Mohonk Preserve

Mohonk Preserve

Ridgelines #184

Autumn 2016  #184

Autumn is Amazing at Mohonk Preserve!

During “leaf peeping” time, the Preserve welcomes visitors from across the country and around the world who come to enjoy nature’s fall splendor. And speaking of fall, in this issue of Ridgelines you’ll learn about why and how leaves change with the season, get an update on the long-awaited Trapps Bridge replacement project, and join in the excitement for the 2017 edition of Rock The Ridge, the Preserve’s spectacular 50-mile endurance challenge!

There’s still plenty of autumn to enjoy at the Preserve and we hope to see you soon on the land!

Tracking Autumn Color on the Ridge

While autumn sometimes seems to arrive suddenly, its signals are there to be observed, as they are for each season.

Weeks before the autumnal equinox the third week of September, the nights noticeably begin "drawing in." Light, or day length, is the great governor of natural processes. Mohonk Preserve Conservation Science staff and citizen naturalist volunteers observe and record the results of the annual increase and decrease in day length and the effect on plant and animal species.

Broad-leaved trees have evolved a process of shutting down and shedding their leaves to survive the winter. This entails a complex change in chemistry and physiology.

As Mohonk Preserve Research Director Emeritus Paul Huth explained, “In each leaf, photosynthesis creates green chlorophyll that converts sunlight into sugars, supporting the active metabolism of the tree. The green chlorophyll masks other compounds occurring in the leaf like orange carotenoids, reddish anthocyanins, and yellow flavonoids. As the tree shuts down for winter, the production of chlorophyll slows and stops, the green color fades, and the other chemical colors brighten. The concentrations of yellows, oranges, and reds vary by leaf and species.”

By observing and noting Shawangunk Ridge autumn leaf coloration for a century, beginning with the Smiley Family at Mohonk Mountain House in 1916 and in more detail by species and location since the 1970s, Preserve staff have been able to roughly define three overlapping peaks of color.

First coloration begins as early as the middle to last week of August. As Paul noted, “This onset can be pushed by below-normal precipitation like this year.” Yellow is generally the first color to peak from September 15th-30th and is characterized by species such as White Ash, and Black and Yellow Birch.

The orange/red peak is next, and this is the brilliance that everyone is attracted to, dominated by Red and Sugar Maple. According to Paul, “Fifty years ago, this second peak used to be timed right around Columbus Day, or about the 8th-12th of October. Now, in part due to a changing climate, this peak has moved later on average toward the 15th-25th of October.”

The last or third peak is that of the rich brown of oaks, especially Red and Chestnut Oak. This last peak occurs near the end of October. By mid-November, leaves are mostly down and the woods turn winter gray.

At Mohonk Preserve, we all have our favorite places to view the beauty of autumn color. Some of Paul’s suggestions include the West Trapps’ Overcliff Road, with vistas of the Clove and the Catskills beyond; Spring Farm’s Bonticou Crag, with great Wallkill Valley views; and the area of Duck Pond to Glory Hill. But wherever you are, enjoy this annual spectacle, and as Thoreau wrote, "live in each season as it passes…and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.” For more information on climate tracking at Mohonk Preserve and how you can become involved as a volunteer, click here.

Bridging the Trapps Gap

The saga of the Trapps Bridge dates back to 1930 when New York State Route 44/55 was constructed, improving the then New Paltz and Wawarsing Turnpike, and requiring replacement of the old wooden-deck Smiley Bridge connecting the Undercliff and Overcliff Roads on the east side of the Shawangunk Ridge to Trapps Road on the west side. This crossing still enables travel across what are now Mohonk Preserve lands and linkage to Minnewaska State Park Preserve. A steel railroad bridge was repurposed from another location and set in place in 1930 to provide safe passage over the new highway. While the span served its purpose ably for many years, it eventually became apparent the bridge needed to be replaced and, working with the New York State Department of Transportation, Mohonk Preserve began developing a replacement plan, which has involved a lengthy and costly engineering and approval process.
Replacement of the Trapps Bridge is now on track to begin in April 2017. The project should take roughly 16 weeks to complete. During that time, traffic on Route 44/55 will be reduced to one lane via an automated signal while abutments are set back and rebuilt in preparation for the new bridge. The bridge itself will be a prefabricated steel pedestrian bridge with wooden decking, similar in appearance to the Cedar Drive Bridge over Mohonk Road near the Preserve’s Spring Farm trailhead. Once in place, the bridge will yield greatly improved visibility from the east and west approaches, as well as more accessibility to the trail system on the Preserve. Fully handicap-accessible parking will continue to be located on the south side of the road, and access on the north side will be a visitor-friendly ramped, multi-use path instead of the existing flight of stone steps. Finished landscaping will include new trees and plant species native to the ridge, designed to improve appearance minimize maintenance along the highway corridor. 
During construction, Preserve visitors will be redirected to a suite of temporary trails to maintain full access to carriage roads and trails. From the West Trapps parking lot, access to Overcliff Road will be routed north of the construction area via a short connector trail from the West Trapps Connector path. To get to the south end of the Preserve, visitors will travel along a temporary trail from the West Trapps Trailhead booth across Route 44/55 via a temporary crossing, up a series of gentle switchbacks to Trapps Road near the Millbrook Ridge Trail. Information and updates will be provided on the Preserve’s website and social media sites throughout the construction process. 

