  I had noticed the post on the left side was loose. Without any prior warning from that walker, I rode up the 7% grade access ramp to the upper  gate at the bridge walkway. I had figured with the loose post, or perhaps some kids "fooling around", that is why the lower gate was not fully open. To my surprise the upper gate was closed AND locked. I was dumbfounded as to why the "bridge people" (the NYSBA) would close the walkway most especialy now, on a beautiful Sunday, just after the official opening of the bridge’s newest "feature", Joseph Bertolozi’s "Bridge Music" and the newly installed listening stations. I was about to turn around, and "scrub" my planned "mission" for the day, when I had spotted a NYSBA truck (they are hard to miss – they are bright safety orange color) The truck stopped on the roadway near the gate. a NYSBA worker got out reached over and unlocked the gate. I had asked why the walkway was closed. He had told me there was an "incident". This is "bridge person" – speak for a "jumper". I wondered if this potential jumper was playing any of the "Bridge Music" selections? With the bridge’s newest "feature", the suicidal-y minded, could have musical accompaniment for their final "swan dive".


Once on the other side, I would ride a portion of US rt. 9W south to Mack’s Lane. I had noticed that the 1/4 mile portion of this highway, from near the north entrance of the Bridgeview Plaza (Hanaford’s, McDonald’s etc.) to the rt. 55/44 bridge entrance-exit and overpass, STILL has YET to be resurfaced after all these many years. This in spite of the improvements to the highway from points north AND south. There is the ongoing new Vineyard Ave. Highland overpass project. The shoulder in this part of the highway is now like a mountain bike trail. The road surface on the highway proper has now been worn down so thin, that the old concrete surface is showing through. I rode alongside that person’s driveway, off Mack’s La., to the preserve "entrance", which is just a couple of log posts. There had been some recent rain, and a portion of the main road-trail was flooded. I emerged from the thick vegitation into that open area under the power lines. I had forgotten that I had turned left from another trail last year and so continued more or less straight. After switching to "hiker mode" to get up and and over an exposed section of tree roots, slick mud and an extremely steep grade, I entered into the woods in a small clearing. To the left was the most incredible view of the FDR MH bridge from above, and across the river, the City of Poughkeepsie. In the distance I could clearly see one the higher peaks of the Taconic mountains, perhaps Pleasant Ridge. Wow! I had noticed a trail marker on one of the trees. This marker was blue not white as the others posibly indicating a spur or alternate trail.

The trail started to go down, very steeply, and being not too sure where this trail went, I turned around to go back to the clearing under the power lines. I knew I had seen one of the ruins last year and had thought was near that clearing. I then went UP (literally) the trail going straight ahead. After a short bit of a vegetation covered, merely very steep road-trail, the road-trail turned into a near vertical wall of rocks and gravel. Once again I transitioned to "hiker mode". As I was slowly making my way up the grade, I had spotted one of the non-human "residents", some distance away, at the top of the hill on the trail. I took a picture of the Deer, and after a few snorts, and some tail swishing, the Deer darted off to my left into the woods .

  Once on top of the hill, I saw several white trail markers to my left. The road-trail I was on continued straight out of the woods into the thick vegetation. I had seen the remnants of an old stone fence or wall, but no structures yet. I would turn left following the trail markers. I would spend quite a lot of time in "hiker mode" as the bubble on my Sky Mounti inclinometer "maxed" in both the plus AND minus. This inclinometer can register a maximum gradient of 21%. Ahhh… thy kingdom for a 34 tooth cog! Actually I do have such a cog, it was sitting on a workbench back home. The freewheel on this ATB, with only a 30 tooth cog, is a Suntour. I have parts for this brand freewheel, but not an entire complete freewheel. I would have to re-build the existing freewheel with the larger cog. I am not entirely
sure that I could get the index shift derailleur to work with this extra large cog. I was no longer on a road-trail and was on an actual hiking trail through the, very dark, woods. At one point the "trail" was a barely discernible foot path between the trees. I continued UP and DOWN, wending my way through the woods. The trail descended, very steeply, to a small pond – creek. There were two narrow split log planks, with a gap in-between, for a "bridge". The gap appeared wide enough to allow the relatively skinny 1 1/2" tires on my ATB to fall through. I gingerly side-stepped along one plank while carefully rolling my bike along the other.On the other side was an extremely steep, short grade up some loose dirt and mud. The hiking trail improved into a road-trail and I was a cyclist once again. The road-trail also leveled out and was covered with thick vegetation. At one point, it was flooded. The water was shallow enough I could still see the vegetation underneath and I just continued on through the water. My All Terrain Bicycle became an Amphibious Terrain Bicycle as the tires swished through the water and soggy vegetation for like 1/4 mile. The trail must have gone up a tad and there was a dry section, then a smaller wet area, not as completely flooded as the previous section. It was just after this semi-flooded section, I encountered a person walking his dog going in the opposite direction. I had warned him of the extensively flooded section behind me, and ahead of him and his dog. I asked about the "lost village" ruins. He had said something about a windmill and a house with a "funny front". "A windmill?" I had thought, I am sure I would have remembered that from my last visit. There was clearly much more to this preserve to be seen by myself. I continued on. The road-trail surface changed from the soft green carpet of vegitation to dirt / gravel and went along a bluff or ravine with the Hudson River to my right. And finally I spoted the ruins of a small stone cottage to my left. A bit further I was at the ruins of a much larger stone-brick house and the "T" intersection with another trail.

  I had realized, this is where I had been last year. I switched to "hiker mode" and turned left up the steep rock covered road-trail that had flowing water this day. At the top of the grade, the rocks gave way to thick vegetation and leveled off. I was able to switch back to "biker mode" and rode back out, through the flooded section et al, to Mack’s Lane.
  What that person said echoed in my head "….. the windmill" This of course could mean only one thing … a "sequel" to this most recent adventure … Poughkeepsie Newman and the windmill of the lost village cue the John Williams music ….

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