Sunday, November 4, 2007

Camping at Denning's Point

Beautiful sunset-colored views from Denning's Point.

Since I've been camping with experienced campers and I've been wanting to get away, I decided to take charge and organize my own trip. After getting three other people—Josh, Sarah and Tyler—to come along and picking our location and game plan—Denning's Point by way of the MetroNorth and walking—and we were off.

Originally, I had planned to catch the 8:51 a.m. train out of Grand Central Saturday morning, but after Josh reminded me about the party we were attending the night before, I changed my mind. Sarah, Josh and I met at the clock at Grand Central at noon, with plans to catch the 12:51 p.m. train out to Beacon. Tyler, who was running late, just made the train. The trip was off to a perfect start.

The way to Denning's Point.

Arriving at Cold Spring at 2:15, we exited the station and looked for the best way onto the tracks without attracting too much attention to ourselves. Reaching the end of the parking lot, we slipped through the end of the fence and walked through brush until we reached the open space of the MetroNorth railroad tracks. We followed the main tracks and then continued onto what seemed to be an abandoned line that headed to our right.

Making our way to the Hudson.

All I had to direct me was the map Rob drew for me, pointing out how to get to Denning's Point via railroad tracks and where our proposed campsites and a creek lined with abandoned factories. Somehow, we made it to Denning's Point, with a sign about no winter camping greeting us. Making a left, we found ourselves off the trail and along the coast. Though the views were gorgeous, we had to duck through low branches with huge bags and step gingerly on slippery rocks. After walking this way for a while, we finally reached our camp site. Granted, it was the second of the two Rob pointed out to us, but this site was better because it avoided the wind.

The view from our campsite.

Looking across, we could see the flat factories of Newburgh against the foliage of the rising mountains behind it. In the foreground, the Hudson lapped at the sand beach beneath our feet. Rocks provided the perfect sitting place. We were surrounded by plenty of firewood. There was a little nook that led up the trail that became home to our tents, despite the ground being uneven, we made do somehow. Setting up our tents took a while, because the purple "party tent" was huge, had no stakes and weren't sure where all the sticks went through, but it was done. After unpacking and repacking the backpack, we were off to explore.

The factory.

First stop: abandoned warehouse near the beginning of the trail. To get inside, we made our way through an opening in the fence and through thorns, taking it like the brave souls we were. Inside, the factory's first floor was basically empty—with the exception of tagged walls, plants and a hanging rope in the middle which Tyler made use of by swinging around and climbing up. After exploring the rooms filled with debris, our attentions wandered to the staircase outside. The entrance to the staircase was locked, but we decided to climb into the staircase by way of broken windows. Alas, we couldn't get into the second floor because of another locked door.

Pile of logs.

Outside of the factory, there were many, many piles: bricks, logs, bigger logs, rusted metal, random machinery and packs of fertilizer. Heading east after looking through the piles, we found ourselves on the MetroNorth tracks again. Going south, we eventually found our way to what I assume was Fishkill Creek. Rob said there were more abandoned factories along its shores, but we weren't up to it. Instead, we sat atop a jutting block of metal and looked at the marsh and foliage under the sunset-soaked skies.

Sunset over Denning's Point.

Since it was getting dark, we headed back to our campsite and started our fire. After a shaky start, the fire burned bright and strong. Josh started cooking our dinner: cheeseburgers, and Tyler provided our beverages: beer, and we had water from before. Talking, eating and smoking, we kept the fire going until around 10 p.m. where we doused the fire with the Hudson and off to bed we went.

Now, I'm not normally a paranoid person, but the combination of being out there alone without anyone else, all the noises of nature and a little indulgence earlier makes me extremely suspicious. Among the rustling of the leaves and lapping of the water, I swear I heard something brush by. My first thought was, of course, a crazy man with a knife, maybe that man with the poodle we kept passing by the day before. Josh heard the same noise and I made him go check, with the headlamp and knife, but he couldn't find anything. On the beach the next morning, we found animal prints. Later on, Sarah saw a deer wandering up the trail.

Animal prints. See, I'm not crazy!

Pouring out the apple-coffee.

We celebrated the morning with a breakfast of slice apples on bagels and apple coffee (Tyler's invention). Packing up, we headed out to our next adventure: (possibly) Breakneck Ridge and the Cold Spring MetroNorth station.

Hudson thinkin', with Bannerman in the background.

Thus began our railroad hike. We passed by Fishkill Creek again, found a dead goose, wondered at Bannersman Island a.k.a. Poppell Island (the next site of an upcoming adventure?), explored a pipe, tried stuffing the huge sleeping bag in an abandoned suitcase with no luck, threw and kicked rocks into the Hudson and became accustomed to the hissing sound of the rails before the trains passed by.

Breakneck Ridge stop.

Finally, we reached an overhead bridge where a man told us we were at Breakneck Ridge. We sat by the makeshift platform (the stop is used primarily for hikers such as ourselves) and decided what to do next. Being too tired from our trek so far, we decided to continue onto Cold Spring.

That hike seemed to take forever. We seemed to pass by more people—hikers from Breakneck I guessed—and soon the 9D joined the railroad tracks. Because we assumed the parking lot up ahead was the Cold Spring station, we left the tracks and our feet felt the kiss of smooth pavement. To our dismay, however, it wasn't the station, but the Stony Point State Park instead. We still had awhile to go, but at least we were near Cold Spring.

Walking through Cold Spring, I could understand its appeal—small town village with cute stores and streets—but I couldn't understand why we passed by so many tourists. After walking towards the Hudson and walking through an underground passageway, we finally, finally reached the Cold Spring station, just missing a train, but it didn't matter.

Getting on the crowded train, Josh, Tyler and I made ourselves comfortable on the floor while Sarah sat in the seat across from us. We took naps and anticipated our next meal: McDonalds, which we ate as soon as we got out of Grand Central. Our stomachs filled with well-earned Angus burgers and French fries, we departed home.

Thanks to Rob for: helping me pick out the location, showing off his cartography by drawing me my extremely trusty map, lending me his backpack, stove, fuel and pots, opening Pier 40 for me at the last minute and just general helping me out. Thanks to Josh for helping me buy everything, figure out the food situation, cook and help me carry stuff. And thanks to Adam and Sam for lending us tents, sleeping bags, headlight and knives.

Check out our route here.

The trusty map Rob drew me.

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