Saturday, 16 February 2013

A run in the woods - Harriman State Park

Not long after we decided to come and live in New Jersey for a few years I read "A Walk in the Woods", Bill Bryson's book about the Appalachian Trail.  If you've read it (and if you haven't, you probably should), you'll know that much of the US is cartographically challenged when it comes to any passtime that doesn't involve an internal combustion engine.  Luckily, in the North East, there is an organisation called the New York - New Jersey Trail Conference who maintain hiking trails in most state parks and recreation areas, and also publish detailed maps of those trails.

Last Monday I became the proud owner of a couple of NYNJTC maps - North Jersey Trails and Harriman / Bear Mountain State Park.  Harriman State Park is in New York state, just over the state line from where we will live in New Jersey.  It's a large state park of rugged, forested hills and lots and lots of lakes.  This morning I drove the 20 minutes or so from Allendale, NJ, up to Harriman State Park to run some of the trails and make some use of my new map.

There had been a few inches of snow last night but once I left the parking lot on the main trail up to Pine Meadow Lake it was ice that was more of a problem.  This is a very popular trail and the new snow plus the snow from last week had been trodden down to ice.  After a mile of skittering about on the path I took a different, less popular, trail and soon was running through a couple of inches of soft snow - heaven. 

The NYNJTC maps show all maintained trails - meaning the trails are kept clear of debris and are marked every so often with paint blazes or little plastic rectangles nailed to trees - and also show where the good views are.  Since the state parks are pretty much forested in their entirety, there are only certain places where you can get a view rather than the continuous views of the deforested hills in the UK.  I took a trail up Diamond Mountain as it had a few viewpoints marked on it.

And I wasn't dissapointed - the views were good, a low milky sun was doing it's best to warm me up, and the snow was just deep enough to be a joy to run through without being too tiring.  From the top of Diamond Mountain I looked out over snow covered forest for pretty much as far as the eye could see in all directions - it was difficult to believe this was only a one hour drive from the centre of Manhattan, until I noticed I could just see Manhattan in the distance.  Amazing.

I dropped down the hill and round Pine Meadow Lake, which must be a very pleasant place to be in the summer, then set off on a trail to Ramapo Torne - I'd been speaking to a couple of hikers on the way down from Diamond Mountain and they said if I though the view from there was good I should go and see the one from Ramapo Torne.  The trail out there was pretty tiring - the ruggedness of the area means that the trails are either climbing or descending, there are very few flat bits.  And it's rocky too so there's a lot of climbing up and lowering yourself down rock steps.  Nothing serious but just enough to make it impossible to get into a nice smooth running rhythm.

 After some more great views of the surrondng mountains and forest, and of Manhattan, I ran the last couple of kilometres back to the car park down a gentle downhill snow covered trail.  There can't be many better ways to finish a run.