Thursday, September 22, 2016
Two county high points were both within two and a half hour’s drive, and just 40 minutes apart from one another in the northern reaches of the mid-Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains.
Setting out from my home in southern Orange County, NY, I headed north on the New York State Thruway, the primary interstate toll road in the southern and central portions of the Empire State. Reaching the Albany area, I veered off of the I-87 section of the highway and onto I-90, which forms the central spine of the Thruway from here all the way to Buffalo some 300 miles to the west.
I exited in Rotterdam, followed I-88 to Duanesburg, and then a short series of back roads to a plateau of land centered around a small farm property with panoramic views of the Adirondack foothills to its north.
I was now at the home of the Hawes family, whose most recent patriarch Ray Hawes was mentioned in several trip reports I had read about reaching this county high point. (Note: I learned in researching this article that Ray passed away in 2015)
The highest ground here is in a patch of woods to the back of the Hawes property. And
having read reports of fellow peakbaggers, I knew it was better to knock on the door and ask permission rather than to quietly trespass across the open field on the southern part of their land.
Seeing a car in the driveway, I expected someone to answer upon my knocking. But the only response I got (after several tries) was from some dogs inside the house, who were clearly unaccompanied by humans, and quite interested in knowing why I had broken the silence of their otherwise quiet morning.
Giving up on having a human greet me at the door, I moved my car from the Hawes driveway to the far edge of their property, adjacent to an abandoned cottage house. From here, I traipsed across the field, compass in hand, and entered the woods at what appeared to be the remnant of an old tractor path.
It didn’t take long to find the high point, as it was only about 150-200 feet into the woods, and the underbrush was very light. Picking the high spot that was nearest to the given coordinates I had taken from Peakbagger.com, I noted the elevation at 1477′, some 20 feet higher than the “official” altitude. But knowing that not all compasses read the same, I was satisfied with the latitude and longitude readings, especially given that there was no other ground higher than where I was standing.
As I left the Hawes land, I took one last look at the view of the southern Adirondacks before setting my bearings for the next high point – Albany County.
Getting to the Albany County high point involved a long series of back roads and country roads, with one of them being a dirt road named Ted E. Bear Lane (I kid you not!). Along the way, I also encountered two pretty cool things. One was a sighting of Long Path blazes, those familiar teal rectangles I’ve seen on many trails in the Hudson Valley. This section of the Long Path is almost entirely on roads, and being north of the current northern terminus of the LP, is still considered “unofficial” at this time.
The second thing I came across was a stupendous panorama of the northern Catskill high peaks, spanning from the Black Dome range all the way west to Hunter Mountain and beyond. It was such a remarkable view that I stopped the car and got out, spending a few meditative minutes soaking in the wonder of it all.
As I moved past a number of farmers fields, I gradually got onto higher and higher ground, with appreciable hills around almost every bend in the road. Passing through the towns of Berne and then South Berne, I eventually found myself on Peasley Rd, at the eastern edge of one of the many parcels of land that comprise Partridge Run State Forest.
I turned onto Boys Camp Road, which was unpaved, and featured red Catskill clay as the primary color in the roadbed. At a small bend in about a half mile in, I parked, and according to my AllTrails phone app, was now a mere 100 feet away from the county high point.
Satisfied in having knocked out two CoHPs in just one day (only the 2nd time I had accomplished that), I now endeavored to find a watering hole to celebrate the day. I drove first to Cave Mountain Brewing Co. in Windham, but found them closed, not realizing that they were no longer operating on “summer hours”.
So instead, I chose to drive to Phoenicia and have a cold one at the Alamo Cantina, a familiar spot, and one that I know I will probably visit again and again as I seek my peace (and malted sustenance) in the mountains.