On Sunday, September 8, 2013 Dorothy led a large group of as many as 40 Hudson Valley Hikers (HVH) through Harriman State Park. Due to the large group size I decided to sweep the hike. This gave me the opportunity to take more photos than usual on an HVH trip. The twelve mile Northern traverse of the Suffern-Bear Mountain Trail (SBM) started at the Jackie Jone Fire Tower parking area on Route 106 near Stony Point, New York.
The Northern Half of the SBM is a really exciting section of trail. It offers two moderately challenging rock scrambles. The first of which is ascending Pyngyp Mountain. Prior to Pyngyp, though, hikers need to ascend Round Swamp Mountain and cross the Palisades Interstate Parkway (PIP). The assent up Pyngyp is just up the road from the North bound Lake Welch Exit on PIP. Several of the more inexperienced hikers quickly began to question their abilities heading up the Pyngyp scramble. Fortunately there were several views along the way up that allowed people to catch their breath.
The trail descends after Pyngyp and then quickly ascends a hill known as The Pines. Prior to the Pines Ascent the SBM becomes confusing as it crosses a very well defined woods road. About half of the HVH trip members made the mistake of following the woods road and ended up skipping The Pines as well as the next small peak Horn Hill which marks the half-way point of the Northern SBM. I took a short lunch break on Horn Hill with a few other HVHers.
After descending Horn Hill the trail begins to make its approach to the Cat’s Elbow scramble on West Mountain. I made light work of the scramble and decided to head back down to take photos of some of the other hikers as they ascended. To my surprise the other half of the group that made the wrong turn down the woods road was on their way up. As I continued my way down Patrizia beckoned me to go all the way to the base and sample some of her cake. Patrzia is known for the fine baked goods she carts along on hikes, so I opted to go all the way back down. Besides, the Cat’s Elbow scramble was a lot of fun and I wanted to do it again anyway.
After reaching the Cat’s Elbow overlook, the Suffern Bear Mountain trail continues to ascend West Mountain. Near the West Mountain summit SBM doubles the blue marked Timp-Torne Trail which leads to the West Mountain Shelter. I was waiting for a few of the slower hikers in this area and decided to take a side trip over to the shelter to examine the view of the New York City Skyline and Hudson River. The West Mountain shelter must be one of the more scenic camp sites servicing the AT. I highly recommend a night’s stay in this area to anyone that likes a good backpacking trip. Water is a serious issue at this shelter, however. There really is no steady source anywhere near it. It being September, most of the small tributaries were bone dry between the Pines and West Mountain. This actually caused a problem for many of the hikers (including the author) who didn’t bring quite enough water. I was banking on finding a stream to filter around Horn Hill, but they were all dry.
Eventually my stragglers caught up and we finished the final approach up West Mountain leaving most of the day’s elevation gain behind us. At this point you catch a fleeting glimpse of Perkins Memorial Tower. The SBM then steeply descends West Mountain on it’s Northern Side and then passes through Doodletown. The trail then takes a several hundred foot ascent up the base of Bear Mountain just before crossing Seven Lakes Drive. The trail continues up an easy grade and then gradually descends bringing hikers out into the main field at Bear Mountain State Park right next to the ice rink.
I quickly found my way to a faucet to quench my thirst and then found numerous Hudson Valley Hikers who were celebrating at the bar area on the second floor of the Bear Mountain Inn. All and all a wonderful experience I would highly recommend this trip to anyone who isn’t a beginner hiker.