The stone chambers scattered throughout Putnam County are unique to our area, especially considering the sheer number of them in such close proximity. Some feel they are root cellars built and used by farmers to store perishables, while others believe they were built thousands of years ago – at least partly because some of the chambers line up with the soltice and equinox. I recently picked up a copy of the rough draft of Stone Chambers of Putnam County New York State (Plus Other Fascinating Stone Structures Worthy of Preservation) by Martin Breech, from May of 2002. He seems decidedly on the side of the arguement that these were religious structures.
Personally, I am on the fence – I don’t give them particular religious signficance yet, but I have to admit the construction seems a bit over-the-top for a root cellar. Imagine moving and placing those stones without the aid of heavy machinery! Regardless of what you beleive, or what the real reason is for the stone chambers, I think Putnam County is missing the boat. We have these chambers pock-marking our landscape. They are surrounded by mystery and controversy. We have something no one else really has. We should be playing up the mystery to attract tourists.
SYNOPSIS: Highlights include a stone chamber near the entrance of the preserve, a natural amphitheater, a vernal pool, a trail that follows alongside a marsh and a second that runs along a ridge. Twin Hill sits just north of Patterson’s Clough Preserve and the far end offer views of Ice Pond.
APPROXIMATE TIME: 40 minutes to hike the loop described, but you could easily spend two hours exploring the rest of the trails.
DIFFICULTY: Easy to Moderate.
DIRECTIONS: From Route 84 exit 19, take Route 312 east for about 1.5 miles. At the traffic light, make a left onto Farm-to-Market Road and head north. At 1.1 miles, just past the wood-panel fence, make a left onto the small one-lane dirt road. There is a sign at the entrance to the road, but it will feel like you are pulling into a private road or someone’s driveway.
Almost immediately, you will go over a small bridge. Shortly after the bridge, as the road turns to the right, there is a pull-off on the left for the preserve. You will know immediately if you are in the right spot, because you should see one of the locally-famous “stone chambers” on the right side of the parking area, though technically the stone chamber is not on preserve property.
THE HIKE: As you leave the parking area to start the hike, there is a swampy area on your left and higher ground on your right. A few hundred feet in, near the edge of the swamp, you will come to the first Y intersection where the trail divides into two appropriately named routes: The path to the left is called the Marsh Trail, and takes you along the edge of the marsh. The path to the right is called the Ridge Trail, and takes you up along the crest of a ridge. (Eventually, the trails merge back into one and continue towards Ice Pond.) From this point, our hike consisted of a counter-clockwise loop, taking the Ridge Trail out and the Marsh Trail back.
We headed right – and up – the Ridge Trail. It’s a cool little path that follows the rising crest of the ridge, but watch small children because the drop-off on the right side is pretty steep. As you get further up the hill, the ridge flattens out and the woods open up with less underbrush.
You will cross over a stone wall and come to another Y intersection. At this point, we got a little lost. The official trail goes to the left but we had stayed to the right, heading a little further uphill. I had been expecting to reach a cleared strip of land for a power line right-of-way, and we did reach it – only considerably higher up the hill than where we should have come out. Nonetheless, our mistake was rewarded with a really nice view of the marsh. There were also a good number of evergreen trees in this area.
We headed downhill on a very steep trail on the right-of-way, and met up with the trail we should have been on all along if we had gone left at the second Y intersection.
With our first mistake fixed, we were still a little confused because we should have been at the point where the Marsh Trail and the Ridge Trail merged back together, but we couldn’t find the Marsh Trail at first because it was late summer and the path was pretty overgrown with tall grass.
There are some nice marsh views on the way back – cattails, dead trees still standing in the marsh devoid of bark and grayed from the elements, and lots of wildlife.
In short order we made it back to the first Y intersection and headed back to the car, taking a peek inside the stone chamber before heading home for dinner.
HISTORY: The 33 acres that make up the Twin Hill Preserve was donated to the Putnam County Land Trust in 1996 by Muriel and David Tishler.
MAP &ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Our last visit was in May of 2010, but we have visited a few times. Pets are allowed if leashed and cleaned up after. For more info and a printable map, visit www.pclt.net.
There are plenty of mosquitos in the late spring and summer so wear bug spray. On the plus side, that same time of year provides abundant fern growth which is very pretty. But like many hikes in Putnam County, I think autumn is my favorite time to hike Twin Hill. One of my favorite memories with my kids is sitting in the back of a pickup truck outside the stone chamber eating lunch after a fall hike.
Putnam Valley, NY
The Agatha A. Durland Scout Reservation seems to have something for everyone – fishing, boating, hiking, old graveyard, stone chambers, amazing views, swimming, cabins and camping, and other activities. Only one problem – you need to be part of Boy Scouts or Cub Scouts to utilize the facility. Getting your kids involved in Scouting will give you access to this amazing 1400 acre property that borders Fahnestock State Park. Luckily, my son is in Scouting so we have been to Durland a number of times.
There is a plaque at the property offices about Agatha Alling Durland. She lived from from 1876 t0 1963. Part of the plaque reads,
“Ms. Durland left her home as well as a substantial trust fund to the Boy Scouts of America to be used in its best interest. Throughout her life, she was known for her wit, sincerity and patriotism. Her international reputation as a poet was evidenced by her sonnets appearing in the National Americana and on the shelves of the Congressional Library in Washington.
