Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bear Hill

Signs at the Bear Hill entrance
Thanksgiving morning I enjoyed a short walk to and around the Bear Hill Nature Preserve.

After a fifteen to twenty minute walk from our friends' house in Cragsmoor, where we were staying for Thanksgiving, Justin, Myrrhlyn and I arrived at the Bear Hill Nature Preserve. As we walked into the preserve, we passed by some of Cragsmoor’s older as well as newer homes. All reminders of civilization eventually passed from view, however, as we walked further into the preserve.

A few minutes later some small outcroppings of boulders appeared through the trees to our right. Never having been to Bear Hill before, I thought that we had arrived at our destination. We had not.

The three of us, two humans and a canine, continued walking until the distant horizon came into view though a cut in the trees created by the trail. For a while, it looked like the trail might end in a sudden drop off. As we crested a small rise, I could see, though, that the trail did not end at a drop off but at a “T” intersection. Justin suggested we turn left, and we did.

The view from rocky Bear Hill
Some more hiking brought us to the real Bear Hill, an outcropping of lichen encrusted silurian conglomerate typical of the Shawangunks. Offering a spectacular 180-degree southern and western view, we explored the area, climbing over slabs and boulders, jumping across and climbing down into and back up crevices. The deepest chimney like crevice we explored was must have been a hundred feet from top to bottom. As we climbed through the rock and boulder strewn formation, sometimes passing over, under and around large and small boulders edged into the chimney, I had visions of the movie 127 hours. We climbed down and back up, however, without incident.

At an elevation of 1,950 feet, the Summit of Bear Hill is no eastern Everest. Its commanding view over the lowlands to the south and west, combined with its exposed rocky ruggedness, suggests an elevation much higher.

While the nearby Sam’s Point Nature Preserve offers many more miles of hiking trails, far more flora and fauna, and a slightly higher elevation, I think the Bear Hill preserve offers a better view and far better rocks for scrambling. I am glad that this most recent Thanksgiving we explored it rather than hiking trails I have already hiked in the Sam’s Point Preserve.

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