Skyline Drive State Forest (Kirkwood, NY)

hammock, hung in the southeastern portion of skyline drive state forest

hammock, hung in the southeastern portion of skyline drive state forest

Skyline Drive State Forest not the largest state forest, but it presents the prospective hiker, hunter, or camper with some challenges. The north end is flat, and accessible, but fairly swampy. By this, I mean that there’s usually standing water in the trails, and that there are plenty of frogs and mosquitoes around. The southern half of the forest has a fairly steep topography, and the terrain is rough if you venture off the trails. I thought about camping there once, but had difficulty finding a spot that was flat, marginally dry, and 150 feet from a trail. In some cases I had trouble even getting 150 feet from a trail.

shootin' stump at the end of skyline drive

shootin' stump at the end of skyline drive ("targets" were rudely abandoned)

People regularly discharge firearms in this state forest as both hunting, and target shooting are permitted. The evidence of this,¬†spent cartridges and assorted garbage with holes in it, is strewn throughout the property. The central spot for target shooting seems to be a large tree stump at the northern end of the access road. There is an etiquette which is simple, and seems to prevent “sportsmen” from accidentally blasting hikers and birdwatchers. People just park their vehicles in such a way that they block the trail that they intend to use. Others will take note, and most likely avoid firing in that direction. It sounds terrifying, but I haven’t heard of any serious incidents there.

partial, annotated map of skyline drive state forest

partial, annotated map of skyline drive state forest

Trowbridge Creek runs through the northern section, and may be reached by following a walking trail that runs north-northwest from the shootin’ stump at the end of Skyline Drive Public Forest Access Road (P.F.A.R.). If you walk about 1/3 of a mile along that trail, you can pick up another that runs eastward, and will take you directly to the creek. Alternatively, if you’re sure-footed, it’s quite possible to reach the creek by cutting through the woods. Just walk about 100 yards to the north of the shootin’ stump, then head due east for 250-300 yards. You will come to a steep drop-off which plunges about 50 feet to the water. If you are able to slog through the thick underbrush to get to that far, then you can probably work your way to the bottom with only minor injuries.¬† I definitely do not recommend taking this route if you’re on your own, as it would be very easy to slip and sprain or break something important. Also be careful not to stray too far to the south while making your way through this section of forest, as it may bring you into the line of fire behind the shootin’ stump.

I’m obviously still navigating the old-fashioned way, with a map, a compass, and reasonably good eyesight. If anyone would care to provide me with a handheld GPS unit (I’m looking at you, Delorme, Garmin, Magellan), I would be glad to post coordinates where useful.

trowbridge creek in skyline drive state forest

trowbridge creek in skyline drive state forest

Wildlife is abundant throughout the forest. Squirrels and chipmunks are everywhere. I have been told that there are black bears in there at times, but I have never seen any sign of them in my few visits. There are signs of deer, on the other hand, all over Skyline Drive State Forest. I have frequently seen does along the P.F.A.R. when driving in, and have seen tracks and scat off the trails at both ends of the forest. I accidentally sneaked up on a deer at about 25 yards on one of the southeastern access trails one afternoon. It sneezed at me (snorted, technically speaking) and turned tail before I got a good look at it. I think that we were both equally surprised.

If you are seriously Into the Forest, especially soggy, dark, coniferous forest next to barely negotiable, crevasse-ridden, hardwood forest, Skyline Drive may be just your line of country. Watch out for stray bullets, bears, and sneezy deer.

Links:

Google Map: Skyline Drive State Forest
NY DEC: Skyline Drive State Forest
NY DEC: Unit Management Plan (.PDF map only)


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