Day tripper: taste the ‘Rockettes’

| 06 Mar 2012 | 03:01

The first American movies weren’t made in Hollywood. Thomas Edison established the world’s first movie studio in West Orange, N.J., in 1893, and for the next 20 years the fledgling industry drew from the theatrical talent already to be found in New York City. When story lines moved the action outdoors, early filmmakers looked for natural settings in the countryside just to the north.

D.W. Griffith picked the cliffs above Milford, Pa., for “The Informer,” a Civil War melodrama with a running time of 18 minutes. Mary Pickford played the sweetheart of a Confederate captain. Lionel Barrymore played a Union soldier.

The cliffs also had a part to play. In their most demanding role, in Westerns starring Tom Mix, these modest ledges were called upon to impersonate the Rockies.

The Rockies they’re not, but that’s fine with us. They’re close to home and, unlike peaks that are all rock and ice, the cliffs are beautifully forested while still giving that soaring-above-the-world feeling mountain hikers like me crave.

The National Park Service calls Cliff Park the eroded “eastern fringe of the Pocono Plateau,” and maintains a 2.7-mile trail that rises to nearly 900 feet as it follows the Delaware River from the Raymondskill Creek to Milford Knob. Short spur trails lead to ledges with extensive views of the river, Minisink Island, the floodplain, and, in the distance, Point Peter.

The park service plants the floodplain with corn and hedgerows to feed and shelter wildlife. The patchwork of striped fields are fun to photograph. Route 209, at the bottom of the cliff, is barely perceptible.

A short, steep climb from Raymondskill Road leads to the Cliff Park Trail, which then rolls gently for the rest of the way. It’s not very rugged and wide enough so that two or more people can walk side by side. It’s a good hike for when you want to get some talking in with your walking. The forest that slopes gently away from the ledges toward the historic Cliff Park Inn property on the other side is as much of an attraction as the riverside views.

The last overlook on the trail is Milford knob. The star that shines over Milford at Christmastime is bolted there.

From the knob, the borough retains its Currier & Ives look. Milford claims more than 300 buildings of architectural significance, and from the knob you can easily make out its most prominent examples — Forest Hall, the Pike County Courthouse, the Milford Schoolhouse. Cupolas abound. The fresh scars of new development dig into the surrounding hills.

You can also get to the cliff by climbing the 1.4-mile Milford Knob Trail from the North Contact station on Route 209.

We like to make the hike into a longer loop by combining the Cliff Park Trail with the Hacker’s Trail and Buchanan Trail. Hacker’s Falls always rushes, and the small pond encircled by the Buchanan Trail is a jewel.

If you haven’t been hiking all winter, Cliff Park is a good place to start — its ease and its many rewards will spur you on to more springtime adventures.

Trailhead: Raymondskill Road. From Route 6 in Milford, take Raymondskill Road south toward the Delaware River.

Blazes: White Length: 5.4 miles