I have always loved to hike. Ever since I was a little girl in Westchester, I have relished escaping into the woods for an afternoon of rambling along, sometimes with a friend or with my mother, looking out for local wildlife and taking in the unique sights and sounds of nature. As an adult, I appreciate hiking even more. It’s a great workout (sure beats the gym); it can be either social or solitary, it is often relatively low-tech, and nothing — absolutely nothing — clears my head better than working up a sweat on the side of a mountain. From atop Mount Beacon, it always seems that my problems are a little smaller, the possibilities a little greater, and I’m reminded that, oh yeah, we live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Wherever you go in the Hudson Valley, it is hard to be more than 30 minutes away from a trail that offers up jaw-dropping vistas.
So I’ve had my sights set on Breakneck Ridge for several years now. I first spotted this craggy masterpiece of a mountain while driving along Route 9D, where the ridge juts out high over the Hudson River between Cold Spring and Beacon. This is one of the most beautiful stretches of road around and every time I passed the mountain I would think about how it reminded me of Switzerland. I vowed to climb it one day.
That day finally came a few months ago. My friend Alison said she wanted to “do Breakneck” one afternoon. I had always heard that it is a strenuous, full-day affair, and I was also a bit wary since I was not in my top fighting form. (I’ve recently been told that, since my daughter is almost two, I can’t use the “I just had a baby and have a full-time job” excuse much longer.) But Alison promised that it was a “fun hike, but not a big deal. You can definitely do it.”
I almost passed out in the first 10 minutes. If I could have mustered an extra breath I would have cursed out both Alison and her fit friend Lee. “This is not a hike,” I wanted to scream at them. A hike is a pleasurable activity; this was a death-defying rock scramble up a seemingly vertical cliff face. This was no head-clearing ramble, but quite the opposite — my brain was bursting with the stress of ensuring that I placed my hands and feet in the exact right position so that I didn’t tumble right off this aptly-named mountain.
God, I can’t wait to do it again.
It was the most terrifying and exhilarating afternoon I’ve had in a long time. By the time I arrived back on Route 9D two and a half hours later, I felt great physically (despite the Jello legs that lasted for a good few hours) and had an even greater sense of accomplishment. And did I mention the views? Unparalleled.
I also can’t wait to explore the dozens and dozens of other amazing hikes throughout the region. So whether you are looking for a quick Sunday afternoon stroll, to toddle after your toddler in the woods, to triumphantly bag a Catskill peak or wash your weary feet in a waterfall, you’ll want to read our cover story on hiking (click here to read it).
Olivia J. Abel
Editor In Chief