McWilliams is not taking a hike—yet

Lake Erie Sunset

Lake Erie Sunset, west of Cleveland

Oh dear, a month has passed since I posted and almost as long since I hiked.

The main culprit has been work, but there was also a lightning trip to Ohio to see in-laws and a friend’s visit from the UK. The Ohio trip did not involve any hiking, but it did yield a memorable Lake Erie sunset which I am happy to share here.

My last hike was a quick loop at Peoples State Forest in Barkhamsted CT at the end of July. The outing provided raw material for August’s Taking a Hike column:

The View from Peoples State Forest at Hersam Acorn Arts & Leisure.

I never got around to posting July’s Taking a Hike either. Here it is:

A Walk on the Saugatuck Trail in The Hour.

Finally, the good news is that I do have a hiking adventure pending!

I booked an airline ticket to Reno NV for late September. I’m not going gambling; I’m planning to hike in the Sierra Nevada, including a section of the Pacific Crest Trail. Much more about that plan to come. I can buy Cheryl Strayed red bootlaces at REI, right?

PCT Lower Echo Lake

Pacific Crest Trail, Lower Echo Lake – courtesy of Ray Bouknight–

Taking a Hike Columns – May and June

I am behind with posting my Taking a Hike columns. Here are May and June together:

May: As has become something of a spring tradition, the subject was the Connecticut Appalachian Trail. This time, there was a hefty dose of memoir in the article, revolving around an inept backpack on the trail 15 years ago. I’ve got better since then, but you never stop learning from mistakes. “There’s No One Way To Tackle CT Appalachian Trail” in The Hour and at Hersam Acorn.

On Schaghticoke Mountain, CT AT Mile 5

On Schaghticoke Mountain, CT AT Mile 5

June: No big surprise that June’s column was about Silver Lake Wilderness, part of my Big Spring Outing to the Adirondacks. “Alone in the Dacks” at Hersam Acorn and The Hour.

Beaver pond, Silver Lake Wilderness

Beaver pond, Silver Lake Wilderness

Taking a Hike – Fahnestock Summits

My April Taking a Hike column has been published by The Hour and Hersam Acorn Newspapers. It describes an early spring (aka wintery) hike in Fahnestock State Park:

Relishing hardship, starkness of Fahnestock State Park at Hersam Acorn
Gray skies don’t dim the appeal of state park trek at The Hour

One thing I liked about the hike is that it helped me join up some bits of local landscape. I’d hiked in Fahnestock twice before, but it had stayed a disconnected, standalone kind of place in my mental atlas. I knew the Hudson River was off to its west and Connecticut to its east, and that the Appalachian Trail ran through it. Other than that, I had little sense for how it fitted with other places I like to hike.

Bull Hill (right) and cliffs south of Storm King Mountain (center) from Round Hill

Photo 1 – Hudson Valley from Round Hill, Fahnestock SP

The joining-up happened on west-facing slopes near the end of the hike. I saw the Hudson Valley, the steep-sided part of it near where the river flows between Breakneck Ridge and Storm King Mountain (Photo 1). Now, I had seen this stretch of valley from another angle, on another hike, years ago (Photo 2).

Most of the scenery in Photo 2 (taken looking south from Sugar Loaf Mountain) is hidden in Photo 1 behind Bull Hill (middle-distance summit in the right of the picture), but the scenes definitely join where the Hudson flows beneath the bluffs just left of center in Photo 2. It is possible to cover most of the distance – about 4 miles in a straight line – between where I took each photo on trails. I’d like to do that one day.

Sugarloaf Mountain, Hudson Highlands State Park, NY

Photo 2 – Looking south from Sugarloaf Mountain

Taking a Hike – Westchester Wilderness Walk

Finally, it looks outside as March should. We have a motionless gray sky. The ground is half-covered in dirty snow, half in wet, crushed leaf litter. Two weeks ago, when Charissa and I walked the Westchester “wilderness”, it was more like April, even down to some whistling frogs. In between times, we have had January. Tomorrow, I am going to hike in gray, drizzly March, before May suddenly arrives. And before April arrives, I’d better post my March Taking a Column – about that Westchester wilderness. Here we go:

Finding Wilderness in Westchester at Hersam Acorn.
Westchester preserve is a charming oasis of wilderness at The Hour.

Late afternoon swamp, Zofnass Family Preserve

Late afternoon swamp, Western Loop, Westchester Wilderness Walk

First Day of Spring TV Chat

On Monday, I chatted with HAN Network Arts & Leisure hosts Sally Sanders and Steve Coulter about hiking plans and ideas for the spring. It was a ramble of a conversation, touching on the Smokies and Maine, as well as hikes closer to home. I think we gave the poor guy in charge of syncing the photos to the talk a few problems. Never mind, here’s the link (chat starts at 4:05).

HAN Network Arts & Leisure, Monday March 20th

Sally, who also publishes my Taking a Hike column in Hersam Acorn Newspapers’ e-editions and website, is retiring at the end of the month. Have a happy and active retirement, Sally!

On Gregory Bald, Great Smoky Mountains NP

We discussed Gregory Bald and Great Smoky Mountains NP

Taking a Hike – The Gunks


Beside the Blueberry Run Trail, Minnewaska SP Preserve

Most months, after my column is published, I post a link to it on a Facebook group for my town. Usually, I get a handful of likes and that’s it. Having started February’s Taking a Hike saying that the Gunks (= Shawangunks = Shawangunk Ridge or Mountains) were not especially well known, I belied my own contention by generating much more “engagement” than usual – lots of likes, a couple of loves, comments, questions, even a photo. One guy said that his son is Chief Ranger at one of the Gunks preserves! Maybe those Gunks are a bigger name than I thought.

Anyway, February’s Taking a Hike:

Spring in the Gunks – in January! at Hersam Acorn.
Shawangunk Mountains worth getting to know at The Hour.

Taking a Hike – Number 50!


Mohawk State Forest at sunrise

My January Taking a Hike column was, I realized only after its publication, Number 50. I am pleased to have delivered the column every month for over four years (I almost wrote “churned out”, but frankly too much effort goes into each article to make that true). I was never at serious risk of skipping a month either. Even when I spent long days on a work project in New York City, there was time for hikes and to write them up afterward on the commuter train. An unexpected trip to Scotland enabled an unplanned Scottish hike to write about. Even immobilized by an injured knee for two months in 2015, I found subjects to ramble on about. Anyway, here is January’s column – the first of 2017 and Number 50!

Up Mohawk Mountain, but not by ski lift at Hersam Acorn Newspapers
First Mattatuck Trail trek is a success, and a workout at The Hour


Mattatuck trailhead at Flat Rocks Road