Friday, March 30, 2012

Adventure Friday: Marcia's Mile & Glenclyffe Loop

On St. Patrick's Day, while New York City streets teemed with green-clad revelers, some friends and I chose a different means of celebration. We went where the green greets the spring—on our first self-planned day hike.

It took a bit of effort. We were looking for a trail easily accessible by train or bus. While many trails are advertised as public transit accessible, hikers often have to walk a few miles on roads before even getting to the trailhead.

Finally, my friend zeroed in on the area around Cold Spring, N.Y., and I found a simple hike called Marcia's Mile, just 75 minutes north of New York City by train.

Take the MetroNorth Hudson Line train from Grand Central to Garrison station, just outside of Philipstown, N.Y. A trailhead sits right at the southeastern corner of the train station parking lot. I don't think you can get much closer than that.

Highlights of the hike?

We found a small pond of loudly singing frogs.

We paused to swing on a rope.


We stumbled upon thickly growing bamboo jungles.

We had a picnic lunch on the river.

Best of all, our bodies enjoyed every moment of sun and exercise.

Since we were feeling ambitious, we decided to combine the Marcia's Mile and Arden Point hike (2.2 miles) with the Glenclyffe loop (1.6 miles), as suggested by the Open Space Institute. While the added distance made for a satisfying hike, the Glenclyffe loop seemed slightly disappointing in comparison to  Marcia's Mile.

Marcia's Mile, with its dry leafy trail and second-growth forest, seemed typical for a southern New York hike. The trail was well-worn, but the area was quiet and picturesque on this early spring day.

The vegetation of the Glenclyffe Loop created greater challenges, particularly for new hikers. It was here where we saw long lines of thickly growing bamboo. In some places, the bamboo allowed only a very narrow passage. A bright green creeping plant—perhaps wooded sorrel—stretched across long portions of the trail, obliterating any previous sign of a path, and a few large downed trees forced us off the trail. Mostly, I was disappointed by the frequent reminders of human presence: old tires, broken fences, and abandoned buildings.

Stick to Marcia's Mile and Arden Point for a leisurely day hike. Add the Glenclyffe Loop for a better challenge, but make sure you can read trails and blazes. These trails are relatively quiet now, in early spring, but they will likely get crowded in the summer months—if the rope swing by the river is any indication.

Since I'm still a novice, I always rely on two types of hiking information.
  1. Narrative hiking directions (i.e. "continue straight on the red blaze trail past an old stone wall..."), like those on this Philipstown map or the Open Space Institute website.
  2. Official trail conference maps (for more reliable trail orientation), like this NY-NJ Trail Conference East Hudson set of three. These maps, and others, are available in-store at Paragon Sports.
Frog and bamboo photos courtesy of Dan Cabrera.

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