The morning train pulls out of Grand Central station, and after a ride along the Hudson, I get off at Cold Spring. Just to have more time on the Hudson Highlands, I decide to take a cab to the trailhead of Breakneck Ridge Trail. It is a clear and cold mid-December day, and the trail is officially closed. Just north of a tunnel, with icicles on the other side of the road, I get off, pick up a map of the trail, and hike up. The driver has given me his card, because he reckons the trail cannot be done this time of year. To be sure, the trail is steep, and some parts involve climbing up using your hands, but I soon reach a small rocky plateau, which is a great viewpoint. The Hudson meanders through the wide valley below, and there are steep cliffs ahead. Below me, I see a frozen waterfall. There is only a little frost on the rocks, and some patches of ice, but the going turns out to be quite easy.
The trail goes higher, to other viewpoints; every time I reach a hilltop, I think that I have reached the highest point, until I see a higher hill ahead. The trail follows the Breakneck Ridge, meandering through forests, going through open space, with views of lakes below. The trail is well marked, but still, there are some points where a clear trail continues, and I discover later that the actual trail leads uphill to my left. The higher I get, the more snow I encounter, until I walk over a closed snow cover through the forest. There are more frozen waterfalls here. Still, with the absence of wind, I feel warm, and when I go uphill, even have to open my coat for some fresh air. I make a few short stops to eat and drink something, but keep on going. My plan is to hike all the way to Beacon, and I only have an estimate of the time needed for that, and know that the sun will set early.
When I hike up to South Beacon Mountain, I have reached the highest point of the Hudson Highlands at 491m or 1,610 ft. The Fire Tower, which has been on signs for a while now, towers to the sky right ahead of me. A wind blows over the rocks and ice, making me feel cold, and I climb the shaky tower to its very top. The hills below with their delicate layer of snow, the icy rocks below and the completely frozen Beacon reservoir, the Hudson meandering behind, and, behold - the skyline of Manhattan at the horizon in the distance: it feels like I have deserved this view after the effort of getting here. Once down, I find that the way down is quite tricky, with slippery parts, icy rocks, and once I am down, I find an easier trail through the forest. I make a detour to the reservoir, which seems solidly frozen. I then continue on other trails: red, blue, yellow, and white. Much of it through the woods, some taking me over rock formations, not always easy to see how the trail continues. The trails take me in loops through the beautiful Fishkill Ridge. Where I was confident of having plenty of time, judging from the map, I now realize it takes much more than I thought, and I increase my pace. I climb, descend, and climb again, until I reach an open space where I can finally see Beacon in the distance, further away than I thought. I descend through the woods, follow a trail with frozen waterfalls in a river, and reach the first houses of Beacon just ten minutes before sunset after some seven hours of hiking.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Hudson Highlands (U.S.A.). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Hudson Highlands.
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