Sunday, January 1, 2012

Week One: First Day Guided Hike Minekill State Park-North Blenheim, New York

To get the new year off to a healthy start, many New York State parks held guided walks today.  Mr. Free Albany and I decided to participate in Minekill State Park’s First Walk.  Minekill State Park is about an hour from Albany in Schoharie County and as a Schoharie County native, I have been to Minekill countless times.  I went to soccer camp there as a kid, swam in the pool, and taught sixth graders about nature as a Sunship Earth counselor.  Since we’re in the area visiting my parents, it made sense to stay in the county for my first free excursion.

The drive to Minekill provides picturesque views of the Schoharie Creek and valley.  Although Hurricane Irene was months ago, residents along the Schoharie Creek are still recovering from the “500 year flood.”  There were no signs of the Blenheim Covered Bridge (a favorite spot of mine) and houses and businesses were completely destroyed.  Debris still hung in the trees along the creek—remnants of people’s lives washed away.  I know this post is about my hike but if you would like to help the relief effort, go here.

Okay, so now on to the hike.  It was actually supposed to be a snowshoe walk but it was 50 degrees with no snow.  We parked at the main entrance office and were greeted by Ashley, our guide.  She provided us with energy bars and we signed photo releases before leaving.  Six hikers including Mr. Free Albany and I showed up. 

We started on part of the Long Trail, which runs from New York City to the Adirondacks.  We walked at a leisurely pace, often stopping and observing the native plants and trees.  Ashley had a lot of plant knowledge and I learned a lot of interesting facts.  Did you know that Queen Anne’s Lace is a wild carrot?  We also examined golden rod plants and the large bumps in the stems.  These bumps (called galls) are actually parasites.  Ashley cracked one open and inside was a small worm.  Luckily for the golden rod, these parasites don’t harm the plant.
We left the Long Trail and walked along the reservoir.  The New York Power Authority is on the same land as the park and there are two reservoirs used for power.  We walked along the lower reservoir, which is stocked with an assortment of fish.  Further south is the Gilboa Dam and the New York City water supply.  We stopped and looked at the ducks, learned about different kinds of moss, and examined fungi.  We then headed uphill and stopped at the park’s rain garden.  A rain garden allows rainwater runoff to be absorbed.  This helps prevent erosion and flooding.

Our hike lasted two and a half hours.  It was a beautiful and warm sunny day and our hike provided spectacular views of the lower reservoir and the Schoharie Valley.  Minekill also has a beautiful waterfall that’s worth checking out, although we didn’t see it on our hike.  Parking was free, but during the warmer months it’s $3 a car (however, I’ve never paid for parking in the summer).  There’s a pool, visitor's center, manor home, and events going on all year.  January 28th and 29th is Snow Fest with activities such as a star party, moonlit cross-country ski, winter camping demo, and ice skating.  Minekill State Park is a great getaway during any season and today’s hike was a great way to begin 2012.

1 comment:

  1. Nicely done! Sounds like a great time. My Dad uses golden rod grubs for bait when he goes ice fishing. When we were kids we used to help him collect the galls and extract the grubs. Only went ice fishing with him once, though - waaaaay too cold when I was eight years old!