Palisades Interstate Park, Bergen County, New Jersey

In 2012, I had enjoyed a number of hikes with a small group of people whom I had met through the Jewish Outdoors Club and mutual friends. In 2013, the small group wasn’t very active, and I was also not hiking as much, as I was busy dating Batya (who featured in a couple of my hikes from 2013). Batya and I were married on March 31, 2014, and I hope we will be able to enjoy many hikes together. On Mother’s Day, we met Martin, Yaffa, and Yona for a hike in Palisades Interstate Park.

In 1900, the governors of New York and New Jersey formed the Palisades Interstate Park Commission to protect the Palisades cliffs, which were being damaged by quarry operators. The commission later developed a highway and many other parks in the two states.

We met in the parking lot at State Line Lookout, near the northern end of the Palisades and near the border between New York and New Jersey.

10:40 a.m.: We walked a short distance northward along a promenade and along a chained-off road (Old Route 9W), before turning right (northeast) onto the Long Path.

10:58 a.m.: The Long Path led downhill toward the Hudson River.

Hudson River from Palisades, Palisades Interstate Park, Bergen County, New Jersey

Hudson River

While most of the park is within New Jersey, a tiny portion is within Rockland County, New York. I believe this lookout that the group is enjoying came after we passed the New York-New Jersey border marker, and that the spot is called High Gutter Point:

High Gutter Point, Palisades Interstate Park, Rockland County, New York

High Gutter Point

11:03 a.m.: Here, the Long Path descends toward the Hudson. The high point of the cliffs is about 540′ above the water.

Descending the Long Path, Palisades Interstate Park, Rockland County, New York

Descending the Long Path

11:15 a.m.: The Long Path turned northwest, and we came to a small bridge over a wet area. Note the skunk cabbage. This area is known as Skunk Hollow: freed slaves and their descendants lived here from the early 1800s through the early 1900s.

Skunk cabbage in Skunk Hollow, Palisades Interstate Park, Bergen County, New Jersey

Skunk cabbage in Skunk Hollow

We left the Long Path, turning right (northeast) onto the white-blazed Shore Trail. A sign warned hikers that the Shore Trail would lead over a rock scramble and a steeper climb up the cliffs than the gentler descent we’d just experienced. (Note the misspelling of “ascent.”)

Misspelled warning sign, Palisades Interstate Park, Bergen County, New Jersey

Misspelled warning sign

11:28 a.m.: We reached Peanut Leap Cascade, a waterfall of about 50′ in height, adjacent to a small rocky beach. For scale, Martin stands in front of the fall.

Martin in front of Peanut Leap Cascade, Palisades Interstate Park, Bergen County, New Jersey

Martin in front of Peanut Leap Cascade

Batya and I also posed in front of the waterfall:

Batya and Charlie in front of Peanut Leap Cascade, Palisades Interstate Park, Bergen County, New Jersey

Batya and Charlie in front of Peanut Leap Cascade

The nearby beach includes a couple of swings hanging from a tree.

Batya on a swing, Palisades Interstate Park, Bergen County, New Jersey

Batya on a swing

Here’s another look at Peanut Leap Cascade, with the ruins of what had once been an Italianate garden designed by Mary Lawrence on her family’s “Cliffside” estate.

Peanut Leap Cascade and Italianate ruins, Palisades Interstate Park, Bergen County, New Jersey

Peanut Leap Cascade and Italianate ruins

A shoreline view from the rocky beach:

Shoreline view, Palisades Interstate Park, Bergen County, New Jersey

Shoreline view

12:20 p.m.: After relaxing a half hour at Peanut Leap Cascade, we continued along the Shore Trail, heading southeast and skirting the Hudson River, in places having to hike over rocks. Here, Yaffa, Yona and Martin detour a bit from the path to give some space to a pair of hapless Canadian Geese, who had foolishly chosen to build a nest right on the trail.

Hiking past nesting Canadian geese, Palisades Interstate Park, Bergen County, New Jersey

Hiking past nesting Canadian geese

The goose was hissing at us, while the gander just stood by. Batya and I skirted by them, and I took a photo of the pair. These geese can attack people with their bills and wings, leaving bruises or even drawing a little blood, though they won’t cause serious injury. Luckily we were able to pass by without this pair feeling too threatened by us.

Canadian Geese guarding nest, Palisades Interstate Park, Bergen County, New Jersey

Canadian geese guarding nest

12:36 p.m.: We entered the Giant Stairs area, where a jumble of rocks makes for challenging hiking.

Batya, Yona, and Yaffa Hiking on the Giant Stairs, Palisades Interstate Park, Bergen County, New Jersey

Batya, Yona, and Yaffa Hiking on the Giant Stairs

The shoreline from the Giant Stairs:

Shoreline from the Giant Stairs, Palisades Interstate Park, Bergen County, New Jersey

Shoreline from the Giant Stairs

Martin on the Giant Stairs:

Martin hiking on the Giant Stairs, Palisades Interstate Park, Bergen County, New Jersey

Martin hiking on the Giant Stairs:

White blazes suggest the path that hikers should follow:

Shoreline Path along the Giant Stairs, Palisades Interstate Park, Bergen County, New Jersey

Shoreline Path along the Giant Stairs

12:53 p.m.: My bride navigates the Giant Stairs:

Batya on the Giant Stairs, Palisades Interstate Park, Bergen County, New Jersey

Batya on the Giant Stairs

It was a beautiful day for hiking, with blue skies and hawks flying overhead. The weather was 80 degrees: warm, but not too hot, and not too humid.

Hudson River from the Giant Stairs, Palisades Interstate Park, Bergen County, New Jersey

Hudson River from the Giant Stairs

At one point, we passed a woman sitting on a rock, with another woman and man standing by her. The man was on his cell phone calling for help, reporting that the woman had twisted an ankle and that they needed assistance. There was nothing we could do to help, so we continued on. After a while, we stopped to rest, and I was able to photograph the back of a red-tailed hawk, resting in a tree:

Red-tailed hawk, Palisades Interstate Park, Bergen County, New Jersey

Red-tailed hawk

2:20 p.m.: We reached the intersection with the blue and white-blazed Forest View Trail, which led up a series of stairs and switchbacks the 500′ to the top of the Palisades:

Forest View Trail, Palisades Interstate Park, Bergen County, New Jersey

Forest View Trail

At the top, we returned to the parking lot, with the hike being about 4-5 miles.

3:17 p.m.: Our hiking companions drove off, while Batya and I hiked a little more on the paved Old 9W. We spotted a gray catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) along the path:

Gray catbird, Palisades Interstate Park, Bergen County, New Jersey

Gray catbird

As we returned to the car, we saw NYPD helicopters flying overhead and saw/heard them hovering below the cliffs. I speculated that they were involved with rescuing the woman whom we had heard had twisted her ankle. Crowds were gathered, but there was nothing to see from our vantage point, as the cliff blocked our view of the helicopters. I later read an article that the woman had broken her ankle and had been lifted to safety by the helicopters. Another article said that she’d been rescued at 6:00 p.m., but the helicopter activity we had seen had been much earlier, probably around 3:30 p.m. So either the article was wrong, or the earlier helicopters were unsuccessful in reaching her and another successful attempt was made after Batya and I left the Palisades.

We probably hiked about 6 miles, and as noted, the elevation loss and gain wasn’t great, but it was still nice to get out after so many months of not hiking.

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