Sunday, July 7, 2013

Day 1 | Stage 1: The Gunks

Saturday, July 6, 2013
Location: Minnewaska State Park Preserve, Ulster County, N.Y.
Trails: Sunset Carriage Road, Awosting Falls CR, Lower Awosting CR, Lake Awosting CR, Upper Awosting CR, Lake Minnewaska CR
Elevation: ~1,420-1,960 feet
Surface: Crushed stone carriage roads
Shoes: Patagonia Fore Runner
Wildlife spotted: Deer, cardinal, dragonflies, butterflies, water snake, hawk (maybe)
Companion: Erin

Day 1 unfolded pretty much as planned. We left the city at about 7am and pulled into the park just after 9am along with a line of cars. Good thing we got there just as the park opened because the main lot up by Lake Minnewaska filled up fast. 

We geared up, soaked in the view of Lake Minnewaska (one of several amazing sky lakes in the Shawangunk Ridge), and hit the first of many carriage roads. The crushed stone surface is pretty easy to run on. Some parts are a bit smoother and some rockier.

The sign for Lake Minnewaska. Duh.
Roads damaged in Irene appear to have been restored. The part of Awosting Falls CR leading from the falls to Mohonk Preserve was still chewed up when I was here in December but now appears repaired, although more damage may lie further down the path. The falls are just gorgeous. E noted that the rocks under the falls were rust-colored -- some kind of mineral in the water? (Will try to look into this.) We paused for a minute, took some photos, and headed back up the path to make our way to Lake Awosting. 

The park's website states that the Lower Awosting CR is closed because the bridge over Fly Brook is out, but that is not true; the bridge must have been rebuilt and the road is intact at the stream. The work might be recent because we saw construction equipment in the area and the gravel looks very "fresh."

Just past the bridge, we hit a sharp incline. Let's just say we're not exactly mountain runners. We walked up the hill. Slowly. With many breaks. In fact, we walked a lot during this stage in part because we didn't want to wear ourselves out and in part because of the heat. Speaking of: We were actually relieved that once we were in the shade on the carriage roads the heat wasn't so bad. In fact, we even felt a decent breeze every now and then, especially when we took a break and sat on a rock overlooking Lake Awosting.

Pointing to our destination.
After the break, we headed back along the Upper Awosting CR, which was 3-ish miles of a mostly gentle downgrade. Along the way, we passed several cyclists, hikers, and other park-users enjoying the day. Most of them were friendly and offered a "Hello" or a "Good morning" and even an "Enjoy the rest of your day"... while a few passersby had no interest in interacting.

Finally, after a solid but not over-exerted effort we made in back to Lake Minnewaska, by the swimming area. We doffed our shoes and socks and cooled off our feet and legs in the water. The "beach" area was packed with families. One kid caught a small water snake, showed it to his family, then flung it back into the water, which seemed pretty mean. Then he scooped it back out of the water -- and the snake bit him.

After our short break, we climbed the short hill back up to the parking lot at the top of the lake and sought refreshment: lime-flavored ice pops, water, and fresh iced tea from a food truck.


Final notes:
  • Running and walking along the carriage road of Minnewaska Park (and also neighboring Mohonk Preserve), is a true pleasure. It's definitely an easier kind of trail running, so a good choice for our first stage of this journey. We did pass several trail heads of rugged hiking trails (Blueberry Run Trail and Rainbow Falls Trail), which look worth trying one day. But the carriage roads are perfect for either and easy stroll or long runs (even for marathon training). 
  • On weekends, get to the park early, preferably at opening time (9am) to get a spot at the parking lot by the lake if you plan to base your activities there or prefer to hit those trails. The Lower Awosting parking lot is the closer one to Awosting Falls and Lower Awosting CR. 
  • The lakes are breathtakingly beautiful. You can walk or run all the way around Lake Minnewaska (Lake Minnewaska CR), which takes you high above the lake, offering amazing views from the overlooking cliffs, and then dips all the way down to water level. Swimming is allowed only at the designated area that has a lifeguard. This area seems to be very loud and crowded on weekends in the summer because it's close to the parking lot. If you prefer to swim in a quieter setting and have the stamina to bike or walk the distance, Lake Awosting's swimming area is more than 3 miles from the parking lot.
Lake Minnewaska

As Erin says, "Arun likes a map."
Rocks and roots of the Gunks.
Erin frees her feet for a bath in the lake.
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