New Route: Ferguson Road (Up and Over the Shawangunk Ridge)

I’ve been trying to arrange a ride with my friend Doug for a while. He is president of the Ultra-Marathon Cycling Association, so—like me—he likes to put in more than a few miles.

A few weeks ago Doug proposed setting aside Wednesdays for rides, and as a fellow member of the self-employed crüe, I agreed. I work almost every day, so it makes no difference to me if we ride on Wednesdays or Saturdays (with the exception of days with scheduled client meetings, travel, or teleconferences, of course).

So, it was with some trepidation that I agreed to a ride. The trepidation was not because of the distance, which wasn’t too long, or because of the climbing, which was significant, but nothing remarkable. It was because of my history with Doug on rides. Let’s summarize:

On my first ride with Doug, he crashed on ice. Luckily Doug is much more durable than me, and he got up and we continued on.

My second ride with Doug (and John S) was marked by freezing rain, deep fog, and a 30 mph headwind. And I bonked.

On my third ride with Doug, I crashed on my hand.

I’m happy to report that nothing bad happened on this ride, so the curse is broken. We rode approximately 77 miles in rain that went from just a sprinkle to torrential and back again all day. At no time did it stop completely. It was awesome, and the route was gorgeous.

Here’s the route, and the GPS is here. We went off course a few times, sometimes deliberately and not so deliberately, adding and subtracting miles.


We began with a high-speed descent from my place into Rosendale. We decided to take the bike path down to the real climbing. Now, I know “bike path” has bad connotations, especially if you live in NYC, but the path here is beautiful dirt. Here’s where we started in Rosendale, right next to the railroad trestle.


Did I mention it was raining?


I stopped and actually got off my bike to take a picture of this grumpy turtle who was crossing the path as we passed. Edit: My neighbor, Nancy, tells me this is an eastern box turtle. They can live up to 100 years. I wonder how old this guy (or gal) is?


Um, did I mention it was raining? We basically rode through a stream.


As you can see, the bike path passes through some glorious countryside. It’s really more of a cow path in sections, and it’s a good test for anyone on a road bike with 25 mm tires. To me, this is just as good as a gravel road.


You’ll pass over a few trestle bridges on the way down to Gardiner.


Now, I’m not afraid to get a little dirty, but fenders may have been a good idea on this ride. On the other hand, it’s possible that fenders would have just gotten jammed up with mud. It was pretty thick in places. At the point this picture was taken, I was as wet as I would have been had I jumped in the river below. My rain pants were soaked through and sagging like a diaper. Fun!


We got off the bike path just south of New Paltz, and continued on glorious country roads back over to the Shawangunk ridge.




We stopped briefly for lunch at the Hoot Owl…


Where we played darts while waiting for our food. We were worried that they wouldn’t want to seat us inside since we were literally covered head-to-toe in mud (and, in my case, probably a bit o’ horse apple that I failed to avoid) but the bartender said he was unworried, because lots of farmers stop by for a mid-day beer in similar condition.


There was an enormous Clydesdale across the street. I’ve never seen one in person. They are enormous–the horse in the foreground, in fact, is a regular-sized horse.


After lunch, we continued up and over the ridge.

I had planned this route on the advice of John S, a local and decidedly faster rider than either Doug or I. He told me there was an amazing gravel climb on Ferguson Road. What he didn’t tell me is that you have to be going in a counterclockwise direction to hit the climb. We went the opposite way. It’s my fault that I didn’t investigate further—it’s something I easily could have discerned from inspecting the route more closely.

We climbed Pickle Road, which was steep but nothing to brag about, to Firetower Road. If you see any road named “Firetower” you know that you’re close to the top, and we were.

And here, my friends, is Ferguson Road. No relation.


You say you like gravel? Do you like descending 14% to 18% grades in a torrential downpour? If you do, this ride would have been for you. These pictures (which were taken before the road became outright loose gravel) don’t make the road look all that impressive, but trust me, it’s steep, it’s beautiful, and it’s definitely a challenge at speed in the rain.



…all things considered, I would have much rather gone up it than down!

From there, we continued home via Ellenville, where I forced Doug to stop at McDonalds. I had a giant coke and two apple pies, thereby obliterating any health benefit I got from my ride. My first time at McDonalds since, oh, 2009 or so, and I don’t regret it. Not even a little.

This ride would be a great to do out of Poughkeepsie, picking up the track from New Paltz. Very low traffic, beautiful roads, some dirt, and absolutely glorious scenery. To me (and to Doug) the rain and mud made it even better. I’ve done a lot of rides of reasonable length out here, but this one was exceptional. Thanks Doug!

The end result of our travails:



Took me a while to clean out those eeBrakes. Good thing they work better than just about any other brake out there, because there’s a lot of crannies to clean up.

Finally, a plug for the UMCA: If you’re interested in riding anything in the century plus range, you should join. It’s cheap and you get a great magazine, access to events and competitions, and other good stuff. I’ve been a member for a while (although, come to think of it, I may need to renew!)


7 thoughts on “New Route: Ferguson Road (Up and Over the Shawangunk Ridge)

  1. Steve A

    You hit some of my favorite spots today – Spring Glen Rd, Rouge Harbor Rd …

    That is some route! I’d like to join you sometime when you’re not feeling too well, so I can hang with you.

  2. exmaschine

    John, your stories and photos are, as always some of the best in recreational cycling circles sir.
    You guys are guys are hard-core no doubt. Riding in all kinds of weather and conditions!

  3. Pingback: New Route: The Great Northern Catskills | Riding the Catskills

  4. Andrey

    John, I really enjoy your blog. Thank you for the new way to cross The Ridge (Furguson road). I almost followed your route last weekend and the road was dangerously beautiful.


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