Friday, November 28, 2008

Harriman Park Hike -- the Irish Potato

A Pleasant Surprise

After several long hikes alone it was a pleasure hiking with my son Eli today. We hiked a 5 mile stretch of the Suffern-Bear Mountain Trail and the miles flew by. We started by climbing up to the Irish Potato, a giant free-standing rock on the top of the mountain. The trail then curves along a ridge overlooking the Pound Swamp (looks like a pond to me) before making a long descent to the stream and the Palisades Parkway.

I hadn't hiked this stretch since the 1980s and didn't have high expectations for it. I've also not been a fan of the SBM trail. It's the longest in Harriman Park at 24 miles and goes over many hills and it's quite rugged, in places needlessly so to my way of thinking. But this piece and one I did yesterday morning on West Mountain are certainly beautiful stretches of trail.

In many ways this is a classic beautiful hike in Harriman Park: several climbs, some woods roads, big rocks and a stream and a pond and some good views. With the trail full of brown leaves, it's a little difficult to find the footway and some of the turns were more abrupt than we anticipated. Still, it was a pleasant late afternoon stroll and a chance to walk off some of the excesses of Thanksgiving dinner.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Harriman Hike -- Timp Pass 2

Harriman Hike - Timp Pass I

A Steep Climb in the Gathering Darkness

For the third weekend in a row, I found myself in Timp Pass late in the afternoon and with darkness approaching. Each week I'd approached Timp Pass from a different direction. This time I had planned an escape route that on the map looked flat. Standing in my usual spot in Timp Pass, I realized that the trail had other ideas. My route home was going to be steeply up for quite a while. This was not a welcome bit of news coming at the end of my longest and toughest hike in a long time.

Still, this week I thought I had enough time before dark. I was in Timp Pass 45 minutes earlier than the week before and I'd gotten out then just as darkness was settling in. As I climbed the ridge of West Mountain on the Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail, one that I had never covered before, I found that it was a beautiful stretch of trail but treacherous in places as the wet leaves and precarious ledges made a bad combination. I was rewarded with outstanding views of the Timp and Haverstraw Bay with alternating hills and valleys in and out of light. Again, it was dark when I got to my car.

Once again I was reminded that my project to complete all the trails in Harriman Park this year has had unexpected rewards. It has taken me to many places that I'd never been before and nearly all have been exciting and rewarding. Some of the ones I've left until the end have been among the most remote and rugged and best trails in the park. Nearly every mile has been worth it. The project has gotten me out ten times as much as I would have in a normal year, often when I've been tired or the weather has been iffy and I've enjoyed nearly every minute of it.

Harriman Hike on the Nurian Trail

On a rainy Saturday I hiked in Harriman Park on the Nurian, White Bar and Dunning Trails. I wasn't expecting it to be hard or especially beautiful but I was wrong on both counts. It had been many years since I'd hiked parts of these trails. I didn't remember how many beautiful streams or waterfalls there were and that was a pleasant surprise. The recent rains meant all of the streams were flowing fast and added to the attraction.

I did have a dim memory of the Valley of Boulders, a rock formation with similarities to the nearby Lemon Squeezer. The trail besides Green Pond feels especially rugged and remote. This section even had some views and that is definitely something I hadn't expected. The whole area is rough and rocky but rewarding. It's also far enough from parking lots that while we saw other hikers, it never felt overcrowded.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hiking Books

AWOL on the Appalachian Trail

I've read a lot of books on hiking the Appalachian Trail and the variety of new and different stories is endless. Because each person is different and each trip is different, there's always something new and exciting in each book.

I do have to confess that I've been reading fewer A.T. books in recent years. But this spring I met AWOL at Trail Days and read his book. I consider it one of the best accounts of a thru-hike. He had an unusual story, a middle-aged father with young daughters breaking away to do a thru-hike in mid-career.  Naturally, being away from his family affected every part of his trip and he was candid in his portrayal. He seemed to suffer more than his share of injuries and pain and took more than his fair share of joy from the thru-hike. I also found it unusual that his younger brother had thru-hiked several decades before.

AWOL's descriptions of the trail were fresh and original and brought me back to experiences of many years ago. Some things about the trail are timeless and some are new with each fresh class of thru-hikers. I  took a great deal of pleasure in this chance to spend vicarious time in the company of AWOL and his companions.

Linda "Earthworm" Patton has put together a great site on hiking books across the U.S. There's no more comprehensive listing online that I'm aware of and Linda's site is also filled with links and information on the trails as well as lively features.

