This post will summarize some of our experiences in Harriman State Park, a beautiful woodland just 1-1.5h away from Manhattan (driving or by train + bike).
There are scenic views, numerous lakes, and plenty of wildlife. It is nothing but stunning to have that land of [nearly] unspoiled nature so close to the biggest urban area in US… This fact is only evident by the view from Bear Mountain.
By the way, the name was not given to this mountain in vain – yes, there are bears in the park, and we have even seen one! I have to admit this is not the best photo of a bear –
unfortunately it was not close enough to make a good shot, but I just had to add it here as a proof.
Other animals, like the Canada geese on the photos below, might be less unusual for an urban dweller but also appear less menacing.
But before I go on with the list of animals we have seen there, here is a bush that every year turns those woods into a truly fabulous place for about two weeks early June. It is mountain laurel.
In places where mountain laurel is concentrated, e.g. at the Lake Skannatati, its white-to-pink blossom is outstanding.
In the height of its bloom, the woods look more like Garden of Eden than just a wild forest. Of course, you’d feel like wearing nothing but Adam’s (or Eve’s) suit there.
… which provides plenty of opportunities for nice photos. Just wandering around there feels special.
But don’t think it would be the only type of flowers you’ll see there.
Lily Pond is rightfully called so because it is almost entirely covered with water lilies!
Other lakes, on contrary, have totally open surface and clear water, like Second Reservoir
or Silver Mine Lake, for example.
And there are many more lakes.
It is warm enough for swimming from May to October.
If you’re not up for swimming, you can just walk on water.
Seriously! Well, it is just that many of those lakes are reservoirs with dams. It is like those infinity pools but in a natural setting.
Main activity in Harriman Park is hiking, but some trails are good for biking too.
I’d recommend wearing a helmet though.
But of course, it is hard to resist temptation to relax in such a tranquil place… especially when you have a hammock with you.
And especially after some nice food.
By the way, there are some wild fruits there too, like grapes
and blueberries, but better leave those for animals.
And if you bring food with you, make sure not to leave any garbage, it is really disappointing to find any in such a pristine place.
But even if you don’t have a hammock, sitting by the lake will make you forget about all daily troubles.
There are also some springs and falls connecting the lakes and reservoirs.
After all that chilling, it is definitely worth going for a walk again, and don’t forget your camera for there will be a plenty of opportunities to
shoot photograph animals.
There are many colorful insects.
Dragonflies are the easiest to spot, and some come right to you or even on you 😉
Other arthropods that drew our attention were these huge centipede and harvestman.
Recently, we’ve seen this juvenile eastern newt (eft), that had amazingly bright orange skin (they loose the color when they go back to water and mature).
Common Garter snakes are common there indeed (and do not pose any threat).
As in any healthy forest, there is plenty of birds; we’ve even seen some nests with nestlings.
Some of the most common bigger birds are turkey vultures and herons.
The latter probably feast on fish like this school of young catfish.
Most likely you will see some species of sunfish family. There were many nests of theirs at Silver Mine Lake, and it was interesting to see how protective they were around them.
At Lake Skannatati, they could easily hide among water plants but they preferred not to, perhaps they were even attracted to my underwater camera.
After I mentioned bears, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are some more common mammals, like hares,
raccoons (even though you can see them in Central Park too, it is somehow nicer to see them not feeding off a trash bin),
and of course deer (white-tailed deer, to be exact).
Seeing a horned stag among all that blossom will make you feel like in a fairy-tale.
As Christian says, you may get to see unicorns coming out of those bushes any moment.