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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Here in the Valley, pedal pushers have the best of both cycling worlds. The region is chockablock with scenic country roads that are perfect for an outing of any length, from a few miles to a full century (that’s a 100-mile ride, in cycling lingo). The more adventurous can head for the hills and try mountain biking — an exhilarating sport in which riders maneuver their way along dirt roads and trails, which can be of varying degrees of technical difficulty (measured by the number of rocks, roots, switchbacks, steep descents, and other obstacles encountered along the way).
“Everybody loves riding a bike. It makes you feel like a kid again,” says Pete Nimmer, a board member of the Fats in the Cats Bicycle Club. Contrary to what you might think, mountain biking isn’t “what you see in those Mountain Dew commercials, with bikers jumping off cliffs and doing tricks. That’s not what we do,” says Nimmer. “We’re just people who like to ride our bikes in the woods. And it’s no more dangerous than riding on the road — even less so, because you don’t have any cars to deal with.”
Fats in the Cats — whose 200 members range in age from 13 to 70-plus — organizes group trail rides and offers skills clinics for new mountain bikers. “Our Tuesday evening rides are beginner-friendly,” says Nimmer. “And we will tailor a ride to your skill level.” Their Web site (www.fatsinthecats.com) hosts online forums so riders can connect with each other for outings, and includes a map — with detailed terrain descriptions — of 21 trail-riding areas in the Valley. With its wide carriage trails, Minnewaska State Park Preserve in New Paltz is “fantastic for a beginner,” says Nimmer. “It’s one of the best places to ride in the state.”
If you haven’t been on a bike since grade school, though, riding on one of the area’s many rail trails is a good way to get back in the groove. The Wallkill Valley Rail Trail in Ulster County — which traverses orchards, forests, and open fields — offers fabulous views of the Shawangunk Ridge. Beginners (and experienced riders too) can take part in two upcoming local events. The Harlem Valley Rail Ride (July 25) in Millerton leads riders along the rail trail in northern Dutchess and southern Columbia counties. And the brand-new Discover Hudson Valley Ride (Aug. 22) includes routes through Rhinebeck, Hyde Park, and across the Walkway Over the Hudson (www.bikenewyork.org).
Need a bike or other gear? Local cycle shop Bikeway (with locations in Mahopac and Wappingers Falls) offers new and used bikes as well as rentals; they also organize group rides and can provide contact info for area bike clubs (www.bikeway.com).