A good source of hiking books and maps is the book department at Campmor, Inc. in Ramsey, N.J. and in their online catalogue. Their selection is as comprehensive as I've seen in recent years and includes books on hiking in all 50 states as well as related topics dealing with the outdoors and nature. Their book buyer , Roger Williamson, is one of the real experts on hiking literature.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A.T. Museum Update

Walkin' Jim Concert

We were excited about the great Walkin' Jim benefit concert last weekend. It was wonderful seeing Jim back on tour and we really appreciated him doing the benefit. The final numbers aren't in yet but we sold about 215 tickets. Half the crowd came in at the last minute and we were sweating till then. Special thanks go to Karen for three months of hard work in organizing the concert and arranging publicity and sponsors; and Bill, who did a great program (hand printed), poster and press release and redid the display board. Gwen showed up with half of York County. Laurie and Rich participated as readers in the show. Bruce, Erich, Pam and several others pitched in.

There was also great support from the local hiking and environmental groups. The main sponsor was the Susquehanna A.T. Club. Other sponsors were the Appalachian Audubon Society, Canoe Club of Greater Harrisburg, John W. Gleim Jr. Inc., Susquehanna River Trail Association, Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation and the Manada Conservancy.

Also, a reminder that the next meeting of the board will be Sunday April 5 at 9 a.m. at Iron Masters Hostel. All museum meetings are open. Once again we will be coordinating our spring meeting with the ALDHA steering committee and the Earl Shaffer Foundation.

Immediately ahead, we'll be working on our year-end fundraising letter. Maurice has agreed to work on that again. Terry is actively working on the photo digitization project and will be going to Harpers Ferry next month to make arrangements. She's looking for volunteers to help out. We're also still working on the Old Mill project.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pushing the Envelope

(Top left: view of High Tor and Manhattan skyline from West Mountain. Top right: tree on West Mountain. Middle: West Mountain Shelter from behind. Bottom: West Mountain Shelter one week before from the Timp)

Racing Against Darkness

It's easy to get into trouble in the woods when you are pushing to achieve a goal. This year I've set my sights on hiking all of the marked trails in Harriman Park during the calendar year. I'm getting close to my goal but running out of weekends that I'm free. This past weekend I got back from a trip early Sunday afternoon and tried to squeeze in an ambitious hike before dark.

By now I've hiked most of the easy sections. Often I have to hike quite a ways to get to an interior stretch that I haven't covered before. On this hike, I climbed West Mountain on the Appalachian Trail, a section I'd hike this summer. It was beautiful with views of Bear Mountain, the central area of Harriman and even a clear view of the New York City skyline. By the time I got to the West Mountain Shelter, I figured I had an hour and a half of daylight left and I had just reached the new trail I needed to cover.

The descent took me longer than I thought. The entire time I'd been pushing myself to go fast even though I knew to be careful on the wet leaves and I didn't want to take a spill on the rocks. As I finished the hard descent and walked through Timp Pass, I knew it would be tough to get out in daylight. I took out my map and calculated that I could probably pick up a new stretch of the Ramapo-Dunderberg and the Suffern-Bear Mountain Trail and be back on the ridge of West Mountain with a little less than half an hour of daylight to do.

I figured that would leave me doing a hard descent for fifteen minutes in the dark. I've hiked enough in the dark to want to avoid that situation. After dark, it's a much slower walk with a much higher chance of getting hurt. In the middle of Timp Pass with high ridges all around me, I kept looking at the alternatives and decided the best was give up on trying to cover new trails. I'd try to follow an old woods road into Doodletown and out to the parking lot on the 1777 West Trail, one I'd hiked on several weeks before. Everything worked perfectly and I got out just as it was getting pitch black -- the only thing was it was a half hour earlier than I'd thought.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Golden Era of Trail Building

National Trail Efforts

This has been a golden era of trail building nationally. For the major national trails, much progress has been made toward completing them, protecting their routes or improving their marking and footway. Several new national trails have come off the drawing boards and are starting to take shape. Until recently, I wasn't aware of two big ones, the Great Eastern Trail and the Great Western Loop. The Great Eastern is a formal effort that will tie together existing trails plus some new ones to form a giant loop with the A.T. and provide an alternative along much of its route. I'd heard about similar ideas for a loop for many years and Earl Shaffer had long talked about it. But the organization and name are relatively recent. The Great Western forms a loop with the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trails with east west connectors. Versions of it have been hiked by Andy Skurka and Nimblewill Nomad although I'm not aware of any effort yet to formalize it. The International Appalachian Trail continues to extend its route through Canada and is now investigating geologically related routes in Europe and Africa. The Ozark Highlands trail is featured in the October issue of National Geographic which also has an article and map on the 40th anniversary of the National Trails System Act.

