It was an outstanding October morning. Beautiful sunlight filtered through the windows, and the air was warm with just a hint of crispness. Besides the daily struggle to make sure everyone had shoes on by the time we needed to leave, the morning was full of excited energy. We were about to go into the woods; we were going hiking. It was October 22nd, The Nature Place’s first Guided Family Hike of the fall. We headed up to Harriman, and it felt like the car knew the way automatically. We were first to the parking lot at the old Silver Mine ski hill. We jumped out of the car and felt the crunch of leaves beneath our feet. Roger, our fabulous hike leader, arrived next. We spent the next few minutes catching up. We hadn’t seen each other since camp ended.
The other families arrived, and we did our usual safety briefing before setting out. With pant legs tucked into socks, we headed out on the trail. Following the trail that paralleled Seven Lakes Drive, we crossed and made our way to Lake Nawahunta. When we reached the lake, our collective eyes opened wide, and we took in the scene in front of us. Backed by a perfect blue, cloudless sky, the foliage at peak color, and not even a breath of wind, there was a perfect mirror on the lake. You couldn’t tell when the forest stopped and the lake began. There were brilliant yellows, oranges, and reds. It was a magical moment, even for those who have spent a lifetime hiking in nature.
As hard as it was to pull ourselves from the beauty, we started to make our way up the trail to hippo rock, where we stopped for a snack. As we continued to hike up the ridge on the Long Path, the mixture of trees changed to exclusively hardwoods. Enough leaves had fallen to let light down to the forest floor. The sunlight hit their yellow leaves, bathing the forest with a golden glow. Someone mentioned we were hiking through a scene in the Lord of the Rings books.
We started the final climb up the trail to Stockbridge Mountain. While steep in spots, it was a short, relatively easy hike. As you approach from the south, the first thing you see at the top is the Stockbridge Shelter. The shelter is a large lean-to-type structure built into the rock. We stopped to check it out and learned it was available to backpackers who needed a place to spend a night on the trail. After spending a few minutes checking out the logbook, and the built-in fireplace and imagining spending the night there, we continued to the true top of the mountain. The views were breathtaking, with clear blue skies you could see for miles and miles.
It was lunchtime, and we all found a comfy spot to nourish ourselves while enjoying the view. We finished lunch and continued our loop back to the lake. It was hard to leave the mountain top on such a beautiful day. On our descent, we scrambled down some rocky shoots, made challenging by the freshly fallen leaves. We saw some natural rock shelters on the way down, including one in which someone built a fireplace complete with a fieldstone chimney.
We arrived back at Lake Nawahunta and decided to hike out to the peninsula on the lake’s backside. This area was full of tall pine trees, with decades of pine needles on the ground. It felt like we were walking on air as the ground was soft and bouncy. There was now a slight breeze, and the lake was no longer a mirror. We stopped and had a still hunt (a few moments where you stop and silently take in the nature around us). It was not lost on us how memorable this hike was, especially to see Lake Nawahunta as we did. We followed our footsteps back to the car. It was a great hike, which everyone enjoyed.
There is so much beauty and nature in our area. When was the last time you connected with the forests? Where did you lace up your hiking boots for a recent adventure? Have you hiked lately? I encourage you to make hiking a priority. It’s easy to be too busy to get out there, but you miss out on all the benefits to your body and soul from hiking. Come hike with us! The Nature Place offers guided hikes throughout the fall and spring. Our next hike will be at West Mountain on Saturday, December 3rd. There is no better time than now to get there. Warren Miller, the ski filmmaker, said, “If you don’t do it now, you’ll just be older when you do.”