Friday, December 30, 2011

Holiday Hike 2011

What, you may ask, would get 18 middle aged guys up from a food induced coma on the day after Christmas to hike to the top of a mountain? That’s easy: More food and beer.  What would get them to do it for over 20 consecutive years?  Tradition.  That’s what the originator and organizer, Dan Mirro, would say.  Danny has been doing this holiday hike since 1989 when he and some friends were building a deck onto his house in Pomona, NY.  The house boarders Harriman State Park and when they were done, to celebrate, they climbed up a nearby mountain and had a cook out. 
Since then the number of participants has varied from 6 to 20, but the tradition of a holiday hike with a party at the top of the mountain has carried on thanks to its originators.  I have been lucky enough to join the group for the last three years.  And I have come to look forward to it as much as I do Christmas. 
The hike usually starts at Danny’s garage which is referred to as “Base Camp”.  That’s where the beer, hot dogs, burgers and buns are packed into everyone’s back packs.  A few die hards will crack open a beer before we depart but I find it hard enough hiking up the mountain sober.

 We begin by walking down Ladentown Road which passes some well-preserved historic homes.  Danny usually gives the history of each house and the role it played in the tiny village of the same name.  He points out Michael Laden's store where, in the early 1800's, chairs and baskets made from wood and reeds gathered from the mountain constituted Rockland  County's first industry.
We also pass a newly built Hindu temple that looks as though it was dropped from space and landed in the middle of these Victorian era homes.   Next, we walk through a summer camp and up a poorly marked trail to a dirt road. 
The road runs underneath power lines that run right through the Park.   Shortly after, we take a well-marked trail up Lime Kiln Mountain.  There is not much talking as we make our way up, stopping often to catch our breath and rest our sore knees and backs. 

It’s about 2 miles from base camp to the top of Lime Kiln, but it feels a lot longer to folks carrying the brunt of the food and beer.  By the time we arrive at the summit, we’ve worked up a good sweat and a big thirst. 
So, T-shirts are hung up to dry and a fire is started promptly for grilling.  The first beer, a Coors Light, tastes awesome after a climb like this one.  The visibility on this day is great and the NYC skyline can be seen more than 30 miles away.

The group is spread out on the trail and the stragglers make it up about 15 minutes after the first arrivals.  Everyone is in good spirits as we toast each other, talk about how Christmas was and listen to Led Zeppelin on somebody’s IPod. 
Burgers, dogs and sausage are cooking on the grill.  Potato and pasta salad make for great sides.  Of course. there's ample beer to wash it all down. Someone even thought to bring dessert!
The hike down can be a challenge if one is clear headed.  It can be a little dangerous after a few beers.  Last year, the trail was covered in snow and there were a couple of  minor casualties.  I had only one fall on the decent this year.  Actually, it was more like an unintended, slow motion squat.  I lost my balance on a rock and caught myself on one leg which promptly gave out and deposited me slowly into a pricker bush.  I carefully de-thorned myself, got up gingerly and made it back to base camp in one piece. 

The few cuts I received and the soreness in my thighs the next day were quickly forgotten.  But the memories of good times at the top of the mountain will last all year. 


  1. When I was about 14 years old, 6 or 7 friends and I decided to "camp out" at the very spot you were at. We were unexperienced and woefully unprepared. We didn't have anough food, water or cold weather clothing and the temperature dropped to the 20s degrees...and this was in April. We slept by the fire in a mound, wrapped in a tarp, it ended up being one of the longest nights of my life. We never laughed so hard in our lives. The realization of the degree of our own idiocy provided at least some distraction from the cold. As soon as the sun came up we hiked down to the side street where the car was parked (one of the guys was 16 and a new driver)and went to a small diner that was on Route 202 and had the best breakfast we'd ever had to date.

  2. Tom, It's amazing what we will do for a little adventure. Now, you have a great story to tell about how you survived a freezing cold night on Lime Kiln Mountain. Have a happy and healthy New Year.

  3. Great job captured the spirit of the day, and a good day it was. Happy New Year!

  4. Thanks Blake. Have a Great New Year!