Imagine walking the Hudson Valley Rail Trail under moonlight. The sounds of civilization are far away, the quiet broken only by a chorus of peeper frogs and the occasional sounds of other wildlife. “It’s a fantastic experience to be out there at night,” says Chrissy Wolcott, a member of the board of the Hudson Valley Rail Trail Association (HVRTA).
But wait; isn’t the rail trail closed at night?
Not on Friday, April 11 when the Rail Trail will open for the Jeepers Peepers Spring Moonwalk. For an admission fee of $5 for adults (free for kids age six and under), the HVRTA will host guided walks under the moonlight for families and individuals meeting up at the HVRT Pavilion at 101 New Paltz Road in Highland.
Registration begins at 7:30 p.m. with the first group heading out in the direction of Tony Williams Park shortly afterward. The details aren’t fully firmed up yet, but Wolcott says they expect to have several small groups heading up the trail as the evening progresses. They’ll be led by two staff members from the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), as well as a guide who has past experience leading tours at Mohonk. The Boy Scouts will even be there to offer their assistance.
People are free to walk the trail on their own, too, as long as they register and pay the admission fee, but the tours are an opportunity to learn a little more about what’s going on in the wild on the trail and experience some moonlit camaraderie.
The HVRTA has done similar walks in the fall, says Wolcott, but this will be the first springtime event they’ve held. Assuming it warms up enough, walkers will hear the peepers all throughout and possibly see some birds of prey along the way and maybe a random raccoon or two. “There are all sorts of wildlife out along the trail; people can learn more about that on the walk.”
It’s a family-friendly event, and attendees are asked to bring flashlights. Pets are not allowed nor are scooters or bikes; the moonwalk is for pedestrians only.
Following the walk will be light refreshments around a bonfire at the Pavilion.
If it looks like rain, or if it’s too cloudy for a moonwalk, the event will be rescheduled to Saturday, April 12. Up-to-the-minute details concerning event cancellation or changes will be posted on Facebook.com.
All proceeds will benefit trail maintenance and improvements and go toward grant matching funds and publicity.
“The Rail Trail normally isn’t open at night except for these special events,” says Wolcott. “So anyone who’s interested in seeing what it’s like out there at nighttime will enjoy this. And you’re really in the wild — once you go a little bit past New Paltz Road, out toward New Paltz, you don’t see any more houses or streetlights and within a five-minute walk you feel like you’re in the wilderness. You’re out in the quiet, in the moonlight, you can hear the animal sounds… it’s a very, very beautiful time out there.”