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Saturday, June 8, 2024

Minnewaska Grand Tour

A May day is as good as any day for a mountain marathon on the Minnewaska Grand Tour route in the Shawngunk Mountains (Gunks) just west of New Paltz, NY. What a gem! Minnewaska means “good water” in Algonquin, and Shawngunk means “smoky air.” The sweltering heat sure gave meaning to both today - it was quite hazy, and I had to use natural springs to rehydrate.

The Shawangunk Ridge geology is what remains of 450 million year old outwash from the Appalachian mountains to the east, and overtops an ancient ocean. Today, the hard quartz conglomerate makes the scenic cliffs that are so popular for rock climbing, and there are signs all around of the glacier that blanketed the region some 15,000 years ago. 

The forest diversity is incredible here. Lush mixed mesophytic forest grades into Appalachian oak dominated by chestnut oak, and barrens of dwarf pitch pine forest on sandstone glades. I came across groves of old growth hemlock and spruce in gorges - a relict from the past. Blueberries, billberries, laurels and azalea were all in bloom. I even found populations of Carolina pincushion plant - a rarity in NY. Not to mention the scores of warblers I heard. 

A nice way to start a mini vacation before the busy season starts. Cheers!

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