Dan and Hannah Hike the Appalachian Trail at Bear Mountain in New York State

Bear map of BMSP

Before an evening of wine and reminiscing with my 101-year old Aunt Ilene, cousin Suzanne, and her husband Lou near Newburgh, New York, Hannah and I seek some Appalachian Trail Love at Bear Mountain on Palm Sunday.

Bear 2B AT sign

Arriving just after noon at the Visitor Center/Bookstore on the Palisades Parkway just south of Bear Mountain State Park, I ask the ranger where we can access the Appalachian Trail and still find any place to park.  You see, there is no way there is a parking spot at the hilltop trailhead of BMSP on this first sunny Sunday in spring.  We hit gold as we learn that just a half mile up the road at Exit 17, there is access to the AT from the nearly empty 2,000 vehicle Anthony Wayne parking area.

Bear 1 H on Fawn Trail

Small F trail marker on the tree to the right of Hiking Hannah

Bear 1A H on Fawn

Hiking in the Northeast is a rocky affair, not the sweet sandstone that caresses are feet in the national parks of Utah.  Taking to the well-marked Fawn Trail, we zigzag for 25 minutes before spotting the holy grail – the white blazes of the Appalachian Trail.

Bear 2 H on rocky trail

Bear 2D D at Rocky steps

Being the Sunday when Tiger Woods wins his 15th major at the Masters (Do you find that a troubling name for a golf tournament in the South with its reference to slavery and plantations?), we have done him one better by hiking in the mid-70s on this iconic trail getting all the Vitamin N we could want! (i.e. Vitamin Nature).

Bear 2E H at rung in rocks

Bear map

Appalachian Trail

It’s too early in the spring for thru-hikers to have begun the AT in Georgia to be here 1500 miles later, but we come across Jeff who is perspiring heavily in the midst of a ten-hour trail loop.  Graciously, he stops to answer our “where to go” questions and suggests we take a picture of his map to have a reference for our climb.

Bear 3 motorcyclists

Crossing the mountain away from the Palisades Parkway, we hear the roar of motorcycles racing down the country straight away.  I wonder if any of the loud motorcyclists who hit speeds of 100+ on the weekend do so in part because they have little control in their work life and, perhaps, don’t have the happiest of marriages?  Well, that’s a stretch, Dan.  As I think about that, it does sound a tad judge-y.  My bad.

Bear 2A Bear Mt in the distance

Bear Mountain in the distance from the AT

On a mid-April day where the trees have not leafed out, we get an excellent workout over two hours.  In the distance, we see the fire tower at the Bear Mountain peak.  Though we will not summit today, we have two hours of trail walking.  Tiger can have his 15th major, I’ll take an afternoon on the AT with Hannah any day.

Dan and Hannah Hike the Watkins Glen Gorge in central New York

Wat map 2

Watkins Glen Gorge State Park promises nineteen waterfalls!  Hannah and I are all in!  Though we are hiking on a late October Friday in the low 40s, it turns out it’s a great time of year as many of the low hanging leaves have fallen and views are extraordinary.

Wat 1 Brooks

Brooks with his Daddy

Coming to hang out with our grandson Brooks, and, of course, his parents, we are pleased to see that they have taken to parenting like fish to water, like Dan and Hannah to pickleball, like Tom Brady to being the GOAT (greatest of all time!).  Despite the many sleep-deprived nights, Will and Laurel show their love to their happy, laughing bambino hour after hour, day after day.

Wat 1AAA Watkins sign

Driving 25 miles west of Ithaca, New York, we come upon the upper parking lot by the picnic areas and massive Dirty Dancing-size swimming pool of the Watkins Glen Gorge State Park.  The attendant takes our $8 and says that with a few more cold days, the park will close.

Wat 1AAAA H at start of trail excellent

Feeling the administration of state parks could use all the financial support they can get, we gladly pay.  It’s $8!  Please!  The employees need health benefits, a livable wage, and the park needs tender loving care.  I encourage you to go out of your way to pay the very modest fees at state parks when you hit the trails.  Check out the trio of videos and the cavalcade of photographs below to see what you get from this 1.5 miles of trail that drops 400 feet from stem to stern!

