I have no idea why Harriman State Park's Bald Rocks Shelter got its name; the site isn't much different from dozens of other places in the park.
That's where Fr. Jim Mulloy and I headed, directly from our Easter dinner (previous posting), for a too short hiking and camping trip. We'd have gone to the Catskills for 3 days and 2 nites, but I had to be home for the visitation of the community by the provincial.
We parked in one of the designated spots, where the Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail crosses Rte. 106. It was about 4:30 p.m. when we started up the trail--quite literally up, as it immediately starts to ascend, and soon makes a couple of pretty steep climbs that left both of us huffing and puffing because we're so out of shape. As we headed in, we met 20-25 hikers in several parties coming out of the woods at day’s end.
The first real ascent goes right up this.We got some fine views once we were up on the ridge of Black Rock Mountain, and I took several photos. There were also a lot of hawks "making lazy circles in the sky," and I managed to capture a couple in pixels (almost said "on film")--one of them quite accidentally because I was only shooting the view. (That would be the little smudge a little right of center in this photo.) Off in the distance you see a lot of houses, which I suppose are part of Central Valley, N.Y.
After over an hour of hiking, pausing for the scenery, and huffing and puffing, we came to one last couple hiking out, about 20 minutes from Bald Rocks Shelter. They told us someone was already there. Bummer!
Bald Rocks Shelter, Sept. 2005. The hole in the chimney has since been patched; it's a fine little fireplace.
So when the shelter came into view, we confirmed that it was indeed occupied, then went down to a little pine grove on the opposite side of the trail where there was ample firewood and even a little bit of water. (We'd both toted in about ¾ gallon of water, which would be about 5 pounds in our backpacks.) We ate our of leftover beef from dinner, and in my case also leftover asparagus, cooked with the beef in olive oil over my backpacking stove.
While we were gathering our firewood and eating, I went 3 more times to check the shelter and see if maybe the guy who was there--I'd seen only one person--had maybe been a late day hiker and packed up; no luck on that.
Then, lo and behold, he came down to us, exclaiming, “I thought I heard voices.” He Was a friendly chap, also named Jim, from Glens Falls who was tired of hiking in the Adirondacks (has done it for years, apparently) and has started coming down to Harriman a couple of times a year; he was on a 6-day jaunt from shelter to shelter this time.
Jim from Glens Falls invited us up to the shelter; he was using his tent anyway because the shelter was “dirty and stinky” of smoke. Actually, it wasn’t any dirtier than any of the shelters usually is, and less so than sometimes (see my post from last Oct. 9)—but it did indeed smell of campfire.
There wasn’t any wood left at the shelter--people had been there for lunch and made a fire; so the 3 of us hauled up what Fr. Jim and I had gathered, and around 9 o’clock I made a fine fire.
But first there was a glorious sunset. Jim from G.F. had his tent (and a bear bag of food way, way up in a tree) near the shelter. Fr. Jim wanted to sleep out on the rocks under the stars--he pleaded with God to clear away the clouds that had covered the sky late in the afternoon, and once the sun set the stars came out galore.
So I had the shelter to myself once Fr. Jim retired to his rocks and stars. It was fine weather, and not as cold as I expected (probably got down to the upper 40s in the wee hours). That it wasn’t colder meant that I'd over packed—more layers of clothing than I turned out needing. Better than the other way around—but I wouldn’t have minded my pack’s being 3 pounds lighter!
We all got up between 6:15 and 7:00 on Monday a.m., packed ourselves up, ate breakfast, and hiked out together, since G.F. Jim was going in our direction and was happy to have the company. What took Fr. Jim and me an hour and a half on Sunday afternoon took only an hour to hike on Monday morning, altho we had to be extremely careful on a lot of the downhill portions of the trail.
The excellent weather also meant that the confreres back home can’t rag on me about rain. Both of us came back in one piece, so they can’t heckle us about that. (I still get ribbed a lot about nearly cracking my head open last year in the Catskills, and one of the brothers and I both get it about tackling West Mountain in the middle of violent thunderstorm a couple of summers ago.)