Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Wanderlust Wednesday: Minnewaska State Park

What: Minnewaska State Park Preserve
Where: Kerhonkson, NY
When: September 2015

For the first 18 years of my life I lived in the Catskill Mountains. I was born in southern New York--closer to New York City--but at the ripe age of three months my parents settled in our little house in a tiny town on the foothills of the Catskills. Growing up there, I had a great appreciation for nature. I also feel it provided me ample opportunities to become a stronger, more well rounded person. We had New York City close enough for day trips but I lived in, literally, the woods. Often enough we would lose power or water during the course of winter and would have to rely on melted snow to get the toilets to flush and wood stove-cooked meals. At an early age I knew how to find kindling and decent trees that could be used for firewood. I could start a fire and chop up wood. I had my own garden and I could tell you where the local pack of coyotes ran. The woods was my home and when my parents moved to Pennsylvania, I had a dull ache that existed for the loss of my familiar woods.

Time has calmed that ache but it's still there, now replaced with the sense of nostalgia biting at me. My fiance (then boyfriend) has had very little experience with New York and even then, it was strictly with the city. I wanted, more than anything, to introduce him to where I grew up before we got engaged. This seemed extraordinarily important to me. It was essential he understood where I came from because I felt if he could just see the land he would have a deeper understanding of me as a person.

So, during Labor Day weekend, we drove to the Catskill Mountains. Beside visiting all of my old stomping grounds, there was one location I was determined we had to go and see: Minnewaska State Park. 

It wouldn't be possible to go into the woods surrounding my old home in my old neighborhood--the area had changed just enough that I wasn't sure if it would be frowned upon nor if anyone would recognize me--but Minnewaska was the perfect example of the wild beauty that is that area of New York. Plus, it was a place I had visited as a teen and had always wanted to return to.


Minnewaska is based on the Shawangunk Ridge (also called the Shawangunk Mountains or the Gunks). It's an interesting mountain with pine trees that you often fine in sandy areas along the coast--not inland--and large rock structures along the edges of the mountain trails that are both great for rock climbing (I'll pass) and photo opportunities.

My fiance and I are very elementary leveled hikers. We really enjoy exploring the outdoors but we haven't any gear nor really know what we're doing other than not to prompt bears and stay on the path. Still, we were excited and prepared as best as we could with some trail mix and lots of waters stuffed into our backpacks and layers of clothing to fight off the early autumn chill that the area can get at the beginning of September. 

We had a great breakfast before heading off and arrived early on in the day. This was quite lucky and should be a note of caution for those interested in visiting the area. Minnewaska State Park has multiple locations where visitors can swim in the beautiful "sky lakes." Due to this, if the day is predicted to be warm expect a lot of traffic congestion and a struggle to get decent parking if you go later in the day.


When we arrived at about 10 in the morning, we were still able to park close to the main entrance of the park, but by the time we were leaving at about 4, the parking was out to the street and the park authorities were turning people away while the swimming areas were overwhelmed with visitors. 

Basically: go early if you want to enjoy the area, whether it be for hiking or swimming.

There are multiple paths you can take through out the mountain area that all lead to glorious views. There are views of the sky lakes--lakes that are claimed to be water fed solely by rain and no ground source--views of waterfalls and views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. We spent a few hours hiking before we settled for lunch then turned to make our way back. Along the way, there are multiple locations to pause and enjoy the view--something that was needed as, like I said, we are inexperienced hikers and grew hot and tired, plus the heat of the day came striking down and chasing away any semblance of fall.


There are so many interesting points along the trail. While you are walking along the edge of the mountain, it's worth pausing at each overlook because even though you're on the same side of the mountain (generally) the look is always different. It's also worth checking the overlooks out on the way back (if you're following the same path) as the sunlight's different position provides an entirely different look to the land.

You can also bring your dog or bike ride through the area, but be careful as there are often sharp curves on the hiking paths and little to prevent people from falling off the side of the mountain. This is a place where common sense is preferred.

By the end of the day, we were pooped. We were also desperate to take a dip in the sky lakes but didn't have any bathing suits packed. The area is beautiful and truly a touch with nature. The only noises you can hear so far up the mountain are the occasional passing planes. The trip was a moment to feel more in touch with nature, more attached to it, after so long of being away from it all.


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