A couple of weekends ago, a few friends and I scaled Breakneck Ridge in Upstate New York for an autumn hike. We hiked from 8:30am to 3pm, and made it in good time to catch other sights along the way down the mountain. This is going to be a photo-heavy post, although nothing captures the experience itself.
It all started at 7:30am at the Grand Central Terminal station, where we caught the Metro North train. A round trip ticket costs $26. While waiting for the group, I doused myself in insect repellant and smelled strongly of Off within a 3 meter radius. Aside from a bottle of that in my backpack, we were each told to bring the following: 1 litre of water, snacks (Kind bars, or the like), ziplock bags (to store the phone, in case it rained), extra socks, shades, a hat or cap, a jacket good for rain, and sunblock.
On the train, you’ll pass by views of Harlem, the Hudson river, bridges, and sights like these.
There wasn’t a formal structure to get down at, but just wooden planks. If you’re not already on the last car, you’ll have to make you way there to disembark. Good thing my friends advised to use the rest room, as there would be none… for hours. And off we went, with a horde of other climbers.
No five minutes elapsed and already, we were climbing rocks. It was shocking to be climbing climbing so soon, but not wanting to be perceived as a wuss or girly female, I acted like it was no big deal. Commendable acting skills, but the shortness of breath probably gave it away. Basically, you figure out how to strategize getting up differently formed rocks, and nothing will catch you.
While searching Breakneck Ridge, Google showed that people also frequently searched Breakneck Ridge deaths. O_O
An early sneak peak of the mountain across, Storm King Mountain. You can also see some climbers in the photo, making their way up.
The first viewpoint. Hurray. I apologized to the group for the lack of fitness, but we eventually made it up the mountain, and in good time.
A panoramic shot of the view. It was gorgeous, with the left side looking like part of that Disney pre-movie video with the meandering river, flowing through the hills. Click on the photo for larger views. (same goes for the two other panoramic shots below)
Autumn trees. Not the sea of red or orange as I’d imagined, but it was magnificent, nonetheless. It would get cloudier soon, so I took as much photos of the mountains around as I could.
From here you can see an island, which had an old castle on it.
A lot of other groups were also climbing up. Later on, everyone would disappear, since you can choose from several routes (in you wanted to climb two mountains, or exit earlier, etc.)
Apparently, this climb was only the beginning, not even a quarter of the way. Onwards and upwards. We mistook this quote as coming from C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. Higher up again. See the flag below? We were there just earlier!
We’d be following the tiny specs of humans going up to the top. Along the way up, I joked that if Orcs were following us, I’d be dead by now. It takes time climbing up/around! It also makes sense why a lot of the hero characters had great bodies, because this entire climbing part took some core strength and general body strength. (in my humble, though not as fit as the rest, opinion anyways). I had to stop and catch my breath several times, and contemplate on just how much I need to exercise regularly. Other hikers were also catching their breath. Even if we were strangers, strategies in getting up certain rocks, or helping hands were offered. After all, as my friend said, it’s us against the mountain.
While enjoying snack break #1, I thought about this and realized that it was a good reflection on life, especially when it comes to relationships, whether with family, friends, or people at work. Sometimes, we can antagonize a person so much, that we forget that we have a greater, shared struggle (and enemy, if you know what I mean), and we need to have each other’s back. The biggest fight of our lives isn’t against each other; we need to build each other up, protect and encourage, speak words that bring truth and life.
Of course, I wore my End of The World Doc Martens Boots. Which have survived NYC winters four years back, Winter in Seattle, Snowboarding in Beijing, Skiing in Poconos, and a very bad day when it rained in Japan during cherry blossom season. These boots have been everywhere. They also haven’t been washed. :>
More views of surrounding mountains, of where we’d be hiking through later (beneath the autumn trees!). Dan (the climbing expert in the group) told us that it’s very different seeing the trees from above, and from beneath. There could be hobbits clambering about.
Spot the woman in the photo. We climbed down this rocky thing. If you can also find it, there’s a graffiti bearing the words By Any Means.
Snack break #2. Other views of the surrounding mountains. We were more on the left (?) side now, where the island with the castle was closer to.
Each view at every part of the mountain was different (of course). My favorite view was the first, with the river going snaking around the hills. It brings about memories of Land Before Time, and ideas of what paradise could be like. Being on top of a mountain and seeing all the colors, enjoying the wind, enjoying the smell of dirt and the trees with good company… came at a much needed time. It always puts me in my place when I see the majesty of nature. To be reminded of the immensity, power, and care of the God who made it, the God who is… my God.
Then we began the descent. The rocky, climbing parts were for the start of the hike. It was good, because that’s probably when you have the most energy. It’s also a good gauge of whether you’d continue through the hike. Much better than a milder hike first, then when you’re harder to reach by the paramedics, to be faced with serious climbing. Being in the mountain, and going down it, was so beautiful! All these tall, tall trees above, in yellow and orange and green.
Trail markers would be posted on trees, or spray painted in their colors on rocks, to confirm that you’re going the right direction. We chose to go through the longer hike down and towards Cold Spring instead of climbing the next mountain, because we might now have enough time (or energy) for that. But along the vicinity was Mount Torres, and even Storm King Mountain across could be climbed. My friend had an awesome PDF on his phone that would show you not just where you were on the map, but the terrain. Not a lot of birch trees in sight, but I found remnants of a bark!Moss growing by the side of a rock. Too cute not to take a photo of.
This Swiss man was climbing down the mountain too. We all started off with the red trail, then switched to white (?) and then the blue (?) going down. He’s also in the shot, for human scale.
When we got down the mountain, there was a clearing, and a ruins of a dike that used to hold back water. Each white post had a sapling.
We explored parts of the ruin, and headed back to the train. The water from the river/ditch is now a stream. Further down the trail (and not included because it was meh) were ruins of an old farm. Probably goat farmers, because you wouldn’t really be able to plant stuff around these areas.
The stream that flowed through the forest.
We bumped into some people who had dogs. All the dogs had such a happy vibe about them, they were probably having the time of their life. Apparently, it was easier for small dogs than larger ones, to jump on the rocks and climb, since they had less body weight to carry. We encountered labs, golden retrievers, and even a poodle that would stop and sniff and run to catch up with its owner. It’s worth mentioning that there were several cute hikers encountered throughout the trek. Hiking is officially one of my sports now.
The hike officially ends when you reach the road.Some people drove over and parked their cars along the side of the road. In the distance, you can see the lower part of the mountain that was climbed. We walked, and made our way towards Cold Springs, which was a tiny, charming little Hamptons-esque village a couple of miles from here, where we would have a meal, then take the train back to NYC.
We ate at a quaint little Cafe, but there were others that looked equally interesting. A lot of hikers end their trips in Cold Spring. This is a photo of the lovely red vines growing on the side of a building.
This concludes the journey. We hiked a total of twenty thousand steps, to an altitude reaching about 98 floors.
Autumn hikes have won me over. Next year, I’m going to hike at least twice or thrice, or even go camping for one of those trips. Maybe I should move to Colorado, or one of the more outdoorsy states.
All in all, a spectacular Sunday, and much needed catharsis. I’m already looking forward to the next one.
Select Verses from Psalm 73
Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence.
All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments.
When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply til I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.
When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.
Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
But as for me, it it good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.