Exploring the Bear Mountain Trails

BM Trail Exploration 20160508 (1)

15+ miles. Numbered markers with corresponding pictures below.

Sunday. May 8, 2016.

15+ miles covered exploring the Bear Mountain trails.  Ok – I didn’t really plan to cover this distance.  It just happened because I kept on intentionally making myself lost in the trails.  This was my first time exploring these trails and I only had the Avenza PDF Map App as my guide, which served me well.  The plan was to go back to Bear Mountain and re-trace the trail leading back to Timp Pass, the last steep climb in the TNF ECS BM event I did on April 30th.  I wanted to have a picture of that climb, then and now. ‘Then’ – but my smartphone died; ‘Now’ – with fresh legs and a point-and-shoot camera.

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01. View of Bear Mountain from the parking lot.

I parked at the Bear Mountain Inn ($10 parking fee).  With my backpack loaded with 4 water bottles (2 with my tailwind+carbopro mix), a bar, some nuts, and my-supposedly-tuna-wrap-lunch, off I started the trek around 12NN.  I went to the trail head at the back of the Inn, south-end of Hessian Lake, and followed the White trail (AT-Appalachian Trail).  It was a long stretch of stone steps going up.  I didn’t know where these steps lead to – I just kept going.  At some point, there was a sign that says ‘To Inn’ and ‘To Tower’.  I was not going back to the Inn yet, and Tower?  ‘What Tower?’.  So I just followed the sign going up to the Tower.  More climbing and then there it was – the ‘Tower’.  It turned out to be the Perkins Memorial Tower.  This is our summit stop when doing our Bear Mountain bike rides!!!  This time, I appreciated the scenic views, and took pictures.

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02. Tower summit bench and viewport from the trail.

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02. Perkins Tower summit.

‘Where to next?’.  I looked at my digital map.  I could re-trace the trail back to the Inn, or keep following the White trail south going to the West Mountain section, one sign says.  ‘What’s in the West Mountain section?’.  So I continued to follow the White trail.  The trail from Perkins was a descent, some steep, some runnable.  My backpack was not designed for active running when loaded.  I was grasping the straps when running and hopping on the trail to minimize the bounce.  Still on the White trail, I crossed the Seven Lakes Drive road, back to the woods, and started climbing again, intersecting with the Red (77W) trail briefly, back to White, until the White/Blue (AT/TT-Timp Torne) trail.  This would lead to the West Mountain vantage point.  The end of White/Blue trail would be another good vantage point.

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03. AT trail vantage point. Nice crater-like boulder.

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04. AT-TT vantage point. Perkins Tower on the other side.

‘Where to next?  White goes there, Blue goes there…  Hmmm, I’m lucky with White.  Keep going White’.  It was a rocky descent.  After the descent, I looked at my map – this section was not in the map and/or covered by the map legend.  ‘I think I’m going the wrong way’.  Saw 2 hikers and asked.  ‘Yup, you need to go back’.  Hiked back up that rocky section, until I was back at the vantage point in the White/Blue trail.  ‘Ok, let’s follow the Blue trail this time’.  The Blue trail intersects with the Yellow (Suffern-BM) trail – which leads back to Bear Mountain area.  I kept on following the Blue trail.  There was a shelter on the Blue trail – which I found out later, after Google search, is the West Mountain Shelter.  There was a guy with a tent – either he has already spent the night, or planning to.  I stopped and asked a few questions.  He said it’s ok to stay overnight in the area, no permit needed.  ‘Hmmm, perhaps I could stay overnight here one day?’.  After some more descents and ascents, I hit another vantage point. ‘What summit is this?’.  Some quick pictures and continued on, mindful of the time.

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05. TT trail descent.

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06. TT vantage point – very windy here.  What summit is this?

Continued on the Blue trail until it intersected with the Red (RD-Ramapo-Dunderberg) trail.  From the map, RD then intersects with 77 (1777) trail. ***** I thought I would hit the Timp Pass on 77 leading back to Bear Mountain – which would turn out to be wrong! *****.  At the intersection of RD and 77, I made the decision to continue on to the RD trail up to Bald Mountain. ‘I’m already here, might as well go up Bald Mountain quickly and come back at this intersection’.  More views from Bald Mountain – another good view of the Perkins Tower from this summit.  Took some more pictures and headed back to the RD/77 junction.

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07. Bald Mountain summit. Perkins Tower visible from here as well.

