Check Out the West Mountain Appalachian Trail Relocation with Our Volunteers

Join us on Oct. 18 for a short hike highlighting some of the work by the volunteer trail crews in Harriman State Park.

By Bob Fuller, member of the Long Distance Trails Crew

LDTC crib wall

Positioning crib wall rocks. (Photo credit: Bob Fuller, LDTC)

The Long Distance Trails Crew is continuing to work on completion of a new Appalachian Trail route above Beechy Bottom Road on the southwest side of West Mountain, just above the Anthony Wayne Recreation Area. Construction on the new trail began last fall.
The crew has already built a new stream crossing using large rocks and a large crib wall with a series of stone steps to route the trail up and around a large boulder. They have also been building drainage into wet areas, removing rocks from the “rock garden” areas to provide a pleasant footway, and clearing and side hilling where necessary to build a new sustainable trail that should last for many decades.

West Mountain Crib Wall

The LDTC shows off the new crib wall. Each of the very large rocks weighs almost twice that of the pictured volunteers. (Photo credit: Bob Fuller, LDTC)

This past weekend, the crew worked at the site of a second massive crib wall putting up a high line to move large rocks. This crib wall will provide a gradual climb in an area that otherwise would have had a descent followed by a steep short uphill. The crib wall is over 2 ½ feet high and some of the rocks that were “quarried,” lifted using the high line, and positioned on the wall are close to 2,000 lbs. The crib wall itself is now finished, but crush (crushed rock that we break from larger rocks using a sledge hammer) is still needed to fill the space behind the wall. The crew will then add mineral soil on top to form a sustainable and easily walked treadway. This work will be completed on our next weekend work trip, Oct. 4-5.

boogie-woogie aphids

“Boogie-woogie” aphids cover tree branches like snow. (Photo credit: Lou Monaco, LDTC)

This weekend, the crew had a special treat—beech blight aphids that were on several of the beech trees along the way in. These are small, hairy white aphids that sway back and forth on the branches when disturbed. They are nicknamed “boogie-woogie aphids” because of the “dance” they do. The tree branches look like they are covered with snow from the white aphids perched upon them.

The trail is nearing completion. Remaining projects include several small sections that still require the treadway be improved and the massive crib wall finished, and the final section of trail connecting to the current Appalachian Trail needs to be built. Though the completion and official opening date of the new section is not yet finalized, there will be a hike from the Anthony Wayne South parking area following the NYNJTC Annual Meeting on Oct. 18. This hike will highlight work of the volunteer West Hudson South and Long Distance Trails Crews local to this area. The crew hopes you will meet us at the Annual Meeting and on the Trail Crew “showcase” hike that afternoon.

Our next trip is Oct. 4–5, working on the West Mountain relocation. The crew provides hard hats and, if necessary, safety glasses. We provide training and the opportunity to learn new skills while being rewarded with the results of your day’s work. All you need to provide is a completed Volunteer Services Agreement, lunch and water, gloves, safety glasses if you have them, a smile, and a desire to work hard and safely in the great outdoors.

The crew will have more outings later this fall and beyond, so please join us. Contact Crew Chief Chris Reyling at 914-953-4900 or for more information and to join us as we complete this and many more exciting projects.

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Volunteers Needed for the Shawangunk Ridge Trail Run/Hike

Help raise awareness for the Shawangunks (Gunks Greenway) and our work to save the last unprotected segments of the SRT by volunteering at the Shawangunk Ridge Trail Run/Hike taking place this weekend, Sept. 19-21. Several portions of the ridge are still threatened by development, and the SRT Run/Hike will help bring awareness to the trail and the ridge.

Volunteer on any or all of the three days in a variety of locations along the Shawangunk Ridge Trail. For more information, contact Volunteer Coordinator John Leigh:

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Ever Sign up for a Race Involving ‘Secret’ Maps and Selfies?

What’s the fastest way to get around New York City? Can a bike outpace a car in a race that stretches the borough? Register for Race the City Your Own Way and find out!

YOWPresented by Marmot and Paragon Sports, Race Your Own Way is a unique event testing your knowledge of New York City and social media savvy. On September 27, you’ll travel to nine secret locations—via the transportation of your choice—and upload photos from those spots to Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #YOW. The first person to return to Paragon Sports after tagging all of the landmarks on their race day map will win a $2,500 shopping spree at Paragon, courtesy of Marmot. Second place receives a $750 gift card; third place gets $500. All registrants who successfully complete the race before 3 p.m. will receive a Marmot mug and a $25 Paragon gift card. It’s only $25 to register, and all proceeds go to the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference!

