Harriman State Park
At some point
in time during 1971 or 1972, Larry Silvestro took
his younger brother Paul on a motorcycle camping
trip. Larry rode a 350 Yamaha 2-stroke in those
days, having graduated from a series of smaller
machines--including a small Ducati, or
'Moto-Ducati' as they were known way back when.
Larry and Paul had strapped overnight gear for
two and placed themselves aboard the little
Yamaha and headed North from the Bronx into
Harriman State Park. It was this pair that
discovered Big Hill Shelter.
Mike Giga and I
had camped at Lake Tiorati in either the summer
of '69 or '70, and although the camp ground was
pretty much dust and clay from years of overuse,
the trips there instilled a love for the
wilderness that lingers to this day. Of course,
Mike visits the woods, I now live in them!
remain of that first expedition to Lake Tiorati,
Mike's Dad, John Giga, drove Mike and I as well
as Mike's little brother George in the family's
blue Buick station wagon. Later trips would be
made in Mr. Giga's white and wood grain 1971
Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser station wagon. This was
the largest American wagon ever built, at least
it seemed that way. 455ci engine, three rows of
seating, a killer stereo for its day and a
Christmas card from OPEC every year! The picture
at left shows Mike Giga looking for the big one
that just went over, Harry Pellegrin doing his
best to look cool in a denim jacket and John Giga
demonstrating an axe murder with Georgie as the
guest of honor. The parachute was our main
gathering area, pup tents made up the sleeping
accommodations for Mike and I.
has a great deal to do with Big Hill
Shelter, and I will explain. Paul and
Larry brought back vivid and exciting tales of
hiking miles into the woods and up a fire break
to connect with a very rough-hewn jeep trail that
wound its way further up into the mountains until
it terminated at the edge of a cliff. A terrific
panoramic view of the Hudson River Valley and a
fairly imposing drop to the forest roof below,
as well as a stone lean-to type structure with
two internal fireplaces and an outside cooking
pit greeted them. They raved and raved, but none
of us had a license or a car! Larry flatly
refused to take us all up on the 350 Yamaha.
Those experiences at Tiorati had infected us with
the need to be in the woods!
In the ensuing time,
Larry (seen at right, Expedition of 1978) bought
a 1968 Ford Fairlane Squire, like a Country
Squire, but built on the Fairlane platform, it
was something of a rare bird, I've only seen one
like it since. With this vehicle, Larry was
finally able to transport the four of us to Big
Hill Shelter--in November of 1972. There
had already been snow in the mountains by that
weekend we'd scheduled for the trip, but heck, we
were all tough guys from the Bronx and had slept
out before. Mike and I both packed comforters
inside our sleeping bags, and we figured with
enough fire, we'd be just fine. And we were.
After taking a
circuitous route from the Harriman Toll Plaza of
the New York State Thruway, Larry found the small
twisty road that terminates at a smoke tower and
radio mast. The road is narrow, so at one
particularly blind and tight curve a sign reads
GO SLOW SOUND HORN. Of course, we read it that way,
and to this day, we refer to the road as the driveway
of a person named Goslow Soundhorn. At road's
end, Larry nosed the Fairlane Squire (left) into
the greenery and we decanted our gear. It was
chilly and light snow punctuated the frozen
ground. We rejoiced, as no matter what our
canteens might eventually say, there would be
water, potable after boiling or Halazone tablets.
The sun rode low on the Horizon was we began
following the yellow marks on the trees (trail
blazes) into the dark, wintry wood. The trail
traversed a number of small valleys, passing a
dry stream bed that is quite active during parts
of the spring and fall, but remains empty much of
the year. Soon after the stream, the trail
emerges onto a firebreak. At this point, one can
continue across the break and resume the marked
trail, which will eventually lead to BIG HILL
Shelter from the cliff's foot. This is the way we
went on this first trip, climbing over boulders
and through tangles of tree boughs in the
deepening twilight. Below is a view from BIG HILL
Shelter, taken in the summer of 1978. We didn't
have panoramic cameras then, so please forgive
the rough transitions.
another group of hikers at the shelter already,
but the floor was big enough that we could also
occupy a portion and not be deemed intruders. As
it turned out, these folks were leaving in the
morning. We'd have the place to ourselves
thereafter. Paul had only packed his sleeping
bag, and due to his discomfort, spread himself
out right in front of the fireplace. Right in
front. The fire, containing some pine or
evergreen branches, popped and sent an ember onto
his sleeping bag. "Paul, you're on
fire!" "You just want my spot!"
"Paul, I swear, you're on fire!" "NO
way, I'm not moving!" Finally, the heat
alerted Paul that his tail feathers were indeed in
mortal jeopardy. He started jumping and
hollering, Mike and I almost wet ourselves
laughing. Larry, always the practical person,
reminded us that we might be in better shape if
we put him out. Easier said than done, the
sleeping bag filler continued to smolder and
would erupt after a short time. We managed to
salvage half his bag--the lower half. Of course,
Mike and I each gave him our comforters--so he
was the only warm camper all weekend! That's what
we get for laughing, I guess!
Here is a shot of BIG
HILL Shelter as it stood in 1978, coming up the
trail from below. This is the last ten yards or
so, when the rock begins to level off. Paul was
resting (!) by the fireplace closest to the
camera when he caught fire. Below is a picture of
Harry on the top portion of the jeep trail, where
it is fairly passable. His pack is fairly
representative of what the guys carried in--usually
weighing in excess of 75 pounds.