She was a member of the Poetry Society of America, the National League of American Penwomen, and the Advisory Board of the British-American Society of American.
In Palm Beach, Ms. Durland was also a member of the Society of the Four Arts, the Palm Beach Quills, the Palm Beach Round Table, and of the Everglades and Bath & Tennis Club.”
To get to Durland Scout Reservation, take Wiccopee Road from Peekskill Hollow Road. Go .6 miles, then turn left onto Oscawana Heights Road and go 1.6 miles. Turn right onto Northshore road and go .4 miles. The entrance to Durland will be on your right.
An old graveyard is hidden in the woods. Residents include a Revolutionary War Soldier. A stone chamber sits along the entrance road. Miles of hiking trails offer varying terrain, including an amazing view from one of the ridgelines.
For more info, including trail maps (and to see if they will let you hike it if you are not part of scouting) visit http://www.wpcbsa.org/Facilities/Durland/
SYNOPSIS: There are a few places in Putnam County that offer a 360 degree panoramic view. The dirt road to the top of Mt. Nimham provides relatively easy access to one of those amazing sites. On your way up the trail, you can stop to explore two stone chambers. Make sure you save enough energy to climb the fire tower that provides a breathtaking view.
APPROXIMATE TIME: One hour and thirty minutes.
DIFFICULTY: Easy, but a steady incline.
DIRECTIONS: To get there from exit 19 off Route 84, head west on Route 312 for 1 mile. Make a right onto Route 6 and go 2.1 miles. At the 3-way intersection you will see Lake Gleneida in front of you. Make a right onto Route 52. Go 0.2 miles and make a left onto Route 301. Go 1.1 miles. Just as you finish crossing the long stone bridge, make a right onto Gypsy Trail Road. Go 2.2 miles. On the left there is a small road heading uphill, with a sign for the Nimham Mountain Multiple Use Area. Half a mile up that road is a small cul-de-sac parking area.
THE HIKE: Before you start the hike, check out the first stone chamber that sits just off to the right of the parking lot as you pull in. The chamber is large enough for an average-height person to stand in.
As you stand in the parking area facing the kiosk, there are two trails that start from the cul-de-sac. We did not explore the trail on the left, but it seemed popular for mountain bikers. The trail on the right follows a dirt road about 3/4 of a mile uphill to the fire tower.
About 200 yards up the trail, as the path curves to the right, there is another, smaller stone chamber off to the right-hand side. As I peeked my head inside, I was startled by a bird that flew out just a few inches from my head.
In the summer, the tree canopy provides a nice amount of shade for the first third of the trail. The middle section of the trail gets a little warmer, partially because the direct sunlight can reach you, and partially because of the steady incline. The last third or so of the trail has shade again.
It took my family and me about 25 minutes to get from the parking area to the base of the fire tower at the top of the mountain. There is an open grassy area below the tower that makes a nice site for a picnic lunch. The tower stands head and shoulders above the highest treetops.
If heights are not your thing, and it certainly is my weakness, then climbing this tower will get your heart pumping. The first two or three sets of stairs were easy, but as I climbed higher, my death-grip on the railings got tighter and tighter. My wife mocked my desire to stop at the halfway mark, so I carefully made my way to the top. I probably looked like one of those slow-motion chameleons on the Discovery Channel – at no time did I have less than three limbs in contact with the metal frame.
The view from the top of the tower is well worth the effort. The reservoirs, lakes and rolling hills of Putnam County are beautiful. Despite all the development in Putnam over the last few years, the view from the fire tower lets you know we still live in a fairly rural – and special – place.
Getting down the mountain is a lot quicker because gravity is on your side. Take the same road you came in on. All in all, the steady climb provides a good cardiovascular workout, the fire tower climb is good for your character, and the view from the top is good for your soul.
HISTORY: Years ago, fire towers were built for early detection of forest fires, but as technology changed their use declined, and towers like this one fell into disrepair. Many of the old towers are gone. Fortunately for Putnam, this one was restored a few years ago by a group called Friends of Mt. Nimham.
The fire tower sits within the Nimham Mountain State Forest, which is a 1023 acre property with numerous trails. The property is named after Chief Daniel Nimham, who was a leader of the Wappinger tribe during the mid to late 1700’s. He tried to use the court system to fight for property rights for his tribe, but was unsuccessful. Later, he fought against the British during the Revolution. He was part of a unit called the Stockbridge Warriors, whose history included serving under George Washington at Valley Forge. Chief Nimham was killed in battle in 1778.
MAP & ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: We have visited the fire tower a number of times, the most recent being May of 2010. The first time we went my kids were too young to climb the entire tower, so they just did the first two flights. On our most recent visit, my oldest two made the climb but I hovered over their every step.
There are a number of websites that have more information on the fire tower and the surrounding property. The Kent Conservation Advisory Committee (www.kentcac.info) has an excellent piece on the history of the area, and www.planputnam.org has info on the fire tower as well as a number of other hikes in Putnam County. Look under the Recreation section of the website.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation website (www.dec.ny.gov) has printable trail maps, as well as property information and rules. Pets are allowed if on a leash no longer than six feet.
View Nimham Fire Tower (one way)2012-02-28 17:03 in a larger map