Hiking High Tor

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:

I usually take a couple of weeks off from work during the summer. One of the things I like to do during those too-brief respites is hike. I don’t know why I like it. Probably because I like walking and I enjoy nature. Also, it’s free. I guess that’s reason enough.

This year I took a trip south to check out High Tor, a rock outcropping bordering the west of the Hudson River and part of southern New York’s famous Palisades. The formation towers over Haverstraw, a small town with roots going all the way back to the 17th century, when the primary influence on the Hudson Valley was Dutch.

High Tor is now part of High Tor State Park in New City, New York. Unfortunately, as I discovered upon arriving at the park’s gate, the facility doesn’t open until June 20th — an odd date considering summer, for most people, starts in late May or early June. So I had to locate a trail-head for the Long Path off South Mountain Road. I found one a little past the junction with Scratchup Road (look for the teal blazes on the telephone poles).

It’s neither a hard nor long hike; you can do it in a couple of hours. Most of it consists of a pleasant walk through the woods, though the final ascent to the peak is pretty steep and rocky. I didn’t run into anyone on the way up aside from some wild turkeys and a single white-tailed deer.

The formation’s peak yields a terrific 360-degree view of the area. To the north are visible the Hudson River and Haverstraw. If you look into the distance you can just make out the twin bulbs of the Indian Point Energy Center, an ever-controversial nuclear power plant constructed in the early ’60s.

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To the south of the village is the Haverstraw Quarry. Cut into the surrounding mountainside, it produces asphalt and gravel. During my hike I frequently discerned the sound of explosives being set off within the facility. It’s a wonder that some kind of housing complex sits right beside it. Hope the residents own earplugs.

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Quarrying has quite a history in the area. In fact, much of the land surrounding the Hudson was saved due to early conservation efforts spurred by excessive quarrying of the landscape. I was tickled to discover that a ’30s play, called “High Tor,” took these efforts as the basis for what sounds like a fantasy-melodrama with a social conscience. It was written by Maxwell Anderson, who contributed to the screenplays of a number of Hollywood films, including “What Price Glory?” and “All Quiet on the Western Front.”

Occasionally you’ll find a Palisades-like formation in the middle of the forest. All of these were formed some 200-million years ago by magma intrusions, which were later exposed by erosion.

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As interesting as all that is, it’s the western view that provides the glamor shot, the Manhattan skyline being visible on the horizon.

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It’s that view that has been drawing people to the top of High Tor for hundreds of years. I got a kick out of perusing the graffiti on the summit. Some is painted and some is carved right into the rock. The earliest markings I found bear dates from the early ’60s. I love the ’80s-era insults directed at Russia and Iran. Hey, we’re back to hating them, aren’t we?

On my way home I took a quick detour through Haverstraw, which retains a quintessentially American-looking main street, complete, in some cases, with vintage signage.

Wikipedia claims that, as of 2000, the town was about 30% Hispanic. I would have guessed 80%.

About Fabrizio del Wrongo

Recovering liberal arts major. Unrepentant movie nut. Aspiring boozehound.
This entry was posted in Architecture, History, Travel and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Hiking High Tor

  1. Loved the pictures. Didn’t like the graffiti though. I’m a big fan of Leave No Trace.

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  2. agnostic says:

    LOL, even the “newer” graffiti from the 21st century is from old-timers with names like “Tommy” rather than Cody, Chase, Taylor, or insert other faggy Millennial name.

    You see that in all places where people used to sign the guest book of the social event that was everyday life. Markings on rock formations, tree trunks, sidewalk cement, etc. Starts more or less in the ’60s (with a handful of rare ones from the late ’50s, and even rarer ones from the ’40s — I’ve only seen one), hits a peak in the ’70s and ’80s, slows down in the early-mid ’90s, and pretty much vanishes during the 21st century as a regular marking — only exceptional ones here and there.

    That tracks how outgoing vs. cocooning the social climate was. It’s not just how often people visit these places, though — then there would still be markings left today, and from the ’50s, just not as frequently. It’s a qualitative change where even the shrinking minority that still visit these places would feel awkward leaving their mark, or that it would be trying to force a connection to a bygone era.

    In these once-thriving places, you can sense that the ongoing party of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s has long ended, so the guest book is closed to new signatures.

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  3. agnostic says:

    The 30% Hispanic figure is for the entire urban area; for just the village of Haverstraw, where the historic downtown is, it was 60% in 2000 — and 67% in 2010. Easily 70% by now.

    If the natives of that historic town had stayed there, it would not have been colonized overnight by spicks. But who needs to preserve the roots of your family and community when you can pour into the nearest city and make an extra $10K per year (over 100% of which will get eaten up by your crushing mortgage)?

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    • It’s “spics” not “spicks.” Jesus, if you’re gonna use a racial slur, you can at least bother to spell it correctly.

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    • JV says:

      There were pictures of graffiti and mention of Hispanics, so I came to the comments hoping for an Agnostic spew. I got two! Lucky day! You’re a walking, talking YouTube comment section, able to use any subject as an excuse to trot out your Grand Unified (Social) Theory of “cocooning,” topped off with some racism. Damn you’re predictable and so effin’ risible. It’s comical, man.

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  4. Pingback: Architecture du Jour: Wilderstein | Uncouth Reflections

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