The Campster

Chris PinkusTen Mile River, near the New York-Connecticut border.

In this new column, Jeff Thrope stakes out sublime weekend excursions for the city-dwelling camper.

A little-known marvel of New York’s public transportation system is that Metro-North, one of the busiest commuter railroads in the country, manages to connect the city to the Appalachian Trail. just north of Pawling, N.Y., the Harlem Line’s weekend-only Appalachian Trail stop was built 20 years ago at the suggestion of Howard Permut, an avid hiker and former vice president of planning and development for the train. (He is now its president.) The small wooden structure is the only train station along the entire 2,181-mile footpath, and from it you can get to a number of magnificent spots, among them the Ten Mile River Lean-To, a charming shelter near the New York-Connecticut border situated between a large meadow and the roaring Housatonic River.

Arrive at Grand Central early Saturday morning and grab a window seat on a Wassaic-bound train (and a few Take 5 bars from Hudson News). Including a short transfer at the Southeast station, the entire trip is just under two hours. As the train nears the stop, be sure to move to the last car, the only one from which you can exit onto the 18-foot long platform. at the impossible-to-miss garden store nearby, Native Landscapes, fill up your water bottle and check out the exotic birds in the back.

There are two possible directions to go on any trail and, for this trip, we’ll be heading north and east, towards Connecticut. Cross the highway, find the white blaze marking the path, and start hiking through the beautiful stretch of rolling farmland. You’ll pass herds of lackadaisical cows and the occasional wild turkey before the trail sneaks back into the woods, past tall birch trees and moss-covered rocks and through tunnel-like boardwalks enclosed by canopies of overgrown forest. look for hand-built stone walls once used to define territory and contain livestock; this stretch of the trail is full of them.

Sam Macon; Chris PinkusFrom left: near the Ten Mile River shelter; a water pump at the shelter.

After a flat five miles, you’ll cross a road and come upon Wiley Shelter, a large lean-to with a picnic table. It’s a well-timed pit stop, but less scenic than our destination, so scarf the lunch you packed, fill your water bottle at the pump and down one of your take 5 bars; Ten Mile River lies ahead. After crossing into Connecticut and over a series of old bridges, it’ll be time to conquer Bull Mountain, a roughly 1,000-foot peak near New Milford. a long, gradual ascent eventually levels off and the final leg of the day’s 10-mile hike is a downhill stretch, to a leaf-covered service road. from there it’s a just a few steps to the Ten Mile River Lean-To, where an adjacent pasture is surrounded by thick woods and the confluence of the quiet Ten Mile River and the rushing Housatonic is just a hundred yards away. there are no fires allowed on the Connecticut stretch of the Appalachian Trail, but when you’re watching the moon shine over the rapids, a hot meal and flask in hand, it will hardly matter.

In the morning, you can either backtrack to the Appalachian Trail station or continue on to the Harlem Valley-Wingdale stop. (For the latter, head north on the Trail for a little less than a mile, make a left on Dogtails Corners Road, then a right on Route 55, followed by a left on Route 22.) The near-five-mile route to Wingdale has the considerable bonus of passing by the cheap and cheerful Cousins Café, where hot coffee, scrambled eggs and fresh-baked rolls await.

The Campster


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