Introducing the Long Path Race Series

New race series along New York’s Long Path helps to highlight and support the work of the Trail Conference

By Kenneth Posner, Long Path Race Series Founder

Long Path Trail Marker

The Long Path Race Series will include six races in 2015, beginning with Rock The River on May 3 in the Palisades. (Photo credit: Karl M. Soehnlein)

The Long Path Race Series is designed to promote this magnificent trail and the good work of the Trail Conference and its volunteers and to encourage further land and trail stewardship.

First conceived by the Trail Conference in the 1930s, the Long Path has been developed and blazed over the years and today is maintained by volunteers for whom it is a labor of love. The Long Path is not as well-known as other long distance trails such as Vermont’s Long Trail, the Pacific Coast Trail, or the Appalachian Trail, and it deserves a higher profile. The Long Path links New York City with the Helderberg Escarpment west of Albany, and along its meandering 350-mile length, passes through some of New York’s most spectacular natural areas, including the Hudson Palisades, Harriman State Park, the Shawangunk Mountains, and the Catskills. Hike or run along the Long Path, and you’re in for a distinctive, beautiful, rugged, and amazing experience.

Long Path Race Series

The series also includes the SRT Run/Hike, which gives participants a chance to run or hike the entire 74-mile Shawangunk Ridge Trail. (Photo credit: Tom Bushey Photography)

For 2015, the series will include six races, beginning with Rock The River on May 3. Organized by the Palisades Park Conservancy, this event benefits the Trail Conference, the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, and the trails. It features 5k and half-marathon road races and a 6k trail race suitable for walkers as well as runners. Early-bird pricing ends April 1; registration is open through race day. Proceeds benefit the work of the Trail Conference in the Palisades.

The series also includes the SRT Run/Hike, which gives participants a chance to run or hike the entire 74-mile Shawangunk Ridge Trail from High Point State Park in New Jersey all the way to the town of Rosendale, New York (or you can opt for shorter 50, 32, or 20-mile distances).

Persons who register for the series will accumulate points for each event they complete. (It’s not required to participate in all six). Those who accrue the highest point totals will be recognized as “disciples of the Long Brown Path.” There is a nominal $15 registration fee to participate in the series (this helps offset administrative costs) which is separate from the registration fees for each of the six series events.

Of note, nature lovers should not worry that the Long Path will soon be overridden by hordes of crazed trail runners. In developing trail events, we work closely with the parks and preserves to ensure that we are not causing congestion, damaging trails or ecologically sensitive areas, or hogging the limited supply of parking spots. As long as we’re all courteous, there should be plenty of room for both hikers and runners out there. (Let’s all work together to keep out the ATVs.) Register for the Long Path Series for a year of fun and excitement!

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How Muddy Are Your Trails?

By Erik Mickelson, Field Manager

Muddy Trail

Photo credit: Flickr/Mr.TInDC

Can you predict how muddy your favorite trails will be this spring? In a way, yes.

The Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) can be useful as a gauge for estimating the water from snow melt onto trails, since snow melt is analogous to a rain event. The SWE “is the amount of water contained within the snowpack…as the depth of water that would theoretically result if you melted the entire snowpack instantaneously,” explains the Natural Resources Conservation Service. In the winter these melt (or rain) events can make for soggy trails–assuming it all melts “instantaneously.”

Water trapped in frozen soils holding autumn rains and freeze/thaw event moisture may add to the SWE flows unleashed during snow melt. If the soil was near its water holding capacity (field capacity) at freezing, or between SWEs, there’s a good chance the trails could be wetter than anticipated from snow melt alone.

Northeast SWE

Snow Water Equivalent Map, February 2015

So how long will you be slogging through mud? The rate trails dry after rain is a function of many factors. Other than grades, outslope, and trail soil profiles, two factors that help dry trails are evaporation and transpiration from plants. The two together are called evapotranspiration, or ET. ET rates from late fall to spring are low, while SWE flows can by high, making for muddier trails.

