Friday, June 13, 2014

Hiking Ramapo Torne

Hiking Ramapo Torne

Ramapo Torne is a large rock outcropping, more than 1,100 feet in elevation, looming over the Ramapo Pass—which is now the route not only of the Ramapo River but also of the New York State Thruway (I-87) and State Route 17.

Having driven those highways innumerable times since the 1960s, I was eager to get up to the torne.  Two earlier attempts, one in August 2010 ( and another in June last year (I think), failed—the 1st because I made a wrong turn and we wound up at the Russian Bear, and the 2d because we ran out of time and had to turn back.
On June 6-7 I finally made it, hiking a loop trail from the Reeves Meadow parking lot, up Reeves Brook Trail to 7 Hills Trail to Hillburn-Torne-Sebago Trail, then down HTS to a different portion of 7 Hills to Pine Meadow Trail.  According the Harriman Trail Guide, that loop totals almost exactly 5 miles.  They were strenuous miles, even the downhill sections.

I invited Fr. Jim Mulloy (see, e.g., to join me, but he wasn’t free.  So I did a solo jaunt.  I did meet a few day hikers on the way in on Friday, 3 at the summit, and a lot of them on my way out on Saturday.

The Reeves Meadow lot on Friday afternoon was almost full.  Judging roughly from the trail map, the parking lot is about 500 feet about sea level.  I set out around 2:10 p.m., and it took me a good 3 hours to cover 2.85 miles up to Ramapo Torne, with 3 or 4 short stops to catch my breath and drink some water (and eat some trail mix once).

Reeves Brook
I followed Reeves Brook Trail for most of its length, 1.35 miles up to 7 Hills Trail; it’s pretty as it follows the brook.  At 7 Hills the climbing began in earnest, a hard 1-mile slog with several steep ascents, most notably the one up Torne View, also about 1,100 feet elevation.  The views up there are panoramic and worth the hike. 
Looking west from Torne View
After its steep descent into a ravine,  
This was steeper than it looks!  I'd just come down
one leg of the descent from Torne View
the climb up the back side of Ramapo Torne is pretty gradual and very scenic—I describe it as “park-like.”
The rear of Ramapo Torne
from Torne View

Along the HTS on the rear of Ramapo Torne

This time when I got to the HTS Trail, I made sure to go to the right and not to the left!

Trail maintainers have painted labels and arrows on the rocks (right and center).
You can also see HTS's orange blazes on a tree at left.

A half mile on HTS brought me to the summit of the torne around 5:00 p.m.  There were excellent views of Manhattan and Brooklyn, the Ramapo Pass, and the forested hills to both east and west. 
You can see the Manhattan and Brooklyn skylines in the distance.
Much closer is Mahwah's Sharp Plaza (the tower in upper right),
and directly beneath me is the Town of Ramapo.
I took in the views, gathered some small branches and twigs—there’s no shortage of deadwood—and sat down to do some reading and praying.  An friendly older couple came up from the other direction, taking in the views and stopping to chat.  A younger solo hiker came up from the same direction I’d used, and went right on by with just an exchange of hellos.

Once they’d passed, I set up my tent just off the trail in a fine little spot covered with soft grass. 
Fr. Jim had urged me to sleep under the stars, but there were insects to contend with; I was glad I’d remembered repellent.  I was going to leave the fly off the tent, but a west wind made it a bit cool.  I found a fairly flat rock out of the wind and set up my stove to boil water for my dinner of freeze-dried chili mac with beef, followed up with an apple and washed down with Crystal Lite. 
Cooking gear after supper, and trash bag
I hung up a bear bag with tomorrow’s meals, gathered more firewood, and did more reading till sunset, which came around 8:30 p.m. 
I set a small fire on the rocks, somewhat sheltered from the light west breeze, and I kept the fire small—mostly for atmosphere as I continued reading (and took a few photos). There were a lot of stars, altho the city lights in the distance must have cut down on stellar visibility a good deal, and a half moon.  The only sounds were the highway traffic down in the valley and some crickets.  So peaceful!
From the Bronx to the Narrows
Around 9:30 I let the fire start to die, and by 10:00 it was down to embers, which I spread out a bit on the rock.  When I judged that fully controlled, I went to bed—on a much softer bed than I usually have in the woods, that soft grass plus my air mattress.  I got a much better nite’s sleep than usual when I camp.

The decision to use the tent proved wise; I found light dew in the morning.  The sun awakened me around 5:30 a.m., but I wasn’t ready to get up till after 6:00.  No hurry, no need to be anywhere till well after noon.

As soon as I’d risen and freshened a bit, I offered Mass, then boiled water for coffee and oatmeal, followed by an orange.  I was happy that my backpack would be weighing about 5 pounds less on the way home, with less water, no fresh fruit, and most of the other food gone.  I prayed the Hours and slowly did my packing up.  I had to wait for the sun to dry out what the dew had dampened—parts of the tent and fly, the ground cloth, and my slippers.  I cleaned up the rock where my fire had been. 
I finished reading the issue of America that I’d begun last nite, and decided it was time to finish packing and head back to civilization.

I set out around 10:00 a.m.  The descent on the west side of the torne was very much steeper than the one up the back had been, and it required extreme caution especially with about 30 pounds on my back (tent, pad, water, lunch, clothes, first aid kit, stove, fuel, water filter, mess kit, hatchet, rope, trash, etc.).  HTS goes down .55 mile before it meets 7 Hills.
One of those spots I wasn't very eager to go down
with a full pack on my back
About 15 minutes down HTS I met a party of about 10 Korean day hikers coming up.  They were stopping to catch their breath.  We exchanged greetings and took each other’s photos.  Here's most of their group:
The steep descent continued, alternating with some fairly level bits, for much of the 1.4 miles of 7 Hills before it ends at Pine Meadow Trail.  HTS crosses Beaver Brook several times and is rather pretty, at least with the trees in full leaf and water in the brook. 
One of the trail crossings of Beaver Brook
I met several pairs of hikers and one pair of couples.  Around 11:40 I reached PMT and stopped for lunch—in the shade rather than waiting till I got to the parking lot, .2 mile farther, where there isn’t much shade.  Lunch was a can of tuna on crackers, with coffee.  A lot more hikers passed by.
Seven Hills Trail crosses Beaver Brook
Eating in the woods was good also because I’d probably have felt guilty eating by the parking lot when it was jammed full and people kept coming in looking to park.  Cars were parked up and down 7 Lakes Drive, probably well over 100 in all.  It was, after all, an excellent day for hiking, as Friday had been.

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