Storm King has become my favorite local trek this season. It’s less crowded than Mt. Beacon, and doesn’t start with a steep set of stairs, which lends to a prettier hike. The trade-off for the peace and quiet is that it requires crossing the Newburgh-Beacon bridge and a longer drive.
A few weeks ago I had a long day at work but the last hours of daylight were calling to me to make use of them before going home. I decided to cross over to Storm King and get in a quick hike. It was a Saturday, so there were a few cars at the pull-off on 9W. In all my hikes on Storm King, I had only bumped into one other pair of hikers, but the number of cars suggested today would be different.
I threw my trail runners in my pack and set off. The loop I take starts off on the Orange trail and immediately starts climbing a small rock face to get started. One would think that rocky terrain would be cause for concern with bare feet, but I have grown to especially love bouldering and scrambling with no shoes. Almost immediately after beginning my ascent, I passed a woman coming down with trekking poles. We exchanged hellos and I continued up.
Part of acclimation to hiking with no footwear is learning how to watch your footing on a new level, while still watching the trail. It requires scanning the pace or two ahead of you to know what your foot is landing on. On rock, the lack of shoes allows for a better grip. There is less slipping and friction, and as you climb the rocks your feet feel like they are molding perfectly to the surface below them.
Butter Hill is the actual summit on the hike, and you reach it after a serious of beautiful overlooks that allow you views of the road below, which shrinks as you ascend higher and higher. After visiting Butter Hill, the trail meanders across the mountain towards the northern points. There was a patch of trail covered in glass shards by the remains of a stone outbuilding, and I thew my shoes on for the 25 paces or so to safety. The next section of the trail was made of packed earth and easy to traverse with no shoes. I passed an entire family out for a day in nature. The most populated visit to the mountain ever!
The northern end of the loop has a number of overlooks, and it’s easy to think you’ve achieved the greatest view only to be bested a few more yards down the trail. The views are amazing at all of them though – the Hudson River opens up in front you to the north and you can view Bannerman’s castle and the bustling river traffic.
The northern most overlook is a rocky field that affords an excellent picnic spot and a spectacular view of Breakneck Ridge and Mt. Taurus. Normally this would be where I sat down for a while, crammed Clif bars and almonds into my mouth, and took lots of photos. I was worried that I would be cutting it close to dark on my descent down the other side of the mountain, so I paused briefly and hustled on.
A few moments after the break, the white trail picks up to lead you back to your car. The descent down the mountain is pretty easy. There were a few points in the descent where I was setting my feet down a little unsure, but ultimately only banged my ankle bone once. There are some very cool trees to look at on this side of the mountain, and a few more decent views of the landscape around. The sound of route 9w gets louder as you hike closer and closer to your starting point. I also noticed on this trek that the markers for the white trail had recently been repainted.
The very last leg of the journey is a minor climb up a rocky hill. There’s an abandoned washing machine and some other scraps around, which always makes me sad as I climb up. Once you hit the top of the hill, you’re back at the trail head and your car.
I hiked the entire loop in an hour and twenty minutes. I enjoy meandering along trails and hiking to relax and immerse myself in nature. This afternoon of hiking was a workout, as I pushed myself and didn’t stop other than briefly. While not as relaxing, I felt awesome physically and accomplished once I completed the trek.