Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Lake Minnewaska & Lake Awosting: Two Jewels in a Nearby Mountain Range.

The Magnificent Lake Minnewaska, on top of a mountain (looking northeast). The moon has risen, over the clouds.

There's this place I discovered many years ago. It's about 75 miles north of New York City, in the Shawangunk mountains--known locally as the Gunks. I know, gas prices and all, but it's worth the expense of getting there. If you like the outdoors, and the countryside, this is a great day trip. If you want to avoid the Throughway (and the tolls), from Rt 17 take Rt 208; it's a good alternative that goes through some nice areas and small villages.

These waterfalls run throughout the year, but in early Spring or after heavy rains, they swell. Many visitors miss this part of the park, but this means it's not crowded!

I've done a little camping in the Gunks, and further to the north, in the Catskills, though for the most part it's kinda rough. In the Minnewaska area I go mainly for biking or hiking in the woods. There are miles and miles for hiking, rock climbing, swimming, winter cross-country skiing, and other outdoor activities. I visit the area several times a year. It's nice to enjoy with company or without. But, if you bring someone along, make sure they like being in the outdoors and they can do without modern amenities for several hours.

A colleague of mine and I were making plans to go mountain biking up there back in early May when we heard that the area was "closed until further notice due to a fire activity." Some 3,000 acres had been burned. Darn.
So, I didn't know what to expect when I got to Lake Minnewaska this past Sunday, in mid-June. I went through the little town of New Paltz, up though the mountains and drove into the park. Everything looked as beautiful as ever. The blaze must've been on the other side of the mountain. Later, in the distance, I saw some brown patches amidst the lush green of the forest.

The weather was perfect, mostly sunny, not too hot or humid. I had a wonderful time biking from Lake Minnewaska to Lake Awosting. The latter is a bigger lake accessible only by a long hike or biking, so it doesn't get the crowds the former lake gets, especially on a busy weekend when the weather is nice.

Above, Lake Awosting's "beach area." Officially, swimming is only allowed when a lifeguard is present (that day until 5:30pm), but, you know, how can you resist? Quietly, we all enjoy the cool waters of this great lake, as needed, after a long walk or biking. Just watch for inclement weather, because it can change fast.

Below, the Awosting swimming area as seen looking down from a ridge. Some of the surrounding ridges are really high. Much of the paths in the park are near precipices. To the opposite side of the official swimming area, the fire took place, and the lower "Awosting carriageway" is closed. I don't know why, maybe there are fallen trees. That pathway is a fast one, several miles downhill to the lower parking lot by the entrance to the park.

There is an interesting story connected to the picture below. A few years back, I was caught in a thunderstorm and rode it out near where my bike is pictured. It was late in the afternoon, enjoying a swim in the lake when the weather changed too fast; OK, maybe I should have gotten out of the lake much sooner and headed back. I tried to bike out when the first raindrops fell, but soon I was caught by the storm. It was the first time that I was so exposed up in a mountain, in a severe storm, with lightning striking all over around me. Deafening noise, a strong smell of the ionized air, and blinding flashes. I figured if this is the end, I better enjoy it. Once I realized there was nothing I could do, I relaxed. The drenching rain was cool, refreshing, and familiarly soothing!...

I'm standing on a little beach where most people swim. It can be crowded and noisy until 6 pm; it's not a great spot to swim, except for the great views. Behind me you can see the stone house on the top. It belonged to the last owner of the land, before the land was acquired by New York state. That house hasn't been occupied in the last several years. Why, if this was my house, I'd live for ever.

Below one of the path connecting the two lakes. Not all of the paths are so wide or even.

There are also some interesting rock formations throughout.

Here is some more info on this area. Minnewaska State Park Preserve. And, the official NY State Parks Service. Below, the Gunks from a trip last Autumn.


Andros said...

I have many more pictures of this wonderful state preserve, but I think these give you a nice idea of the beauty of it.

By clicking on the pictures, you can open them in a bigger window. Feel free to download them.

Anonymous said...

hehehehe, i saw you there ;)

Anonymous said...

Nice! Maybe you shouldn't advertise it too much for obvious reasons.

Yep, I'm selfish....

Anonymous said...


Beautiful photos and some interesting
stories - thank you for sharing all - My two adult sons and myself (old proud Dad) plan a hike to Awosting this weekend 8/15

Andros said...

Make sure you get a trail map at the gate or the rangers' station up by the lake (Minnewaska) because there are several trails.

Enjoy the day and happy trails!

Anonymous said...

great pictures!! You captured it really well.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, George. This is that "heaven on earth" spot I still dream about. I worked at a summer camp at this lake a very long time ago. I am searching for anyone who remembers Camp Laurel.

Anonymous said...

I attended Camp Laurel on Lake Awosting for 4 years, 1962-65. No place on earth has ever left a deeper impression: wild blueberries, pine barrens, rustic cabins and John Harrison's pancakes. I was heartbroken when the camp moved to Maine because I didn't want it to ever be anywhere else.