Submitted by Jeremiah Zion Lo
It was time for another retreat from the crazy city. Two friends joined me this time to one of my most favorite scenic treks north of NYC. To me, there is nothing more exciting on the train than the moment you enter the Appalachian Range. The Hudson was frozen, decorated with snowy mountains on each side. We hopped off the Metro-North and began walking by the sleepy little town of Beacon, NY. Two trail runners went ahead of us towards Mount Beacon. Notice the big and steep gash in the photo??? That was the incline railway that once transported passengers to the Casino Hotel atop the first peak! The gargantuan gears, machine room, and railway ruins remain on site! About a mile away, we arrive at the intersection of Wolcott Ave & Howland Ave. It was time to begin our ascent to the tallest mountain in Hudson Highlands State Park. We followed the red-blazed trail which led us to a series of switchbacks completely filled with a foot of compact snow. On occasion, we bushwhacked our way up, creating steep shortcuts by slicing through the switchbacks.
Following a good long workout on the switchbacks, Kent, Ashton and I arrived at the first peak-known as the Casino Ruins. This spot provides a dramatic panorama of the town of Beacon below with grand views of the Hudson and Newburgh. On a clear day, you will see the Catskills Mountains on the horizon! This place brings back memories of hiking with a crew of friends last spring, when I told them I have both good news and "bad news" for them..... Some were beginner hikers and I told them the good news is that they have reached the peak and now is time for a relaxing lunch break. With a smirk, I told them the "bad news" is that our real destination is the summit firetower of South Beacon Mountain-which is way far behind them and that they have quite a ways to go after lunch. One of my friends gasped with a smiling, disappointed look.
Look at Ashton! The joy on his face was priceless! It was his first time at Mount Beacon! He is standing a few yards away from the Casino Ruins, on the hotel ruins site, looking west. The snowy landscape and below freezing temperature during that moment provided an Alaskan Wilderness experience.... You gotta use your imagination in this retreat from The Big Apple!
Continuing our snow trek, we kept following the red-blazed trail behind the Casino Ruins to a long flat road. That path is the good news of the "bad news". It takes you to the base of the south summit in no time. The valley below gives the deceiving illusion that the summit firetower is far away from the Casino Ruins. On Mount Beacon, there are two peaks - North Beacon Mountain and South Beacon Mountain (the firetower). Before you reach the wooded area at the end of the red-blazed trail, you will ascend a steep, bouldery path. The south summit is on your right side. In this snowy season, hikers create a shortcut route up to the firetower. This route is free of tall trees and provide magnificent views. Standing at this spot, you are in a secluded wilderness. The view of the town and evidence of civilization is completely gone.
Further along, we reach closer and closer to the top of South Beacon Mountain. The firetower will be your trail marker. Just follow your way to the peak.
At last, we have arrived!!! Are you acrophobic???..... If so, you still must walk up the firetower! Can't give up this amazing opportunity after hiking through so much snow. Believe me, this is one real TREAT during a snowy winter. Kent and I took off the crampons from our boots and began walking up the squeaky-shaky metal stairs to the top with Ashton.
AMAZING, ISN'T IT???!!!!!.....
I TOLD YOU SO........ This dramatic vast view of the Hudson Highlands State Park from the top of the firetower is totally worth it. You will witness Mount Taurus on the left, with Breakneck Ridge in the middle at the far end, and steep slopes of Storm King beyond on the right. Seriously....folks.... it's my third time on Mount Beacon and I still cannot get enough of this view!
Toward the northwest, we see the Casino Ruins (the snow capped peak below-which is really the halfway point of our hike) and town of Beacon afar-where we hopped off the train.
To the east-the Beacon Reservoir is a frozen wintry paradise.
Looking down below, we see another hiker pass by. We are that high up?
After soaking in the grand view, we began our descent. Looking afar, there is peak with a conspicuous void. Zooming in on it, we think it's a cave! That is the home of the Yeti!!! Hikers beware.....it will come out and ask (in a British accent) "would you like a cup of tea?.....", as Ashton joked.
On one steep drop, Ashton starts rolling downhill!.... Oh what fun it is to bring back memories of childhood!
Descending the steep switchbacks, my friends were literally flying downhill..... Ashton glissades with non-stop laughter......
Well.....my adventurous friends, that was our escape to Mount Beacon. I hope you give this splendid place a try. Just as Krysti says at the end of her videos, "until next time.....HAPPY TRAILS!....." : )
P.S. Check out my VIDEO from the trip below: