My trip to New York State and Pine Creek Gorge was largely a disappointment. I fell on the Tanbark Trail, I drove for an hour to the Catskill Scenic Rail Trail and found it a mess, my hurt back limited what I could do in both the Catskills and the Endless Mountains, and finally heavy rain forced me home early. And then…..
Chris, my friend in New Jersey who led me up to the Raven’s Horn in August, contacted me with a suggestion. His church’s hiking group was leaving for a day on easy trails in the Shawangunk Mountains in New York the next morning. Was I free? Yes, I was. And the night sleeping in my own bed seemed to have taken much of the trouble out of my back. So at 8:30 AM I was in New Jersey ready to join the trip north.
This was my first hike with a large group in years, and it was a good experience. Caleb’s Crew Hiking Club is a group based on the membership of Chris’ church, of which he is pastor. The name of the group comes from the Book of Joshua in the Hebrew Bible. After years of faithful service to God, Caleb is still ready for more work. Caleb asks God, as the King James translators put it, “Now therefore give me this mountain….”
Our “mountain” today would be relatively easy. Sam’s Point Preserve was a hike of a little more than a half mile to the top and the overlooks. And it used “carriage roads” – the improved forest roads the “400” leading families of New York City used when they vacationed in this area. So while the hike was a climb, it was relatively easy. The six tenths of a mile to the top sped by. And speaking of speeding, for once in my life I was near to leading a parade. I’m used to being the slowest walker or hiker or cyclist, and I was leading at times. I slowed as we passed the side of the rock outcropping we would soon stand on top of.
The first overlook at Sam’s Point is two thirds of the way to the top. Already the view was spectacular – forest everywhere, and in the far distance to the north the edge of the Catskill Mountains. The ledges were enormously wide compared to the Raven’s Horn and Pole Steeple in PA. And the view only improved as we climbed to the top. Again it was a climb, but not an arduous one. Either I am improving or the carriage road was no challenge to me.
The main overlook at Sam’s Point has a low stone wall around the platform, but visitors aren’t restricted to that area, and there are other attractions one can hike to – a waterfall and a series of caves, for instance. But we restricted ourselves to the overlook and nearby rock cliffs. The latter pushed my fear of heights hard, but I won, as you can see in the photo of my walking along the cliff edge. That portion of the cliffs is accessible from a trail through the forest of dwarf pine, which is but another attraction among many here. This first hike in the Shawangunks gave me what I’d been looking for, and couldn’t find, in the Catskills.
After we came down from the mountain we had lunch and headed off to our second hike of of the day, Lake Minnewaska, which I’ll cover in another post.