The Irvington Woods - Ice Pond, Memorial Loop, Hermit's Grave, Hermit Wetlands
January 24, 2021
Distance: 3.2 Mi
Elevation Gain: 477 Ft
This was my fifth trip to The Peter Oley Trailways System at The Irvington Woods and my first hike of 2021!
This hike served two purposes: to get out of the house for exercise and to test new gear I was given for Christmas. I chose to return to The Irvington Woods because this was my first winter hike and I wasn't sure how I'd adjust to the change of weather. Being in this park, I knew that I would never be too far from my car should I get too cold and never too far from help should things go really bad. I was also able to navigate the park without a map, so that helped keep down the distractions.
The forecast was for temperatures around 28 degrees F, give or take, so I dressed in three layers. The first layer was a pair of thermal underwear (top and bottom) that I've owned for many years. I read that wearing cotton is not good for moisture wicking purposes, so when saw 50% cotton and 50% polyester on the label, I was skeptical. They got the job done, but I will be shopping for a newer pair with better materials before my next hike. Next I added a pair of Drawstring Sweatpants ($) I bought a few months ago and an old zip-up sweatshirt hoodie. I figured I could take the hood on and off to regulate temperature, which I ended up doing during the hike. Finally, I added a layer of REI Co-op Sahara Roll-Up Cargo Pants and a thin windbreaker jacket. For my feet, I used the Wrightsock Men's Escape Crew Socks ($) that I bought over the summer. For my head and neck, I donned a new Buff Gaiter ($), an old winter hat that is showing its age, and a pair of 180s Earwarmers ($). For my hands, I slid on new Seirus Innovation Men's Hyperlite All Weather Polartec Gloves ($).
Let's start with the gloves. They fit well and are thin enough that they don't interfere with dexterity or the ability to hold/grasp things. My hands started off cold, probably because I was outside of the car for a couple minutes fiddling with all my gear without the gloves. After about 10 minutes of hiking, my hands warmed up and remained warm the rest of the hike. I'm impressed how warm they stayed, given how thin the gloves are. The only downside I see is that when I put these in my wish list, I did not realize there's another version ($) of the same glove which is compatible with touchscreens. I may upgrade to that pair so I don't have to take the gloves off to operate my phone. [Update 1/30/2021: During my second hike with these gloves, I realized the pads on the forefinger and thumb are touch compatible. I just wasn't pressing hard enough the first time.]
Next up, I was trying a new pair of Bassdash Polarized Sport Sunglasses ($). They fit well and snug to the face, giving good protection and coverage of the eyes from all angles. I barely noticed any difference between the view with the glasses on and with the glasses off. Very minimal, if any, color distortion. For around $10, they come with a soft shell carrying case, a microfiber bag, and a microfiber cleaning cloth. I'm going to pick up another pair to keep in the car. I'm also going to buy Optix 55 Anti Fog Treatment ($), as the inside lenses fogged up when I had my COVID mask or gaiter on.
I started off with the Buff Gaiter ($) covering my neck and my face, but because the glasses fogged up, I ended up removing the gaiter from my face and just wearing it to keep my neck warm. I was hiking into the sun at that point and wanted to keep my eyes protected. The cold didn't bother my face as much as I thought it might, so the gaiter wasn't critical. On a windy day, it might have mattered more. About halfway through the hike, when I was no longer facing the sun, I removed the sunglasses and tried the gaiter on my face again. It kept me warm, but got damp and humid inside very quickly. I liked the ease of being able to adjust it to cover as much or as little of my face and neck as I wanted, but I'm going to have to wear it a few more times to figure out if the dampness is an issue or not. I ended up removing it after a few minutes and went back to an uncovered face.
I was also carrying a new Gerber Gear Truss Multitool ($) for the first time. I didn't have occasion to use it on this hike, but it was good to know it was there just in case. It comes with a Molle-compatible sheath that can be mounted vertically or horizontally on a belt, which is where I wore it.
Finally, the biggest addition to my gear was a set of Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles ($). As I began going on longer hikes over the summer, I noticed some knee pain around the 6-7 mile mark on some of my hikes, most notably when going downhill. From that point on, I started using a random tree branch I found as a walking stick. It seemed to help some, but it's no substitute for a proper set of trekking poles in both hands. The Black Diamond's are super lightweight, especially after carrying that heavy tree branch around for so long. I'm still getting used to the idea of not having my hands free, especially because I like to stop and take a lot of photos, but I'm sure I will adjust with time. The gloves allowed me to grip the poles easily and was able to apply a good amount of weight on the poles when going up and down hills. This was a short hike – just over 3 miles – so I cannot get say if the poles will have an impact on my knees for the longer hikes, but I'm sure they will help reduce the strain overall.
I started the hike at the main parking lot off Mountain Road and headed down the car path to meet up with the Ice Pond (IP blazes) trail. I followed this past Ice Pond proper to Water Line (WL blazes), which took me south to the Irvington Reservoir. I snapped a couple photos of the partially frozen water, then connected with Hermits Grave (HG blazes), which took me back into the interior of the park. I took North South (NS blazes) south to Memorial Loop (ML blazes). From prior visits, I knew the Memorial Loop trail would have some inclines and declines where I could test the trekking poles better. I made my way down the hills of ML and down The Steps, and had a good rhythm going with the poles by this point. As I headed back towards the other end of HG, I again used the poles for the inclines and they worked well to propel me upwards. The elevation gain in this park is really small compared to some of the other hikes I've been on, but I chose this park so I could get acclimated to the new equipment before I needed to strenuously use it.
After passing Hermit's Grave, I took a familiar route back to Hermit Wetlands (HW blazes), stopping in the wetlands for photos. There was a decent coating of ice covering the water. It was just enough to hold my weight if I gingerly stepped on the edge, but I knew it wouldn't have held me if I had tried to walk out any further, so I didn't risk it. From there, I took NS back to my car in the parking lot.
I'm happy I got out of the house and was able to try out some awesome new gear! Although I've lived in the Northeast my entire life, I've never been enthusiastic about outdoor winter activity. I was imagining a bone-chilling, unpleasant experience, when in reality it wasn't bad at all. With the proper layers, I stayed warm and enjoyed myself. I will make a few adjustments for next time and will try to make winter hiking a new habit!