Some of us are brave, fearless souls. We seek our hiking in places where we must do more than walk, and we relish in the hands-and-feet experience of a level 8 trek. These are the strong among us, and they include Lindsay Charlop and Sean Keller.
This past Sunday, these two brave gods among men braved the Bonticou Crag, located in the scenic Mohonk Preserve. This challenging but incredibly rewarding hike exists not far from Vassar: a hop skip and a jump across the Mid-Hudson bridge, a gallivant on 9 West North to 299 West, and a jaunt through New Paltz. Travel in the transportation system of your choice until you reach the Preserve. There is public parking, and though technically it is paid parking, an inside source has reported that on the weekends there is rarely anyone around to collect a parking fee: aka free parking!
There is about a 20 minute hike to get to the crag, not including the time spent climbing the actual rock feature (which is, of course, half the battle). The quest to the crag and then to the top is rewarding in more ways than one, however, as the hike back does not take nearly as long. You can travel both up and down the rock scramble in order to reach the crag, but for those less adventurous or just afraid of heights, there is a winding trail which travels along the back of the crag and leads to the top as well.
So what is this “rock scramble” thing I keep mentioning? Well, a rock scramble is, in simplest terms, a pile of rocks up which you scramble in order to achieve a smashing view and/or some personal pleasure and/or spiritual fulfillment. Just like the fulfillment you receive after hiking Bonticou Crag!
The crag is a popular sunrise hike spot, due to the incredible views one achieves from what is by all intents and purposes not a terribly awful climb. However, though the temptation is high to make it a popular sunset spot as well, it is imperative to hike the trail with enough time to get back before dark. Because this valiant point is a crag, it is by definition necessary to see where one is going (see: Breakneck Ridge). For similar reasons, hiking shoes or other grippy materials on one’s feet are a must. To go up and down the rock scrambling portion and follow the crag trail takes around two hours or so, which included stopping quite a bit to enjoy the scenery. Said Lindsay, “it was quite beautiful!”
On the rocks themselves, yellow paint lines blaze the trail for hikers, indication of the safest path for hikers. Take caution if you go in autumn: the leaves on the lower rocks obscure these marks on occasion. However, receive solace in the fact that these leaves, though a nuisance, are stunningly beautiful: much like the view from the top I keep mentioning.
If you face out over the crag, the view is straight west: the sunset can be seen straight ahead. You can see quite a ways on either side, as the top is a sort of platform formed by rocks: because of this, the opposite side of the crag faces due east and frames the sunrise miraculously. In fact, the seeing extends in nearly all directions; some views to the southeast are obscured, but aside from this you can see all around you. It is a great place for a picnic at the top, but if you bring anything be warned: it must be in a backpack. A consequence of the climbing endeavor necessary to reach the literal pinnacle awaiting you at the top, attempting to carry a bad will only make the trek difficult and dangerous. However, don’t let this deter you for bringing adequate water supplies, as the hike is relatively strenuous: a water bottle and a camera are a must. Similarly, it would not be a good place for anyone with knee problems or other physical issues. Be aware that in places you really need to pull yourselves up the rocks, flexing those muscles and experiencing the upper body strength you never knew you had.
So, is all this work worth it? The hike, the climb, the return trip?
Yes, sweet reader. This is easily the most rewarding type of hiking experience one will ever have; by scrambling up rocks, you go from a ground level looking up view to a sweeping landscape of beauty in less than 10 minutes. For an aspiring rock climber or hiking enthusiast who loves a good scenic view, there is no better place than Bonticou Crag to visit on a relaxing autumn day.