Up' was always the time to freak the other guys
out with what you'd packed. Mike brought wine and
cheese once, Paul, a frozen pizza.
Mike Giga still
has a roll of film shot on our first adventure at
BIG HILL Shelter. It shows us all, fifteen,
sixteen years of age, dressed in the uniform of
the times, jeans, concert tees and snorkel
parkas, me with my hair on my shoulders. My
photos date from two trips, one in 1978, and my
last visit to BIG HILL in 1982. Mike reports that
he was taken his son (now eighteen) on the trip
up to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of
our first time. The shelter is standing firm and
remains unchanged. When you consider that the
shelter was built in October of 1927 by Major
Welch, for whom I assume the Lake in the Park is
named, the place still looks good! Yes, we feel
deserves some recognition here. Even on our 1978
trip, he still displayed a certain lack of
enthusiasm for getting out of the sleeping bag.
Note Mike Giga's '70's-era watch strap!
Paul went to Cardinal Spellman High School in
Da Bronx, graduating in 1974. He wore his gym
shorts on camping trips and coordinated it with
his St. Andrew's Cross Tee to show he was a
He went on to
be a very successful sound technician with many
of the touring New Wave bands of the early
1980's. We lost touch in 1986. [UPDATE: And who
says the internet doesn't do any good???? Through
this site, Paul and I are back in communication.
He is doing well, married with two handsome sons,
living in New York State and prospering. Way
Here Mike (Left) and Paul (right)
display one of the official BIG HILL beverages, Southern
Comfort, which I have not been able to look at since hurling
mightily on it in 1972... Southern Comfort was the official poison
of preference with the Cardinal Spellman
High Stage Crew, of which, Paul is the most
In 1982, I made
my last pilgrimage to this haunt of our youth.
Present were: Mark Berlingeri (first lead
guitarist with Stampede) his brother-in-law Jeff,
Mike Giga and me, Harry Pellegrin. Once again, we
went off-season, which is great because you don't
have half the mosquitoes or fellow campers. BELOW, RIGHT: Here I am
making Jiffy Pop, what all the world ate before
the microwave came along. Of course, the boys
never could figure out how to get a microwave up
to BIG HILL!
LEFT: Mike quotes Pink
Floyd "It's good to rest my bones beside the
fire..." The cliff face stands behind him,
it's about ten or twelve feet down to a
leaf-filled pocket in the rock, another forty or
so to the base. Paul rolled off it once. Southern
RIGHT: Cleanliness is
next to... impossible at BIG HILL, the little
stream afforded a much needed refreshing on the
trip down the mountain. You wouldn't notice how
bad everyone smelled until the car ride home.
LEFT: Dinner might include all manner of
food-stuffs augmented by whatever else might have
wandered by the camp. On this night, it appears
that two fish were snagged from somewhere on the
Yellow Marker Trail.
RIGHT: Jeff, Harry and
Mike relax after eating a hearty breakfast, or
lunch, or... It always seemed to be time for one
meal or another at BIG HILL.
LEFT: Mark Berlingeri displays the
catfish that didn't get away at Camp Friday
the 13th, a Summer camp that lies dormant
the rest of the year. A spooky spot, but good
RIGHT: The big
one that didn't get away--no, actually
it's Mike Giga hard at it, fishing like a pro.
LEFT: Harry takes aim
with Jeff's equalizer. Isn't an equalizer a box
with little sliding potentiometers? Better ask
Paul. Oops, he wasn't along on this trip.
RIGHT: Mark Berlingeri
takes aim as well. What got these boys so angry?
Some tin cans!
LEFT: Mike's musical
fingers, probably clicking out the drum/hi-hat
part of the intro to 'Watcher of the
Skies'--well, maybe not.
RIGHT: The rock we all
posed on when we were teenagers. Some of the
original graffiti from 1972 remained in 1982. I
guess it's either faded or painted over.
The back of BIG HILL Shelter. There was
an outhouse back here somewhere, but it was
reduced to firewood by someone--and not even
us--over the years. Wild blueberries grew around
this area and I made a mess-kit sized muffin with
Bisquick, sugar, powdered milk and Squeeze Parkay
(Fix All) on one trip. And this concludes our
nostalgic visit to BIG HILL Shelter.
Of course, on
the trip home, we always had to stop for a beer
-- so cold, it smokes when you pop the cap. So
cold, ice crystals form around the neck, so cold,
your teeth crack, pushing that dust down your
throat, irrigating the soil from the trail...
That's how we tortured ourselves in the woods.
The Last Chance Deli would always supply
Heinekens--light or dark! Ah, now there's an
idea... Thanks, Mike!
Sober as Judges!!!
By Harry George Pellegrin. The first in
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after all. Friend Gary Morrissey takes it upon himself to find out just
what happened and lands himself in the crosshairs.
See more info...
Classic Guitar Method
written, transcribed, edited and arranged by Harry G. Pellegrin:
Now in one volume, much of what the novice classical guitarist will need
to know to lead him or her to the recital stage. From proper instrument
care and maintenance to the necessary technical skills, musical
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See more info...
LOW END at your favorite local book retailer!
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