I'm including links for some of these trails as well as a new site on ultralight-hiking by Linguini.

Harriman Park New York Fall Folliage Hikes

Taking advantage of the spectacular fall weather and remaining folliage, I hiked in three separate parts of Harriman Park over the weekend.  The picture of the reservoir is along the Long Path on the southern boundary of Harriman Park. Several shots of yellow leaves are in the Doodletown area. The pictures of the Hudson River are from the southern end of the Timp-Torne Trail. I'm nearing completion of a project to hike all of the marked trails in Harriman Park in one calendar year. This goal has gotten me into the woods more than at any time in years. It's also taken me to far-flung corners of the park that I've never seen before. I am amazed at how many great stretches of trail the park has and how few bad trail sections I've seen. Despite how densely populated Rockland County is, I'm also impressed at how quickly the trails get away from the roads and how quickly I feel I'm in a remote stretch of woods. I've done 43 hikes (mostly short) in the park so far this year and I figure it will take another 8 or 9 to finish. I'm hoping to finish by the Saturday after Thanksgiving with a hike up Bear Mountain.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Harriman Hike on Dunderberg Mountain

Harriman Hike

This Saturday, Nov. 1, we'll be having another in our series of Harriman Park hikes on Dunderberg Mountain and the Timp. While fall foliage is past peak, the colors should still be good. The pictures above were all taken on Dunderberg Mountain this month.

For more information on the park, see the websites below:

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pennsylvania Forest Fire Museum Meeting

Museum Meeting

A half dozen small museums gathering at the Pennsylvania Forest Fire Museum Association annual meeting this past Saturday. It was encouraging to hear how determined each of the groups are to establish a museum and how seriously they take their efforts. The most advanced is the National Museum of Forest Service History in Missoula, Montana. They are hoping to break ground this coming year and use the museum to teach visitors about some of the major problems in the national forests.The A.T. Museum Society presented and we explained how the museum will attempt to tell the story of the entire A.T. community and how the trail has a powerful hold on so many people around the world. The A.T. Museum's exhibit was judged the best, thanks to the work by Bill O'Brien, including a new section on the Earl Shaffer Shelter project, and the photos of Charlie Duane.The A.T. Museum is hoping to cooperate with many of these museums and has been in touch with the Pennylvania Forest Fire Museum for several years.The Forest Fire museum is hoping to open in a renovated building in Caledonia State Park, across from Park Headquarters, by mid-2009.

Fall Colors at Harriman Park New York

Sunday was a spectacular day to be hiking in Harriman Park. The sky was crystal clear and the fall colors were still bright even if they were a little past their peak. I climbed the Kakiat Trail in the southwestern part of the park and had a clear view of the Manhattan skyline (barely visible in the last photo). When I missed my intended turnoff, just short of Grandma and Grandpa rocks, I came across a Korean hiking group that was way off course. They had no map and no plan for getting back. My route on the SBM trail coincided with theirs for a mile and I was able to put them on course for Pine Meadow lake and their cars. With the views and mild weather, it was one of the best days of the year to be out hiking.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

New Appalachian Trail Books

Two recent Appalachian Trail books have surprised me quite a bit. In both cases I had known the authors for many years and thought I knew their stories well. In neither case am I impartial and I've enjoyed both books. In one case I wrote the forward and in the other, I wrote a pre-publication blurb. Still, without hesitation, I can heartily recommend both books.The first, by Gene Espy, the 1951 A.T. thru-hiker, is "The Trail of My Life: The Gene Espy Story." Over the years I have heard Gene tell his trail stories many times but most of the material in the book was knew to me. It is engaging and in places hilarious and is a faithful account of a unique life. The other book is "Racing Light: The Soft Power of a Day's Walk" by Charlie Duane. It is an account of his walks covering the entire East Coast. Charlie is also a highly skilled photographer and blends photos and text in a distinctive way. I had read an early manuscript of part of the story and had heard much about it. Even so, most of the material was new to me, so much so that it compelled my attention. After reading many dozens of trail books over the years, I still find it astonishing that authors continue to find dramatically fresh approaches to trail accounts. These are two books that will find a distinguished place in the trail community for many years.

Monday, October 20, 2008

40th Anniversary of The National Trails System Act

Oct. 2, 2008, marked the 40th Anniversary of The National Trails System Act. It was a pivotal step in the building and protection of the national long distance trails. It followed four years after the Wilderness Act, which with the trails act provided for the protection and enjoyment of the wilderness.

