05/21/11 – Mt. Beacon Hike

Turkey Vulture

Saturday was supposedly the end of the world, so what better way to watch everything go down than from the top of Mt. Beacon?  It was pretty foggy in the morning, but that gave way to mostly cloudy skies.  Our group of six hiked up the strenuous trail all the way to the fire tower.

I brought ALL of my camera gear with me, so just in case we got a shower or thunderstorm, I would be able to pack it in my weather resistant backpack.  The trade-off to that was lugging an additional 30+ lbs of weight.

If you’ve never been on this hike, I can tell you that the first half (to the casino grounds) is quite difficult.  Between the steep grade and the loose rock on the trail, its enough to challenge most hikers.  Add in the rain we’ve gotten, and some areas were dangerously slick as well.  The second half (to the fire tower) is far less hazardous, with a more gentle grade, but with a few steep spots.  Again, the recent rain has added a slickness to some areas though.

Mt. Beacon Trail

As we begun, I listened to all the birds singing as we went up.  I’ve never really bird watched on this hike before, but I found it as a good opportunity to learn.  The most common birds singing on the way up were blue-winged warblers, northern parulas & ovenbirds.  Most of them were too high in the trees to see though.

Towards the casino grounds, which is what I like to call the ‘first summit’, the area was filled with indigo buntings, great crested flycatchers, and prairie warblers.  The highlight was my first black swallowtail sighting (and photograph) since 2009!  The view looking out towards the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge was spectacular with the way the clouds looked.  Once we caught our breath, we started the hike up to the fire tower summit, which I believe is the highest point of the Hudson Highlands area.

View of the Hudson Highlands from the Summit

At the fire tower summit, it was truly a sight to behold.  If the end of the world was truly coming, I doubt it would be this beautiful.

While the prairie warblers were singing nearby, it was the turkey vultures that stole the show.  They soared near us several times, which allowed from some truly unique shots, including the one posted above.  It’s not very often you get to look down at vultures soaring through the sky.

After resting and enjoying the view, we headed back the way we came.  I had packed up my camera at this point, but on our descent, I noticed something odd in the rocks on the trail.  After nudging it with my foot to turn it over, I was shocked to find that it was a skull!  Well, it wasn’t a real skull, but it looks like a wooden skull that belonged on a necklace or something.  It was an extremely ominous find on the day the world was supposed to end, and it makes for an even better souvenir and story now!

Wildlife and scenery photos will be posted soon.  Full sighting/sound list below:

  1. Turkey Vulture
  2. Chimney Swift
  3. Downy Woodpecker
  4. Great Crested Flycatcher
  5. Red-eyed Vireo
  6. American Crow
  7. House Wren
  8. American Robin
  9. Gray Catbird
  10. Blue-winged Warbler (heard only)
  11. Northern Parula (heard only)
  12. Prairie Warbler
  13. Black-and-White Warbler
  14. Ovenbird (heard only)
  15. Eastern Towhee
  16. Chipping Sparrow
  17. Northern Cardinal
  18. Indigo Bunting
  19. American Goldfinch

Non-avian Sightings:

  • Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
  • Black Swallowtail
  • Green Frog
  • Pickerel Frog
  • Eastern Chipmunk
  • Six-spotted Tiger Beetle
This entry was posted in Hiking and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s