As much as I enjoy winter hiking, the low temperatures and snowy or icy conditions tend to be more bearable when you keep moving. Whether it be due to uncomfortable or treacherous circumstances, it is sometimes difficult to spend the proper amount of time at a given viewpoint. During the summer though, things are different. It is usually warm enough to both want to and need to take breaks and rest.
Over the course of the spring and summer, I have learned the art of slowing down and smelling the roses, or more appropriately, taking in the views. Where I was once completely obsessed with keeping a consistent pace from a hike's start to finish, I have grown accustomed to moving quickly to a vista and then setting up shop for a good break, some mind and body exercise, and a snack or two.
A few weeks ago, I decided to take an impulsive trip to Olso Rock with the express intent to spend time sitting at the man-made stone furniture set known as the "Living Room" to take in the view and think deeply. I last hiked that trail since July 22, 2017 - my birthday - and I had enjoyed it. I had just started hiking with higher frequency at the time and found the unique features on this area quite attractive.
I remembered the trail as being relatively simple and so I felt confident that I could hike quickly to the viewpoint to properly enjoy it. I engaged the trail deliberately and engaged in some trail running before arriving swiftly at my destination. I took a seat on the lone stone slab couch that overlooks the surrounding landscape. Surrounded by forest, I relaxed on the outcrop and took time to think.
It was no surprise that I felt extremely at peace as I sat there. I wasn't worried about finishing on any particular timetable and I was free to come up with some good ideas and have some epiphanies.
It is quite apparent to me that the mind and body are capable of amazing things when the mundane stresses and irritants of daily life are temporarily ignored. I have since made a concerted effort to follow this routine on my subsequent trips and I have learned to savor my hikes even more than usual.
Since then, I spent extended time meditating on the small boulder that sits atop North Point in Storm King State Park, took an express hike to a vista on Storm
King Mountain before spending time inspecting the landscape with my binoculars, and practiced my breathing and even performed a full yoga session atop Popolopen Torne! Where I used to spend just enough time at the views to take a few pictures before hurrying back onto the trail, I now make sure to genuinely appreciate the freedom and peace that I work so hard to achieve.
Recently, I traveled to Mohonk Preserve/Minnewaska State Park in New York to hike High Peter's Kill for the first time. After hiking Rainbow Falls and Gertrude's Nose earlier this year while there was snow on the ground, I was excited to see what this region had to offer during the favorable summer months. I was certainly not disappointed.
I worried that the park might be packed considering the popularity of swimming at Coxing Kill/Split Rock and schools being on summer vacation, but was pleasantly surprised to be the first car in the dusty parking lot. Unlike most places I travel, you have to pay at the gate for parking in this region. Although this sometimes gives off the impression of homogenization, once you leave the lot, the forest is just as wild as any of the others I have visited.
Even during these early morning hours, the sun was bright and the temperatures were already reaching the mid-80's. As we prepped for the hike a few people walked through the lot with towels for some swimming, but we were traveling in the other direction, towards the Shawangunk Ridge Trail. The trail would lead through a lush forest before ascending steeply to a relatively flat area.
Before long, the surrounding landscape and view started to come into perspective through the trees as we climbed. When we emerged from the cover of the forest onto an open slab decorated with pitch pines, my mind was absolutely blown by the sheer magnificence of the scene that met us. We were overlooking the trees, signature quartz and sandstone slabs protruding through the green in places, and the Catskills loomed prominently on the horizon under a clear, blue sky.
The view itself was amazing, but the slab provided many comfortable places to sit and relax. We spent almost an hour at this location and only ran into one other person who passed through with their dog. The incoming shifting clouds provided an ever-changing array of photos to take and it was hard to pull ourselves from the view.
The remainder of the hike, many more miles, was by no means uneventful; we passed a number of other notable views, creeks, and climbs, but the highlight of the entire day was certainly that first vista. It was so hot that the trail seemed more difficult than it probably should have and we even decided to alter our track to avoid climbing back up the way we had come, but by the time we arrived back at the vehicles, we were absolutely spent and completely satisfied, exactly as one should feel after a successful hike.
Peter's Kill has a special charm and one of the most amazing backdrops I have seen on any of my hikes. Another added benefit, which I didn't take advantage of, is the swimming hole near the parking lot. I recently recommended this hike to somebody who was looking for a somewhat challenging trail and the opportunity for a cool-off at the end! I will certainly be back there again. In the meantime, I am going to hone my relaxation skills as I learn to fully savor and appreciate the sights.
[ Click on the above images for brief directions to these vistas.]