Finding the Mountains of New York

Highpeaksdrifter’s tale about how he found Whiteface got me thinking about how I came to the mountains of New York.

I could pretend that it was part of a grand plan — but it wasn’t. The summer after my junior year in college, I was looking for an adventure. I pulled out a map of the northeast and looked at the big patches of green: the Catskills, the Adirondacks, the Greens and the Whites. The Adirondacks looked especially wild and untamed to me.

My best friend and I spent 10 days cycling and exploring the park. We had the time of our lives. This was my first experience with the idea of “Forest Preserve.” Huge areas of wilderness, without rules or fees. The feeling of freedom was liberating.

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Split Rock Quarry, NY

Whenever I visit my mother in the western suburbs of Syracuse, I mountain bike a couple hours a day in an extensive network of trails that was originally part of the limestone Split Rock quarry, which had been in existence since the early 1800s. The only thing left is a large stone crusher that went into operation in 1903.

Split Rock Quarry NY stone crusher.
The Stone Crusher

To transport the crushed limestone from the quarry to a soda ash plant in a neighboring village, a 3.25-mile elevated tramway, somewhat similar to a modern ski lift and considered an “engineering marvel” back then, was built. According to the Town of Onondaga Historical Society, loaded buckets coming down full to the plant helped carry the empty buckets back.

Over the years, I’ve always stumbled upon building foundations, railroad spikes, old metal fences, and other industrial detritus, and wondered why they were in the middle of a “mature” forest.

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Lake Minnewaska, NY: 6/27/10

Since moving to the NYC area in 1997, I’ve made several dozen trips to Lake Minnewaska NY near New Paltz, and it never disappoints.

Awosting Falls

Directly south of the Catskills, but a completely different kettle of fish topographically, it’s the outdoor equivalent of a high-end department store with mountain biking, hiking, climbing, swimming, berry picking, and gazing at wild flowers, incredible rock formations, and stunning vistas.

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