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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sam's Point and Ice Caves(Shawangunks)

Went to visit Kalli's family down in the town of  Montgomery near the Ulster County/ Orange County line this weekend.  On Sunday, we had a beautiful autumn day to get out and explore nearby Sam's Point Preserve, owned by the Open Space Institute and managed by the Nature Conservancy.  It is a very unique area, featuring dwarf pine trees, hiking trails through Ice Caves, as well as the highest point along the entire Shawangunk Range.   When we arrived at the parking lot in the mid afternoon, the lot was overflowing.  The elevation is over 2,000 feet at the parking lot, meaning the hike up to Sam's Point at 2,230 feet isn't exceptionally challenging.
 As we went to sign in, a clear view of the rocky cliffs greets you.
 A short distance, after beginning the hike you arrive at the base of the towering Shawangunk Conglomerate above the trail.
 The trail follows an old CCC(Civilian Conservation Corps) fire road, which winds directly beneath the dramatic, steep cliffs.
The absolutely incredible views from Sam's Point. 
 An amazing panorama.
 There are very steep drop offs from the cliffs, so footing is important.
Soaking in the cool mountain air.
 Kalli and I at Sam's Point.
 Enjoying the vista.
A short walk further leads to a series of rocky lookouts, which provide even more incredible views.
Hard to beat these views.  Legend is that a man named Sam, pursued by Indians, jumped off the cliff to avoid capture and miraculously survived the drop with the trees breaking his fall.
 Amazing. The highest point at Sam's Point Preserve is 2289 feet, the highest in the entire Shawangunk Range.
 After finally leaving Sam's Point, we continued on the CCC road where the other cliffs in the range can be seen as well as the Wallkill Valley below.
 A sea of red.

A pleasant stroll lead us to the Ice Caves Trail.
Additional vistas from the trail on our way to the Ice Caves.
 Entering the caves.
 The Ice Caves is the largest known open fault in the United States.  The trail literally leads directly through huge rocky crevices, making for an extremely unique experience.
 Almost feels as if the walls are closing in on you at times.
 We finally came out to a beautiful area near more rock cliffs and caves. 
 The trail continues through a huge boulder field.
Parts of the trail go into the deep, dark caves.
 Visibility is difficult climbing out of the dark cave.  This was with the aid of cell phone light.
 A small ladder to give a helping hand.
At the end of the Ice Cave Loop, we arrived at a large rocky vista. 
 Breathless views!
We hiked back the way we came, with a bit more uphill on the return.  Total mileage on the hike was 3.7 RT, with many further options, including Verkeerderkill Falls, but that would have to wait for another day, when we had more time.
On our way home we stopped by the Chapel of the Holy Name in Cragsmoor, a beautiful chapel known simply by many as the "Stone Church".
 The chapel was finished in 1896 and shows incredible craftsmanship both inside and out.  Stain glass windows re found throughout.
 The stonework truly sets this chapel apart.
 As nice as the views inside are, the view from the outside was just as magical.
 Fall colors at their peak.
 A nearly perfect fall day.

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