Did you know there was a mountain within an hour of NYC? Yeah, I didn't either. I'd heard it mentioned through the online grapevine of articles, but it wasn't until a group of my friends went that I seriously thought about going. When people tell you things are only an easy hour away in NYC, it usually involves a lot of travel that's just an hour, and it's usually complicated. But, this one proved to actually be pretty fast and easy to get to!
I knew I wanted to come here for the first time with my brother, since he loves the outdoors and would fully appreciate it.
After extensive research on how to successfully travel up north, it seemed that a buswas the only option. I was thinking this bus system would be like Greyhound or MegaBus, which in all practicality, are ran very efficiently. But it was not. It did take us from Point A to Point B without any bumps or bruises though, so I can't gripe too much. We arrived to Port Authority in order to stand in line to get the physical tickets that we had already purchased online, only to notice the line was super long. We, along with 5 other people in line, were pretty confident that the bus would not be able to hold all of these people. But, by the saving graces of the bus line god, an older man who worked for the bus company came over to us and asked us if we were going to Bear Mountain. We said yes. Then he looked over our reservation print out, and handed us our tickets. Needless to say, the other people around us (we were towards the end of the line) were not so thrilled. But whatever - you win some, you lose some. And we won.
After boarding the bus, and being told to go to contradictory gates, we finally sat down and breathed a sigh of relief. The ride up to Bear Mountain was actually quite beautiful. The leaves had just started to turn (we're about 2 weeks late on season changes in NYC), and there is so much greenery upstate to enjoy.
We took the early bus up there, so we arrived around 9:30am - just as the vendors were setting up for Oktoberfest. After walking around the lake at the bottom of the mountain, we finally found the 'entrance' to all of the trails. We decided to take the steep way up. And when I say steep, I mean you're basically on a rock stair-stepper for 3 hours. There were parts when I thought that my gravestone wouldn't look too bad on this path, but we soldiered on!
I wore black leggings, a t-shirt, a thin white Adidas pull over, a Pi Phi hoodie, and a Northface Roo to hold all of my valuables (toilet paper - you never know, chapstick, ID, tickets, water and a credit card). I looked like a mix between a Freshman Greek student and minivan-yoga mom, but whatever - you do what you gotta do.
For all the pain that was endured (really, there was not much), it was seriously so, so beautiful. The trail wasn't busy at all, so we were able to stop and linger as long as we wanted. We took a ton of photos - as evidenced by this blog post. And had a lot of really great talks, breaths of literal fresh air, and roamed outside the path at some points.
We finally reached the top, only to discover there was a road the entire time! What. A. Joke! So, we decided that 90% of the people up there didn't deserve to see that view. Also, apparently bikers really love greenery and mountains too, because there was at least 20 of them when we arrived. But, the scenery was so gorgeous! And to be honest, I wouldn't have wanted to drive anyways.
I'm pretty sure that we broke a record for how fast we scaled down the mountain. It literally felt like 5 minutes, and my aching knees post-hike can attest to the speed. On our way down, we ran into a lot of people walking up the trails, which confirmed that we did the right thing by waking up at 7am. Near the base, there was a group of 4 people who were climbing with full beer steins. My heroes.
Once we got to the very bottom, Oktoberfest was in full force. And we were s-t-a-r-v-i-n-g. Before satisfying our need to eat though, we immediately got in the beer line (duh!). My cider had never tasted so cold and fresh. We decided to go the fast route and just get a huge pretzel afterwards. Then we found a place by the water and consumed said pretzel and beer. Oktoberfest was like a reunion of all people who own jeans, plaid and boots, and I just wanted to join in! That's such a "basic" thing, but let's be real, we're all "basic" in some capacity. Own it and move on with it. I will definitely be back next October for a full day of Oktoberfest drinking and eating.
We walked around some of the vendors, bought some of the best smelling potpourri (which I lost somewhere!), and then went to wait for the bus. My friends who had previously been to Bear Mountain took the same bus service as us and tipped us off to arrive extra early to the bus line. Forty-five minutes before the bus came, we were the second people there. And, I'm so glad we did! When the bus arrived, there were at least 100 people in line, and only 1 bus. I'm sure you can do that math. I'm just glad that we got a seat. There are only 3 bus times, so I was terrified of being stranded at Bear Mountain if we didn't get there early. The bus dispatcher did call another bus to come because there were so many people waiting. We ended up arriving alive, which is always the main goal anyways.
I'm so happy to have hiked this with Mike. I was impressed that he didn't bust out his knife to kill a squirrel, and start a fire with flint to cook said squirrel. But regardless, we seriously had such a good time. Definitely coming back next year!