Quest: A Long-Lost Memorial

Finding an 80-year-old Memorial to a Boy Scout, Chiseled Along the Suffern-Bear Mountain Trail

Gordon Wren, Director of the Rockland County Fire and Emergency Services, sent me the following story.  I’ve never seen this memorial, but when the snow clears out, I’d love to try to find it.  (And if you find it, we’d love to post a picture.):

“My father, Gordon Wren, Sr. was born in 1921.  As a teenager in Rockland County during the Great Depression, he spent much of his spare time in the local woods and mountains.

He recalls camping at a Boy Scout camp in the mid 1930s, a camp called Camp Winaki.  The camp was located on a lake now known as Breakneck Pond, in the town of Haverstraw.  One of his fellow Scouts by the name of James Daley passed away from what he recalls as a congenital heart defect.  A group of Scouts hiked up to a ridge above the lake and, using a hammer and chisel, created a memorial for their friend.

I enjoy hiking those same mountains over 80 years later.  My father asked me to look for the small memorial but he only had a general recollection of where it was.  I looked for several years, without success.

Last spring, I was hiking the Suffern-Bear Mountain Trail and my dog, Teddy, decided to take a shortcut around a steep area of the trail.  As I waited for him, I looked down and saw the chiseled letters at my feet in the hard, native rock.  I called my father on my cellphone to tell him that I had found the memorial and took some photos of it.

My father recalled that one of his fellow scouts was still living in Spring Valley.  He told me that his name was David Lipman (nicknamed Dippy back then).  I looked up his name in the phonebook and sure enough, there was his name and number.  I dialed the number and it was answered by a very young-sounding 90-year-old gentleman.  I asked him if he remembered the memorial and he did.  I asked him if I could pay him a visit and he said sure.

I then called my friend and local history buff, Art Gunther, and he agreed to accompany me.

We found Mr. Lipman to be physically very spry and mentally very alert.  He recalled that he actually did the chisel work — losing a thumbnail in the process.  He also remembers many other adventures that he had with my father and their buddies during those deep Depression years.  Good memories between two of Rockland’s lifelong residents!

Their memorial was made approximately 80 years ago.  It is located along the Suffern-Bear Mountain Trail, on the ridge just above the 3rd Reservoir and northeast of Breakneck Pond.  Anyone hiking that area can find the memorial at GPS coordinates N41 12 28.6, W74 05 22.8.

Gordon Wren
Rockland County Fire Chief


Have you Seen Bears in Harriman State Park?

Leave Your Bear Anecdote in the Comment Section.

Black bears are frequently seen in Harriman State Park, and in 2014, more sightings were occurring near the lean-to shelters.  A 2013 study reported that there are at least 15 black bears living in the park.*

If you’ve had a black bear encounter — especially while camping overnight at the shelters — describe it here.  We’ll create a page to help paint a picture of the bear population and behavior for other hikers and campers, and encourage the use of bear bags and canisters.

*From trailswaves_2013_04_winter1-2, a two-year bear study project in Harriman State Park by Cynthia Tollo Falls and Jim Conlon.


Foster Your Next Trail Buddy.


I’ve started training for the 220-mile hike in the High Sierras of California this summer.  At my side (well, somewhere on the trail in front of me) is my little foster dog, Butter Cup.

She’s a little thing at only 32 pounds.  I’m not sure what she’s made of: rat terrier maybe, some lab, shepherd, a little ridgeback.  Who knows.  She’s mutt-on-mutt.  Like just about every dog I’ve ever known, she loves to hike, and takes her little blue backpack in stride.

By eight o’clock this morning she was eager to get up and out, and we’re now on our fourth mile at Teatown Reservation, in Ossining, Westchester County.  Nose to the ground, following the trail.

Foster dog jumping over log on a hike in Harriman State Park New York.

This is my second foster dog in a month.  Both dogs — Davinci, a Dutch Shepherd, and Butter Cup — were unwanted up to their last hour on “death row” at the Brooklyn shelter, until the fantastic New York-based rescue group, Pound Hounds Res-Q, reserved them for foster.  I took Davinci first, and he quickly found a home.  Butter Cup came to us last weekend, and her perfect family met her last night.  She’ll be going to the Catskill area this weekend.

It’s a quick turn-around.  My experience with fostering has, so far, been fun and trouble-free, with all needed support (including vet fees if needed and transportation for the dog) coming from Pound Hounds Res-q.  But, watching Butter Cup air out her grievances on the trail today, it struck me how much the foster dog really shines as a training partner.  And what an asset they can be to all-around good health.

Dutch shepherd getting ready to hike on the trails in Bear Mountain state park in new york.

They’re All Trail Dogs.

