Happy December, everyone. It being the last month of the calendar year, I should be getting ready to do the “really great hikes I did in 2015” entry. Or its evil, eerie-in-a-Doctor-Who-sort-of-way twin, the “all the hikes I still haven’t gotten to yet” entry. (Yes, your trail-head-in-chief is a bit of a Whovian: I’ve got the season finale playing even as I type.)
It’s a short-ish entry tonight – it’s not about any specific hiking trails, but rather a few introspective pensées about walking and hiking.
I’d gone into the city (that’s New York, for everyone outside of the NYC metro area) one day back in early November to run some errands and re-visit several favorite haunts. In the mid-afternoon, I’d finished puttering around on Lexington Avenue, and I needed to get back over to the west side so I could pick up the 1 subway. So I decided to cut through the middle of Central Park, stopping to pay a quick visit to the Shakespeare garden and to the Belvedere castle along the way.
And it got me thinking back to something I’d written about a little bit earlier in the year. I did an entry back in the springtime about getting out on the High Line on the second day of spring (never mind that it snowed on the first day of spring). In that entry, I did a few musings about the idea of urban hikes.
I did a few such hikes this year: walking the High Line and checking out the native flora. Going geocaching within sight of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. (And there were a lot of fitness buffs doing the Rocky Run that morning, believe me.)
One of these days, I want to get in a walking tour somewhere in the city – I’ve seen a few notices about history tours around Greenwich Village and so on. And I owe myself another trip up to the vicinity of Fort Tryon and the Cloisters one of these days.
Again, there are probably a few hikers who would get their noses out of joint about comparing a walk in the city with a walk in the woods. Point taken. But seeing a city requires some of the same skills you would need to get around in the wilderness. Generally, of course, you don’t expect to have to face down a bear while walking in the city, although you do have to be on the lookout for road-rage drivers. But you do need to know how to look for landmarks, remember which direction you’re walking in, and dress for the weather and terrain (don’t wear fancy dress shoes if you’re going to be making a mad dash for the train home, for example).
Wherever you hike, it’s important not just to know how to get around. Take notes of the flora and fauna, whether it’s condors and mountain ash out on the trail, or oak trees and pigeons in the city. Get to know the different people you meet, whether it’s other hikers and mountain bikers, or shop owners, artists and other people staring into space on the subway. Learn about the history, and know more about how you fit into it, how your footprints mingle with those who have walked before you.
So till next time, trail heads, stay tuned. And as for Doctor Who – if I had access to a TARDIS I’d do an entry about hikes on Gallifrey or the planet of the Ood, or why Swiss Army knives and Leatherman multitools really ought to come with a sonic screwdriver setting.