Many special or thin places are delicate and subtle. You have to quietly feel your way into them. That’s a big part of why they are special. It may be the light that day, that particular turn on a trail or the relationships of natural features. Many times, a thin place for one person is just a “whatever” for another.
Then there’s Indian Hill, just at the top of Orange Turnpike between Monroe and Harriman. I am trying very hard not to spoil the shock and delight of the discovery of what’s there. Let me at least say that there are stone walls. The most prominent has been called Broadway or The Boulevard. There are several competing and intersecting explanations for how and why all that stone got there and got put the way it is.
First, you have to experience it. And right now, when the leaves are off the trees, is the best time. After seeing it and walking it, you’ll understand better its allure.
Naturalist Doc Bayne has his theories about the walls, how they were useful for the different kinds of farming used by the Oldfields, the site’s first 18th century farm family. Even still, he calls them a “mystery.” Words like “slaves,” “underground railroad,” “Indians,” “mining,” “waterworks” and “Irish-style stonework” still creep, yea, lurch, into discussions.
Whatever the “facts” might be, Indian Hill is a living testament to that dreamy interplay of nature and human nature that creates Thin Places. It’s a place that feeds the need for beauty and the imagination. Thanks to Scenic Hudson and others, the 490 acres of Indian Hill is now part of Sterling Forest State Park. There’s a parking lot and blazed trails. nynjtc.org/hike/indian-hill-loop-trail.
If you still need convincing, there are some huge really grand old oaks there and it’s quite near the Southfield Furnace, one of the best-preserved structures from the days of mining and smelting in the region. And while you are up on Orange Turnpike, Arrow Park is just across the road. It’s a unique historical combination of an Arts and Crafts mansion, a Socialist summer camp and a profoundly beautiful park.
By Daniel Mack In thin places, we become more our essential selves. Share yours at dirt-mag.com.