Stricklandia

Michael Strickland's blog on all things travel: news, deals, destinations, dreams and more.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Leaf peeping in Harriman State Park

With recent trips to the Catskills and the Delaware River, we have definitely taken advantage of some of the natural beauty around New York City. But one destination we had not yet explored together was Harriman State Park. Located only about an hour outside the city, it always seemed too close for a real getaway. But last weekend, wanting to fit in one last backpacking trip before the weather got too cold, and also hoping to see some fall foliage, we decided to kill two birds with one stone by doing a quick overnighter.



It's prime time for leaf-peeping, but it seemed many people were scared off by the tail end of a rain storm that passed through the previous night. We had no trouble finding a parking spot right at the trailhead, so we quickly strapped on our packs and started making tracks. By no means did we have the trail to ourselves, however. Even with the less-than-ideal weather, we crossed paths with many day-hikers. Perhaps they too had studied the weather forecast, which called for clearing skies.



Regardless of the lack of solitude, we were not disappointed. The park may be close to the city, but it was as scenic and woodsy as anywhere in the Catskills. The Pine Meadow and Kakiat Trails followed a creek between two mountains all the way to our destination, Pine Meadow Lake. After biting off more than we could chew on our recent Devil's Path backpack (which we learned, after the fact, is one of the toughest hikes in the Northeast), we were more than happy to amble along the gentle inclines of these trails. Much sooner than expected, we reached the lake.



Perhaps best of all was our primo campsite on the shore of Pine Meadow Lake. Harriman State Park rules prohibit camping anywhere other than in designated shelters (or within 300 feet of said shelters if they're occupied), but as we circumnavigated the lake, we passed site after gorgeous site where blackened fire rings and other evidence made it obvious that illicit camping was common (though, if you go, beware: hiking back to the car the next day, we spoke with a hiker who got ticketed on a past trip).



After our shorter-than-expected hike, we had plenty of time for leaf peeping. Though we saw plenty of stunning fall colors, our best guess put peak foliage about a week off (so try to get up there this weekend if possible).



On the south shore of the lake, we came across Conklin Cemetery, a small family plot where most of the markers were so weathered and broken that they simply looked like jagged rocks sticking out of the ground. Ironically, the oldest grave had the newest headstone; Ezekial Conklin served in the Revolutionary War.



As weekend escapes go, this one met all expectations. We enjoyed one last backpacking trip to close out the season; we saw our share of fall foliage; and as the sun went down, we were reminded that fall colors could be found in more than just the leaves.
 

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