Sunday, April 10, 2011

Back to Nyack Beach, A Special (if Not Haunted) Place

The path along Nyack Beach, Rockland County
I wasn't expecting much today from my mom, but she ended up surprising me with a favorite trip to a favorite place.

We haven't been there in a long time but as we turned down Larchdale Ave., and passed the MaryDell Faith and Life Center, I started to scratch my paws in a frenzy against the car window.

Sure enough, as we reached Broadway, we made the left hand turn to Nyack Beach. I scratched my paws faster and faster against the window: come on mom, hurry up!

I kept up  my frantic scratching till we parked, then made fast pirouettes inside the car until I was on the leash and out the door!

Here we are I screamed, internally. As we all know, dogs don't scream externally, but they do show their extreme joy in body movements, which I did with alacrity.

Off we went down the path, traveling north towards Haverstraw.

If you want you can take this path all the way to Haverstraw for a 6-mile walk. We were going to do 3 miles today.

Roberto (holding Alfie) and his daughter Sabrina
It seemed everyone in Nyack was out, and surprisingly many with surly faces. Was it us or the weather?

About a third of the way out, a little doggie named Alfie and his two owners, dad Roberto and daughter Sabrina Tenteromano caught up with us.

Alfie was a cute little thing, and we all walked together the 1.5 miles to the beach at the end of the path.

Sabrina who is a high school student said she was going to study film making next semester. 

Mommy, Roberto and Sabrina talked about everything under the sun, from gun control to death by automobile.

Incidentally, "Nothing light here" is modus operandi for mommy dearest.

We passed the Hook Mountain cliffs. Nearby was the spot where searchers found the body of 47-year-old Colleen Murphy on February 9 of this year. She had been hiking in snow and ice conditions when she had fallen off a 400-foot cliff. Her dog Jemma was found 100 feet above her on another cliff edge. Murphy was an avid hiker and had been wearing snow shoes. Her last text message to a friend said she was going hiking on Hook Mountain.

Hook Mountain, Site of at least 2 deaths over 118 years
Yesterday Momma spoke to the Captain Bob Mahon of the Clarkstown Police Dept.,  who said it was unclear if Murphy had followed her dog over the cliff, or if the dog had gone after her owner after she fell.

Mahon said the Nyack fire department has a whole crew that gets called when hikers are in danger on Hook Mountain. They are equipped with climbing gear and often approach the mountain from Route 9W just after it peaks the top.

Oddly enough, on April 5, 1893, 118 years ago, the body of a young woman was found at the bottom of Hook Mountain by a dog belonging to her nephew John Shields of Piermont, NY.

Margaret Maroney, also of Piermont, had been walking on Hook Mountain when she must have fallen about 100 feet.

A piece of rock that had dislodged during the fall had landed on her back, and her neck was broken. Said an old New York Times article about her death, the news caused "a sensation," in Nyack.

In both cases, search parties went out searching for the women. In the case of Maureen Murphy, she was found in a matter of days. Maroney however had been missing since March 27.  "Ever since the woman disappeared searching parties had been out daily looking for her but hitherto without success," wrote the NY Times on April 6, 1893. 

Hook Mountain whose name is derived from the Dutch Verdrietige Hoogte (tedious or troublesome point), refers to the contrary winds that sailors encountered while trying to round it.

Google Map of Nyack Beach and Hook Mountain
The Hudson River is at its greatest width at that point, according to a letter printed on October 1, 1909 by a Mr. Charles Bellamy Culver to the New York Times in which he angrily denounced the latest efforts by various parties to blast one side and burn the top of Hook Mountain "to celebrate the discovery of the river of which it is one of the greatest sights." No one would accept his plea to buy his land to preserve it, said Culver, including the Palisades Commission who at the time said they had no funds to do so.

Indeed, at the time (about 102 years ago) Culver had been trying to sell his 4 acres that reached to the summit to any party for $5,000 so that they could preserve the mountain. Hook Mountain like many cliff areas along the Hudson River from New York City to Nyack, was about to be blasted and the rock quarried for commercial purposes. In all, 31 smaller quarries between Piermont and Nyack were operating and "sentiment was growing to stop this defacement," wrote the New York New Jersey Trail Conference in their summary of the 732-foot high Hook Mountain.

Eventually the Palisades Park Commission did take control over Hook Mountain, a move made possible through donations from the Harriman, Perkins, and Rockefeller families, according to NYNJTC. The mountain and Rockland lake, which borders the mountain on its western most side, have a combined 12 miles of hikeable trails.

Is Hook Mountain haunted? We'll never know for sure.
Ana Banana: I don't want to turn around yet!
When we got to beach, I wanted to go swimming: "Come on, let's go in," I looked longingly at Mommy. No, she wanted to turn around, it wasn't sunny and the beach looks dirty, she said. I know what she was thinking, about having to wash me again. Well, dear reader, you must know how I think about that. No thanks.

Even so, I pleaded longingly with my eyes and by lingering around the water's edge. "But I want to go in," I said. "Let's go," she said, and turned to go. I sniffed some of the dirty pieces of flotsam and jetsam including five marooned blue balloons on the beach and we turned around.

We passed some fisherman and I sniffed their fish on the ground. "What are you fishing for?" Roberto asked the man. 'Bass," he said. He was saving the catfish for his friend he said.

The rest of the trip I tried not to pay attention to the talk about gun control (or no gun control), and Alfie and I smelled our way all the way back to the parking lot.

A terrific day in all! Except for poor Colleen Murphy and her Corgi, Jemma.

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