Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Get Outside!

     My lack of posts recently is due to the fact that I am an avid outdoor enthusiast during the warmer months of the year (or at least more so during the warmer months.)  If I’m not out on the city streets riding my bike, I’m jogging our many sidewalks and parks.  I also go on day hikes and camping trips either alone or with groups of friends often.  Choosing to enjoy my free time outdoors allows me to live the city lifestyle without getting too overwhelmed by the steel and cement of our concrete jungle.  Not to mention it helps me deal with the massive amount of people we are surrounded by on a daily basis.

     You might be saying to yourself; it must be nice to have a schedule that allows you to travel outside of the city to some of the more rural parks and campgrounds, but I don’t have the time or means of transportation.  If you read this blog, then you already know that I do not own a car, and in fact don’t condone owning a car as a New Yorker because it's a waste of money and effort.  Being free of that burden is probably one of the main reasons I have more time and money, but I will save that post for another day.

     As New Yorker’s one of our most beneficial, though occasionally flawed, perks is our mass transit systems.  With multiple options of destinations and time tables we really are very fortunate.  Most people think of mass transit as either a method of getting from home to work and vice versa, or as an unreliable annoyance.  But what we don’t attribute our massive transit system to is; freedom, which we should.  Many of our rural and suburban brethren will attest to the fact that if their cars fail them, they are forced to either ask others for rides or try and figure out if the local bus system will get them to or close to their destination.  Our trains and buses give us the option to go to all over the Tri-State area for a reasonable price, and are actually far more reasonable compared to travel by cars these days.

     Now I understand that most of us have different schedules, and going on a one or two day hiking trip seems out of the question.  I promise though, once you take the trip and get out there you will see just how easy and convenient it is.  Even a few hours will get you out of the city and into a very therapeutic forest.  We sometimes don’t realize how stressed and tightly woven the city keeps us until we get away from the hustle and bustle.

     Between all of the possible bus and train destination options the real trick is to figure out where the trails are, and how close the stop on the bus or train will take you to the trail or campsite.  Now to tell the truth, there are many many possible destinations and I have only found a handful.  You can truly go to a new destination once a week for months and not see the same trail twice, that’s how vast the options are.  I personally prefer not to travel more than two hours outside of Manhattan to my destination, and honestly with all of the options in Upstate NY and CT I don’t have to.  The following list offers just a few of the possible locations, you can click on the links to get more detail of the trails thanks to Backpacker Magazine online (great resource):

  • Long Path Loop:  This makes a great day hike location, or two to three day backpacking trip.  It is located in Harriman State Park and is about an hour long train ride from Penn Station New York.  It is such a quick ride, that you can’t get over the fact that you can get this rural while being so close to the city!  I actually spent this past weekend out here doing the trail and had a blast.  It is truly a beautiful park with many trails to explore, and it also has a few ‘hidden gem’ campsites.  You can also find some of the old mine sites.  I attached a few pictures of this trail at the bottom of this post that I took over the weekend.  You do have to walk a little bit from the station to the trail head, so make sure to do your homework before hand and bring a map as always.

  • Appalachian Trail:  I know when most of us think of the AT, we think of a really long trail that goes up most of the east coast, and that it has a bunch of ‘bush hippies’ with funny trail names that spend months on the trail.  And although that is partially true, the AT is a perfect destination for New Yorkers.  Why is it a perfect destination you ask?  Well it is actually extremely convenient for us to get to.  In fact the MTA’s Harlem Line has even been gracious enough to place a stop right on the trail on the weekends.  When you get off the train you literally have thousands of miles to hike in either direction.  It’s pretty daunting, and is actually one of the main problems of this trail.  You really just have to stop at some point and turn around leaving you feeling a bit empty because you can have no real destination.  You can choose to spend the night at the shelter located a few miles from the train stop though, giving you a great overnight trip.  You can also hike from the Harlem Line train stop to the train stops of the Port Jervis Line making it a long weekend backpacking trip.
  • Stony Brook Loop:  This is another Harriman Park trail that makes a great day hike. Taking the Port Jervis Line out of Secaucus to the Sloatsburg station is the best way to get to the trail head.
  • Breakneck Ridge:  Click on the link as the site it links to gives a great amount of information.  This is a great easy day hike.

     If you have any suggestions to a place you just love that’s close, feel free to let me and the readers know.  If you are feeling adventurous you can try and find your own favorite locations, and I suggest you do as it can be a fun adventure (something we lack in our daily modern lifestyles.)  I prefer going on moderate day hikes during the week near or after the morning commute, and try to get on the trails early in the day.  My ideal situation is to spend the night on the trail and then spend the whole day walking and exploring.  Early mornings in the bush are magical.  I like being out there without too many distractions so I can practice firecraft, woodcraft skills, and outdoor survival techniques.

     This blog often discusses disaster preparation and survivalism for New Yorkers, so you might wonder how hiking and camping really relate.  Camping, and being out in the wilderness in general, teach you and those you love many important lessons on how to live and thrive in inconvenient situations.  Truthfully that is all a disaster really is, an “inconvenient situation”.  By pushing ourselves to the limits of comfort with things like annoying bugs and poor sleeping conditions, we can gauge how well we cope.  We can also start training ourselves to let go of creature comforts such as indoor plumbing, and easily accessible potable water by getting out of our everyday comfort zones.  By pushing these limits, we are testing ourselves in a controlled manner.  We can only then truly appreciate our overly convenient lifestyles.  As anyone who has spent time in the bush can tell you, there is no better meal then your first ‘real’ meal off the trail, and you will never truly understand how amazing of an achievement running water is till your first hot shower off the trail.
     Here is a list of a few additional resources if you would like to do your own research:


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