After an unimpressive Saturday at Mohonk Preserve (through no fault of theirs!), I woke up the last Sunday in April bright and early to give my free one-month Healthy Ulster pass another go. Day two was much more satisfying all around. Aside from getting rained on and again choosing a route with way too much time on carriageways, it was a practically perfect day out.
My aim to get on the trail by 8:00 am turned out to be a touch ambitious. I don’t know why everything always takes so much longer than I think it will. After stopping at the gas station for fuel and coffee, the supermarket for snacks and the bagel shop for, well, a bagel, I finally got to the Coxing trailhead a little after 9 o’clock. It was materially cooler than the day before, though, and overcast besides, so there were quite a few spaces left. I laced up my boots and headed out.
I decided to do a different loop than the one I’d planned the day before. Rather than head up into the woods from the west side of the Coxing Parking lot, I crossed Clove Road to hop onto the light blue-blazed Old Minnewaska Trail. The trail starts off as a sort of gravel road, then narrows into a footpath after three-quarters of a mile or so, when it crosses a little creek. The Old Minnewaska Trail is nice and flat and straight with beautiful views to the north. I also got to spy on some wildlife–a peregrine falcon soaring over the Rondout Valley, probably on the lookout for second breakfast.
About two miles from the start of the trail, I turned left onto the also light blue-blazed Undivided Lot trail. The start of this trail is one of the best overlooks on this loop. I stopped to enjoy the view for a few minutes, then continued on my way downhill–the trail descends steeply right out of the gate, then flattens out and pretty much stays that way. This is one of those trails in Mohonk Preserve that makes one wonder if visitors park their cars in the lots and then disapparate. There was not a soul around (although there is a random stone chimney out there as a reminder that this area was once farmed and quarried). I experienced a fleeting moment of something similar to but not exactly fear–more like an awareness of vulnerability–after another brief break for a snack at an overlook. Leaf-crunchy sounds in the underbrush to the left of the trail indicated either a large animal or a human was bushwhacking up the side of the mountain toward me. I quickened my pace and the sounds died away. A gentle reminder that you’re never alone in the woods.
A few minutes after that little scare I hung a right turn onto the red-blazed Clove Path. Here’s where it began to rain. Luckily, I had packed my rain shell and I got it on just in the nick of time. The rain didn’t last too long. It really cooled the air, though, which came in handy while I slogged up the surprisingly steep Clove Path. I should have known I’d have to pay for the steep downhill at the start of the Undivided Lot trail! The path is only about a quarter of a mile long but it makes you work for every yard. I finally reached the top and turned right onto the also red-blazed (and flat!) Plateau Path, followed by another right turn onto Laurel Ledge Road.
The hike devolved into a walk at this point. After approximately one mile, Laruel Ledge Road turns into Undercliff Road. If I’d wondered earlier where everybody was, the mystery was solved–they were on Undercliff Road, every one. I found a nice rock to sit on and rest while I enjoyed my rye bagel with veggie cream cheese and indulged in a bit of people-watching. Soon I was back on my way along Undercliff Road to the yellow-blazed West Trapps Connector Trail and a quick right turn onto red-blazed Shongum Path. Then it was just a quick flat straight 1-mile shot through the woods back to the Old Minnewaska Trail and the Coxing parking area where I’d started.
It was a good day out in the woods. If half of my route hadn’t been on carriageways, I’d have liked it a lot more. Overall, though, I had a lovely time out there and I can’t wait to check out some of the Prerserve’s other less-traveled trails.
Difficulty: Easy (the steep climb on Clove Path might nudge this up to moderate for some who don’t like hills at all)
Length: 8 miles
Elevation change: ~500 ft
Hiking Time: 4 hours
Training Grade: C
Enjoyment Grade: B+