In a fragment of a hunting preserve, centuries echo

| 30 Aug 2012 | 02:38

It’s important to feed our sense of the land and develop our own set of special or thin places. It can’t happen just once or even once in a while. Regular contact with different, special places in nature keeps us sane. The Orange County Land Trust is in the business of finding, protecting and making available just such places. Their mission is simple and poetic: “To preserve the fields, forests, wetlands, ridgelines and river corridors in and around Orange County through voluntary land conservation.” One of my favorites is the Fuller Mountain Preserve on Bowen Road about a mile off Warwick Turnpike just before the New Jersey border. These 250 acres were part of a 5000-acre hunting preserve put together in 1891 by Colonel Victor Audubon Wilder, a Civil War veteran and successful New York businessman. Even in this fraction of the original tract, there are echoes of other times: a few natural glacier-carved rock shelters, likely used by generations of Native Americans, and evidence of lime-kilns, charcoal-pits, stone walls and foundations from family settlements. Anthropology students at SUNY Orange are currently excavating a site from the late 19th century, finding bits of household items. Like most of this region, Fuller Mountain was clear-cut in the early 1800s for farming, lumber, fencing and wood for charcoal and lime kilns. It has grown back as home to a rich diversity of local animals, plants and trees. The preserve extends on both sides of Bowen Road with one side heading up Fuller Mountain for an amazing view and the other side following a creek. The late afternoon light in this bottomland area is mesmerizing. It has clearly enchanted those mysterious stone-stackers, who have left a growing collection of sculptures or cairns in the woods and in the creek itself.

By Daniel Mack Thin places makes us lose our bearings and find new ones. Share yours at