From the parking area we descend to the gorge by following, get this for irony, the Gorge Trail.  It’s all well-marked as we quickly descend through the Spiral Staircase Tunnel.  Passing behind this rocking falls, we feel the H2O that’s heading towards Seneca Lake, one of the Finger Lakes here in central New York.

We are soon sloshing along the stone walkways of the narrow Gorge Trail from the many falls.  With 832 steps from top to bottom, we have evidence of the Civilian Conservation Corps creativity and dedication in digging into these narrow gorge walls to make a trail of slate steps.  This extraordinary waterside trail/walkway is evidence of the master craftsmanship of the stone artisans plying their trade during the Depression of the 1930s.

Busier than I would have guessed, the Friday midday crowd has us walking leisurely as we take the time to smell the metaphorical roses of the cascading water, rather than being hell-bent on getting exercise as we usually are.

With barriers to the gorge most of the way until you get to the flatter upper trail, the slate walkway is a great family hike.  The final ascent up what is known as Jacob’s Ladder is 180 steps.  By the way, Jacob’s Ladder is referenced in Genesis as the up and down pathway to heaven for angels.

As you might have guessed, we rocked with many hiking angels today.


More gorge photographs

Wat 1 H by red tree

Proceeding to the gorge from the parking lot


Wat 1AA Han at falls at start


Wat 1C narrow gorge


Wat 2 D in gorge on stairs


Wat 2B gorge falls


Wat 4 falls through trees


Wat 5A longer view of side falls


Wat 6 Jacob's Ladder sign


Dan and Hannah Climb Bald Mountain in the Adirondacks of New York

Bald Old Forge map

Hannah and I have come to Old Forge, New York for a mini-reunion of her Moss Lake Camp for Girls, where she was first a camper, then a counselor and water skiing instructor in the early 1960s.

Bald Brooks


Arriving after an overnight in Ithaca, NY to see our new grandson Brooks and then breakfasting with our daughter Robyn in Syracuse, we arrive early in the afternoon in Old Forge, a summer tourist destination.

Bald Robyn

Dan, Robyn, and Hannah at Tony’s Diner in Syracuse, NY

With time before our dinner rendez-vous with Karen, Hannah’s former camper and long time friend, we have set our sights on Bald Mountain before the forecasted rain arrives.

Bald map of fulton chain of lakes

Bald Mountain lies above the Fulton Chain of Lakes in the central Adirondack Mountains.  Driving a mere four miles north of Old Forge, we turn left on Rondaxe Road for the trailhead parking.

Bald 2 H on trail

Rooted and shaded at the start of this one mile hike/climb, the trail will rise 500’ in elevation to a summit of 2350’.  The shining jewel of this hike is the Rondaxe Fire Tower for viewing the Fulton Chain of Lakes.

When you next visit the Adirondacks consider quelling your fire tower fever by taking the ADK Fire Tower Challenge by climbing to one of the 23 fire towers in the area.  Click here for more information.

Bald 3A H on stones to top

Through the forest, the trail is well-marked with blue blazes (e.g. painted blue vertical rectangles on trees) just when we need them.  Soon we are atop the boulders with Third Lake to our left.  On our early August Wednesday afternoon, there are mostly families and thirty-something couples.

The boulders themselves require some balancing and interestingly have a weathered rusted strip from the years of hikers climbing to the top.  Rarely, do you ever take what looks like a trail into the nearby forest.  The blue blazes lead you along the boulders.

Bald 4 H at fire tower

It’s a simple and sweet thirty minutes to the top with expansive views from the Rondaxe Fire Tower to the Fulton Chain of lakes.  Check out highlight pictures of our hike below.







Bald 4B lakes from fire tower

Fulton Chain from Bald Mountain


Bald 5 brown trail on rocks

Notice the faded rust color on the rounded top of the boulders that we used as a trail guide 


Bald 5A D and H above lakes


Bald 1A info on fire tower


Bald 2A D red blaze

In addition to blue blazes to guide us, we also red trail markers to keep on track


By the way, a little further north on route 28, we learn of two additional modest hikes.  Click here for Rocky Mountain six miles from Bald Mountain.   Click here for Black Bear Mountain three miles beyond that.

