Before the Appalachian Trail leaves Bear Mountain State Park to cross the Hudson and head for New England, it passes through Bear Mountain Zoo. As well as animals, the zoo offers a series of information plaques, posted beside the trail. One in particular caught my attention – “HOW DID BEAR MOUNTAIN GET ITS NAME?” I thought I might know the answer, but read on anyway: “ONE POSSIBILITY WAS THE ABUNDANCE OF BLACK BEARS ON THE MOUNTAIN”.
My first reaction was “well, duh!”, followed by “maybe the plaque-writer has a dry sense of humor”. But perhaps the origin of the mountain’s name is really not so obvious. I had hiked onto three summits in the park that day. The first, Dunderberg, is surely named for “donder”, Dutch for thunder. Next, I climbed Bald Mountain which, apart from one spacious ledge, was hardly bald (it could, of course, have grown or regrown its hair since its naming). Bear Mountain was visible from Bald Mountain and, though mainly wooded, was far balder than Bald. So it could originally have been Bare Mountain, the meaning lost by the time the map-makers came around.
Anyway, my meandering hike in Bear Mountain SP:
DATE: Wednesday, July 27th.
START & FINISH: NY Route 9D, just north of Bear Mountain Bridge, Cortlandt NY.
ROUTE: Start – Bear Mountain Bridge – Bear Mountain Inn – Cornell Mine Trail to Dunderberg Mountain – Ramapo-Dunderberg and 1777 trails to Appalachian Trail at Seven Lakes Drive – A.T. to Finish.
DISTANCE: Approximately 12.5 miles.
TIME: 7.25 hours (7:00 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.)
TERRAIN: Road-walk across Bear Mountain Bridge, otherwise good-quality trails (A.T. over Bear Mountain is smooth and highly engineered). 1,000-foot elevation gain to summits of Dunderberg and Bald mountains, about the same to Perkins Tower on Bear Mountain.
BREAKFAST: McDonald’s, Cortlandt.
LUNCH: Cheddar and chorizo sandwich at Perkins Tower.
UPS: Sunlit mountaintop forests of well-spaced small oak. Hudson River views.
DOWNS: Nothing major, but maybe the trash in the park’s main recreation area.
KIT: The must-have, again, was water in abundance.
COMPANY: Very little until the A.T.; then a few hikers; then – descending Bear Mountain to Hessian Lake – masses of hikers, including little kids in big groups.