Castle & Hamilton Point Pop-Up

Minnewaska State Park is near and dear to my heart. My grandparents still live right down the road from Sam’s Point and the famous Ice Caves today. Throughout my childhood and teens, I found myself wandering throughout the park; it’s safe to say I have covered every trail residing within its confines and have ran through most of the Mohonk Preserve nestling itself right next door. Getting out to Minnewaska brings me comfort, I wish I could capture the smell of those unique dwarf pines in an air freshener. Minnewaska also grants me the opportunity to give back by trekking and patrolling through the Gertrude’s Nose trail throughout most of the year as a volunteer trail steward.

On Sunday, I had the opportunity to get out and stroll through the Castle Point/Hamilton Point carriage road with Proactive and some of our extended trail-family, Dr. Phil Lombardo and Thomas First (@movement.philosophy / @thomas_first). Both of these fine gentlemen are going to be partnering with us for some cool events in April, so be sure to give them a follow!

On our stroll we had the ability to share the views of the Hudson Valley; peering west from Castle Point you can see the entirety of the Hudson Highlands to all the way east to where the Shawangunk Ridge line and trail begin at High Point in New Jersey. And if you turn north back toward Lake Minnewaska, you have the most exhilarating view of the Catskills. Ask Thomas, he would be able to pinpoint and name any of the peaks of the Catskills. Meeting Thomas was a great experience for me yesterday, it is only fitting I take this moment to give him a huge shout out. On April sixth, Thomas will be taking on his last and final peek of the Catskill 3500’s during a Proactive hike of Balsam Mountain. I hope to get back out on the trail with him very soon and want to wish him strong legs on his trek up Balsam. Kudos to you, man!

Getting back to it, hiking Castle Point and Hamilton Point, you have one of the best views in all of the Orange, Ulster, Dutchess, and Sullivan counties, in my opinion, which takes the jagged form of conglomerate rock that forms Gertrude’s Nose ridgeline. Walking on the carriage road, you are graced with Gertrude’s jutting snozzolla throughout almost seven miles of the hike. Many people take on Gertrude’s, and rightfully so, but many don’t know or are willing to take the longer, actually less strenuous path of Castle/Hamilton Points for some reason.

Throughout my stewardship with Minnewaska, I have seen hundreds if not thousands more people veer toward Gertrude’s rather than Castle/Hamilton. In my opinion, bearing witness to Gertrude and the entire conglomerate ridge from afar is one of the best things Minnewaska has to offer; the first time I took the trek I almost doubled the time it usually takes me because I couldn’t put my camera down, resulting in about fifty or sixty takes of Getrude posing in all of her glory from different angles.

Strolling yesterday made me laugh and filled me with contentment as I witnessed the blend of astoundment and pure jubilance brightly shining across our visitors’ faces at Gertrude, the little valley below her, and the vast views of the Hudson Valley before us. Having the opportunity to walk and introduce hikers and photographers to this breathtaking view of the Hudson Valley/Catskills as well as having old trail vets come back for a leisurely visit was certainly an enjoyable experience I look forward to doing soon.

Getting out with Proactive and making new friends made me ruminate over my reasoning for getting out there on the path. Just through conversation I learned that Thomas is a skilled 3500 hiker, while Phil is a physical therapist; both of whom are active outdoor adventurers. One of my key reasons for getting out there on any trail, and I think it is for many of us, is in the attempt to be in awe of Mother Nature.

Many days I go drive an hour down the Thruway to teach my scholars, and don’t get me wrong it truly is fulfilling and engaging all day long, but at the end of the week I still yearn to be humbled by otherness, something not human, something that can make me feel like I am, or we humans, are not in control totally. Being able to be shocked by (particularly by the Shawangunks and what glaciation and deposits left behind throughout this region 420 million years ago during the Silurian time period) is what continuously brings me back time and time again to this park.

At times I’ve raced by these views of my home without a second glance of appreciation, but when I have the opportunity to view other humans faces spread out in glee, in sheer awe, disbelief, or just the immediate reaction of knowing that what they are witnessing before them is actually real, is truly what gives me goose-flesh and a yearning to get back out there every weekend. In my opinion, whether you’re getting out for physical fitness, to clean up your hometown park, take in Mother Nature’s gifts, or to have fun with friends, getting out there is what matters and the first step to something grandeur.

To finalize this thought of getting out there though, it truly boils down to coming to the realization that what is before our eyes may or may not be here or become altered because of us in the nearest of futures. Actively doing our part in saving what was given to us by the generations before us is now our job to take care of for generations to come. Being able to get out there, to take action within that process, is what matters most. Regardless if it is practicing Leave No Trace, or recycling bottles rather than throwing

them out - be active in taking care of the places you go, take care of your home, we all know too many won’t and don’t.

With that being said, I’m happy to be joining in the adventures that take place at Minnewaska and the Gunks and was even more-so blessed to get out there with a great group of people. Preserving our beautiful lands is directly correlated to getting out there and enjoying the views. I’m happy to share these experiences with you all whether it’s through social platforms or getting out there together someday.

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