Dan, the Showoff at Moss Lake in the Adirondacks of New York

Moss lake trail itself

Moss Lake Trail, some 50 miles north of Utica, New York

This early August Hannah and I have come to the Adirondacks of New York for a mini-reunion of the Moss Lake Camp for Girls.  Some thirty-five of us, former campers and counselors, husbands, family members, and visitors to the area, assemble at the trailhead off Big Moose Road in Eagle Bay.  Click here for the previous blog describing Hannah as a camper and enjoy pictures of this legendary camp.

Geof Longstaff, son of the camp founder, will lead us around Moss Lake ( the trail is 2.5 miles) stopping at key spots to charm us with stories from the nearly fifty year history (1935 to 1972) of the girls’ camp.  In the early 1960s, Hannah was first a camper, then later a counselor and a water skiing instructor.

Moss trail H at lake

Hannah returns to Moss Lake, 51 years after she was a counselor/water skiing instructor there

On a hike that will take three hours, the pace is leisurely and the socializing and chatting up new acquaintances occurs seamlessly.  As one who is naturally curious to learn more about Hannah as a teenager and other people’s lives, I seek out and chat up different hikers along the trail.

Throughout the morning, I talk with Karen, Hannah’s dear friend and a camper when Hannah was a counselor.  I introduce myself to Tom, whose wife Margie went to camp a few years after Hannah.  Susie and her husband are a delightful couple, both interesting and interested in my story.  Geof’s sister fills me in on camp life with a father who was bigger than life.

Moss trail outlet better

Geof speaking while Hannah chills at the bridge at the outlet to Moss Lake

After Geof’s commentary at the bridge over the outlet stream of Moss Lake, Hannah stays to skip stones with the millennials (twenty-two Longstaffs of all ages of are here for a family reunion) while I go ahead.  I see Bo, a Longstaff by marriage, one hundred feet ahead and figure I’ll strike up a conversation.

I step around three hikers and then pass two women.  As I pass the women, one says, Show-off.

I am immediately put off.  Who wants to be labeled a show off?  It feels like an indictment.  I don’t know what to say, and just continue on, without looking back.

I’m just thinking, Really?  It seems that saying something encouraging might have built a momentary bridge between us.  Like, Looking good  or Way to go.  Either comment would have made me smile.  Show off does not make me smile.

I get that yelling out show off is all about her not me.  I don’t take it personally; I’m just surprised.  Is it a joke?  It certainly isn’t a friendly joke.  As Ellen DeGeneres says, If it were a joke, we both would be laughing.

Readers, What am I missing? 

Dan and Hannah Hike the Moss Lake Trail in the Adirondacks of New York

Moss trail around the lake

Looking for a delightful family hike in the Adirondack Mountains?  Hannah and I have the 2.5 miles Moss Lake Trail for you.  To get to the trailhead, go north from the New York Thruway at Utica, head a simple 47 miles to touristy Old Forge.  Continue on route 28 for nine miles to the well-marked left turn onto Big Moose Road where two plus miles later you will find the Moss Lake trailhead on your left.

Moss trail Geo on trail

Geof Longstaff, tour guide, on the Moss Lake Trail

Assembling with three dozen others for a guided tour by Geof Longstaff, the son of the founder of the Moss Lake Camp for Girls, we have come this first week of August to where Hannah spent six summers as a teenager, first as a camper, and later as counselor/water skiing instructor.

If you come in early August, you too can take this three hour, mellow hike/tour.  Contact the Town of Webb Historical Association.  Click here for their website.  Geof was at the top of his game.

Moss trail H and Karen P

Hannah with Karen, the reason Hannah came to this reunion.  Karen was a camper when Hannah was a counselor at the Moss Lake Camp for Girls

Other campers from the 1960s have joined us including Karen, a dear friend to this day.  Check out this roster of activities at this camp: classes in horseback riding, tennis, swimming, water skiing, fencing, canoeing, ballet, sailing, archery, and riflery (pictures from back in the day below).  Girls were divided into two teams, the Blue team competing against the Gray team.

Hannah was regularly the captain of the Gray team and Suzie the captain of the Blue.  Suzie would beat Hannah in the tennis finals while Hannah would outswim Suzie.  They each were Honor Girls for being ones whom the other campers looked up to.

