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The Road Less Trammeled
by Steven T. Rider

Sam's Point Preserve    May 16, 2004

The Hudson Valley is rich in history as well as beauty. The Hudson River School captured the essence of the majestic ramparts that frame the storied river ,and the echoes of revolution still ring in the hallowed halls of West Point. This dramatic backdrop was long in the making, about three hundred million years long.

A collision between the North American Plate and the African Plate (plates are terms used by geologists to describe the jigsaw-like pieces of the Earth’s crust that float across the molten core of our planet) known as the Taconic Mountain Building Event (or orogeny) set the stage for many of the features we now see as time-worn and gently sloping mountains. Many of these old mountains were Himalayan in stature. A great place to see this is an out of the way place known as Sam’s Point Preserve

The Nature Conservancy has identified this as one of the "Last Best Places on Earth" worth saving. Lucky for us it is open to the public. Settled atop the Shawangunk Ridge south of Mohonk and Minnewaska State Park, Sam’s Point lets you get up close and personal with some of the evidence of this massive collision of continents. The ‘Gunks,’ as they are affectionately called in New York, are a folded, compressed ridge that follows the edge of this continental collision between the Taconic Mountains to the Northeast and the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Southwest.

The Nature Conservancy is completing a new visitor center which should be open later this spring, and don’t forget to check on the ice caves while you’re there. And the views are the best in the Hudson Valley.

This ridge was more resistant to erosion and glacial action than the bedrock on either side of it, and it slowly emerged from the landscape as wind, ice and water carried the rest of the valley away to the Atlantic.

While you are there, don’t pass up the opportunity to take a good look at the dwarf pine habitat. This is some of the best dwarf pine habitat on the surface of the earth, and you don’t even need a passport to get there. It is easy to get to via the Ellenville or Pine Bush side of the ridge, and be prepared to enjoy a thoroughly enjoyable ride through some of the Hudson Valley’s most scenic terrain.

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