Foggy autumn day at Minnewaska

Minnewaska State Park Preserve 572I had a really nice day exploring some new areas of Minnewaska on Saturday, Oct. 5, with the autumn foliage just about peaking in the area. The Park Preserve office offered a guided hike at 10 a.m., which was great but spoiled a bit due to the heavy fog in the mountains. The hike, which was promoted as being “two views for the price of one hike,” left from the Peter’s Kill Area of Minnewaska, which is a separate parking lot from the main Minnewaska lake entrance. Here’s how the Parks Dept. advertised it:

Eric Van Duesen, volunteer naturalist, will lead this moderately challenging hike in the Peter’s Kill area. This outing will follow an approximately two-mile long loop that features two gorgeous views, one out over the Clove and the other of the Rondout Valley. With the landscape cloaked in glorious fall colors, this hike should be breathtaking!

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Mr. Van Duesen (below) was a great guide, extremely knowledgeable about the local plants and terrain. I walked alongside him for most of the hike (it was a group of about six or seven of us) just so I could bounce some questions off him and learn as much as possible. He pointed out a variety of rock lichens (hold your excitement) as well as native stuff like the endless fields of wild blueberries (above).

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Some of the rock lichens (I forgot all the names he mentioned):

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This hike began at the Peter’s Kill Area parking lot — if you’re coming from New Paltz, it’s on the right side of the road before you reach Minnewaska. The usual $8 parking fee gets you in, ¬†and I met up with my group of hikers at the park office. We began the hike from the parking lot, following a well-marked trail that had some gravel and wood chips. After a while, the trail narrows and becomes more of a footpath some through varying terrain. You can see it below on the right:

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Some mountain ferns:

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More of the blueberry fields:Minnewaska State Park Preserve 048At one point we came across some three-leaf plants that Mr. Van Duesen picked up, bent in half and handed to me. Smelled minty. “Wintergreen,” he said. Pretty cool, it smelled just like the chewing gum (or mouth wash, if you’re into that). Minty fresh, though, and I never would have noticed it.

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This was Bullwheel Trail, named after the remnants of a concrete tower pulley system used from 1964-1978 at Ski Minne, the former downhill ski center at Minnewaska. A tower with a pulley wheel (referred to as a bullwheel) once stood in this area, now popular for rock climbing. The trail eventually ends here:

Minnewaska State Park Preserve 031If you go to the left, a rocky footpath takes you toward Awosting Falls (across Rt. 44/55). To the right takes you toward Mohonk Preserve. We went right first, in seek of a scenic cliff lookout:

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As you can see, it’s less an outlook and more a scenic cliff, I guess — the fog killed the view, but we were told it was a spectacular look out at the valley. Off in the distance of the image above is Mohonk’s “Lost City” area, where a fractured cliff stands. Definitely on my to-do list.

Minnewaska State Park Preserve 108We backtracked to Bullwheel and went left on to the Awosting trail, up a pretty steep ankle-busting climb.

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There were approximately one billion spider webs in the bushes and trees on this hike, noticeable due to the moisture in the air. Kind of fascinating, kind of gross. Here’s one of the more intricate ones:Minnewaska State Park Preserve 006This trail led to another cliff, much larger than the first, that also gave us a view of fog.

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I should mention that for all of these images of the morning hike, I used a Tiffen warming filter on my 16-35mm Canon EF lens. Cheap filter but it worked well.Minnewaska State Park Preserve 149 Minnewaska State Park Preserve 176 Minnewaska State Park Preserve 192

Here’s the view…Minnewaska State Park Preserve 208

Mr. Van Duesen leading the way:Minnewaska State Park Preserve 160After checking out maps and re-hydrating, we turned back to the trailhead to finish up the hike. I looked over some maps with our guide and got some advice on more places to visit (the Oct. 27 Mine Hole Falls hike sounds tempting).

I had a really excellent lunch down the road at the Mountain Bistro Store, which is basically a deli with an enormous menu of sandwiches and wraps (I went with “The El Word” — chicken, bacon, cheddar, tomato, pesto mayo on texas toast). Definitely recommended if you go hiking, nice little place with picnic tables out front.

From there, I went back to Minnewaska and parked for my walk to Awosting Falls:

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Along the walk, there was plenty to see:

Minnewaska State Park Preserve 259 Minnewaska State Park Preserve 293So this was my first real chance to test out my new neutral density filter, an 82mm Hoya ND64 6-stop filter that I purchased at B&H Photo in Manhattan a day earlier. The filter was about $90 and helps reduce the amount of light entering the lens, allowing you to take longer-exposure images and thus get better light balance and show motion in water. Here at Awosting, the effect helps smooth out the pond and the waterfall.

At first, it wasn’t much help with harsh sunlight and dark shade on the falls. I enjoyed the scene without taking photos for awhile before making my way down the stream looking for more things to shoot.

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Once out of the hard light, the filter started kicking ass. Here’s some closer images of the very gently-moving creek.

Finally, I found a nice spot to focus on and with the help of some mid-afternoon sun, everything came together (click to view larger):

Minnewaska State Park Preserve 516 Minnewaska State Park Preserve 507Definitely two of my favorite images from the day. The sun star, the water cascading, even the warm sunlight hitting the rocks on the right. Couldn’t have been happier with the results, and it’s a very small spot that is easily overlooked. From the right angle and with some thought, I was able to create a nice scene with the golden yellow leaves in the background.

I knew it’d be hard to top that, but I kept exploring:

Minnewaska State Park Preserve 520 Minnewaska State Park Preserve 527I walked back to the falls and focused there again, with the light more favorable:

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Here’s one with my 70-200mm lens, taken without a filter at f/32 on the tripod:Minnewaska State Park Preserve 472

Without the slower shutter speed, you can see the difference in the water. I still liked this frame:Minnewaska State Park Preserve 412

Maybe some day the waterfall will actually be flowing and look cooler. Until then, I had to get creative:Minnewaska State Park Preserve 342

Finally I tried out some angles to capture the whole scene after crossing the creek on a line of stones:

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Once I saw the birch branch, I knew I needed to work it into a photo. What says autumn in New York more than orange leaves and birch bark? The above variations in color reflect the white balance settings and some tweaking I did afterward in Photoshop. Which do you prefer?

Above the falls, I took a few more photos:

Minnewaska State Park Preserve 582 Minnewaska State Park Preserve 583One thing that really annoyed me up here was finding a bunch of beer cans that some group of idiots just left on the rocks. I was pretty surprised and took a photo with my iPhone before collecting the cans and moving them up to the carriage road:

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Anticipating another great sunset, I drove up to the lake and hiked out to a nice cliff on the east side of Minnewaska. Unfortunately, the fog came back and that was that, no sunset.

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These are two panoramic images taken with my iPhone 5. Would have been a perfect spot for the sunset, and in fact I noticed a lot of old metal support spikes in the rocks here, used over the last 100 years to support the now-gone gazebos that dotted the rocks when Minnewaska’s Wildmere and Cliff House hotels dominated the lake.

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Here’s one with my camera:

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  1. Pingback: 10 of the Most Colorful Places in the U.S. | All The Places We Go

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