I trotted down from the Harrier Hill parking lot and into a broad field filled with sunlight, a few early-spring birds, and a distinct lack of shotgun blasts.
I was on my way to the Stockport-Greenport Trail, a ridiculously underutilized path stretching from Harrier Hill Park to the Greenport Conservation Area outside Hudson in Columbia County.
The trail begins in the fields, which burst in the summer with rough, vibrant wildflowers and songbirds, then descends into dense forest near a pond bubbling with frogs. Winding along canyons ribboned with streamlets, the trail kisses buffs along the Hudson River until it comes upon one of the oldest trees I’ve ever seen in New York. It then dives through a valley verdant with ferns before popping out on the northern tip of the Greenport Conservation Area.
I rike (a word meaning running half the time and hiking half the time I have just made up) the trail every couple weeks when it’s free of snow and it’s COMPLETELY empty half the time, despite the fact it’s a half-mile from Fairview Avenue, the commercial thoroughfare running through Greenport. People need to get out more.
The first fall after I discovered the Stockport-Greenport trail, I pulled up to the Harrier Hill parking lot with my girlfriend, Jody, to find more vehicles there than usual. I was simultaneously happy that more people had discovered the trail and irritated the trail would have more people on it.
Jody and I had the following (approximate) conservation as we walked to the trailhead:
Roger: (dreamily): Hark! -The fields! – So glorious, even in the fall. It’s amazing how the flowers bloom, though winter is almost upon us.
Jody: (smiling into the distance): Yes – the reds and purples are of an artist’s brush, filling the landscape wit-BLAMM!
Roger: Jesus! What the fuck wa-BLAMM! BLAMM! BLAMMM!
It turns out, as well as a pleasant stroll, the Stockport-Greenport Trail offers hunting during the fall. The Department of Environmental Conservation actually goes through the trouble of shipping in pheasants just so you can shoot them.
I’m aware you can hunt in public lands all over the state, and I’ll occasionally hear rifle cracks while hiking in the fall, but the Stockport-Greenport Trial is dense with hunters. The meadowed area is about a quarter-mile square, and it’s not unusual for there to be several hunters there at a time during the fall, so it’s more like a shooting range with a trail through it.
Jody is British, and doesn’t really get gun culture, which is the polite way of saying she’s horrified by it. She was also a vegan for most of her life, so she found the whole situation unnerving.
We walked on anyway and had almost found the safety of forest cover when a bearded man dressed in camo shot up from the reeds a few feet to our right.
“AH!” we both exclaimed.
“’AFTERNOON!” he responded.
The dude was pleasant, and we chatted about the weather or some such thing, but Jody was focused on the giant shotgun he was cradling.
We riked to the giant tree before turning around, then had to head back through the shooting gallery. Jody started to trot nervously at this point, so I was able to pretend we were hardscrabble revolutionaries being pursued by Anti-American militiamen in the internal action movie I’m always starring in. Jody just wanted to leave
So! If you want to enjoy nature while hearing bits of it being shot, come to the Stockport-Greenport Trail during the fall. A disaster waiting to happen? Maybe. A beautiful hike? Definitely. Especially since the wiser hikers have found trails clear of hunters, and this bullet-riddled gem can be yours alone to cherish.