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It was June 8th, a beautiful sunny day in the Shawangunk Mountains. Most people see good weather as an opportunity to enjoy nature. At Mohonk Preserve, beautiful weather in the forecast prepares our rangers for a rush of visitors recreating on the land. We are an 8,000-acre nature preserve with headquarters in Gardiner, NY. We have 45 miles of hiking trails, 35 miles of carriage roads, and miles of cliffs. All these systems connect to other state parks and preserves, producing one of the best places one could go to for taking in the beauty of nature. One thing many do not consider each time they visit is the power of gravity. Gravity keeps our feet on the trail, becoming the force we overcome when looking for beauty in the mountains. Sometimes, however, that force can get the best of us.

Hikers, cyclists and pedestrians alike gathered in the early Saturday morning at 41 Springtown Road to celebrate the opening of a brand-new trail, dubbed the River-to-Ridge trail.

The first portion of the trail features a six-mile loop trail connecting the Walkhill Valley Rail Trail to the footpaths of the Shawangunk Mountains. The trail was made possible by a collaboration between the Open Space Institute (OSI) and Mohonk Preserve, with additional support from the Butler Conservation Fund.

In the Fall of 2018, the Eight Grade Junior Rangers from the San Miguel Academy of Newburgh in New York were challenged with a 50-foot climb of the Trapps at Mohonk Preserve (accredited). On his first attempt, one student named Ronald climbed about 10 feet before descending back down the wall. Frazzled and trembling, he took a break. After watching a few class-mates climb farther up the wall, Ronald was inspired. He took a deep breath, took his place in line and psyched himself up for the climb. With the support of his classmates and cheers of Mohonk Preserve staff, Ronald ascended to the highest point.

Photo by Gerald Berliner

A universal truth of rock climbing is that the first step toward crushing your next project (aka climbing a challenging route) is, well, finding one. As climbing rises in popularity — and more facilities open up around NYC — it can be tricky to know where to go.

Luckily, the other side of that double-edged sword is that there are more climbing gyms and routes to check out than ever. And whether you're a real rock aficionado or an indoor fan who'd prefer to stick to pulling plastic, you're ideal climbing setting is most likely a subway or car ride away.

Ahead, chalk up and find your next training spot or weekend getaway.

Growing up in the small New Jersey suburb of River Vale, Kathy Ambrosini remembers going on just one field trip during her entire childhood. It wasn’t a very exciting destination, just a small nature center where they fed the ducks bread and listened to the vibrations of honey bees, but that was enough, as it turned out, to make an indelible impression on a young mind. “It only took that one field trip,” she says now, “for me to decide, ‘I love this! I want to do more of this!’”

Megan Napoli has been the Mohonk Preserve’s research ecologist since March of 2016. Her job is to help carry on the biological research that’s been done on the property since Daniel and Keith Smiley began recording bird observations there in the mid-1920s. Most of the research done at the Preserve is observational in nature, watching what happens on the land and comparing that to what happened in previous years or in other places, using what they find to inform how the Preserve manages the land.

The Trapps of the Shawangunk Mountains are the most popular rock walls in the Hudson Valley. Along about three miles, it invites all types of climbers, as there are more than 300 routes to the top. Easiest access is the West Trapps Trailhead at Mohonk Preserve, but the lots fill up on weekends.

Mohonk Preserve’s Board of Directors elected Russ Clune to serve as board chair at their April 29 meeting. The New Paltz resident is the fifth person to lead the board in the Preserve’s 55-year history. He succeeds Jim Hoover who remains a board member.

An accomplished rock climber, Clune has climbed cliffs around the world in over 45 countries and has spent over 40 years climbing on the Shawangunk Ridge, where he is responsible for establishing over 100 routes and is a licensed climbing guide. He first visited the “Gunks” in 1977 and remembers looking out over the Wallkill Valley from atop the near Trapps and thinking, “I’m going to live here.” In 1991, he moved to New Paltz in that same valley at the base of the Gunks.

The history of monitoring and protecting peregrine falcons on the Shawangunk Ridge dates back to the 1920s when brothers Dan and Keith Smiley began recording peregrine sightings on Mohonk Mountain House and what are now Mohonk Preserve lands.

On June 17, 1929, Dan and Keith scrambled down to the “Duck Hawk Ledge” on Sky Top to band two young peregrines. The male that they banded flew east to west, traveling 1,300 miles in three months and marking the first documentation of an east to west, rather than north to south, migration.

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Banner Photo by Deb Tracy-Kral