Moss trail H and Suzie

Hannah with Suzie with Moss Lake in the background

Well, it turns out Suzie is here today, the niece of Dr. George Longstaff, the founder.  In his introduction, Geof introduces Suzie as the top athlete years ago at camp.  And then Suzie, does a a Suzie thing, which indeed, is a Hannah thing.

Suzie speaks up for all to hear and says very humbly that Hannah was right there with her athletically.  I am so pleased for Hannah to get the brief recognition that often gets left unspoken.

Moss trail H at lake

Moss Lake Hannah

You see, those six summers at Moss Lake were when Hannah learned she was really good at sports, people genuinely liked her, and she had something unique to offer the world (i.e. herself!).  She was acknowledged and celebrated for who she was and who she could become.  In her own words, I didn’t know then, but now I realize that I discovered parts of myself at Moss Lake that might have remained undiscovered for years.

Moss trail by outlet

Moss Lake from the outlet stream bridge

And now back to the Moss Lake Trail which is almost entirely shaded, basically level with a hillock or two.  Enjoy the pictures of the Moss Lake Trail and then the historical pictures from the past of this girls’ camp, home to Hannah’s Coming of Age.

(Consider commenting on this blog so I know you are out there.)




Moss trail outlet better

Geof speaking to the assembled hikers at the bridge over the outlet to Moss Lake

Moss trail group picture

Moss Lake campers, family, and counselors

Moss Lake photographs from back in the day (1935-1972)

Moss archery better


Moss horses even more


Moss tennis


Moss fencing


Moss canoes


Moss main house

A former Moss Lake camper got in touch with me after reading this blog and provided this additional information about the death of Eleanor Roosevelt’s granddaughter, Sally Roosevelt. Hannah was on the hike when this accident happened in 1960!

Aloha, Dan & Hannah – Came across your blog via the Moss Lake facebook page and enjoyed your Moss Lake hike post. I was a Moss Lake Camper in the 60s and early 70s. However, it was this story that I wanted to share after reading your recently posted Eleanor Roosevelt quote. https://www2.gwu.edu/~erpapers/myday/displaydoc.cfm?_y=1960&_f=md004825
ER’s granddaughter, Sally, was a camper who was injured in a fall from a horse, a very unfortunate accident. Eleanor Roosevelt wrote about it in her diary which I came across online.

Dan and the Adirondack Bear Alert

bear map of adirondacks

Hannah and I have come to the Adirondack Mountains in northeastern New York for her Moss Lake Reunion.  Back in the day (i.e. the early 1960s) Hannah was first a camper at the Moss Lake Camp for Girls for eight weeks in the summer, then later a counselor and a water skiing instructor.

bear hannah at moss lake

Hannah at Moss Lake, August 2018

Arriving at our overnight motel two days ago, the Adirondack Lodge Old Forge, I present my driver’s license and credit card to the clerk.  At that point, she says, Please sign this bear release form.  Bears can get into cars, but they can’t get out.

Really!  Yes, really.

bear release form

The highlight detail is that we are not to leave any food in our car.  Quoting from the release form, The bears are very smart, and they do know how to open doors!!

I am not one of those hikers who just can’t wait to see a bear on the trail.  We hiked in bear country in the Shenandoah National Park and never saw a bear.  Thank you, Jesus.

bear in ferns

Once when Hannah and I were hiking at Rendezvous Mountain just outside Grand Teton National Park in early July 1992, we came across a three foot stump shredded on all sides by a black bear looking for insects.  I couldn’t believe we were that close to bears!  Tepidly, we hiked a half mile more into the mountains and then turned around when our common sense finally kicked in, not wanting to be an afternoon snack for some Rocky Mountain version of Smoky.

bear in tree

Three years later in Denali National Park, we saw a sign at the trailhead, Moose calving, Bear alert.  Seemed like the standard, run-of-the-mill warning.  Not to worry.  Within ten minutes this first week of July, a nearly seven foot moose blocked our path.  A bambino moose can’t be far away!  We knew all the warnings that moose will kill you if you get between a moose and its young.  Again, we pretended that we weren’t bothered by seeing mama moose, but the joy and excitement of hiking in this Alaska Wonderland was gone.  We again turned around within minutes and beat a hasty retreat back to our campsite.

