Mohonk Ramble to Guyot Hill

Let’s get the bad news outta the way first: I didn’t get up to Skytop, so no photos with stupendous views. It would have added 60 minutes to what was becoming a long day. Sunday was partly cloudy anyway. The good news: I found an important artifact of New York ski history, as we shall see.

lowland near Shawangunk ridge

When I think that there can’t possibly be anything I haven’t seen in a place, I’m often proven wrong. On Sunday morning, I flogged the shooting brake up the Thruway to New Paltz. Objective: Mohonk Preserve. Instead of the Spring Farm Road trailhead, or parking at the Mohonk gatehouse, I went to a trailhead off Butterville Road to explore the lower part of the trail network.

I set out up Lenape Lane, past an old farm, before diving off the carriage road on to the Woodside trail. Woodside narrowed from old road to singletrack. With a steady, gradual climb, this area lived up to its billing as “the foothills of the Shawangunks.” Punctuated with numerous gullies carved out by streams, there’s no shortage of up and down. Climbing out of one of these was so steep, I resorted to French stepping.

Mohonk carriage road

These lower elevation woods are much different than the skylands of Minnewaska. Rather than stunted pitch pines struggling on thin soil on top of rock, the country featured hardwood trees with a couple of patches of hemlock and white pine.

Woodside takes you to Mountain Rest road, a little below the gatehouse. Crossing the road, it becomes the Northeast trail. Half a mile from the road, right next to the trail, were four anchor bolts arranged in a square. I stopped and took note of the surrounding forest. Lots of younger trees and saplings, interspersed with more mature hardwood.

stream

Èccola, a relic from Mohonk’s alpine ski operation, Bonticou Ski Area! Part of a rope tow or T-bar. Or perhaps a base for the lift line that was never built. The bolts’ location would make Mohonk’s golf course, above me, the drop-in point. They must have been brazen or foolish back then, because downhill from the hiking trail was wicked steep. I can’t imagine skiing that with the boots and bindings of the ‘60s.

As you continue on Northeast, you get glimpses of Bonticou Crag, the ski area’s imposing namesake. Sadly, too many trees meant no photo for this story. I turned up a connector trail, crossing the Bonticou carriage road, and headed up Guyot Hill Road. It’s a steady half mile uphill to the top. In the winter, skiing from the bottom of the trail system — Cedar Drive to the Guyot Hill summit — is a solid mile and takes the stuffing out of me.

Mohonk Mountain House

Dropping off Guyot Hill, I passed the small pond and pump house that may just have supplied water for snowmaking. I ran across Mountain Rest Road on to Mohonk Mountain House property and followed my nose towards Skytop, the monument on the highest point of the hotel property. Looking at my watch, and the map, it was gonna be well over a three-hour day without Skytop. I decided to skip it.

It was just as well, because the last 40 minutes, my body reminded me that I’m an old fart with a body in the process of breaking down. The right knee protested, the arthritic feet gave me a piece of their mind. It was all ameliorated by being out in a beautiful piece of woods.

Afterwards, I fortified myself for the ride home at the B-side Diner on Main Street in New Paltz. If you want an adult beverage with your repast, check out Main Street Bistro or Bacchus.

6 comments on “Mohonk Ramble to Guyot Hill

  1. Another good one. It’s amazing how you can keep going back to the same area over and over again and still find new stuff on every trip.

  2. There’s a waking path from the property to skytop, it takes like 5 minutes. Although it’s supposed to be for hotel guests only (or you can pay) the fun option is the Narrows, Lemon squeeze and the Labyrinth, which is basically a 40 minute straight rock scramble and ladder climb

  3. Bonticou was serviced only by rope tows until the early ’70s. Then a new franchisee came in (the property is owned by Mohonk Mountain House), installed a chairlift, and promptly went out of business. The chair operated for only one season. That was the end of alpine skiing at Bonticou (or “Mohonk Ski Center,” as it was known in its final incarnation.)

    I was a ski patrolman there in the last few years of its operation. The “Big Hill” was pretty steep, and its rope tow was a monster. It got you up the hill almost as fast as you came down: non-stop skiing!

  4. @ Tom I: Thanks for the info. I seem to recall that you and I had discussed an interview for an oral history of Bonticou? But you had a lot on your plate at the time? The offer is still open!

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