Fingerboard Shelter via the AT
Blog by Marlon Smith / Hike Live Love Adventures & Urban and Outdoor Survival
Harriman State Park, NY
Photos by Explore Harriman [Hike held on January 8, 2023]
Early to rise on this day—I needed to get the day pack loaded up with my gear. I usually pack it the night before with three liters of water and my favorite trail snacks. Today I went with the new nut and seed bar from Honey Stinger | Gluten Free & Organic Sports Nutrition. I included my Silky Big Boy saw, my Fire Kit (urbanandoutdoorsurvival.com), my trauma kit, and chose to try out a new Condor knife.
Temps on this morning's start time were going to be at a real-feel of 24 degrees. I made a point to remind the members on our MeetUp message board to plan wearing layers to best maintain body heat. Using this method traps the heat in the pockets formed in between the layers, removing a layer if you start overheating or add it back if you begin cooling down.
Day pack squared, coffee in hand, and off I went to meet my crew. The parking lot for this hike sits in front Lake Tiorati which is almost to the top of Seven Lakes Drive. I had some great new members join us—always great meeting new outdoor enthusiasts. Head count for this one was a nice size of 18, had a quick chat about the trail and off we went.
To get to the first leg we needed to climb up an embankment from the parking lot to meet the Lake Tiorati Trail, this section is marked with blue blazes. Only a quarter of a mile up and we found the Appalachian Trail (AT-white blazes). There’s a large water tower at this junction, a good mark for your turn off point. This section of the trail parallels Seven Lakes Drive. The din of the cars on the roadway silences soon enough as you ascend. This is a very well maintained trail; you never find debris from down trees or garbage here.
There are two up and down sections before arriving at the shelter. I call them the camel humps of Fingerboard (I'm pretty sure that’s just me) - you can see what I mean as you study the map on All Trails.
I had a bear encounter here some time back so I’m always on the lookout for signs of them in this area. Signs would include scat, claw marks and fur on the trees and foot prints crossing the trail. Yes, it is winter and in general they are hibernating but our weather patterns here have been warmer which can bring bears out of hibernation earlier. This is really unhealthy for the bear's cycle which means if you do encounter one this time of year, the bear will certainly be particularly agitated. Do not make eye contact, back away, do not run. Carry bear spray but make certain you know how to use it.
After a mile on the Appalachian Trail we came to the Hurst Trail, which takes you down to Fingerboard Shelter. It’s wider than most of the other shelters in Harriman State Park, built in 1928 entirely on a rock ledge. It is equipped with two fireplaces, one on each side wall. The shelter faces east, toward a wooded valley and Lake Tiorati, with wide grassy areas surrounding. This is a great spot for campers, you can use tents or hammocks up here, there’s ample space for both. An active spring can be found right below the shelter as you face out. If dry, keep walking down the streambed for this spring before going all the way to the lake for water. Of course, you should always pack in water when visiting this area. It's an unnecessary risk to hike dry.
The shelter was occupied when we arrived so we moved 50 yards over to the closest fire ring for a quick snack. Building a fire is becoming customary on all of the group's hikes. It not only gives some welcomed warmth on these winter hikes but it is an opportunity for our members to practice their skills using different methods each outing.
After some great conversation and group pics, we started getting ready to head back down the trail. With the fire extinguished we made our way back up to the AT to start our descent. One of the members slipped and fell on an ice covered rock, maybe the only patch of ice we had seen all day. 80% of all falls happen on the way down from climbs. Be mindful, muscle fatigue sets in and after taking a break, your rhythm can be thrown off.
The day warmed up nicely and as usual we were discussing where to head for lunch. One of our group members is a resident of nearby Stony Point and suggested checking out Hudson Mills Tavern in the Garnerville Arts Center. It’s about 20 minutes away from Lake Tiorati so we made our way.
The drive brought us to the fantastic historic Garner Arts Center which was once a dye house and textiles mill pre-Civil War, and then years later was converted into a thriving arts district. Years of renovation and preservation followed after Hurricane Irene, and in 2019 Hudson Mills Tavern was opened. We had a really great meal - their gastro pub menu aims to please - check it out here! Make sure to take note of the interior since Hudson Mills Tavern is located within an one of the old textile mills. Much of the old mill was repurposed and reused. You can see the old conveyor belts across the ceiling and the old ceiling beams were repurposed into the wooden counter at the bar. We highly recommend a visit!
Find more hikes by Hike - Live - Love (Glen Rock, NJ) | Meetup + Urban and Outdoor Survival (Glen Rock, NJ) | Meetup
As always, carry out what you carry in and always carry a tyvek map from the nynjtc.org
Harriman State Park, NY