The author’s young sons tromp through mud, marvel at dinosaurs, and take a dip below 300-foot cliffs known as Blue Ledges.
By Leigh Hornbeck
Mud is alluring, far too tempting for my boys to resist. I took my sons on a hike to Blue Ledges in late August. Thanks to regular rains and a downpour the day before, the bony trail was muddy most of the way and downright swampy in places. Instead of picking the driest route, like I did, my boys slopped through the wettest sections with glee. I was not the fun mom. I imagined sore, wet feet and lots of complaining, so I nagged them about letting the water come over the tops of their boots. They ignored me.
I picked Blue Ledges to do with my five- and seven-year-old sons, Rushton and Devlin, because it isn’t a tough or long hike and there’s a dramatic payoff at the end: three-hundred-foot-tall ledges on the opposite side of the Hudson River at the end of the trail. It’s a popular trail, but we got there in the afternoon and saw only a few people in the woods.
Rose Rivezzi and David Trithart, the authors of “Kids on the Trail,” a guide to hikes for kids in the Adirondack Park, write about swimming under the ledges, but I was skeptical. The last time I hiked to the ledges, before children, my dog was nearly swept away by the current.
The 2.5-mile trail took us past Huntley Pond, where we saw tents on the opposite shore and loons in the water nearby. The trail packs several elements for children to explore: boulders that resemble dinosaurs, fallen trees to climb over or shimmy under, and dead trees, completely stripped of their bark, which we stopped to touch and study. Rush and Dev kicked decaying stumps and found fallen branches to swing wildly. It is a dense woods, especially deep into the growing season, and it was chilly and damp out of the sun.
We could hear the river before we reached it. When the water is high, there are rapids to make it exciting for the rafting customers who float through and hikers who watch from the shore. By the time we stepped out of the forest onto the riverbank, the river was going down. A daily release from the dam in Indian Lake raises the river in morning, but the surge had passed. Many of the rocks were already dry. We hopped around on them, my older son fearlessly and my younger son with encouragement. If there had been rafters that day, we missed them.
I could see why the book suggested swimming. When the water is low, there are pockets of still, safe water near the shore. The boys wanted to swim. I had trunks for them in my pack, but no towels and no extra clothes. I hesitated until the sun came out and changed everything. The air was instantly warmer. The boys swam and played with the sludgy sand that smelled like sulfur. It was gorgeous. I sat on a rock wondering what the view must be like from the other side, from the top of the ledges. In 2013, New York State bought a chunk of land from the Finch, Pruyn paper company that included that side of the river. Someday there may be a trail that ends high above where my boys and I played.
We stayed longer than I planned, but with an eye on the sinking sun, I rounded up my boys and had them change. I was grateful that our hiking companion, photographer Nancie Battaglia, had washcloths in her pack. She uses them to protect her lenses, but she let me take them to clean the sand off Rushton and Devlin’s feet (I was worried still about sore feet).
On the way back, I stopped telling the boys not to tramp through the mud and water. If they were going to have wet feet, they would have wet feet. At least they were on their way back to the car.
Directions: From the intersection of Minerva Lake Road and NY 28N in Minerva, drive north on NY 28N for 1.7 miles. Turn left onto North Woods Club Road and follow it 6.7 miles to the trailhead on the left. The pavement ends soon after the turn.