Long Path Sections 4 + 3: Mount Ivy to Long Clove to Nyack
This is the second installment of our section hike of the Long Path. If you missed the first one (last July), you can find it here.
“I have been waiting literal years to be invited on a Jessica McKenzie hike!”
It was a gratifying response to my email inviting a few hardy friends to join me and E on Sections 4 and 3 of the Long Path, the long-distance hiking trail that runs 358 miles from the 175th Street Subway Station in Manhattan almost all the way to Albany. It also made me feel a little guilty for not doing it sooner—like a bad, neglectful friend. But being a trip leader is a heavy burden to carry. My preference in hikes tends towards the punishing, which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and I certainly never want to be responsible for someone else having a miserable time.
Then again, this small group of invitees had been carefully vetted; everyone had completed at least half (16 miles) of the Great Saunter, and in the rain no less, so I knew they were up to the task. Even so, 15.7 trail miles is no joke, and the terrain would be tougher, with greater elevation gain and loss.
The bus dropped us off around 10am and after stopping by two different gas stations for last-minute provisions and a bathroom break—the first gas station didn’t have a restroom—we made our way to the trail, which began on a random stretch of highway. Almost immediately I shoved the map in front of E to confirm we were walking in the right direction, hyper conscious of my hiking expertise under (surely imagined) scrutiny. I am not a strong wayfinder, or at least not a confident one.
We were, in fact, on the right track, on said random highway, without a sidewalk or much of a shoulder, but soon came to a park with a nice dirt path leading up into the woods. Initial jitters out—a bit more sunscreen and preventative bug spray applied—we began our hike in earnest. Almost immediately we came to a clearing by a cliff overlooking an old quarry, with a formidable drop down.
We saw very few people that morning, despite the sublime weather: clear and sunny but not too hot. We stopped to snack at an overlook above Haverstraw, and again shortly after at High Tor, the highest peak in the Palisades.
The trail eventually left the woods and followed roads for a bit, winding past another vast and apparently active quarry (a basalt quarry, as far as I can tell), although fortunately Tilcon takes weekends off so the roads were mostly empty. We discussed the merits and downsides of road walking as a break—or interruption—from hiking, and E and I reminisced about previous long road walks. The air was sweet with honeysuckle, which S identified for us.
After a dicey highway crossing, we headed back into the woods. We passed a small, very old family cemetery, with a bird of prey nearby (turkey vulture, we thought) eating a very rank piece of carcass. (This was actually the second time we saw a turkey vulture eating a dead animal; we passed a group of them sharing a bit of road kill on our road walk to the quarry.) We bypassed a crowded parking lot and headed back up into the woods on some steep steps.
Around this point, with more than five miles still to go, I began to hear (and feel!) the grumblings of fatigue, maybe even a bit of boredom with the endless climbs. Only the faintest hint: ‘oh no, another climb.’ We took another much-needed break at a miraculously shaded spot looking over the Hudson River.
Much of the shine and novelty of the day had worn off by the time we reached the series of picturesque and dramatic viewpoints hiking up Hook Mountain. Nobody had much patience or desire to linger at the top, although we did stop to take a few triumphant photos.
Then we began the long descent, which is never only a descent, but where every ascent feels like a bit of a rebuke: ‘And you thought this was over.’
These last few miles—allegedly only 3.25 but I’m not sure I believe it—were never-ending. I sang a bit to lighten the mood, and B revealed an impressive knowledge of Guns N’ Roses lyrics when I came up short.
I attempted to explain that reaching this point—the point of wanting to stop, somewhere at the far edge of my hiking desire and/or ability—is part of the point of hiking, for me. Not the only point, I don’t think, but a point. Otherwise why would I find myself there so much? More on this another time, I think.
The trail teased us by carrying us out of the woods and onto a road and then a sidewalk only to turn and climb sharply uphill and then head back into the woods again, winding past a little slice of suburbia, where we could see, or hear, the samey-samey houses and SUVs and people walking dogs, separated from us by just a few trees. We walked along the edge of a larger, newer cemetery and then got briefly held up in a tangle of weeds that towered over our heads, accidentally coming out in someone’s neatly-mown backyard before turning back and wading through knee-high grass and stickers behind an apartment complex.
Everyone was clearly over this hike, in spite of my cheerful explanation that actually, it was really impressive that the trail builders had gotten permission to route the Long Path through this probably-privately-owned land. (Over dinner and drinks later that eve, I perversely declared this liminal, down-the-rabbit-hole-esque bit of trail had been my favorite part. Little connecting paths winding through forgotten and underused bits of land are the gristle that make the meat and bones of long trails work!)
Finally—finally—the trail spat us out onto the last sidewalk. One of us almost face-planted on the last few steps out of the woods, but didn’t. I can still hear the relief and triumph in my friends’ voices when they spotted the Super 8 sign, which they knew marked the end of our hike. We sat on the curb in the parking lot and called a Lyft to take us to a very fun literary-themed bar and restaurant in Tarrytown, where I already knew (we had picked the restaurant and menu out in advance) I would order jalapeño poppers and a side salad with blue cheese.
Hike it yourself (from NYC)
We hiked these sections in reverse order so that we could catch the once daily bus to Mt. Ivy (as far as I can tell there is no return trip on weekends) and then from Nyack, make our way across the river to Tarrytown to catch a train back to the city.
Take the Short Line bus to Mt. Ivy. You’re looking for the Gurnee Park and Amphitheater on NY Route 45. From there you can basically follow the teal blazes all the way to Nyack. The New York New Jersey Trail Conference has detailed descriptions for all sections of the Long Path, although it’s a bit confusing to follow them in reverse. Here’s Section 4, and Section 3. From Nyack, we splurged on a Lyft to Tarrytown because we were tired and could split it between four hikers, but there’s also a bus stop near the Super 8. Technically, you can also walk across the bridge to Tarrytown, but it will add a good number of miles to an already-long day. From Tarrytown, you can catch a train back to NYC; I think they run every hour or two until late.