While the snow has been a little stingy so far this winter season, the brisk, sunny weather has been great for hiking on the Preserve’s carriage roads and trails.

In this issue of Ridgelines, we’ll outline preparations for the peregrine falcons’ annual return to the ridge, share details about a new endowment honoring the work of cultural historian Bob Larsen, and preview the milestone 10th running of Rock The Ridge.

Thanks to all our members and donors for your generous support of our year-end appeal, and we wish you a happy and healthy 2023!

Banner photo by Bill Winter

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon by Lynda Keyes

Peregrine Pilgrimage

The peregrine falcon’s name is derived from a Latin root, peregrinus, which means “coming from abroad” or “travelling, migratory, or wandering.” While these birds may travel widely outside the nesting season, they also have a strong homing instinct that leads them back to favored eyries (nest sites), including those on the Shawangunk Ridge.

Monitoring and conservation of peregrine falcons on the ridge extends back to the 1920s when Dan and Keith Smiley began recording and tracking these birds. Though their presence was impacted over the years, in part due to DDT and other pesticides, in 1998, after an absence of over 40 years, peregrines returned to nest in the Gunks, as they have almost every year since then.

Peregrine falcons are a protected New York State Endangered Species, and Mohonk Preserve cooperates with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to ensure the continued recovery of the species. Preserve Conservation Programs and Ranger staff along with volunteers monitor the peregrines as part of the Peregrine Watch program, which runs from February through August in conjunction with the peregrine nesting and breeding season.

Mohonk Preserve Conservation Programs staff have also continued to conduct extensive and ongoing research into peregrine falcon conservation efforts regionally and nationwide. Topics included defensive behavior at perching locations and potential audio and visual stressors. Staff regularly meet with regional peregrine experts, review scientific reports, and collaborate with local community members to learn more about how best to manage and protect these special creatures.

Based on this research, last year the Preserve adopted a responsive management approach to our temporary cliff and boulder closure in the Trapps, with a broader closure at the beginning of the breeding season, when peregrines are highly sensitive to disturbance, to optimize successful eyrie selection. Once the eyrie is established, we will adjust the closure based upon line-of-sight to minimize human activity within view of the eyrie.

As always, our Peregrine Watch team will continue to closely monitor the eyrie and closures may be adjusted based on nesting activity and changes during the breeding season. Peregrine Watch volunteers will also monitor eyries at Millbrook Ridge and Bonticou Crag, although no closures are planned for those locations. Updates on the progress of the breeding season will be posted to the Preserve’s website at www.mohonkpreserve.org/peregrine-watch. For anyone interested in participating in our Peregrine Watch program, we are holding an orientation session on February 15 from 6-7:30 pm. Click here for more information on this and our other Volunteer opportunities.

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Bob Larsen smiling with foliage in the background

Bob Larsen by G. Steve Jordan

A Champion of Cultural Heritage

Mohonk Preserve is grateful to announce the Bob Larsen Endowment Fund for Cultural Heritage, a new endowment established in memory and honor of Bob. Bob’s long career with the Preserve began in 1974 when he joined the then Mohonk Trust as a ranger. Over time, Bob designed, developed, blazed and built many of the Preserve’s most revered trails, including the High Peters Kill Trail, Northeast Trail, Undivided Lot Trail, Bonticou Crag Trail, and the Enderly Path. As a trail keeper himself, Bob devised a plan to incorporate volunteers to ensure the maintenance of Preserve trails for future generations to use and enjoy.

Bob was also an avid birder and developed the first scientific list of bird species on Mohonk Preserve land. Boundary work became an important part of Bob’s job and working with surveyor Norm Van Valkenburg they marked over 50 miles of boundary lines. During that time, Bob noticed signs of a past presence on the ridge. “I realized, walking through these woods, that people had lived here,” Bob said. “I saw old stone foundations and old mills, so I got interested in the cultural history and I think we should preserve that like we do the natural history.”

One of Bob’s enduring passions at the Preserve was documentation and preservation of the Trapps Mountain Hamlet. Once home to the huckleberry-pickers and stonecutters of the past century, by the time of the Civil War, the Trapps Mountain Hamlet housed 40 to 50 families. In addition to the restored Van Leuven cabin, this vanished hamlet now consists of 60 cellar holes and foundations of dwellings, mills, barns, a school, a tavern, a chapel, and other structures; over 40 charcoal pits; and four family burying grounds.

“People that lived in the Trapps were living on the edge,” Bob noted. He was instrumental in securing New York State and National Register of Historic Places status for the hamlet in 1990 and oversaw the restoration of the Van Leuven Cabin on the site. For over a decade, Bob collaborated with local writer and historian Robi Josephson on their book An Unforgiving Land, a comprehensive history of hardscrabble life in the Trapps. Bob also developed the “Walk Back in Time,” an interpretive trail, wayside interpretive stops, and a podcast available on the Preserve’s website.

