Gratitude

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Yes, I have more questions than answers into my fifties, but one of them isn’t, “When will I be able to spend more time with my family?” My two adult children, my husband and I enjoy spending time with each other. Yes, our cross country RV trip was more like “family survivor” but we survived!

My husband recently celebrated his birthday and one of the things he wanted to do on his special day was to go on a hike. I’m a given hiking partner, but on this particular day both of our children agreed to join us, as well. 

It was a beautiful, crisp, fall day, which made the hike that much more pleasant. I remember taking the same hike up Schunemunk Mountain in the summer and it seemed much more strenuous on an extremely steamy day in July. Schunemunk Mountain is the highest mountain in Orange County, NY. It spans the towns of Blooming Grove, Cornwall and Woodbury, and the 1,664-foot summit is located in Blooming Grove, my back yard!

This is one of my favorite hikes, since we enter at one trail head and exit at another. This means we have to take 2 cars, park one at the exit location and drive the other to our entrance, but it is much more rewarding than making a loop and doubling back the way we enter the trail. This free hike is well maintained and clearly marked by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, a volunteer-based federation of about 10,000 members, which includes 2,000 miles of foot trails around the New York metropolitan area! To follow the trail, keep your eyes on the painted blazes on trees and sometimes on rocks at your feet. Also, be on the lookout for rock and/or branch formations other considerate hikers may have left behind. If you see branches or rocks that look like they are blocking a path, they may have been strategically placed for just that reason. Be aware of your surroundings when you hike and, remember, keep your eyes on the painted blazes. It’s easy to lose sight of them, especially while taking in the beautiful scenery and chatting with your trail mates.

We chose to enter on Clove Road near Hil-mar Lodge and follow the ORANGE  trail (the former aqua trail) to the top of the mountain after dropping off our second car at the Otterkill Road trail head parking near the Moodna Viaduct (train trestle). This entrance is a little more of a gentle incline than coming in at the train trestle entrance, which immediately presents a very steep uphill climb.

A steady incline, but not too steep

A steady incline, but not too steep

After about an hour of steady, but not too rigorous uphill hiking, we reached the summit. As one reluctant hiker commented, “This made it all worth it!”

The summit of Schunemunk Mountain

Schunemunk Mountain Summit

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A great time for a break!

It was such a clear day

It was such a clear day

After a little break which included a snack, taking some pictures and checking out the beautiful views of the Hudson River and Storm King Art Center in the distance, we continued along the summit briefly as we continued hiking on the RED trail. Since we knew we would have to change directions here, we kept referring to our trail map to be sure we would be heading back down the mountain and to our car. I have to say, even though this can be a bit stressful, I like finding my way in the woods with a map, especially when I don’t get lost!

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Beautiful vista!

It turns out we were heading in the right direction, since the trail looked familiar and we soon reached a handmade memorial bench on a vista where I always pause to take in the sights and wonder what significance this spot had to the woman who passed away six years ago. It’s inscribed, “Sweet dreams Sharon” and this time of year there were a bunch of red roses left on the bench to mark the October anniversary of Sharon’s passing. She was around my age when she died, which draws me to this spot and her story even more. I also wonder about the person who built this beautiful bench in Sharon’s honor and what it took for that person to haul the building materials up to this spot.

Memorial Bench

Memorial Bench

You can see the trestle through the trees

You can see the trestle through the trees

We continue back down the mountain where the descent gets rather steep and we need to step cautiously so as not to slip and fall. When we reached the train trestle on our right and we were steps from the end of the trail on Otterkill Road, we stopped for a few minutes so my son and I could check out the  trestle surroundings. It’s one of my favorite sights in this area and anyone that knows it would agree. If you haven’t checked it out, it’s worth the trip! On this day, my son and I wanted to do some investigative reporting. We had recently read that a girl had fallen off the trestle and had luckily been spared due to the fact that the trees broke her fall. We wondered if this was the spot, but concluded that it couldn’t have been since the trees in this area were much too small to break her fall. While there we noticed some graffiti on the huge, rusted, steel beams. It went partially out onto the trestle as the ground dropped further away and the trestle continued to the west. My son commented this was probably a badge of honor (from the perspective of the graffiti artist), the further out, the braver the person. I hadn’t thought of that.

Within a few minutes we were walking along Otterkill Road to our car at the trail head parking. A quick ride to our starting point at Hill- Mar Lodge to pick up our second car and I was on my way home.  The total hike was about 4 miles and took about 2 hours. It didn’t cost a thing and included some spectacular views. I always feel a sense of accomplishment after a hike and although I’m tired, I feel rejuvenated.

The gratitude that I felt after my husband’s birthday hike was for time spent with my family. I’m so lucky that this isn’t a rarity and that most times we truly enjoy each others company.

The Finnan Family

The Finnan Family

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