The Hunt for the Wilderness from New York City

Moving to New York City I didn’t imagine many Saturday nights in a mountain top shelter in a thunderstorm. But sometimes you realize eight million people is a lot of people and you just need a little space.

Leaving via the sticky rabbit warren of Penn Station, we pop up out in New Jersey as the city skyline fades into the distance. Only handfuls of small upstate towns lay ahead, diners, truck stops, closed down antique stores, and the Wilderness.

Wonderful wilderness. But first, small towns. The train drops us at Sloatsburg, NY where you can pick up some provisions such as water (or a Bud and a shot if you feel inclined) from the Last Stop Before Park store. If you’re a well-seasoned hiker you may even choose to walk into the town in search of another store, but bear in mind Google Maps may not have paid this place a visit in a while and you could find yourself confused outside a local’s house while they water their garden. Afterward we cross over the tracks and head a few miles down backroads till the cement gives way to a little trail lined with berry bushes.

Now wilderness. It smells like damp and feels like cool, empty corridors of trees. We wind round little lakes and cross over paths that make up some of the park’s 200 miles of arterial highways. We don’t see bears, but a snake slides out onto the trail in the marshy spot before the trees change and share grassy glades with big slabs of rock to climb on. The final ascent up the Tuxedo trail takes us up a natural staircase to the bare stone slab edge where a lean-to shelter sits on eastern brink of the mountain overlooking lakes and a sprinkle of summits in the distance.

Tom Jones. We wonder if he’s ever visited his namesake stone cabin. Constructed from glacial boulders these things aren’t like New Zealand camping at all- they have fireplaces and platforms and are just a little bit fancy.

Slowly the air gets thicker, the valley begins to fill with mist, each point of the horizon disappearing until it feels as though we’re the only people in the world, let alone on this mountain. We pitch a shelter tent, light a fire and begin prep for camp dinner suitable for the luxurious shelter complete with a DIY water boiling pot, and make some roasted capsicum with tuna, garlic and lemon couscous. A little rosé.

The vista is now gone and the heavy mist turns to fat raindrops, the silence is replaced by cracking thunder and lightning which settles in for the night. A couple of hikers who come shelter from the storm and we swap stories, it’s funny being only able to put faces to the voices when the lightning flashes around the lean-to.

In the morning we hike out, stopping to reset the clock with a leap into Lake Sabago and then heading back out via Tuxedo.

New York City still excites me every single day I’m in it. But it is what is beyond the city that makes me feel closer to home or to myself. Perhaps it’s the physical space to move and to think with clarity.

And when you’re ready to get out of the thunderstorm and jump back into the madness the city is always there,  just an hour train ride back.

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.