After four decades of service, Bob “officially” retired from the Preserve in November 2013, although he remained an active volunteer until his death in 2018. In September of that year, 120 family members, friends and Mohonk Preserve colleagues gathered at the Slingerland Pavilion to celebrate his life at a moving and inspirational event featuring tributes from family members and friends.

In establishing the Bob Larsen Endowment Fund for Cultural Heritage, Bob’s family has created a fitting tribute to his dedication and enduring legacy, and helped ensure that this important work will continue at Mohonk Preserve.

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Runners at the start line of Rock The Ridge

Starting line at Rock The Ridge by Stephen D. Stewart-Hill

Celebrating 10 Years of Rocking The Ridge

Mohonk Preserve has always been a favorite spot for trail runners with our large, well-maintained carriage roads and magnificent views. 2023 is shaping up to be a historic year as we celebrate the running of the tenth Rock The Ridge 50-mile benefit challenge on May 6, 2023!

As it has been from the beginning, the goal of Rock The Ridge is to run and/or hike a 50-mile course – solo or as part of a two, three or four-person relay team – and fundraise to support Mohonk Preserve’s many programs which further our mission to protect the Shawangunk Mountains region and inspire people to care for, enjoy and explore their natural world.

The beautiful course begins and ends at the Preserve’s majestic Testimonial Gateway Tower, winding along wide carriage roads, through lush forests and over ridgelines with magnificent vistas. Rock The Ridge is perfect for the first-time ultrarunner with well-stocked aid stations, amazing volunteers, and a great finish line party.

Our inaugural Rock The Ridge was launched on May 4, 2013, as part of the Preserve’s 50th Anniversary year, when 174 participants completed a 50-mile course across carriage roads and trails along the Shawangunk Ridge, raising more than $100,000 to benefit the Preserve.

Since then, Rock The Ridge has continued to grow into a major fundraiser, attracting over 2,600 participants in the first ten years from across the country and around the world. Ridge Rockers have helped raise over $2.3 million to support the Preserve’s conservation, education, stewardship and visitor experience programs.

“This event is about more than just challenging yourself to go fifty miles in 18-hours, it’s about being part of a larger conservation movement to raise money to help preserve natural habitat and combat climate change,” said Mohonk Preserve Special Events Manager and Race Director Tom Leader. “It’s a truly inspiring day on the ridge as you experience the beauty that surrounds you on course.”

The Rock The Ridge team provides plenty of support along the way, with information about how to prepare for race day in the Event Guide, and a Fundraising Guide with tips on how to craft messages and materials, set goals, and design a calendar to keep you on track.

It’s not too late to join the 425 Ridge Rockers who have already registered for the 10th running of Rock The Ridge on May 6. Sign up today or find a few friends and form a relay team and be part of this unforgettable experience. We look forward to cheering you on as you cross the finish line and receive your finisher medal!

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Bob and Jane Taylor holding an auction panel at the Mohonk Preserve annual benefit auction

Bob and Jane Taylor at the 2009 Mohonk Preserve Annual Benefit Auction

In Remembrance: Robert Taylor

We are sad to note the passing of Robert Taylor on December 8, 2022. Bob served as president of the Wallkill Valley Land Trust for over 16 years and as a board member of the Elting Memorial Library in New Paltz.

Bob and his late wife Jane Taylor were also longtime members and supporters of Mohonk Preserve, where Jane served for many years on the board and founded the organization’s annual benefit auction.

Bob and Jane were well known for entertaining at their beautiful New Paltz home, where Bob was a genial co-host at so many gatherings of Mohonk Preserve board members and staff.

We send our deep condolences to the Taylor family and friends in the community, along with our sincere thanks for the gift of his friendship and support.

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View seasonal photographs by our volunteer photographers below!

See more photos by the Mohonk Preserve Volunteer Photographers on their Facebook page.

Seasonal Updates

GET INTO NATURE. Join Mohonk Preserve’s Education Outreach Coordinator Ashawna Abbott on February 13th for a special Black History Month “Black Eco-Poetry: Nature and Resilience” virtual program. See all upcoming events here.

IN APPRECIATION. Go to our listing of Memorial and Honorary Gifts, Premium Members, and Business Members received October 1 through December 31, 2022.

Calling all Volunteers! From Volunteer Photographers to Trailhead Ambassadors, our upcoming Volunteer Orientations offer something for everyone! Learn more about volunteer orientations and sign up here.

Summer camps are back at Mohonk Preserve! Make this a summer to remember! Registration is open for Camp Peregrine and Mountainside Adventures for children age 7-13. Learn more about our summer camp programs here.

Check out our 2023 line up of exciting events:

MOHONK PRESERVE BUSINESS MEMBERS. Thank you to all our Business Members. See the full list of Mohonk Preserve Business Members in our area guide.


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