Space is limited, so call 212-255-8889 or register online. For full race details, visit

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Hiking Breakneck Ridge: Advice from a Trail Steward

By Malachy Cleary, Breakneck Ridge trail steward

Breakneck Ridge scramble

Breakneck Ridge is as challenging as it is beautiful. (Photo credit: Audrius Juskelis)

The Hudson Highlands are steeped in as much mystery as they are in history. It was in these hills that the Lenape hunted and fished the Muhheakantuck—“the river that flows both ways.” It was here that the Headless Horseman terrorized Ichabod Crane, years after some of the most important battles of the American Revolutionary War were fought on both sides of the mighty river’s shores.

Now, it is in Hudson Highlands State Park that nearly 2,000 adventurers come to answer the call of the wild every weekend. Breakneck Ridge has become a pilgrimage of sorts for those looking for an escape from the overwhelming modernity of urban life. Only 60 miles north of New York City, Breakneck is now one of the most popular day hikes in North America, outfitted with its own train station and parking lot to accommodate visitors. With its dramatic escarpments, stunning mountain vistas, and breathtaking panoramas of the river valley, the mountain is considered by many to be the most beautiful hike in the Hudson Valley.

There is no denying that Breakneck Ridge is a special place, home to incredible natural splendor. But visitors must not forget that the aptly named Breakneck is an extremely challenging hike. As a Breakneck Ridge trail steward, it is my duty to stress preparedness.

Being prepared means that you have:
1. Proper footwear
2. Plenty of water
3. Adequate means of navigation (i.e. map, GPS, sextant, etc.)

The stewards acknowledge that Breakneck possesses immense beauty while also presenting an immense challenge. Typically, hikers who are lacking in one of these areas are more at risk of injury or getting lost, but Breakneck has a way of humbling even the most seasoned climbers. Our job as stewards is to equip the ill-equipped to the best of our abilities. Informed hikers are happy hikers, and if the mountain sees that its visitors have taken the time to educate and prepare themselves, then it will shine favorably upon them.

“To respect the mountain, one must acknowledge its ability to destroy you.”*

Perhaps part of the mountain’s allure is the danger associated with climbing it. But Breakneck is only as dangerous as you make it. At first glance, Breakneck Ridge is simply a mountain to be climbed; at closer inspection, it is an awesome entity to be reckoned with. Stewards serve as intermediaries between the mountain and the people who climb it. We can communicate the respect Breakneck demands, but we cannot enforce it—that is the mountain’s job.

As a Breakneck Ridge trail steward, I have had the honor of serving the mountain and the joy of helping people discover it in a safe and rewarding way. Do not let the mountain’s intensity discourage you from exploring this jewel of the Hudson—Breakneck is a challenge, not an adversary. The stewards are always happy to give advice and answer any questions that you might have; just don’t ask us where the bathrooms are located.

*These words came to me in a moment of lucidity as I sat stationed in the Breakneck Ridge parking lot. Breakneck spoke to me not in English, but in the deliberate quiet of its ancient stone. With the delicate hush of the wind in the leaves and the creaking limbs of the boughs in the trees I could decipher a kind of symphony of silence unique only to a voice so eternal that it does not speak in mortal tongue.

You, too, can help improve the hiking experience on Breakneck Ridge and in Hudson Highlands State Park.  Find out how to join our Taconic Crew for a work trip or workshop.

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Bear Mountain: More Than a Trail; a Gathering Place

By Caitlyn Ball, AmeriCorps member of the Bear Mountain Crew

Bear Mountain Field

Bear Mountain offers more than just great hiking trails. (Credit: Caitlyn Ball)

Every section of the Appalachian Trail is unique. The approximately 2,180-mile trail extends from Georgia’s Springer Mountain to Mt. Katahdin in Maine. It brings its determined hikers across rolling hills, meadows and towns, up jagged rocky slopes and high majestic peaks, over boulder fields and bug-infested regions, and through state parks and thunder, hail, and snow storms. On Oct. 7, 1923, the first section of the trail, from Bear Mountain west through Harriman State Park to Arden, N.Y., was opened. Since its completion in 1937, the AT has experienced re-routes due to varying factors, erosion being one of the most prevalent. The trail section at Bear Mountain is currently in the process of its eighth relocation. As a member of the Trail Conference crew working on this project, I thought this number to be astounding.

I was also surprised by the specs of the job – the grade percentage of the slope, width and height of the stairs implemented, and depth of the surfacing we are putting down – compared to that of back-country trail work. But when I took a break from the job itself and made a leisurely evening visit to the park last Saturday, it all made sense.

