Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

I went hiking with four friends, selecting the western part of Black Rock Forest, which I remembered featured a pretty waterfall. As I had been on these trails previously, almost two years earlier, I didn’t document the entire hike, and therefore only have a few photos.

Two of the party only wanted to hike four miles, so they parked their car at the junction of Mineral Springs Road and Old Mineral Springs Road, about 1/2 mile from the waterfall, and then we shuttled in my car about 3 miles to the parking area near the Mine Hill trail.

As we were driving up Mine Hill Road, I was recounting a bit of the history of the forest, and mentioned that there are deer there, though there was no guarantee we would see any. Just then, I spotted a family of three deer off the right side of the road. I stopped the car and slowly walked to the trunk to get my camera, but even though I took about four or five photos, none of them came out. The shutter speed was a little slow due to the tree cover, and either my hands were shaking or the deer were moving, and they came out blurred. But my friends enjoyed seeing them.

View to the North, from the Mine Hill Trail, Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

View to the north, from the Mine Hill Trail

From the Mine Hill trail, we turned west onto Sackett Trail. I pointed out to my friends the confusing nature of Black Rock Forest having yellow-blazed trails with diamond-shaped blazes, circular blazes, square blazes, and triangular blazes. That still seems nuts to me!

This impressive railroad trestle is the Moodna Viaduct, the highest and longest railroad trestle east of the Mississippi River, constructed by Erie Railroad in 1904-08.

Moodna Viaduct, Cornwall, New York

Moodna Viaduct

From the Sackett Trail we continued on the Stillman Trail, then took the Short Cut trail to Hall Road and thence to the Highlands Trail.

On a previous hike, I tried and failed to take a photo of an orange salamander (also called: red-spotted newt, or a red eft) as it was getting late in the day, was in a shaded area, and the salamander was moving. Here, I was at least able to get a photo of one of the critters, though it’s far from being critically sharp, as the slow salamander was moving a bit faster than my even-slower shutter speed. I also don’t have a macro lens, which may be a factor. Perhaps one day I’ll get a sharp picture of one of these little creatures.

Orange salamander

Orange salamander

This Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) butterfly was perched on a tree and flexing its wings for us.

Red Admiral butterfly

Red Admiral butterfly

We stopped at Jupiter’s Boulder, which most of the crew climbed to enjoy the view (although the view from the base of the boulder was equally fine). I photographed the boulder on my last trip and didn’t get any good shots this time.

We then continued on, reaching Mineral Spring Brook, with the trail making two unnecessary crossings of the brook, no doubt just for fun. At one of the crossings was a rickety bridge that I do not remember from two years ago–I suspect it is a recent addition. We all made it across safely, though it did wobble a bit, and I almost would have prepared crossing the brook by hopping from rock-to-rock.

We descended on the Highlands Trail and I missed the turn off the trail to the upper portion of the falls. Thus, we first investigated the lower portion of the falls. (I don’t even recall the lower portion of the falls from my first hike there, and it’s entirely possible that I missed it and thought the upper falls were all there was to see.)

Posing at the lower falls of Mineral Spring Brook, Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

Posing at the lower falls of Mineral Spring Brook

I recognized that this wasn’t the same falls that I had seen on my first trip here two years before, so after lunch, we hiked a couple hundred feet back up the trail to the upper falls, which were also very nice.

Upper falls of Mineral Spring Brook, Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

Upper falls of Mineral Spring Brook

Two of our party then descended the Highlands Trail back toward the lower falls, at which point the trail became an old woods road. That led them about 1/4 mile to Old Mineral Springs Road, and from there another 1/4 mile back to their car.

The remaining three of us retraced our steps east, passing Jupiter’s Boulder and returning to Hall Road, where we took a short detour onto Compartment Trail and Split Rock trail to visit the scenic view overlooking Sutherland Pond. Sutherland Pond is the only place in the park where swimming is allowed, but as it was a little cool, no one was swimming today.

Sutherland Pond, Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

Sutherland Pond

Switching to my telephoto lens, I photographed the Manhattan skyline in the hazy distance:

Manhattan skyline from Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

Manhattan skyline

We returned to the Hall Road, missed the turn back onto the Short Cut trail and instead took the Stillman Trail back to Mine Hill trail and the car, with one last photograph to the north on the way out.

View to the north from Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

View to the north

It was a beautiful day to go hiking, with the temperature not being too hot or too cold. There also weren’t many people in the park: we had two bicyclists pass us on the Hall Road, and we saw a number of people at the falls (who had probably come in from Old Mineral Springs Road). On the way back, a man and his dog passed us. Otherwise, we had the trails to ourselves.

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