I'm loving the beautiful weather ... summer has finally arrived! But with the warm weather always comes a creeping sense of melancholy. Part of it is the sense that now that I'm an adult, summers just aren't summers anymore. I'm still inside, working. And then there's the fact that in New York City, no matter where you go to enjoy the weather, you're still sitting at a table or surrounded by other people or breathing in car fumes, or still far away from any greenery ... or all of the above. A visit to the beach is on the docket soon (does anyone have any suggestions for a beach that doesn't require a car??) but in the meantime, may I suggest a little hiking to perk up your city spirits? What To Know: First start with this book: It will tell you everything you need to know about all the hiking spots you can reach by car or train from New York City. There are even hikes in New Jersey and Long Island (who knew?). But of course, my first hiking adventure, of which I hope there will be many, was in New York State. My friend Rachel and I borrowed her family's Prius and drove north out of the city for about an hour. But you can also take the Metro North line. Just make sure you are in the right car so you can climb off onto the wooden platform there, and know that it only stops four times a day: two in the morning and two at night. Find a schedule here. We passed through Cold Spring, and parked on the side of the road in a long line of cars. Groups of other hikers walked past while we got our stuff together. The trail called Breakneck Ridge (more about it here) was across the street. We grabbed a map from a mailbox at the entrance and started in. Almost immediately the trail climbed upward and gave way to a tumbled rock face on which we scrambled up. It was a cool day, but the sun was shining, and I stopped to pull my light jacket off and stuff it in my backpack. All around us were other hikers: A group of Cornell students, a pair of guys our age, a family with two preteen kids, and a bunch of older Japanese people. (I have a feeling you could pick up a hot guy or two if you were so inclined.) It was just challenging enough to feel like exercise and get us into a satisfying sweat. And unlike an elliptical at the gym, where your reward is a beep, at the top we found an expansive view of the Hudson gliding past. A barge slowly plowed upriver, small sailboats tacked down, and green hills rose up to frame the view. Along the bottom of the opposite hill was a freight train with its long lines of cars like fat stitches overlaying a green and brown cloth. "Wow," I said to Rachel. "I always thought the Hudson River Valley School art was an exaggeration or idealization. But this is gorgeous!" After several false summits like this, the trail split in a few directions. The beauty of this particular hike is that you can choose your time. You can go for two hours or seven. Just make sure you bring a map! Each trail is marked with "blazes" in a specific color. Just keep looking for the next paint mark on a tree or rock, or a round marker nailed to a tree. We decided to go for what was billed as a six hour hike. Rachel had hiked this area before and knew that we could do it faster. So we went onto the blue trail, which poured us into a cool, green, quiet forest. We occasionally came upon other hikers, but for the most part we were alone to catch up with each other, hash out problems, and discuss our plans for the future. We could still hear the shout and rumble of passenger and freight trains far below us by the river. But the only other sound was of birds, the rustling of trees, and our voices. At one point we came across two hikers. The girlfriend was having a silent freakout, because of two large black snakes, her boyfriend told us. We skirted around the snakes and continued on. No big deal. Near the end of our hike, we came across three small waterfalls. We stopped at one to peel off our socks and soak our feet in the ice cold water. It had been almost five hours since we set out, and we were tired and all talked out, so we sat quietly and listened to the water tumbling down the rocks.
The Shopping PartFinally, we emerged only a hundred yards down the road from her car. Rachel wanted to get a gift for her brother's birthday, so we drove into Cold Springs. We treated ourselves to a couple of organic popsicles from Go-Go Pops. Mine was mojito-flavored, hers blueberry cream. It's also nice to know that you can stop on the main street and grab some hiking gear if you don't have what you need. We ended our short shopping trip and Cold Creek Apothecary, where we spent a half hours smelling every single one of their natural and handmade small-bath candles, tinctures, colognes, bath salts and room scents. I walked away with herbal bath salts that you put in a bag for your bath like detoxifying tea, and a reed oil for my desk at work. Rachel got a candle. There are also plenty of restaurants and even a couple of B&Bs. Hmm, is there a romantic getaway in my future? What to Bring for the hike:
- A sturdy pair of tennis shoes, or hiking shoes if you have them
- At least two good-sized water bottles, or a full Camelbak.
- A good-quality backpack with straps for around your waist (I recommend NorthFace)
- Calories, in the form of bars, fruit or trail mix for short hikes, or sandwiches for a longer hike.
- Bug repellent (if you went before May, you wouldn't need it, but now you do.)
- Band-aids and disinfectant (In case you scrape your knee, like Rachel did.)
- Layers like long sleeved sweat-wicking shirts if you are hiking in the spring or fall.
- Your camera!