If you decide to get out on the trails this spring, take a mental note of the good and bad trails after rain events–and save the wet ones for later.

Want to learn more? Check out this interactive SWE map and zoom in on your location.

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Bringing Our Mission to Albany on Catskill Park Awareness Day

By Jeff Senterman, Director of Catskill Conservation Corps & Senior Program Coordinator

CatskillAwarenessDay

Dozens members from the Trail Conference and other like-minded organizations visited lawmakers in February.

On February 10, dozens of representatives from the Trail Conference and a number of other organizations attended the third annual Catskill Park Awareness Day in Albany. During this day of advocacy, we educate lawmakers about the importance of the Catskill Park and the Catskill Forest Preserve to the region’s local communities, to visitors, and to New York State. As members of the Catskill Park Coalition—an alliance of like-minded groups committed to broadening public appreciation for the park and seeking resources to enhance and maintain it—the Trail Conference and fellow attendees chatted with legislators about the work we do and why it should be supported.

During our visit, the Catskill Park Coalition requested the following from Albany in 2015:
• Environmental Protection Fund: Support the creation of a dedicated line of $4 million in the Environmental Protection Fund for the Catskill Park.
• New York State Forest Rangers: Fully fund an Assistant Forest Ranger Program in NYS DEC Regions 3 & 4 and establish a 2015 Academy for Forest Rangers.
• Land Protection: Act on a number of priority parcels for acquisition in the Catskills.
• Recreation Plan for the Park: Help to secure funding to conduct a planning process for a Catskill Park Recreation Plan.
• Catskill Association for Tourism Services: Support additional funding in the amount of $100,000 for CATS to implement its marketing program in 2015.

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To Ski or Not to Ski

By Sona Mason, West Hudson Program Coordinator

SkiTracksNYNJTC

The window for cross-country skiing in our region is very small. Make the most of it! (Photo credit: Sona Mason)

Although Nordic skiing often tops those charts that rate calorie-burning activities, I find that a little hard to believe–does anyone ever feel as out of breath on skis as when running? Maybe it has to do with speed. Like other exercise, how fast you go ratchets up your energy expenditure, and my pace while skiing is probably more in the leisurely range… which reflects need for a review of the aforesaid charts.

You certainly don’t need to be an Olympic-level athlete to enjoy cross-country. There are two types of Nordic skiing: classic and skate skiing. Skate skiing, which resembles ice skating with giant “skates,” is likely the one that accounts for the higher calorie burn, as it is incredibly aerobic and faster than the traditional classic technique. But skate skiing requires more skill and balance, so most people start off with classic, which resembles striding with extra glide. Each type uses different skis; skating requires a wide, groomed track, while classic can go almost anywhere–including the backcountry.

Unsuspecting hikers in our parks this winter may have encountered a pair of flat tracks in the snow. That would be the long, skinny footprint of a backcountry skier. Creating that track usually requires some effort on the part of the first skier out in virgin terrain. Thus when a subsequent skier discovers post-holes that a walker has made through the tracks, the temptation to catch up with and poke them in the behind with a ski pole is almost irresistible, since they will have rendered the track unstable. Human feet leave large holes and kick-ups in the snow, which send skis into a wobble. After a night freeze cycle, the track can become unusable. So a special plea to hikers: Please walk next to and not on the ski tracks. Skiers have such a small window within which to make the most of the glorious white stuff, while hiking can be had all year.

For the curious snow-hiker who has never given it a try, the special charm of cross-country skiing lies in the smooth, dancing, graceful motion, with a free glide over the snow that snowshoes cannot give. So make the most of the gorgeous snow out now and experience a float through the white landscape. It’s not going to around all that long.

Ready to strap on some skis and explore our region? We’ve got tips on where to find the best parks and trails for cross-country skiing in New York and Jersey, including where to rent equipment.

