Thursday, May 28, 2009

An area that can be seen when driving on Route 32 (The Delmar By-Pass) is interesting at all times of the year. When driving towards the east and the connect to 9-W you can look down into an inviting small valley with stream, shaped by mounds of steep-hilled terrain. During hunting season, I'll see trucks parked off the highway and I expect the deer walk a little more wary on their paths in and out of the brush. I've often thought I'd like to venture into those hollows to perhaps find an unknown spring or wildlife inhabitation in a sanctuary area created by geology more than by man. I wasn't sure where Shiffendecker Farms Preserve was exactly but I was hoping the property was within the Normanskill watershed. Those hunters (if they were such) will have to find others fields because, yes, the land I had looked at for so many years (thinking that land should be a park or something) is actually now Shiffendecker Farm Preserve held by the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy. I went on a hike on those lands on April 29, 2009 led by Dan Driscoll of the Conservancy. "Wear boots" and be ready for rugged terrain was the advise given to those who had an interest in getting out into the fresh air.

The hike itself was a near bushwack as the property is not marked with trails yet. Part of the purpose of the hike was for feedback from the group on what orientation to natural features and terrain would make the "best" trail system. Being close to a large mall with large parking lots has both advantages and disadvantages. My own feeling is to make the trailhead away from the mall area on one of the other sides of the property. I do not think this would limit potential access but could discourage people looking for a quick hide-a-way.

For our hike we started on a ridge dune-like feature and walked this spine downhill through thick understory (including brambles). The advantage was the view on both sides down into the valley. Once lower the land sloped more gradually till we reached the bottom land. There was running water in the form of a small stream. Beaver signs were abundant, although few were fresh signs. They left a carved totem pole in the form of a large trunk with interesting markings. There is no bridge so we forded the stream using some deadfall that make an adequate crossing. Up the hill on the other bank till we reached an old farm road and the property's boundary. We started to circle back, walking through a nice wooded upland. Trout lilys had bloomed and the undergrowth flowers along with apple blossoms at peak made this part of the hike very nice. There was another crossing of the gully stream that took some manuevering
to get all parties across.

We descended to the valley floor to a nice glade of fir. A number of us on the hike thought this peaceful spot was a tour highlight and definitely should be a center piece to any trail system. We climbed partway up the hill we had just descended and walked out on the Bender Road side of the property. it was noted that there were some parking spots available near this exit.

To hike this area it would be necessary to contact Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy
(518) 436-6346.