Back at the RD/77 junction, ‘Ok, just follow 1777 and at some point you’ll hit Timp Pass’, I told myself.  The 1777 trail was wide and flat.  ‘Hmmm, I don’t remember this in the TNF ECS BM course.  I think I missed a section that would lead me to Timp Pass.  Should I go back somewhere and try to find it?’.  It was past 5PM at this point.  It was a little late to explore so I decided to just follow the trail.  The 1777 trail hits the old settlement of Doodletown.  A little sight seeing on this trail, some landmarks and signs where the old homes used to be.  Kept on 1777, then 77E.  One last quick detour on 77E and followed the path and sound to a ‘Cascading Waterfall’, the sign says.  More like a ‘Cascading Stream’, I’d say.  Walked back to the trail and followed 77E to the Bear Mountain playground/parking/starting point.

 

 

It was 6PM when I finished the hike.  Took my shoes off, walked on the grass barefoot.  I would have taken everything off and played on the grassy playground, BUT just-add-what-you-think-if-i-have-done-this…

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10.  End of exploration

My tuna-wrap lunch became my dinner, while resting before heading home.  First time exploring the BM trails done, and I really enjoyed the experience.

Post-Hike.  I reviewed the trails I took, plus internet googleing, to find out how I missed the trail to Timp Pass.  It was on the Blue (TT) trail, intersecting with the Red Cross (red cross on white blaze) trail.  This is not marked on the map.  It appears as dashed crimson trail, which the map legend describes as Unmarked Trail.  I saw this intersection, but didn’t know that this was the trail to Timp Pass.  Oh well, next time perhaps.

Till then.

Avenza PDF Maps App

avenza pdf maps app

Another positive review on a product I use – because it works!  This one I’d consider a necessity for exploring trails, especially when going solo.  This is for the the Avenza PDF Maps Mobile App, available for Android and iOS smartphones.  I have this on my phone, plus the digital maps of the trails I wanted to explore.  One of the maps I have is the Bear Mountain Trail Map (detailed information and maps from NY State Parks site).  Last Sunday, I explored the Bear Mountain trails relying on the information I’ve read on the web and the digital map on my phone.  The trails are well marked, but I would not recommend not having a map or guide to explore these trails, or any unfamiliar trails in this matter.  I ‘intentionally’ made myself lost in Sunday’s hike, covering 15 miles of different trails, looking for amazing views to see and this guide brought me back to where I started safely.  Again, a must have app on your phone.

TNF Endurance Challenge – Bear Mountain

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Saturday – April 30, 2016.

Synopsis.  I’ve done this last year.  I’ve forgotten how difficult it was.  Now, I remember.

The Event – Overview.  The TNF ECS Bear Mountain is one of the events in The North Face Endurance Challenge Series.  It is ranked as one that has the most difficult and technically challenging course.  There are 4 races in today’s event – the 50M (which started at 5am), the 50K (this event), the Marathon and Marathon-Relay (which starts at a later time).

Weather.  Saturday’s weather was pleasant and comfortable – cool temps, calm winds, and not a single drop of rain.  It would be a perfect day to ‘hike’ up and ‘fly’ down the hills of Bear Mountain.

Goal.  The goal this year was more aggressive than last year’s.  I wanted to beat my previous time on the same course.  By how much? – By a big margin.  This is not bragging, BTW.  Mentally and physically, I was better prepared this year.  Only the official results would tell whether this would be true or not.

Gear.  Nothing special.  Shorts and last year’s NJMarathon long sleeves shirt, Drymax Max Trail socks, plus Hoka Speedgoat.  And the Ultimate Direction hydration vest with 2 bottles.

Nutrition.  I have been using Tailwind for quite sometime now, both on my runs and bike rides.  2 scoops of Tailwind per bottle, which is about 200cal.  However, on long runs and rides, I get hungry with just this.  So I added a scoop of CarboPro per bottle, making it about 300cal per bottle.  I have tested this mixture and it seemed to work.  Today, I have 2 bottles with Tailwind+CarboPro mix, plus 3/bottle pre-measured mix in Lansinoh Breastmilk storage bags.  Jumping to the post-event experience, this worked.  I only took small bites of potatoes and pbj sandwiches plus water at the aid stations.  No gels, no chews, no salt pills.  Finished the event with no upset stomach, no bloating, no cramps.

