A quick autumn Sunday hike

New Paltz 102013 077I had only a few hours to run up to New Paltz this past Sunday, but with leaves in the Hudson Valley region at their peak right now, it was a few hours I was happy to spend considering the trade-off of miserable Sunday night traffic coming home on the Thruway. Clearly I was late arriving to a party everyone already knew about: when I rolled into Main Street in New Paltz, it was just about the most congested I’ve ever seen the town. I actually bailed and took an alternate route at P&G’s, down through Huguenot Street and past the Otter just to get over the river and bridge. Out along the corn and sunflower fields was a line of headlights that reminded me of that final scene in Field of Dreams. It was that bad.

But the cool thing about this area is that, despite all the tourists and New York City weekend invaders, you can drive two minutes and be lost by yourself in a really picturesque spot. Like the one above along Butterville Road.

I have kind of mixed feelings about the hoards of people up there, honestly — Awosting Falls was so crowded it took away from the unique, peacefulness of the spot. Just strictly an observation here — everyone is free to come up and enjoy New York state’s parks — but picture all the foreign tourists in Times Square, and then picture them all squished along the rocks and trails at Minnewaska. Or if you’ve ever shopped at Woodbury Commons on a nice weather weekend day, you know what I’m talking about. I literally saw coach buses leave the park. I looked over at one point and saw probably 10 guys with tripods and cameras all squatting in the same spot.

My point is, this place is such a relaxing, serene place to be and enjoy the area, it’s a getaway to be alone with nature, to leave behind the crowds of tourists in Manhattan.

Anyway, I still had a really nice day and I was satisfied with my photos from about three hours of daylight. My first stop was at this farm on Butterville, which is also part of the Mohonk Preserve. The pull-off for this spot is right near the Lenape Lane bridge at the end of the Mohonk Gatehouse/Oak Allee path. I didn’t venture down into the farmland but just snapped a few photos up here, including this back-lit shot of an old fence:New Paltz 102013 108After the farm, I made my way along Rt. 44/55 to Minnewaska, stopping at a small pull-off near a large open field that gives you this southeastern view of the Mohonk tower. This was taken with my 70-200mm lens:

New Paltz 102013 220Here’s another wider view from this spot. As I walked along the roadside for different angles, I could hear all the grasshoppers jumping back into the tall grass:

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Minnewaska was packed. People were parking along the road on Rt. 44/55, along the entrance road from the main gatehouse to the Awosting parking lot, and the Awosting lot itself was just overflowing like I’ve never seen it. I’ve been up there days when I’m literally the one and only car parked in that lot. Mohonk and Minnewaska definitely promote themselves as being “just 90 minutes away from New York City” and I think a lot of folks made that drive this past weekend to go “upstate.” Anyway, it’s just one of those things where you live somewhere for a long time and a place feels like it’s yours, and then suddenly waves of outsiders show up and you’re kind of like, ugh…

bistroBefore heading to the park, I grabbed another outstanding sandwich from the Mountain Bistro Store. You should totally go here. Seriously. It’s right across from the always-packed Mountain Brauhaus restaurant and just down the road from the Mohonk Preserve visitor’s center and iconic hairpin turn. They have a zillion sandwiches, drinks and good music. Worst part of my day was sitting outside this little place eating lunch on a picnic table and having a bee fly right into my can of Arizona Arnold Palmer. Sucked.

The waterfall wasn’t flowing especially strong and a lot of the leaves, mostly to on the left side of the falls, were gone already. I tried some different angles but wasn’t really getting anything cool. Finally I snapped a few low-angle shots in the rocks, working in some leaves and pine needles to give the photo some autumn flare:

New Paltz 102013 299Above the falls, the Peter’s Kill was flowing pretty well and I took this shot of a nice little cascade with leaves swirling around. There was some old guy and his wife who literally ran up next to me and setup their tripods 10 feet away to the right (I framed them out):New Paltz 102013 326Here’s the stream just above the waterfall’s edge, 16mm, ISO 100, f/16, 25-second exposure:
New Paltz 102013 325Down below the falls seemed less congested, so I worked my way down the bank to this spot again. Sure enough, I soon had an audience looking down at me with cameras. Some really strange dude showed up with two point-and-shoot cameras rigged up side by side on some bar or pipe, and he was awkwardly holding it in front of his face, taking photos. Never ever seen anything like it, and he said nothing to me.

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Above the falls, I carefully walked to the edge and snapped this shot of the water going right over into the pool below. There were a couple of old branches sitting in the middle of the falls, I have no clue how they weren’t swept away:New Paltz 102013 321My plan (I even set an alarm on my iPhone) was to shoot Awosting until 5 p.m. and drive up to shoot the sunset at the lake until 6, with the sunset forecasted for 6:04 p.m. As usual, shooting down along the stream here was too enticing and I never made it up in time. With the days now dramatically shorter than they were in August, the park closed at 6 instead of 8 or 9 p.m. I left the parking lot around 5:48 and drove to the scenic overlook pull-off past Minne in hopes of getting the sun going down.

Nope, too late. At least from this elevation, it was already below the horizon. The sky and clouds themselves looked cool, so I took a few and spoke with a really nice woman who also pulled over to shoot the sunset:

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New Paltz 102013 462Last chance, I took a few very long exposure photos from Butterville Road in near total darkness. I envisioned a silhouette of the Mohonk ridge with dark blue skies, and, more or less, I got something like that:

New Paltz 102013 499I think we’re getting close to going past peak up there, so time is running out if you weren’t one of the 238,945 people in town picking apples and sitting in traffic this past week. I’m hoping to join this Sunday’s Mine Hole Waterfall hike at Minne, and be advised, the Peter’s Kill Area parking lot will be closed from Oct. 28-Nov. 3, Monday-Sunday, for paving.

If you’ve enjoyed any of my photos here, you should definitely check out Michael Neil O’Donnell’s work, he has really inspired me these past few months to go up and shoot more. He’s given me a lot of feedback and continues to take some really stunning images of the area which you can see on Facebook. Super talented photographer, I bow down to his skills.

Any suggestions on where to go next?

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