East Berne NY Via The Indian Ladder Trail!
This is a story that ends somewhat differently than most. We do have to start at the beginning so you will have to wait to see why. It was a beautiful crisp fall day when I started out for Thatcher Park in the Helderberg Mountains outside of Albany NY. I was headed for a childhood favorite hike. Not a long nor a particularly hard hike but one loaded with history, fun and scenery. Thatcher Park is home to the Indian Ladder Trail. The trail was used a long time ago by the Indians of the Mohawk and Hudson valleys as a travel route to the Schoharie Valley. It was also used during the Revolutionary war by Tory’s as the caves provided hiding spots for them. As I said it is loaded with history and a very different hike because you actually traverse the escarpment.
The trail starts out near the main entrance to Thatcher Park where the offices are. You begin by going down a stone staircase which leads you to a metal stairwell that takes you to the trail. The trail itself is a narrow path which as I said traverses along the base of the escarpment. It can be narrow at places, steep and slippery so caution and a good pair of hiking shoes are in order. As you walk you can imagine what it might of been like before all the man made additions like handrails, stairs, and walkways that are there now. The Indians and Settlers used hand made ladders for access. If you travel the trail in this direction you will have the escarpment on your right and the downhill side to left. All along the trail you will encounter beautiful cliffs of Limestone which are loaded with fossils. There are also caves to peer in as well as a waterfall or two depending on the season and the amount of rain we have had. The view to the left can be equally as breath taking depending on the season. I actually was a little late for peak foliage but got some great shots.
The trail winds all along the escarpment with interesting views both to the right and left. Please take a minute or two along the way to look in the caves and examine the rocks to see what fossils you can find. One of the waterfalls if it is flowing you can actually walk behind. There is an underground stream which comes out of the rocks and crosses the trail. There is a lot of things to visualize and imagine as you walk the trail. I have been hiking it for close to fifty years and always manage to see something new and different. The scenery to the left on this beautiful Sunday was also breathtaking with views of the Adirondacks and Green Mountains of Vermont.
All to soon the trail comes to an end. There is another metal stairway to get you out and back to the top. You can then return to your vehicle by walking along the top of the escarpment. From here you also get excellent views of the Adirondacks, Green Mountains and the towns of Guilderland and Voohreesville. If by chance you brought a picnic lunch or a snack there is an abundance of picnic tables or grassy areas to drop a blanket and enjoy.
I mentioned that this hike ended up somewhat differently than usual and indeed it did. There is no brewery, microbrewery, or craft beer bar to visit. There is a few unique places to enjoy a libation in the area however. I decided to travel over to Warner’s Lake to a favorite spot “The Hofbrau” or the former Zwickelbauer’s Hofbrau if you have been going here as long as I have. This has long been a favorite stop when I am “on the Hill”. The Hofbrau is an old style German Restaurant with a somewhat updated menu for the times. The beauty is they still have some good German libations on draft. My first sample of the day was a Spaten Octoberfest. This beer draws a nice amber color. The head provides for some light lacing on the glass. It has a definite maltyness to it with limited hop bitterness. It is a crisp finish with some moderate carbonation. All in all a good choice.
For my second choice I decided on a Dinkel Acker Cd-Pils. The keg had just been changed and so why not grab one fresh from the tap. This was an excellent choice as well. There was plenty of creamy head, some good lacing and it started with a slightly sweet taste that lead to a little bitterness coming through. It is a nice crystal clear yellow color with a moderate amount of carbonation. A great beer to quench your thirst on a dry fall day. All in all I enjoyed my visit to the Hofbrau. If you are in the mood try some of their German fare. I am sure you won’t be disappointed.
After leaving the hofbrau I wound my way around Warner’s lake and made the decision I would make one more stop so I visited yet another Hilltown beverage landmark the Maple Inn. This is a great old family operated Inn, here locals stop on a weekend afternoon to catch up, have a drink and something to eat. There selection of beers is across the board enough to make anyone happy. It is fall so I decided I would try the Saranac Pumpkin for starters. Saranac Pumpkin is made by Matt’s Brewing in Utica NY. The Saranac name is well known in this area and they produce some very good beers. The Pumpkin Ale pours a nice rich dark amber color. The head goes away pretty quickly with limited lacing. There is the smell and taste of pumpkin as well as a nice but not overpowering spice aroma and flavor. At 5.4 abv it is a good pumpkin ale. My second choice of this visit was the locally sourced Browns Brewing Brown Ale from Troy NY. The Brown Ale pour a nice rich brown, with a brownish head and some nice lacing. It has a good nutty and malty flavor with a hint of hops. The carbonation is moderate and the finish is dry. At 5% abv it is a good finish to a fun filled day. I would suggest to all that a visit to Thatcher Park be accompanied by a stop at either of these long established local stops. Cheers!