Saturday, May 11, 2013

Ramapo Reservation. Mahwah, New Jersey. A Great Place for a Family Outing.

Last Saturday, I drove up to Suffern, New York expecting to be part of a group hike in an area known as the Ramapo Highlands. Instructions sent to me via email in the days prior stipulated that I wait at the junction of Route 59 and Route 202. 

Arrived early, and waited for an hour. By 12 noon, my enthusiasm petered out. I came to the conclusion that the hike had somehow been cancelled without notice, or that I was at the wrong place. There was no mistaking the corner of Routes 202 and 59, and so it must be the former. Pretty shabby performance, I thought, considering that the New York - North Jersey Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) organized the hike. Could they be so nonchalant about dropping a group hike that was advertised on their website? Incredible.

Days later, upon inquiry, I found out that the group met a block away where the bus from NYC stopped. Alright, that seemed like one of those insider information thingies. The regulars might find it quite obvious, but it wasn't so clear to this newcomer. I did see some people at the bus stop, but none of the usual tell-tale signs--- hiking boots, hats, knapsacks and poles. I assumed they were commuters. And so the opportunity slipped away. Fortunately, I had a Plan B.

I drove South on Route 202, passed Ramapo College on the left, and came to what is known as the Ramapo Reservation. This place came to my attention when I was searching online for places to camp without driving more than two hours from home. Supposedly, there are a few tent sites at the reservation, but I didn't see any during my meanderings at the place. 

I might have been stood up by the AMC but that turned out to be serendipitous. I found a great place to hike, bucolic but not remote, easily accessible by car, but quiet. Believe it or not, dogs are allowed. The last of the good guys, you might say. And dogs galore it was! I highly recommend it to dog owners. If you don't have a dog in tow at the reservation, you're the odd man out.

First up, on your left, as you enter the reservation from the parking lot, is this stream which is stocked with fish. There were several fly fishermen at work at that time and if you look closely at my photograph below you'd see one in a blue vest just beyond the beach on the right (Click on the photo to enlarge it).

I mentioned the fisherman only as a matter of composition. I am, in no way, advocating fly fishing. As an animal rights advocate, I am against all forms of animal hunting. All animals, including fishes, value their existence. They may not express it in the same way we do, but they will fight for their lives if needed.

Diagonally across this stream lies the Scarlet Oak Pond. I didn't carefully investigate the area if Scarlet Oak actually grew around the pond, but that's the name they gave it. Usually, it follows. That's why I avoid the Rattlesnake Swamp Trail in Warren County, New Jersey. Get it? You can hike around the Scarlet Oak Pond on an easy-going trail under an hour. No sweat.

It was a beautiful Spring day when I went to the reservation. You can see it from the photographs. The main trail that led to the McMillan Reservoir was wide and smooth, like a carriage road. People packed the reservation including a large group shepherded by a rather boisterous old fart. Some hikers took this hike too seriously. They donned wide-brimmed hats, carried full knapsacks, hiking boots and poles. Some don't prepare enough; some are overkillers. If you stay on the main trail, pictured below, it will take you uphill and the reservoir lies at the very end. You can't miss it.

MacMillan Reservoir. It's not a small body of water, as you can see from the photograph below. One can hike around it, or hang out by the narrow beach. If you happen to be born a Labrador, then you've arrived at Valhalla. I saw several Labs dove into the water and paddled around with only their heads sticking out. I don't know, folks. I derive a lot of pleasure in seeing dogs have a great time. But humans? They're noisy and annoying.

There is a rocky promontory to the right of the camera position that provides a sweeping view of the entire reservoir. I crawled my way up and picked a spot to have lunch, a sandwich with some water. Take it from an experienced hiker, always check your surroundings before you sit anywhere in the wild. Snakes love to sunbath on flat, sun-drenched rocks, or get cozy in the crevices. Often, they look like fallen branches until they move. I make heavy footsteps or tap my poles on the rocks to announce my coming. 

By the way, there are no trash bins in the reservation. So it is, more often than not, a take-in and take-out place. You bring in trash; you take it out. 

For dessert, I am posting a Black and White photograph of MacMillan Reservoir. It may look like the preceding photograph, but they are slightly different. Notice that I included more of the rocky beach in the foreground, providing more contrasting shades of gray plus maintaining a perspective that is most natural to the viewer if he was on the beach himself. Do you think I could have given Ansel Adams a run for his money?


All photographs are copyrighted to Anastacio Teodoro. You'll need my permission to use any of them.

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