I wasn’t intending on hiking the Onteora Lake Trails on Saturday morning but a nasty car accident held me prisoner on I-87 northbound the night before. Ironically, I came across this car in the woods (see photo above) during the hike reminding me of what I just experienced. Eagle mountain was suppose to be my destination but plans were crushed when vehicles collided only a few miles ahead of me.

The accident was so bad that the Thruway Authority closed the highway between exits 16 & 18, a roughly 40 mile stretch super busy with city dwellers heading upstate on weekends.

Because I didn’t want to risk hiking sans sleep, I was a ‘no-show’ for a pending hike with the 3500 Club. Of course, I was blessed to be alive to alter my plans. The car, or cars, in front of me weren’t so lucky.

Ambulances and firetrucks rushed to the scene and a FBI investigation kept me and thousands more trapped cars in suspense for the next three hours. It was cold too. Drivers turned their cars on and off, rotating between saving fuel and preventing frostbite.

Some desperate drivers took to launching through the culvert ditch, up the embankment and over obstacles to free themselves from the mess. You could hear mufflers cracking and fuel tanks scraping against the ground. They didn’t seem to care too much about breaking the law.

Instead, I checked the New York State Thruway Authority alert page for updates. Nothing was forthcoming. Why, in this day of immediate information, were thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, left literally in the dark?

When I got out to stretch, I vented my frustrations with Palenville birder expert, Larry Federman. He and his wife were parked in front of my car. They were on their way home from a retirement party. They regretted not taking the quiet, traffic-free, albeit deer-ridden, backroads to Greene County.

Larry’s wife and I had the same thought: What if a pregnant gal was in labor and stuck in this mess? How would she get to the hospital? Or, how passengers who inevitably had flights out of Newburgh or Albany airports? We thought better of complaining.

Finally, after nearly 4 hours of being incommunicado, one gruff soul donning a blaze orange vest came knocking on windows. He told us to turn around, drive south on the shoulder of the road, and exit at the controlled median crossover. That would put us on the southbound lane before the Newburgh exit.

No explanation, just curt direction and a nonchalant attitude. Hey, at that hour, we were more than happy to survive the wait.

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