My Places – Anthony Portera edition: Rockefeller State Park Preserve, New York

My friend Anthony Portera from over at Run-A-Long-Way blog was kind enough to write the following post on Rockefeller State […]

By on January 30, 2008 | 6 comments

My friend Anthony Portera from over at Run-A-Long-Way blog was kind enough to write the following post on Rockefeller State Park Preserve as the second installment of the My Places series here at iRunFar. (Last week, I posted about Potomac Overlook Park.) Tony’s a great guy I first met as he came into an aid station at mile 80 of last year’s Grand Teton 100 – 20 miles of pacing later we were good friends. I have no idea how Tony manages to keep a blog while as he’s a family man, a partner at an NYC law firm, and an ultrarunner, but does, so be sure to check it out. For now, here’s what Tony has to say about one of his My Places:

America’s first three arch bridge – it’s in Rockies.

Rockefeller State Park Preserve, or Rockies as it is more commonly known, is where I typically spend at least 6-7 hours every weekend. It took me about two years from the time I moved from New York City to Westchester County to discover this beautiful running sanctuary, located about 30 miles or so from the bright lights of NYC.

Most of the land in Rockies was donated to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation by the Rockefeller Family, and, with additional donations since the original bequest, Rockies has grown to approximately 1,233 acres. An amazing place for walking, jogging, horseback riding, birding, fishing, photography, cross country skiing and snowshoeing, Rockies boasts 180 recorded species of birds. In fact, it is designated by the National Audubon Society as an “Important Bird Area“.

One of Rockies’ many carriage roads.

The most notable feature of the park, however, is its miles and miles of carriage (dirt) trails that wind through wetlands, woodlands, meadows, and fields, passing various streams, rivers and lakes. The trails traverse wood and stone bridges, including the first triple arch bridge built in America. You can even swing by the foundation of Rockwood Hall, once (now demolished) the 200+ room home of William Rockefeller. The landscape and panoramic view of the Hudson River is truly breathtaking. In 1997, Friends of the Rockefeller State Park Preserve, Inc. was established to encourage public participation in protecting the Preserve’s wildlife and habitat, sustaining its historical and archaeological features, and maintaining its unique system of carriage roads.

Another of Rockies’ carriage roads.

On any given weekend you will find plenty of runners on the trails of Rockies. The Preserve is a prime training spot for some college and high school cross country teams, as well as several elite marathoners and ultramarathoners. Even former President Bill Clinton has been know to frequent the park. In addition to the miles of trails within the Preserve, there are private trails that connect to it (that are not shown on the Park Trail Map), expanding the realm of exploration. These private trails traverse through the Sonte Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, a nonprofit farm and education center designed to demonstrate, teach and promote sustainable, community-based food production. So, in addition to the deer, ducks, wild turkey, etc… that you will “run” across as you explore Rockies, you are sure to run across a cow or two.

Rockies can be overwhelming as far as getting familiar with all of its twists and turns. While you can easily log 30+ mile trail runs on the vast trail system, it is just as simple to create loops of all distances. It took me about six months to get used to the trail system, but, once you get the hang of it, it is easy as pie.

A waterfall at the Rockefeller Preserve.

The trails are manicured, so you don’t have to worry about footing. And hills….you want hills ? There are plenty of them. But, for me, the best thing about Rockies is its tranquility. You can really let your mind wander and do some serious soul searching as you wind through the trails. I often look forward to spending hours on the trails at Rockefeller as a way to clear my mind of the stresses of life.

If you ever make your way up to Westchester County, New York, as a
runner, Rockefeller State Park Preserve is a must see.

The Pocatinco River in RSPP.

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I hope to be back next Wednesday with another installment of My Spaces, so if you have a favorite running spot you’d like to share please let me know!
Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Editor-in-Chief of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.