Funding for this over $1 million project is supported by a federal TEA-21 grant, a park improvement grant from OPRHP, New York State Transportation funds, Open Space Institute Butler Conservation Fund, Lucy Waletzky, M.D., Mohonk Preserve Auction donors, and many other generous private donations. Thanks to strong support from Preserve donors, we are nearing our fundraising goal, but we still need your help to bridge the final gap. For more information on how you can help support this critical pathway to nature, contact Preserve Deputy Executive Director and Chief Development Officer Joe Alfano at

Rock The Ridge 2017

Lace up your running, walking or hiking shoes and get ready to Rock The Ridge in May 2017! Combining a unique physical challenge with a commitment to environmental stewardship, Rock The Ridge is a 50-mile endurance challenge with a 24-hour time limit. After four successful years, preparations are underway to Rock The Ridge again on May 6, 2017.
Inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s challenge to the U.S. Marines to complete a 50-mile march in 24 hours, Rock The Ridge revives this American spirit of fitness. Covering 50 miles in one stretch is a major achievement, but the 24-hour time limit allows for people with a wide range of abilities to participate by running, jogging, hiking, or walking, and the joint individual and team format makes for a unique experience.
Ridge Rockers may participate in one of three divisions: Individual 50-Mile, Team 50-Mile, and Team Relay. In addition to competing in the event, participants will also fundraise for the Preserve to support critical stewardship needs, enabling the Preserve to meet the ever-growing demands of the land and visitors, including conservation, environmental education, visitor safety, and carriage road restoration and maintenance.
In 2016, Rock The Ridge hosted over 400 runners, walkers and hikers, including many first-time 50-milers and several teams that walked the entire distance. This year, ultramarathoner Iain Ridgway was the first finisher with a time of 6:12:01. The first female finisher was Rachael Sparks with a time of 7:59:31. All but four of the participants finished in under 20 hours, meeting the Kennedy Challenge and demonstrating that Rock The Ridge is as much an event for hikers and walkers as it is for runners. And we're happy to report that over 90% of the participants successfully completed the entire 50 miles.
Between now and race day, all participants can take advantage of critical support and training from our Rock The Ridge team, including conference calls and guided “Taste of Rock The Ridge” training run/hikes led by event organizers and Rock The Ridge veterans. Participants also receive ongoing fundraising support and advice from the Preserve’s Development staff.
This year, the Preserve is proud to be teaming again with Team Fox, the grassroots community fundraising program at the Michael J. Fox Foundation, supporting funding for Parkinson’s research.
Whether you walk, run, or do a mixture of both, Rock The Ridge will be a spectacular outdoor adventure and an opportunity to help fundraise to support conservation at the Preserve. Register by October 15 for an early registration discount. Next year’s race will be bigger and better than ever, so reserve your spot today and join your fellow Ridge Rockers on May 6, 2017!
Can’t be a Ridge Rocker, but want to support the event? You can donate to Rock The Ridge participants by visiting our Crowdrise page or volunteer to help with the event by contacting Preserve Associate Director of Volunteer Programs and Special Events Andy Reynolds at


Seasonal Updates

PHOTO GALLERYView seasonal photographs by our volunteer photographers. See more photos by the Mohonk Preserve Volunteer Photographers on their Facebook page.

GET INTO NATURE. See a full list of upcoming programs including Dog Days of Autumn Hike and Northern Saw-whet Owls: Mohonk's Silent Visitor.

IN APPRECIATIONGo to our listing of Memorial and Honorary Gifts, Premium Members, and Business Members received July 1 through September 30, 2016.

CHECK THIS OUT. Looking for the perfect present? Give the gift of year-round adventure with a Mohonk Preserve gift membership.

We have many other great nature-themed gifts available at the Visitor Center, including hand crafted plush toy bears, The Green Guide to Low-Impact Hiking and Camping by Laura and Guy Waterman, and the 2017 Mohonk Preserve Calendar featuring stunning images of the Shawangunk Ridge taken by Mohonk Preserve's Volunteer Photographers. Order the calendar online or call 845-255-0919.
MOHONK PRESERVE MEMBER REWARDS PROGRAM. Show your valid Mohonk Preserve annual or life membership card at nearly 40 local businesses listed here, and receive a discount or special offer. We welcome our new business members who joined between July 1 and September 30, 2016:

*Member Rewards participants