The Shawangunk Mountain range is the northern end of a ridge of the Appalachian Mountains which begin in Virginia (North Mountain), goes through Pennsylvania (Blue Mountain) , turns into the Kittatinny Mountains in New Jersey which then becomes the Shawangunk Mountains (or Gunks as it is locally called) as it crosses the New York State Line. The Gunks are known as the rock climbing capital of the East, because of the intense rock faces that adorn the mountain, as a result of the Ice Age glacier formations. The landscape is often breathtaking, with multiple ledges, cliffs, amazing clear mountain top lakes, and rare vegetation species. Many parks and preserves make up the area, most notably and well known being Minnewaska State Park and Mohonk Preserve (and the famous hotel, Mohonk Mountain House).
While rock climbing takes much skill and lessons, and with two kids in tow...pretty much impossible. A great alternative in the area is what is called "rock scrambling". This was our second venture with the kids rock scrambling, the first at Mohonk called the "lemon squeeze" , but our son was too young at the time and had to bail with my husband early on in the trail. My daughter loved it so much and was very eager to try this venture again, so we did some research and found the trail called "Bonticou Crag" . With an elevation gain of nearly 1,200 feet and a distance of 3.5 miles, we strapped on our packs and set forth. A nice, moderate trail leads you for a mile meandering through quiet forest. Of course, we were greeted with mulitple "are we there yet" as we awaited to see the rock faced cliffs we were about to embrace. Luckily the "are we there yet" is just a little more tolerable when we are all relaxed, excited, and filling our bodies with fresh air.
Just as we neared the mile mark, white cliffs started to appear peaking against the green that had been guiding our path. A collaborative "ahhhhhhhhhh" escaped our mouths. Followed closely by a "!@#$$%" that escaped my mouth as my mother instincts kicked in when I glanced straight up to what seemed like an endless landscape of rock, cliffs, and sky...how the hell were we going to do this with kids??!! Luckily we knew from our other experience that my daughter was quite skilled at this and was nicknamed "spider monkey" by a couple she amazed with her stealth rock scramble skills two years ago. Our five year old was going to be another story. Amazingly with my husband hovering over his every move he proved he was a little spider monkey in the making. Up we climbed, limb over limb, rock over rock. Carefully, skillfully, and a lot of praying on my end and finally to the apex we landed....amazing is the only word that comes to mind. I will let the pictures tell the story, because to understand it, is to see it.
|Getting on our way! Always need a good hiking stick!|
|We made it to the base! Mommy starts to panic!|
|We are going to climb up THIS?|
|Only one way up...|
|"Spider Monkey" getting excited!|
|Taking a break...|
Beautiful...yes this is New York!!!!
|The Gibbons' Kids Success!! At the top!!|
|THIS RIGHT HERE IS WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT!!!|
Back at the bottom people make little rock sculptures, a little creepy but cool at the same time. The kids made their own too!
This was a family hike I will never forget...it was the perfect mixture of excitement, peacefulness, adventure, terror (!) and family bonding at its best. I think all of us finished fully understanding why an "Active Life is a Happy Life"
For more information on the different trails the Catskills and the Shawagunks have to offer visit:
Shawangunk Ridge: site dedicated to preserving the ridge, nice site that has a lot of information on the area
Books: "Best Hikes For Children: Catskill & Hudson River Valley"