Ok, raptors first. Today I saw several bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, and one very large owl.
I recently found out about the Briarcliff-Peekskill Trailway (BPT), a 12 mile-long trail that runs from Ossinning to the Blue Mountain Reservation in Peekskill. It passes through the Teatown Reservation, which I got a taste of recently, and so I went to check out the BPT in the area of the Teatown Reservation, and to walk some of the Teatown trails. For more information visit the Teatown website which has a printable trail map as well as descriptions of the trails.
I decided to park in the John E. Hand/Bald Mountain parking area, as this would allow me access to the BPT that goes north to the Croton dam, as well as access to the Teatown Reservation to the south. When I did the hike in Hand Park I met a guy who told me of the bald eagles that nested near the dam. I was hoping to see one.
To get to the BPT I walked west on Blinn Rd. It picks up on the right just after the bridge, and follows the stream that comes from Teatown Lake.
The trail is marked fairly well with green-painted blazes. However, I did miss one critical left turn. There’s a fork in the trail at a point where you encounter a house with a small horse barn. The BPT goes left, but there is a trail that continues strait. I totally missed the left, and just went ahead. The trail is pretty well worn so I didn’t question the lack of blazes. This trail drops you on Croton Dam Rd at a place where fisherman have access to the reservoir, as evidenced by the pull-off and aluminum fishing boats (and litter).
There’s a trail that leads down to the waters edge, so I followed it. I was about 200 feet from the shore when I saw the eagle fly past, over the water (ice), it’s head the unmistakable white of a bald eagle. I think I said Whoa! out loud. I then noticed a few more large birds circling around, and one in a tree. These turned out to be adolescent eagles. They are speckled grey and don’t have the white head of the adult male and female.
As I walked closer to the shore, not in their direction, I noticed that there was a fairly large deer on the surface of the ice, dead, with quite a big circle of blood around it. This is definitely what attracted the eagles. There were also crows and a few vultures hopping around the scene. I didn’t want to spook the eagles so I kept my distance and fished my binoculars out of my backpack. At this point an adolescent eagle flew over and perched in a tree about twenty feet away and forty feet up. He just sat there sizing me up. It was a bit unnerving. Those things are huge! After about 20 seconds he flew away, back to the action. Of course I was so stunned that didn’t get my camera out. I never did get a good opportunity for a photo. I tried to catch one as it flew past, but it looks like one of those photos you see of Sasquatch in the woods…
Very exciting indeed. I followed the trail back to Blinn Rd., noting where I missed the continuation of the BPT.
The trail that I did follow passes through a nice stand of really tall fir trees.
Near Blinn Rd. is also a mini waterfall. Very mini. Hey! You take what you can get, right?
The BPT crosses Blinn Rd. and after about 100 yards enters the Teatown Reservation where it connects with the Northwest Trail heading west. The Northwest Trail is marked NW on the map and is blazed yellow, where the BPT continues to be blazed green.
The NW trail winds up Teatown Hill where you’re given some nice views, despite the fact that you’re standing under a high-tension power-line tower. The trail follows the power lines for quite a while, where you get to see the results of ConEdison’s control over the growth of trees. You also get to see, since there is minimal vegetation, the litter of their workers.
The NW trail connects with the Lakeside trail for a short distance, then the BPT branches off to the right and crosses Teatown Rd. You can definitely tell you’re no longer in a maintained or protected area as you pass by cast-off rusting appliances. Not too many, but their presence is a drag. Shortly after crossing Teatown Rd. I was startled by the owl that came blasting out of some trees just ahead of me. It flew about 200 feet away and landed in a tree, obscured, or well-camouflaged. It was quite a sight.
This section of the BPT was not terribly spectacular, though it did cut through a swap that I imagine will be hopping with bird activity soon.
The Waterfall Trail (WF) connects to the BPT, to the east, after about 550 yards or so. Shortly thereafter you come upon the waterfall, where there was placed a memorial bench. A perfect place to stop and have some coffee and a home-made granola bar.
The WF trail is short, only .3 miles, and ends at the Back 40 Trail (B40), which is a nice loop with varied terrain. It does, however, pass under and follow the power-lines. And guess what? More trash. This stuff looked like it had been here for a while, as evidenced by the 50s-style baby carriage frame.
There were also some stone pillars that look as though they might have been part of a gate, of some sort, though it wasn’t obvious what the gate would have been protecting.
The B40 trail follows the power lines for a while, then passes through some private property, past a house that had some great wooden sculptures of moose.
The B40 then drops you at the Nature Center, where there is a program that allows kids to tap a maple tree.
After passing through the Nature Center parking lot and wildlife exhibits I picked up the Hidden Valley Trail (HV) which connected me to the Hilltop Trail (HT), both easy and well maintained. At the end of HT I picked up the NW trail which brought me back to the BPT and then Blinn Rd.
All in all an exceptional hike. A long one, too, as I think I covered about 6 miles of trails. A good workout.
The Teatown Lake Reservation is large, well-maintained, committed to preservation, and offers classes and programs. I will definitely be revisiting to explore further, and will try to help them clean up some of that trash.