So, when we see the bear release form suggesting, bears are in the neighborhood, I want no part of these ursine creatures.  We clean out the car thoroughly.

Mama didn’t raise no fool!

Dan and Hannah’s Woo Girls Reunion at Niagara Falls  Part 2 of 2


NF  1  R and H

Rockin’ Robyn with her Mama

For the Second Annual Woo Girls Reunion (Hannah, Bambi, Maxine, and Wendy – all proud graduates of the College of Wooster in Ohio), we travel to Maxine and her hubby Don’s place outside of Niagara Falls, New York.  Though it’s a 522-mile drive from York, Maine, we give it a comma (by punctuating the trip!) by stopping to lunch with our daughter Robyn near Syracuse.   Over Chinese (Hannah and Robyn) and Mexican (Dan) at the Destiny USA Mall food court, we catch up while scarfing down our lunch; later Robyn gives us a bag of goodies.

NF 1A  Chicken Soup cover

Within the bag is a book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: The American Spirit.  Robyn’s a published author!  The story of her time at Give Kids the World and her military service comes alive.  Robyn has a good tale to tell and it just reinforces how proud we are of her.

NF 2A 4 Woo Girls in kitchen 2

Maxine, Hannah, Bambi, and Wendy

Three hours later we pull into the driveway of Maxine and Don’s out-in-the-country home.  It’s been nine months since the Woo Girls got together at our place in York on the Atlantic coast.  Last year we were all pretty much new to each.  During one stretch, Hannah and I hadn’t seen any of the women in 40 plus years.

The four women and I matriculated at the College of Wooster as first year students.  Girls had curfews and three legs needed to be on the floor every time a guy was in a girls’ room.  Freshman wore dinks as part of the freshman initiation.  Hannah was in the local Lambda Alpha Sigma sorority/club and I a member of the local Kappa Chi fraternity.  (When I pledged Kappa Chi, it was called Kappa Kappa Kappa (that’s right – KKK) and the fraternity pin was a white cross!  Really!)  Neither social club is still active at Wooster.

NF dinks

Freshman Dinks at Wooster

NF J and B  and MLK 2

John, Martin, and Bobby

Charismatic and beloved President Kennedy had been assassinated less than three years before we enrolled at Wooster.  Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy would be murdered while we were at Wooster.  Four students at Kent State were gunned down just 45 minutes northeast of the Wooster campus.

It’s no surprise that we all went our separate ways during such tumultuous times.  But today, as the sun goes down just north of Buffalo, New York, we, all in our mid to late 60s, reconnect.  By the way, we are having Genesee beers which were not allowed at Wooster in the 1960s.

NF 6 Don and Maxine in backyard

Don and Maxine in their backyard

Earlier in the week, Maxine’s Don checked out the entire Niagara Falls hike to see how long it would take and where, if need be, we might cut the hike short.  Did Maxine marry well or not!  After our weekend together, we know she aced this test.

NF 6B  Skip and Bambi backyard

Bambi and Skip

On Saturday morning, Maxine drives the other three Woo Girls in her car the 30 minutes to the Niagara Falls State Park while Bambi’s guy Skip and I ride with Don.  It’s Saturday of Father Day Weekend so the crowds have come to Niagara Falls.

NF 6A  Woo Girls in backyard

Wendy, Bambi, Hannah, and Maxine

Our starting point is Goat Island, but soon we cross over to the Three Sisters Islands with views of the raging rapids in the Niagara River, just before it tumbles over the Canadian Horseshoe Falls.  As a local kid, Don would play in and among these islands, long before fences were built.

NF 4  D and H at American Falls

American Falls in the background

With summer crowds on the paved trails to the 188’ Horseshoe Falls of the Ontario, Canada side, we seven pair off in twos and threes in conversation and mellow hike with no sense of urgency.   The day is warming to near 90F so mellow is the word of the day.

NF 4B  Woo Girls at American Falls

Bambi, Hannah, Wendy, and Maxine

Though there are many on the trails, we can get our pictures by the fence protecting us from the falls.  The fence is right up to the cliffs themselves so enjoy this 22 second video of the 100’ American Falls.

