After stopping in Manhattan for that prescription I forgot to pick up the day before, then making a coffee and bathroom break, driving up to Peekskill, trying to check into the Inn on the Hudson too early, finding the Bear Mountain parking lot, figuring out what trail we wanted to hike, grabbing a bite to eat, concluding that we were looking at the trail map the wrong way (and therefore at the wrong end of the lake), and discovering the tunnel which brings you under 9W to the pool, Damany and I were finally on our first hike of the weekend…en route to the historic remains of Fort Montgomery.
The trail we were to take was supposed to begin behind the Bear Mountain Inn, walking a short way up Lake Hussein, where hikers are to turn right and pass through the tunnel that goes under Route 9W. After walking almost half way around the lake, we backtracked to this path, which passes the park’s public pool, and goes along a trail of informational exhibits before passing a statue of Walt Whitman and moving through the zoo. Somewhere behind the back area of a zookeeper’s building, a path lead us down below the Bear Mountain Bridge, to the official start of the Fort Montgomery Trail.
At the trails entrance a sign warned that this is a “steep, rough trail”, before leading down a lovely flight of slate stairs (there’s something really romantic to me about stone steps in grass or bushes). ‘Perfect,’ I thought, ‘just what we need to get in some serious practice in for Machu Picchu’.
After following the trail markers (red line on white badge) down a slightly steep hill, and over the footbridge of a small stream, Damany and I climbed up to the top of a large rock, to sit for a bit and say hello to other hikers as they passed by (which was about every 10 minutes – nothing like the Red Cross Trail). I could see a small rocky beach from this spot, and after pondering if it was possible to get to, we walked a bit further to find quite easy access. From this new vantage point I watched freight trains passing under the Bear Mountain Bridge, as Damany skipped rocks on the water. The little beach had obviously gone through some changes over time – something I decided based off the large root system of a tree which was tangled above the ground creating a cozy shelter.
Just a bit further along the trail was a footbridge which crossed the river, and although it was seemingly a bridge to nowhere, the path continued up a hill on the other side…where deliciously ripe wild raspberries (one of my favorite treats which bring back childhood memories) are plentiful. I picked and ate them up the entire hill.
At the top of the hill sat a recreation of an 18th century Regimental Garden and small museum telling the history of Fort Montgomery; mostly displaying wax figures and miniatures. We stopped to check out the garden, where I continued to pick raspberries from the edges of the patch…until I heard the drums that is (Damany warned me not to get caught).
The 18th century flute and drum called us up the hill past the museum, towards the remains of the fort, which included the foundations of the powder magazine artillery housing. Past the drummer and flutist, complete in traditional soldiers gear, sat a recreation of an 18th century fence, made of branches and twigs, which incorporated large basket storage in it’s structure. Having done some basket weaving myself, I found this to be very cool!
Passing the fort remains marks the end of the trail, which stopps at 9W. From here the option is to walk along the road back to the main parking lot at Bear Mountain (2.4 mi) or turn and go back the same way you came (3.5 mi). Clearly we took the scenic route. Who wants to walk on the side of the road, in the blistering sun, when you can hike under the cover of the shaded trees?
Back at the entrance to the trail we took the alternate route (which is the only route after 4:00 pm) back towards the parking lot. This direction crossed the street at the toll of the Bear Mountain Bridge, and brought Damany and I back to Lake Hussein – directly at the spot where we had initially concluded we were at the wrong end of the lake. Go figure!
Opting to walk all the way around the lake, since we had already done half of it and we felt like we might as well finish what we started, added 1 mile to our 7 mile total from the Fort Montgomery trail. Complete with the probable half mile we wasted being lost our total was about 8.5 miles for the day…not too bad, but not too difficult either. I imagine Machu Picchu will be a bit rougher than this trail was. I feel as though they were exaggerating just a bit when they said it was “a steep, rough, trail”…it was a good hike, but rough wasn’t exactly what I would call it.