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A Snowshoeing Revival in Phoenicia

By Jeff Senterman, Regional Programs Manager and Catskills Program Coordinator

WinterSnowshoeTrail

With the right preparation, winter is the perfect time to explore new trails. (Photo credit: Amber Ray)

Everyone knows that in winter, skiing and snowboarding reign supreme in the Catskills. But what about those people who like a slower pace and want to enjoy the outdoors in the colder months? Jess and Tim Luby of Catskill Mountain Storehouse, a new outdoors store in Phoenicia, have an answer. Jess explains: “The woods are incredibly beautiful in winter and we want people to get out there and see just how amazing they are. And the best way to do that is on a pair of snowshoes.”

To this end, Storehouse will be offering snowshoe rentals. “All around Phoenicia, there are so many opportunities for snowshoeing, and we want to spearhead a revival of the sport in the area,” says Tim. “From the new section of Long Path in Phoenicia, to the Kenneth Wilson Campground, there are tons of suitable trails for all ability levels close to our shop. We’re very excited to help people discover this sport and how breathtaking these trails are in winter.”

But, as the Lubys are quick to point out, there’s more to Phoenicia in the winter than just snowshoe rentals. People think of the town as more of a warmer weather destination, but it’s also great here in wintertime, says Jess. “Brios is still churning out their wood-fired pizza, Mama’s Boy has amazing hot chocolate, and places like Tenderland Home have beautiful winter-themed homegoods that make Phoenicia worth the visit.”

The Lubys invite you to stop by to talk trails so you can start planning your winter adventure. “We won’t just send you off with your snowshoes,” says Tim. “We’ll talk to you about your ability level and what it is you want to get out of your trip before we recommend a good trail for you. It sounds cliché, but it’s safety first, especially in winter.”

The Trail Conference looks forward to continuing our work with Storehouse and the Lubys, helping the many visitors and hikers to the Catskills have a great time. In 2015 we will be working with Storehouse to hold a number of meet-and-greets and help recruit for the ongoing trail building at the Catskill Interpretive Center just down the road in Mount Tremper.

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The Weekly Forced March

Getting kids to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature.

By Hank Osborn, East Hudson Program Coordinator

KidsHikingNoTech

Enjoying the woods–no iDevices necessary. (Photo credit: Hank Osborn)

Almost every weekend, year-round, my wife and I enjoy a good hike with our adolescent children. We love our local trails, the exercise, and getting out into nature. The children do not share our views. They require encouragement to join us every time. They actually enjoy each hike, every weekend, but then they seem to forget by the following Saturday or Sunday that they had fun in the woods. There seems to be a powerful force affecting their memory and motivation.

We have to work to get the children out of the house. They resist us. “Do we have to go? Can I stay here? I went last weekend.” To which we respond, “Yes, you went last weekend and you loved it; and no, you cannot stay home; and yes, you have to come on the hike today.”

KidsHikingFishkillRidge

Without iPhones, Lila and Callie take a break during a hike they thoroughly enjoyed on Fishkill Ridge. (Photo credit: Hank Osborn)

I think our children are representative of many kids in this modern age of miniaturized and highly powerful in-your-face-technology. The children would rather sit around on the couch and zone out on their iDevices then walk through the woods—or do anything at all.

It takes cajoling. We have to repeat ourselves and be firm and not give in to their desperate offers to negotiate. “I’ll go on the hike if I don’t have to do the dishes tonight. I’ll walk the dog if you let me skip the hike. I can’t hike now, I just took a shower, can we do it later?” To which we respond: “Nope. No, and no—get in the car now.”

We drive to the local trailhead, unload ourselves, and announce, “leave your screens in the car.” There is often surprisingly little fuss at this request—except for the consistent rebuttal of, “but we need our phones to take pictures.” To which we respond: “Sorry. Let’s go.”

The next hurdle is the hiking-through-the-woods part—and guess what? The children love it! They laugh and run and smile and joke and play and absolutely enjoy themselves. See the accompanying photos as proof.