NF 5 Falls from Observation Deck

Canadian Horseshoe Falls in the distance with the American Falls in front

Further beyond there are six booths selling tickets to the Maid of the Mist boat ride for $18.25 per adult.  Since we are just going to the Observation Deck and then taking the elevator down to the sidewalk to the base of the American Falls, we are charged a mere $1.25 each.  Quite the deal!

Though our views of the falls from the Observation Deck are spectacular, there is a 300′ long long line waiting to get onto the elevator.   At noon, as I look below, I see people are not even moving, waiting in line to stand by the base of the American Falls.

NF 6C  D H and Wendy in backyard

Wendy with the Mainers

Never a fan of waiting (both for the elevator and the path to the Falls), I ask the others how they’d feel about passing on the elevator ride to the base of Falls.  Unanimously the other six are on board to forego the wait. It’s near 90F and Maxine and Don’s air-conditioned house beckons.

Hanging out with the Woo girls, Skip, Don, and I know we have hit the mother lode.

Dan and Hannah’s Woo Girls Reunion at Niagara Falls  Part 1 of 2


The College of Wooster Fighting Scots

Rather than going to a big time reunion on campus, Hannah and I have come to western New York for a mini-reunion with three of her College of Wooster (Ohio) dorm mates from the class of 1970.

A few years back the idea for the four women getting together crystallized to the point that last year Hannah offered our place in York, Maine for the First Annual Woo Girls Reunion.

NF 6A  Woo Girls in backyard

Wendy, Bambi, Hannah, and Maxine

Here’s the Line-up of the Four Women of Wooster:

Hannah – All she is cracked up to be!

Maxine – Hannah’s roommate during their sophomore and junior years who remains as upbeat and positive as I remember her when I was a classmate of hers.

Bambi – the life of the party at Wooster who to this day brings joy wherever she goes.

Wendy – the steady rock who is the glue that brings us all into conversations and makes us all feel like we belong.


You may have noticed that I referred to myself as a classmate, not as a fellow graduate of these four women.  You see, though I matriculated with them as a freshman in the fall of 1966 at the liberal arts College of Wooster, I transferred out after my junior year to Arizona State University to be an elementary education major.

You might be thinking, whoa, something must have come up for him to jump ship just before his senior year.  Well, it’s complicated.

NF  Heartbreak Hotel

First, after a rocking year of dating during our sophomore year, Hannah and I hit the skids during our junior year.   Going to the Desert Southwest was my response to a broken heart.

Second, I was a political science major!  Please!  What in the world does one do with a political science degree?   At Wooster all I thought it was going to do was prepare me to be a salesman for Proctor and Gamble (as my teammate on the Wooster tennis team did) or go to grad school.  After 21 years of being a student, I was so sick of sitting in classrooms.  Grad school was the farthest thing from my mind.

NF  Age of Aquarius

Third, in light of #2, I wanted to make a difference.  This was the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.  Peace and love, man.  For me, that meant give teaching a shot.

Fourth, I was sick of the snow and the rain of central Ohio; the Arizona sunshine looked awfully appealing.  I would then be just one state away from doing some California Dreamin’.

NF  Uncle Sam

Fifth, this was May of 1969.  The War in Viet Nam raged and shattered the lives of so many.  I had just one year before my day of reckoning with the Selective Service drew nigh.  Unbeknownst to me, six months later I would draw number 78 out of 365 in the first televised draft lottery.  With my college deferment up and the military drafting guys with numbers up to 195, it was clear my future was not clear one bit, with the sword of Damocles hanging over my head.

Sixth, I just never adapted to Wooster.  That’s on me, not Wooster.  I was kind of aimless.  Duh, I was a political science major!   I loved being a part of Wooster’s tennis team.   Sophomore year with Hannah was off-the-charts.   But college classes?   The traditional lecture method of teaching that reigned at Wooster was killing me.  I needed hands-on, experiential, conversation-based teaching.  After years at Wooster, all I could do was study, test, and forget.

VP 1 ernie and bert

Hannah with two friends

And yet now years later, I think of the College of Wooster as the best thing that ever happened to me.

You see I met and Woo-ed Hannah Kraai.

Married to my own Woo Girl, I joined her in Niagara Falls with three of her classmates in mid-June of 2016.