The Event – Actual.  At 7am, the 50K race started.  I was at the back of the pack, the last wave, with some friends.  This is a typical scenario for us in almost all events we do – starting at the back of the pack.  It’s a more relaxed position to start the race.  Your chip time is not going to change anyway whether you start first or you start last.  With a more aggressive goal this time, however, I started to pick up the pace early, weaving between runners, until the string of runners ahead became thin.  The course, true to its ranking on the TNF ECS website, is very technical.  I’ll try to breakdown the course from what and how I remember it.

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TNF ECS BM 50K Elevation Chart

The first 4 miles leading to the 1st aid station, I’d call the ‘Introduction to Trail Running’.  Not so technical, but mostly going uphill, with some wide sections to pass runners.  I tried to pass as many runners as I could to avoid the crowd in the single track and technical sections up ahead.  Btw, this is the Anthony Wayne aid station, the same aid station @ Mile 21 for the 50K, and @ Mile 41 for the 50M runners.  This is also the parking area for the shuttle pickup in the morning.  There’s a huge crowd of supporters here – big moral boost to runners especially on the way back to the finish later.

Some single track and technical sections followed the aid station.  I don’t remember much until the aid station @ Mile 14 – Arden Valley AS #3.  But I do know that we started to hit some hiking sections of the course, some ankle-twisting descents, and more technical ascents.  It was also a steep climb on road surface to the Mile 14 aid station.  Saw some friends doing volunteer work in this aid station.  The aid station was followed by a big dip downhill on road surface, where I blurted out loud ‘Woohoo, 16 miles of downhill‘, which got some laughter from fellow runners.  The reality was, this downhill dip was immediately followed by the opposite dip uphill, then a turn back to the woods and technical trail.  We got a breather on mile 16 with a nice trail downhill for what seemed like I was finally running the course.  And as I passed a runner I was with on that Mile 14 downhill, I said ‘So it’s not 16 miles of downhill.  It’s Mile 16 IS downhill‘.  He laughed.  I did not get his bib number, but he was one of the runners that kept yoyo-ing with me.  I would pass him, and he would pass me – again and again.  He looked like a badass trail runner, with lean body, long hair, and rugged beard.

Just a little over 4hrs of running, I was back at the Anthony Wayne aid station – AS #5.  Last year, I got a false impression when I reached this aid station, thinking that the last 10 miles would be a smooth way back to the finish.  Just 10 miles back to the finish, I remember saying then.  This time, I knew better.  The next aid station was at Mile 25+, which was mostly going back up the forest trail.  This, however, was not the course killer.  At the Mile 25 aid station – Queensboro AS #6, the volunteers would give you the most encouraging words, ‘Just 5+ miles to go‘ and the most discouraging words at the same time, ‘Steep and rocky section up ahead‘.  There was another aid station just about 2+ miles away.  From that, someone would sense that something gnarly is up ahead.  Why would there be an aid station 2+ miles apart so close to the finish?  And then, there it was – the ‘Crawl If You Must’ ascent-to-Mt-Doom, followed by the ‘Ouch, Ouch, Ouch’ rocky descent-back-to-sanity.  I brought my smartphone with me and stashed in my hydration vest’s back compartment, hoping to capture one picture to best describe the course.  While walking on this steep climb, I said ‘This is it’.  I took the phone out to snap a picture of the steep climb, only to find out the phone WAS DEAD!  Darn!  That would have been an interesting FB Cover Page!

There was a sigh of relief upon reaching the last aid station at Mile 28 – 1777 AS #7, with only 2.8 miles to go, according to the volunteers.  I was hiking up and jogging down the remaining miles.  The mantra I had all this time was asking myself and responding in return – ‘All Systems Go’.  At this point, the response was ‘All Systems Go – legs are tired, but functional’.  This section was also the section I saw the Marathon and Marathon-Relay runners, as they passed me like I was just standing still.  And I asked another question – How could they run that fast?

Finally, I heard the festivities at the finish.  I was almost home.  I never felt more alive when I saw the Finish Line arch.  One final kick and I was done.  TNF ECS BM 50K done.  Thank You.

Results.  Last Year = 6:56:29.  This Year = 6:15:06.  Goal achieved.

Post-Event.  The atmosphere at the finish was a big picnic.  Runners, volunteers, supporters, friends were all having a blast.  There were lots of picnic tables and wide grassy area to hang out and rest.  Free beers for the runners, of course.  I stayed and hang out with friends after I finished.  Saw those who finished before me, grabbed our free beers, and waited.  Finally, happy to see the others who crossed the line after me.  And at the end of the day, I was already planning to come back next year.  TNF ECS BM 50M, you say?