Tag Archives: hitch hiking

Cape Cod #1

Summer was drawing to a close but in a few weeks there would be chores to do on the Catskill Mountain estate I had come across in 1969.

There was a little time to go exploring and for no reason except having heard Old Cape Cod several thousand times on juke boxes and radios during my life I decided to get out my thumb and head across Massachusetts.

Avoiding freeways and towns as best I could, and conscious of being in the Catskill Mountains, I followed the little black lines on a map to the town of Catskill, on the Hudson River. It must have been a pretty easy journey for I remember nothing of it!

Nor do I remember much of Catskill the town. In fact I probably skirted the town itself, coming in on New York State Highway 23A and approaching the  Rip Van Winkle Bridge on the east side of town.1993 BLOG

What an unexpected treat! Built in 1935, the Rip Van Winkle Bridge is an impressive structure. After miles of forests and fields this mighty steel cantilever bridge jumps the mighty Hudson River some 120 miles from the river’s mouth at New York City. The bridge has ship clearance of 145 feet, a full 14-story building, above the water. Of course, ship clearance is not as far above the water as the bridge is.

On seeing the bridge I found myself calculating how to get across it. I wanted to walk across to check out the Hudson River, but I’d been on many of these narrow cantilever bridges in my day. I couldn’t imagine getting over nearly a mile of such an enclosed structure while dodging cars by squeezing on the side of the decking.

Matters worsened when I got close enough to realize the bridge was a toll bridge, meaning booths with officials that would surely report a backpacker taking off on foot in front of traffic.

But then my heart sang. I got close enough to discover this mighty structure, built to let wheels roll over water, included a walkway — an isolated path all on its own, running on the outside of the superstructure that held the road.

My heart was even happier to discover the toll for walking was free!

I found myself fascinated with several things about crossing Hudson River on the Rip Van Winkle Bridge —

First was how far above the river the bridge is. It crosses from above the bluffs beside the river, not over the river itself.

Second is how big the Hudson River is! Wow.

And, third, how green the Hudson Rover Valley is. Rivers are green in the desert West, but only along a few feet of their banks. Here all was lush.

My greatest fascination while walking across the Rip Van Winkle Bridge I’ll get to in my next blog.


More about the Rip Van Winkle Bridge—

(information from Wikipedia)

• Built by the newly-formed New York Bridge Authority in 1935

• Carries NY Highway 23

• From Catskill on the west to Hudson on the east

• Original cost: $2.4 million (inflation adjusted, $41.3 million)

• ship clearance: 145 feet, a 14-story building

• 5,040 feet long

• Lead paint removed and repainted in 2009

• Includes a separated walkway on the downriver side, closed at night

• Bikes can use the traffic lanes or walkway

• 1935 toll for cars: 80¢ + 10¢ per person up to $1

• 1935 toll adjusted for inflation: car, $13.76 / person, $1.72 / max, $17.20

• Actual 2015 toll for cars: $1.50 / $1.25 with pass

• No toll for walkway

• Yes, it is named after Washington Irving’s short story

Frost Valley #4: Posting Property

In the American West we take vast areas of public land to be the norm.

So I was not prepared to find mile after mile of forests being posted with signs that read, Private Property / No Trespassing, when I set out from New Jersey, hitch hiking in the spring of 1969. I was always careful to sleep between the side of the road and the posted property line.

As summer turned to fall in the Catskill Mountains I came to learn those lines I had slept along beside the roads are the simplest of the lines to post. By far most property lines of the 3,000-acre estate I was staying at ran through wild forest, free of road or trail or cleared brush. And they all had to be posted if the animals and lands of the estate were to be protected from intruders.

To be legal the property line had to have a posting that could be seen from the next posting, so someone coming upon the line would see that the property was posted no mater where they may have come across the line.

As the caretake’s helper it was obvious I — the only person with no experience with the wooded property lines — was just guy to go replacing backwood posters.

And how was I suppose to know where the line was? Well, after replacing each old poster I’d look to see the next one somewhere on a tree, probably in the same direction that I’d been breaking through the forest.

Unless, of course, the property happened to make a corner at the tree I’d just put a new poster on. Or unless the old poster on the next tree had been torn off by wind or animals or hunters.

In the case of missing posters the solution was to keep breaking through the forest hoping to see another worn poster. If I couldn’t spot another old poster soon, it was time to give up and get back to the last poster I’d put up — otherwise I could get entirely lost in an unknown forest. Once at the last poster I’d replaced, I’d look around to see if a corner had been turned on the property and, if there were still no old posters to be seen, I’d head out on another search in the direction I had been headed. Several times I managed to pick up the trail after going back to my last posting.

In the event of the property line changing direction, I was given excellent directions for general expectations: “Go in a straight line for a while and there is a corner that goes at about 30 degrees to the right—it’s just a little past a big fallen tree you’ll have to get over—then that goes straight for a couple of posters before there is another 90 degree right where you can see a rock outcropping on your left . . . ”

For a week or so I was fitted out with a pack of signs, a hammer, a sack of nails and another set of excellent instructions. It was generally assumed I’d get home before I got too hungry and there were, even in the late summer, probably enough little streams if I got thirsty.

And it worked. The property was properly posted before hunting season and I always made it home for dinner!