If you read my last post, you know that I believe that accidental experiences often end up being the most memorable and worthwhile. Well yesterday, just a few days after writing that post, I ended up on another accidental adventure. How’s that for irony?
“Wanna go hiking tomorrow? I heard there’s a place in Cold Spring with some ruins?”
Let me start off by saying that while I have hiked, I in no way consider myself a hiker. If I did, I’d like to think I would have done more research than Googling “Ruins in Cold Spring” before responding to a friends invite with “Sure, why not.”
We began our trip with a two-hour drive to Fishkill, NY, expecting nothing but a semi-leisurely hike to explore the Cornish estate. Being that we had parked at Little Stony Point, we thought we’d take a little pregame hike along the Hudson River, if for nothing but the views.
Aside from the clouds, we had perfect mid-70s weather, and honestly, I could have spent more time than we did just relax around Stony Point. But we had come here with the goal of exploring the Cornish Estate and we were determined to complete it. Little did we know that we would not only complete that goal but surpass it entirely.
We crossed the street and made our way over to the starting point, a sign with two directions: “Cornish Trail (Blue), Washburn Trail (White). Awesome, so we just have to follow the little blue markers. Easy enough, right?
Our hike began just as we expected. Primarily flat terrain, easy-going, with some photographic sites along the way.
Considering I did little to no research on this hike, it should come to no surprise that I didn’t exactly object when my hiking partners suggested taking short, off-trail detours, one of which included hopping rocks across a stream. You may be thinking, “Ah, okay. Now I see how you got yourself into an unplanned predicament.” Well, you’d be wrong. Despite our off-trailing, we still managed to find our way back onto our planned, blue-marked trail. And soon enough we had stumbled upon the Cornish Estate!
The Cornish Estate, otherwise known as Northgate, was once owned by Edward Cornish and his wife Selina. In 1938, Edward tragically died at his desk at work, followed by his wife two weeks later. The estate then fell into the care of the Cornish’s nephew Joel until 1956 when a fire destroyed most of the mansion. By the 1960’s the estate became part of the Hudson Highlands State Park, but by then a majority of the estate had begone to deteriorate and nature had begun reclaiming pieces of it. This includes the destroyed mansion, the greenhouse, and other assorted buildings. After a half hour of walking passed the mansion, we were still passing smaller structures that were a part of the original estate, including the Cornish dairy.
The ruins of the barn, tower, and that of a wagon were still visible. The large lot of land behind the barn, which was most likely used for livestock or crops is also still completely visible, adding an odd transition considering it’s the only area of it’s kind on the entire trail. Oh yeah, there’s also a super creepy well that’s way too reminiscent of that from The Ring films.
The fact that the structures aren’t really that ancient made exploring them that much more eery. Above some fireplaces and are certain spots of flooring, there still remains tiles in mostly perfect condition.
Once we passed the dairy the hike slowly began to increase in incline and difficulty. Paved paths and cement roads slowly turned into rocks and mud puddles, still we followed the markers as we had not yet had enough. At some point we came to a fork in the road. One way would lead us back to the beginning of our route, thus ending our hike for the day. The other would, or so we thought based on our interpretation of the maps we had gotten, take us close to Lake Surprise. If you faced that direction you also had a far view of one of the mountain summits. It was at this time that I made the joke, “While we’re going in that direction, let’s just head to the summit.” And so we continued in that direction.
However, it was soon apparent that our casual hike was becoming a bit more like an semi-climb. Though we obviously weren’t mountain climbing vertical slopes, the incline we were coming across was pretty close and soon we were using large rocks and branches in order to continue. This was definitely not the type of hiking any one of us had done before.
Using what little juice I had left on my phone, I was hoping my GPS signal could give us a little clue as to where we were. From the looks of it, we were nowhere near the end of the loop where we assumed we had been traveling. We were beginning to get tired and honestly, a bit stressed. While we still were able to follow marker’s letting us know we were indeed on a path, we had no idea the level of the path that we were currently on. But we did know it was a league out of anything we had ever done. Taking a minute to compose ourselves, we figured that we had made it too far to turn around. Going back seemed almost as tiring as finishing. Even though we had no idea exactly when we would finish.
It seemed as though every few feet we went got steeper, and I could already tell my legs would be killing me tomorrow, though my ankles were already starting to feel like jello.
I wasn’t able to get much footage of our steep hikes as I was wanted to have both hands free, but this is a good representation of some of the areas we had to get passed.
We were drained and part of me felt like sitting down and giving up, but suddenly we heard “Guys, come see this!” from our friend who had gotten ahead of us. And there it was.
We hadn’t even considered attempting to make it to the summit and yet we had accidentally. For fifteen minutes we sat there taking in the view, resting our legs, and repeating over and over that “this made it all worth it.” We would’ve stayed longer but by then it was already around 6:00 PM and we knew we had to at least make it down the steep areas before sundown. As our luck would have it, getting down proved to be a bit more difficult than we had anticipated. It took going in the wrong direction twice and getting separated from and finding one person of our group, but eventually we re-found the blue markers that were leading us in a downwards direction. The descent took way less time than the way up but it was still quite a hike. Thankfully, we made it back to flat lands just as the sun finally set. Despite having seen the ruins earlier in the day, passing the dairy, then the mansion ruins, and eventually the greenhouse that we had missed originally with nothing but a flashlight definitely gave us the chills.
It took some time but by 8:30 PM we were back at Little Stony Point and hurrying into the car. What was supposed to be a 5 mile, relaxed hike ended up being maybe a 10 mile hike to 1200 feet which took us about six hours.
My legs are still sore and my body is still trying to process the usage of muscles that I swear I have never used before. And yet, I wouldn’t go back and change the adventure that we had. I’m very grateful to have been with two friends who are fun and laid back, but most importantly, able to remain calm and collected even in times of stress. Even when we felt like giving up at time, we were cracking jokes the whole way up..and down.
If I learned anything from this hike, it would be this:
- RESEARCH YOUR HIKES. Know the path you are taking and make sure you know the level of the trek you are taking on. Though we made it down safely, navigating the steep areas after sundown could’ve been ridiculously dangerous. Also make sure you are prepared with adequate equipment. While we had flashlights, adequate water, and protein bars to make our trip a little easier, my running sneakers were so not made for this type of trip.
- You are most likely capable of so much more than you think you are. If I had been told the type of hike we were taking on beforehand, I honestly might’ve passed; I would’ve blamed my asthma, or my lack of experience, or my nerves. And while I’m sure this hike is nothing serious to some, for me it was completely out of my comfort zone. Before yesterday I had hiked, but those hikes were generally long distance with mild incline. And now I can say I conquered 1200 feet of steep hiking without preparation. Not gonna lie, it feels pretty awesome.
So, I guess I have to leave this post off the same way I left my last.
The unplanned adventures definitely make for the best stories.
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After sundown those ruins really do look eerie! Completely agree that sometimes the descent can be more of a challenge – I remember hiking up Yewbarrow in the Lake District last year, and towards the summit the “hike” turned into a “climb”. We then opted to go down a different way and found ourselves on an unstable scree slope. There were definitely a few moments when I wondered if I was going to make it down in one piece!
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. Definitley were a few moments that left me overwhelmed and out of my element, but it’s since been replaced a great feeling of achievement. Yewbarrow looks amazing but quite the challenge! Hopefully I can make it to that level at some point!
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I felt exactly the same about Yewbarrow – at the time, I felt so out of my depth (I’m short, so the climbing section was quite the challenge at times) but looking back it feels like such an accomplishment. I’m sure for the likes of Everest mountaineers it’s nothing, but everyone has different levels of ability and difficulty thresholds!