KidsCrossingAStream

Maya has a great time crossing a rushing stream–even with her iPod back in the car. (Photo credit: Hank Osborn)

Sometimes we hike a loop, other times we go out-and-back, and sometimes we drop a car and hike from point to point. At the end of the hike, when we all pile back into the car, the children are often subdued and a little tired. They gobble up their iDevices and stare at the screens. We sometimes hear, “Mom, Dad, that was awesome.” We don’t hear it every time—but sometimes.

My wife and I are not changing the world, but it feels as if we are fighting against it. The power these little machines have over our children is very, very strong. It wants to keep them inside on the couch and out of the woods. We feel we are doing the right thing by fighting against that corruptive power, getting our children to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature through our weekly forced march.

Want to get your kids unplugged and into the woods? Find a family-friendly hike in your area using our hikes database.

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New York-New Jersey Trail Conference: A Legacy of Advocacy

By Peter Dolan, New Jersey Program Coordinator

NJHL Ghost Lake

NYNJTC members and volunteers are instrumental in preserving green spaces.

When you think of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Is it our maps and books, which thousands rely on to enjoy their weekend hikes? Is it the solitary maintainer, clipping back his trail segment to allow safe access? Maybe our crew outings, trail construction projects, or Trail University workshops?

I would venture the guess that very few readers had “advocacy” spring to mind as one of the major functions of the Trail Conference, and yet nothing could be closer to the heart of what we do. A history of the Trail Conference, entitled “Vistas & Visions” and published 20 years ago, opens with the following quote:

“This trip last Sunday made us realize how blessed we are, who live in this big metropolitan area, to have so near at hand for our constant enjoyment so many beautiful mountains and trails. And I am afraid that as we go over the trails, we forget that it is the hard work of a few that makes possible the enjoyment by many.”

- Angelique Rivolier, Director of the Inkowa Outdoor Club, describing a hike on a new section of the Appalachian Trail near Sterling Forest, April 1930

Sterling Forest Casino

Thanks in part to the efforts of NYNJTC members and volunteers, the Sterling Forest Casino bid was rejected.

Though the quote is nearly 85 years old, the same recognition rings true today—that it is the hard work of a few that makes possible the enjoyment by many. In the past year alone, the Trail Conference has leapt into the fray of battles against numerous threats—including the casinos in Sterling Forest and Woodbury, the LG building atop the Hudson Palisades, development along the Shawangunk Ridge, and dissipating open space funding for New Jersey.

Most recently, a bill has been proposed which would allow hunting on Sundays in New Jersey. The current ban on Sunday hunting allows outdoor recreationalists of all stripes—whether they be hikers, birders, bikers, trail runners, cross-country skiers, or anyone else—at least one day a week in which to enjoy the great outdoors without worrying about the sound of gunfire (as well as its potential dangers, however small the odds). Many of our members have already expressed their dismay with this bill, which caters to a small group of outdoor enthusiasts to the detriment of all others.

As with all of our previous advocacy efforts, we rely on a well-informed body of the public to show that they care about these issues. By educating our members and showing them how they can be involved, we hope to provide them with a voice to let their representatives know how they want their public lands treated. And in return, we rely on the eyes and ears of our members to let us know about the latest threats to the trails we all know and love. You can always stay up to date on the latest trail-related issues by checking out our advocacy pages.

So, next time you envision our organization in your mind’s eye, remember—sometimes it’s just as much a Trail Conference job to pick up your phone and call a legislator as it is to pick up your loppers and cut back branches in the trail!

It can be hard to find good environmental advocates. If you want to learn more about being involved in our advocacy program, or if you have skills and resources that you think would be valuable in any of our current efforts, please don’t hesitate to contact our Volunteer Coordinator John Leigh at jleigh@nynjtc.org. We’d love to hear from you.

Posted in New Jersey Trails, Palisades, Sterling Forest, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments