by Ralph Ferrusi , Poughkeepsie Journal, link to original post WITH PHOTOS
Hike name: Bear Mountain accessible Appalachian Trail (AT)
Location: Right on top of Bear Mountain, at the north end of the Perkins Memorial Drive summit loop around the tower.
Length: 2,465 feet
Rating: Inspired. Inspiring.
Accessible: Designed and built to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards.
Dogs: Please be extra careful to clean up after.
Features: This new section, built by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference (NYNJTC), extends from the parking area near the Perkins Tower to a sweeping viewpoint north over the Hudson Valley, the first such viewpoint from the AT on Bear Mountain.
Background: My cousin Michael was involved in a serious automobile accident several years ago and is partially paralyzed and wheelchair-bound. At some point after the accident he said to me, “Ralphie, I’d like to go on the Appalachian Trail with you sometime.”
Saturday, June 4, 2011, we did it, along with his mom, Sandy, and his son Michael — three generations — and my wife, Kathy — a Super Day on the very top of Bear Mountain, New York, USA!
The first ADA-standards accessible AT was a 2,000-vintage 1.1-mile loop trail, part of it the AT, along the Housatonic River near Falls Village, Conn., (Hike of the Week May 11, 2006). I returned to this section for the June 10 column two months ago, and it had become a bit “long in the tooth” — parts of it were gullied, others blocked by blowdowns. Hopefully it’s been brought back to its original high standards.
Three other sections of the AT are accessible, and a fourth is in-progress:
Opened in 2002, Pochuck Creek, Vernon Township, N.J., is the AT’s largest accessible trail-reconstruction project to date, involving 6,000 feet of elevated boardwalk over the largest wetland area along the entire AT, and featuring a 144-foot suspension bridge over Pochuck Creek.
Opened in 2006, Osborn Farm, Shady Valley, Tenn., the 0.7-mile trail is situated at approximately 3,500 feet in an open meadow, terminating at the height of land, with 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains, including Virginia’s highest, 5,729-foot Mount Rogers.
Opened in 2007, Thundering Falls, in the Green Mountain National Forest, near Killington, Vt., includes 700 feet of elevated boardwalk and approximately 500 feet of gravel-surfaced tread leading to 100-foot Thundering Falls,Vermont’s sixth largest.
A quarter-mile trail near Pearisburg, Va., is a work in progress.
Hike Description: On National Trails Day, June 4, 200 people gathered on the summit of Bear Mountain to celebrate the opening of a brand-new 1.3-mile section of AT, that included a 0.4-mile section of handicapped accessible trail.
I began my hike on the east end of the Bear Mountain Bridge, my “traditional” kicking-off point for an AT hike to Perkins. It’s always a treat to walk across the bridge and enjoy the north/south views along the Hudson. The Zoo was closed at this early hour, and I walked, for the first time ever, the blue-blazed trail that swings around it to the west, then again enjoyed the extraordinary 800 steps “trail of the future” up the east face of Bear Mountain.
As I stepped onto the paved road at the north end of the Perkins summit loop, Sandy, Mike, and Mike were just pulling up in their wheelchair-lift van — remarkable timing!
Kath arrived soon afterward, and after the ceremonies, the wheelchairs and handicapped were the first on the new trail, through a garden-like setting of mountain laurel, past big boulders. Everyone was smiling, ear to ear, the whole day. The viewpoint was the frosting on the cake. A hearty congratulations to the trail conferences, volunteers, designer Pete Jenkens, master trail builder Eddie Walsh and all involved.
How to get there: Route 9D south, cross the Bear Mountain Bridge to 9W/202 south, right on Seven Lakes Drive, right on (up) Perkins.