Bear Mountain is much more than an option for hiking; it is a gathering place. The park hosts over 3 million visitors a year. THREE MILLION!! The mountain serves as a backdrop to a large, lush grassy field surrounded by spots to barbeque with charcoal grills. The park headquarters is to the left, and the beautiful Bear Mountain Inn flanks its right side. A carousel is nestled in the rear left corner of the field, which kiddies (and adults) can ride for a dollar. Beyond the inn you’ll find the picturesque Hessian Lake hosting canoers, paddle-boaters, and possibly a fisherman’s line. Done? Hardly. There’s also a pavilion/concession area which stages numerous events (think Oktoberfest), and across the road are more options for picnicking, volleyball, and, oh yeah, a zoo and Olympic-size swimming pool.

I was floored by the number of smiling people so contentedly enjoying one another’s company on a warm summer evening. The ethnicity of the crowd romping around the field was as diverse as the games being played – from soccer to badminton to Frisbee and catch – and the eclectic music leaking out of the individual gatherings. As I made my way toward the trailheads, I noticed couples holding hands. I strolled the paved path lined by tart wine berries and swung my head to follow the high-speed descent of a practiced skateboarder.

The Major Welch Trail was an excellent choice for this time of day. The deer munching on their dinner seemed to be enjoying the ridgeline that followed the setting sun just as much as I was. I met a young man who’d recently come to Bear Mountain as a respite from the harried bustle of NYC and was ecstatic to have company until reunited with his friends at the top. People of all ages were taking pictures, reading books, stretching limbs, and heartily laughing in the sun’s evening glow. I felt the desire to sit longer in the warm breeze and people watch, but ventured down the unfinished section of the AT that the Bear Crew and I are working on. I could see the importance behind the specific way in which it is being built. It is a work in progress, and for the three million-plus visitors a year and the generations of thru-hikers to come, we strive to make it beautiful and, most importantly, sustainable.

You can be a part of the Bear Mountain Trails Project! Check out the crew schedule and find out how you can join a work trip.

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Hiker Alert: Early Bear Season Starts September 6 in New York Regions


Photo from US Fish & Wildlife Service

A new, early bear hunting season is set to start September 6 and extend through September 21, in the Catskills and southern New York west of the Hudson River.  This new season was established by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation after public input on the department’s Draft Black Bear Management Plan.

The Trail Conference argued against this early season, noting that it coincides with a time of high use by non-hunting recreational visitors to the Catskills and southern New York region.

This early Bear Season is in addition to the traditional bow, muzzleloader, and rifle hunting season for bear and deer that occurs later in the fall.

The Trail Conference recommends that all hikers wear blaze orange during this time period to ensure safety.

For more information on this year’s hunting seasons in New York and New Jersey, please visit our website

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From Wheelchair to Trail Builder

Trail work helps this AmeriCorps member rebuild herself after she is hit by a car.

By Charlotte Rutherfurd, AmeriCorps member of the Palisades Trail Crew

Charlotte Rutherfurd

Charlotte Rutherfurd,  AmeriCorps member of the Palisades Crew, trail building at Sterling Forest this year.

Two years ago, I couldn’t hike. Actually, I couldn’t even walk. I was hit by a car going 30 mph in Manhattan, spending three weeks in the hospital and four months in a wheelchair after sustaining tibia, fibula, pelvis, and clavicle fractures. During those months of rehab, I left my job in advertising and lived with my parents as they cared for me. One thing inspired me through that recovery process: the vision of hiking again. I used to plan hikes while sitting in my wheelchair, mapping out the different trails I wanted to experience and visualizing the feeling of walking through the woods with a backpack on.

Now here I am, a member of the Palisades Crew working in Sterling Forest State Park, making hiking trails — through the strength of my own body. Every morning at 8:45, we hike about two miles on the Doris Duke Trail to our work site. And as we walk through the woods, I get to marvel at our accomplishments throughout the summer. First, we pass by the sidehilled portion of the trail that we started in May, where we bench cut our way through about half a mile of the forest to build new trail. Next, we walk across the section of stones we set to armor a stream crossing, where we sank seven large boulders to create a permanent and safe walking surface in a watershed setting. Lastly, our massive stone paveway and staircase is the jewel in our trail crown, as we took almost a month to quarry, stage, and set crushed rock and gargoyle stones to build more than 160 feet of dry masonry.

What I enjoy most about seeing our work is that everything we did was all built through the power of the crew’s and the (awesome!) volunteers’ own sweat. Machines didn’t sink our steps, make crush, or excavate soil. We did that with muscles and tools. And our work is strong — built to last. For years to come, hikers will enjoy these trails as part of a user-friendly and environmentally sustainable mode of outdoor recreation.

As I make that trek, I’m reminded of the time when I couldn’t hike, and am thankful for my recovery.  And I think of how lucky I am to be given this opportunity by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference and AmeriCorps to strengthen the hiking community as it strengthened me in my time of weakness.

Learn more about the Trail Conference’s AmeriCorps  program.

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