Six MHLC preserves showcased in hike-a-thon

From historic railroad beds to waterfalls and through farmlands, six hikes will showcase Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy preserves beginning at 10 a.m., Saturday, June 20, during the organization’s first ever Summer Solstice Hike-a-thon. The event will precede the Albany County Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail Summer Solstice Festival.

The concurrent hikes, including one specifically for dogs and their owners, will be led by naturalists and experts, well versed in the history, flora, and fauna of each trail. All hikes are in Albany County and there will be two hikes on the Albany County Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail.

“We are thrilled to highlight these preserves for the hike-a-thon. The six locations that we have chosen represent a sampling of our 15 public preserves covering 1,770 acres that are located across the Capital District,” said Mark King, executive director of the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, in a release from the conservancy. “Last year, these preserves saw more than 5,000 visitors, with many people returning again and again for a rewarding nature adventure. Visitors can enjoy outdoor recreation such as hiking, and trail running, and many also enjoy painting, photography, reflection, and birding in our preserves.”

The conservancy’s hope is that frequent users of these trails will attend to learn even more about their favorite spots, and that those visiting the preserves for the first time will return again to these wilderness jewels in the Capital Region’s backyard, the release said.

The event is free (but donations are welcome) and open to the public. Free T-shirts will be given to those who sign up by May 22, while supplies last. To sign up, visit solsticecelebration.org. The Summer Solstice Festival will begin at noon on the Rail Trail in Delmar/Slingerlands and in Voorheesville.

Hikers will meet at 9:45 a.m. behind the municipal lot located directly behind the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy at 125 Adams Street in Delmar. At that time, participants will receive their T-shirts and carpool to their hike locations.

Six hikes

The hikes available this year range from easy to moderate. Family friendly hikes include the Rail Trail hikes and the Swift Preserve. Here are the choices:

— 1. Albany County Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail | botany and history | Delmar, an easy 3-mile hike: This flat, easy course is on the railroad bed of the original Delaware and Hudson line that brought travelers into Albany. It will be an out-and-back trip and will explore the botany and history of the trail guided by retired science teacher and Friends of the Rail Trail volunteer, Miles Garfinkel. The starting point is Adams Street and Hudson Avenue in Delmar, heading westbound;

— 2. Albany County Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail | Shampoodle’s Tails on the Rail Trail, an easy 1-mile hike for dogs and their people: The rail trail has become a popular dog-walking venue. Organized by Shampoodle owner Ginny Siciliano, this hike for leashed dogs will be a social opportunity for dog owners and their pets to enjoy the trail together. Dogs must be leashed. Treats will be given out along the way and voluntary donations will be taken to help benefit Pawsome Pups, an organization dedicated to providing dogs with mental and physical stimulation while they are at a shelter in hopes of decreasing mental deterioration and increasing their chances for adoption. The starting point is Adams Street and Hudson Avenue in Delmar, heading eastbound;

— 3. Wolf Creek Falls Preserve | Waterfalls and Maple Syrup | Knox. A moderately difficult 3-mile hike: This hike features waterfalls, streams, and old stone walls. This historic site was originally part of the Van Rensselaer estate. Led by preserve stewards, Nathan Giordano and Tara Murphy, this hike will tour the unique features of this preserve as well as Nathan and Tara’s homemade maple syrup production. The starting point is at 773 Bozenkill Road in Altamont; 

— 4. Van Dyke Spinney Preserve | New Trail Preview | Bethlehem, an easy half-mile hike: Hikers on this trail will be among the first to preview one of the conservancy’s newest sites. It’s surrounded by farmland and close to Van Dyke Road and Meads Lane in Delmar.  Led by the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy’s new Stewardship Director, Connie Tedesco, this tour will educate participants on the creation of the conservancy’s nature preserves and participants will assist in the identification of plants for the new preserve’s plant list. The starting point: Heading South on Van Dyke Road, the preserve is on the right, just before Meads Lane.

— 5. Swift Preserve | Amphibians | Bethlehem, an easy 1-mile hike: This hike is great for children and is a wetland, so waterproof footwear is suggested. The guide will talk about the indigenous animals that make this site their home. The starting point is at the end of Evelyn Drive in Delmar; and

— 6. Bennett Hill Preserve | History | Clarksville, a moderately difficult 2.77-mile hike: Bennett Hill is one of the most popular preserves in the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy; this hike has mostly steep hills. A guide will speak about the history of this trail that offers views of the Helderbergs from its summit and beautiful wildflowers.Trekking poles and hiking boots are recommended. The starting point is Bennett Hill Road in Clarksville.

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