There’s really no such thing as a “trail dog” — or rather, all dogs are trail dogs.  Put a backpack on a dog, get him out on the trails, and he’ll do what comes naturally and look great for the camera.

But both Davinci and Butter Cup have been a real benefit to me as I start to train.  I can’t skip training days if I have a dog who needs exercise, and in fact, I don’t want to.  Hiking with a dog is just more fun than the solitary hike, and if you have a hiking dog, you know what I mean.

Fostering lets you get to know what a dog is like before he goes to a home that fits him precisely.  Fostering gives you your “dog fix”, when you’re not ready or able to commit long-term to a pet — and if you are ready, you can join the ranks for the “foster failures” who opt to keep their foster pet forever.

By the time I’m ready to leave for California, my dog will have his forever home. Both Davinci and Butter Cup needed exactly one week to find their perfect family.  They were both well-behaved and good-looking, but it was also easy to envision them in a home with an active, outdoor-loving family, because I had the pictures to prove it.


Fostering Saves Lives — And It’s Really, Really Fun.

I’d like to suggest that, if you’re dogless and considering training for a long multi-day thru-hike this year, think about fostering your next training partner.   Even if you’re just a regular hiker, the daily exercise you’re able to provide to a previously cooped-up dog is invaluable to helping him decompress, unfurl, relax at the end of the day, and be the dog he was meant to be.  And you’ll have no reason to cut the hike short.

Davinci, a rescued Dutch Shepherd, hikes the trails at Bear Mountain State Park, New York, wearing a hiking backpack.

I foster my dogs through Pound Hounds Res-Q; they also have a Facebook page.

If you’re interested in fostering, you may fill out an application on their website, or contact them directly.  They’ll match you with a dog that fits your household.  You can also see many of the “urgent” dogs of New York at this Facebook page.

I try to move my foster dogs into new homes quickly, so I don’t get too attached!  I’ve found the best way to do this is to write personal, loving descriptions with specifics about their personality, and if you’re training with your dog (or simply hiking on the weekends), get photos of your foster out in the wild, being a dog, being a pet.

Your local animal shelter may also have a foster program; long-term shelter dogs have the advantage of being well-known to shelter workers and volunteers.

Tuxedo’s Post-Casino Dreams

Go Forward, Little Town in the Foothills

I used to think that Tuxedo as the Gateway to the Hudson Highlands was a radical idea.  But it’s been a couple weeks since Genting and its super-sized casino was bundled off, and in that short time I’ve heard and seen so much that makes me think, How obvious.  The little town in the foothills of Harriman and Sterling Forest is an outdoor destination-to-be for New York and the world, and I’m only one of many to think that.

The most passionate opponents of the Sterling Forest Resort and Casino aren’t gloating over the triumph over a multinational casino giant. They’re turning their energies to building something positive in Tuxedo and Sloatsburg, realizing these parks are an economic asset.  It can only be a good thing.


Seeing a Gateway Town, From the Outside

I got a note from Nathan, a reader of this blog and frequent hiker, about Tuxedo, and I thought it was interesting in the post-casino afterglow:

“I hope that Tuxedo and Sloatsburg do something good with their towns, and fast.  Not all of my clients from Europe and Asia want to stay in the city.  Many of them come to see the sights for a day or two, and then they want to go out into the countryside, and see what the rest of New York (and America) is all about.

“I usually send them up the Hudson River, but on the Cold Spring side.  They love it.  They take the train up, see the Hudson River, the Bear Mountain Bridge, and the Hudson Highlands.  Finally they get to Cold Spring, walk to town, or of course do the Breakneck Ridge thing.

“That’s fine but in the summer that trail gets so busy that sometime it’s like you’re on an escalator in the mall.

“I’d like to be able to one day send clients up the Tuxedo side of the park, but it’s a challenge for people who are trying to make a day of it.  Where are the restaurants and the hiker amenities?  It really is a pretty spot but I feel it could be so much more.  How about a place to have lunch that’s welcoming to hikers?  I’ve dropped in at the Tuxedo Inn after two days of hiking and we sat out on the deck and had some beers and sandwiches.  But it could be more welcoming.  I’m not faulting the restaurant but there doesn’t seem to be any effort put into making the town a part of the park, or making hikers feel very welcome.  As you say, the R-D trail is one of the greatest assets of the park and indeed that whole area, but try to find the trailhead in the middle of Tuxedo.  Even Bear Mountain does a better job of marking trails and trailheads.

“If Tuxedo could be persuaded to put a few signs up and welcome hikers and campers the town could really turn into a destination for overseas tourists who want to see the landscape.  Not to mention how much more attractive the town could be for the people who live there.”

camping around a lake and campfire as the sun sets on a distant hill.