Off The Beaten Path: Haven for hikers offers great views
VERNON, N.J. — Hikers looking for sweeping views of valleys and mountains don't have to travel further than Vernon's Pinwheel Vista on top of Wawayanda Mountain — if they're willing to work for it.
Intersecting the famous Appalachian Trail and just a short drive from Warwick, N.Y.,Wawayanda Mountain began rippling upward out of the earth about 1.8 billion years ago as part of the Crystalline Appalachians section of the mountain range.
It sits along State Route 94 near County Route 515, flanked by a pastoral valley filled with Black Dirt farms, marshes and forest.
From Warwick, N.Y.: Head southwest on Main Street toward West Street, going onto Route 94 west. Head into New Jersey onto Route 94. Right after Prices Switch Road. If road is out, make a right on DeKay Road, turn left on Meadowburn Road, then left onto County Route 515 to State Route 94.
Don't miss: A trickling spring about halfway up the mountain.
Be aware of: A progressively steep climb. Not handicapped accessible. Prepare properly for ticks, bugs, sun.
Though certainly not as packed as the local mall on a Saturday, you'll probably encounter a few characters along the trail: local sightseers, casual hikers and the occasional hard-core trailblazer with a mammoth-sized rucksack working their way through the 2,184 miles of trails known simply to them as the "AT."
Starting north on the Appalachian Trail from the parking lot off Route 94, on first approach to the mountain in the warmer months, you'll pass flat windswept fields of wildflowers and grass with monarch butterflies as the mountain juts up in front of you. You almost expect Julie Andrews (as in "The Sound of Music") to come skipping by.
Traveling upward past a jumble of large boulders, hikers should keep their eyes on white blazes marked on trees, so as not to get off the trail.
You'll be looking down a lot due to tough, rocky terrain that climbs steadily upward — about 750 feet in just about 1.3 miles from Route 94.
Along the way, you might find the occasional snake; but don't let that stop you. One particularly large but non-poisonous black rat snake on the trail is probably still striking fear into rodents right now.
As you approach the top, you'll hit stone steps known as the "Stairway to Heaven," and follow to the left three blue blazes marking the short walk to Pinwheel Vista.
Once there, you'll be rewarded with a crystalline view of the Shawangunk, Kittatinny and Catskill mountains and the Vernon Valley.
On a clear day, you can make out High Point monument, New Jersey's highest point, and watch turkey vultures soar overhead.
Climbing the mountain Thursday, Allen Rochkind, 68, of White Plains, said that although he's hiked in the Sierra Mountains in California, he prefers "bumps" such as Wawayanda Mountain, to the Sierra's tall, jutting, bare mountains.
"It's a quiet, understated beauty you don't get in California," said Rochkind.