The dog days of summer may be upon us, but don’t let the heat and humidity stop you from enjoying the great outdoors here in the Valley. Looking for a low-key outing? Take a hike or a bike ride, or perhaps a sail on the Hudson. Need a little more excitement? How about tubing, rock climbing — or skydiving? No matter what thrill level you seek, these 10 invigorating excursions are guaranteed to get your heart racing
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Go Take A Hike
From a leisurely ramble along Poet’s Walk in Red Hook to the heart-pounding ascent up Breakneck Ridge in Cold Spring, the Valley offers hundreds — perhaps even thousands — of hiking trails. “I’ve been leading two hikes a week for four years,” says Lalita Malik, chair of the Mid-Hudson Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club. “I don’t know how many hikes that works out to, but we haven’t had a repeat yet.”
Some local areas suitable for an afternoon’s jaunt spring immediately to mind: the 46,000-plus acres of Harriman State Park in Orange and Rockland counties, which is renowned for its 31 lakes and 200 miles of trails; the side-by-side Shawangunk preserves — Minnewaska and Mohonk — with their sky-high views of the mid-Hudson and beyond; and (for serious climbers) those famed peaks in the Catskill Park. But there are loads of less populous — and strenuous — spots to exercises the leg muscles. Try strolling the grounds of Olana, Montgomery Place, Mills Mansion, Locust Grove, or any of the other historic sites in the region (most of which include carriage roads or easy-to-navigate trails). The recently opened Roosevelt Farm Lane in Hyde Park — a short woodland route that connects FDR’s Springwood estate with Eleanor Roosevelt’s Val-Kill retreat — is just one of 33 parks operated by the environmental group Scenic Hudson. (Check out www.scenichudson3.org/parks/special/parks2.htm for trail maps and other details about all of the sites they maintain.) Just over the state border in Massachusetts, a half-mile saunter along a babbling creek offers a huge reward to hikers: the stupendous view of iconic Bash Bish Falls, at 60 feet the Bay State’s highest waterfall (and a popular subject of the Hudson River School painters). Malik, who most enjoys ridge hikes, offers a laundry list of favorites including the Undercliff/Overcliff loop in the Mohonk Preserve, and certain sections of the Appalachian Trail (89 miles of which run through Putnam, Dutchess, and Orange counties).
Hiking is really nothing more than taking a walk in the woods. But because we’re more accustomed to walking on pavement — not dirt, rocks, sand, leaves, and the like — hikers must be careful with their footing to avoid trips and falls. It goes without saying that a pair of good, sturdy shoes are a must. Besides plenty of water, Malik recommends carrying a map and a compass “and knowing how to use them.” Most importantly, “know your limits,” she says. “Turn back if you start to feel overly tired. The best destination is not the top of the mountain, but your car at the end of the day.”
Accompanying experienced hikers on a short outing is the perfect way to learn the ropes. Malik’s group offers a year-round series of hikes for those new to hiking, or who prefer a leisurely pace (check www.midhudsonadk.org for details). And older readers might enjoy tagging along with the Wappinger Walkers Club, which organizes Saturday excursions to historic sites and other regional locales from March through mid-November.