This was only my second Gunks hike ever (for those outside the region, Gunks = Shawangunks, from the Shawangunk Ridge, which in New York runs from the New Jersey line to the Catskill Mountains). I really liked my first Gunks hike, so I don’t know why it took me more than three years to return. That first hike was in Sam’s Point Preserve, 7½ straight-line miles southwest of my starting point this time. I might have gone back to Sam’s Point, but I read that huge areas of it are still closed after a wildfire.
It turned out that what I liked about Minnewaska SP was – barring Sam’s Point’s magnificent Verkeerder Kill Falls – exactly what I had liked about Sam’s Point: huge views over and beyond the Shawangunk plateau, and hiking the high barrens of stunted pitch pine and birch. On the negative side, carriage roads make for easy hiking, but take some of the fun out of it. My best memories of both Gunks hikes are of the trails proper. Next time I hit the Gunks, I will try to map out a route without carriage roads.
DATE: Saturday, January 21st.
START & FINISH: Lake Minnewaska, Rochester NY (the one in Ulster County).
ROUTE: Lake Minnewaska, Hamilton Point, and Castle Point carriage roads to Castle Point; return on Blueberry Run Trail and Upper Awosting carriage road; finish with circuit of Lake Minnewaska.
DISTANCE: About 10 miles.
TIME: 5¼ hours (9:00 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.)
TERRAIN: Although Castle Point is some 2,200 feet up, it was only 550 feet higher than my start point, and that elevation was gained over many miles of gently graded and beautifully surfaced carriage road (the only difficulty being stretches of ice in places the sun doesn’t reach). Blueberry Run was a proper trail, with rock, snow, roots, and water underfoot.
MAP: NYNJTC Shawangunk Trails, Map 104.
WEATHER: Sunny and incredibly mild (low 50s).
WILDLIFE: Nothing of note.
BREAKFAST: McDonald’s, Newburgh.
LUNCH: Swiss cheese roll and granola bar, Castle Point.
UPS: The views from Castle Point.
DOWNS: Minor, but the park does not open until 9 a.m.
KIT: Especially early, I found myself putting on and taking off my microspikes with tedious regularity.
COMPANY: Next to none until Castle Point; then a little; finally, at Lake Minnewaska after 1:30 p.m., loads.