For the anniversary this year, Bridgie and Bart Smith arranged, in combination with the American Hiking Society and several Federal agencies, to have a celebration at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. The occasion also marked Bart's completion of all the national scenic trails and 16,500 miles of hiking. Bart became the first person to hike and photograph all of the trails (taking 100,000 photographs) and is believed to be only the second person to have hiked all of the trails.

Here's a link to the press release about Bart's journey and a link to his website:

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Fall Foliage Hikes -- Harriman Park New York

The foliage is still outstanding in Harriman Park (Rockland County, New York) and should be worth viewing for several more weeks. Over the weekend I had a chance to hike in several parts of the park and here are some pictures of Lake Tiorati, Lake Skenonto and the Hudson River near Dunderberg Mountain. For more information on the park, see the links below.

Walkin Jim Concert Poster


In concert Nov. 8, 2008
At the Carlisle Theatre,
40 West High St., Carlisle, Pa.
SATURDAY, NOV. 8, at 7:30 P.M.

Experience Jim’s mix of stunning photographs,
inspirational stories and original folk music
in a benefit for the Appalachian Trail Museum.
Call the Carlisle Theatre box office for tickets: (717) 258-0666.
$12 in advance, $15 at the door and $5 for children 12 or under.

Speech at Pennsylvania Forest Fire Museum Association

Pennsylvania Forest Fire Museum Association

This Saturday, October 25, I will be speaking at the Pennsylvania Forest Fire Museum Association's annual meeting at the Fayetteville Volunteer Fire Department, 101 West Main Street in Fayetteville, Pa. They will be having several small museum's present. The idea isthat each of us can learn from the other's efforts and that we will cooperate with the others where possible. We have already met several times with the Pennsylvania Forest Fire Museum and we expect that our initial locations will be close to each other. More information is available at the museum's website,

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Walkin Jim Benefit Concert


Contact: Larry Luxenberg
Tel. 845-708-5306

A Benefit Concert to Establish the Appalachian Trail Museum in Central PA.

One of America's most unique folksingers and backcountry travelers, Walkin' Jim Stoltz, on tour from the mountains of Montana, will bring his powerful multi-media show, Forever Wild, to the Carlisle Theatre, 40 West High Street, Carlisle, PA, on Saturday, November 8, 2008, at 7:30 p.m. The mix of stunning photography, stories, and music make this one-of-a-kind concert an inspiring journey into our nation’s last wilderness areas.

Walkin' Jim gets his name from the nearly 27,000 miles he has walked through the wild country of North America. Carrying a guitar and writing his songs along the way, his lyrics express a great love and respect for the Earth and the wild places he knows so well. Known for his powerful baritone and emotion-packed vocals, Stoltz’s Forever Wild show is much more than a concert. It combines live music and poetry with stunning, multi-image slides to create a stirring celebration of the natural world. Stoltz is a veteran of more than 30 years of performing. In this year’s show, he will be sharing songs and images of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, his Yellowstone to Yukon walk, the Utah canyon country, the Northern Rockies, and wild places all across America.

Walkin' Jim has toured extensively throughout the U.S. for the past 22 years. In 2006, he organized a 45-state outreach tour with other musicians and authors and worked with hundreds of community organizations to gain support for clean water, roadless lands, and wildlife. Jim has been presented with the Environmental Protection Agency's Outstanding Achievement Award for his sharing of nature and wilderness across America. Stoltz will have copies of his recent book “Walking with the Wild Wind” to sign at the event. His songs from nine different CDs get regular airplay on National Public Radio and will also be available. Visit his website at

This event is sponsored by the Appalachian Trail Museum Society and is a fund-raiser to help establish the Appalachian Trail Museum, designated for Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Michaux State Forest, Cooke Township. Tickets for the concert will be available at the Carlisle Theatre Box Office (717-258-0666) for $12 in advance, $15 at the door, and $5 for children 12 and under or from representatives of the museum society. For more information, contact Larry Luxenberg at 845-708-5306.

Harriman Hike and A.T. Talk

Update: Larry's talk at Campmor 10/22 and Hike 10/18

We are planning the next Harriman hike (Car Pond Mountain) on Saturday, October 18th. Details to follow.  Also, Larry will be speaking at Campmor in Paramus on October 22 at 7 p.m. as part of the New York - New Jersey Trail Conference Author Series.

October 22, 2008 Campmor - Larry Luxenberg, A.T. Thru-hiker and author of Walking The Appalachian Trail.

Join the Trail Conference every Wednesday evening in October when we host a series of speakers at Campmor on Route  17N in Paramus N.J.  Guest presenters will begin at 7 P.M. and run approximately 1 hour. Authors will be available to sign their books.