Health

Everything’s coming up wildflowers: Replanting a trail at Bear Mountain

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The new sign for the Trails for People exhibit behind Bear Mountain Inn.

This is a public service announcement from your esteemed blogger-in-chief.

If you’re going to put in new hedging around your house, do NOT plant barberry. Please. Your friendly neighborhood invasive species removal crews will be eternally grateful. (Besides, a couple of states have made it illegal to plant barberry, because it’s such a nuisance of a plant.)

There.

As many of you probably know, it was National Trails Day on Saturday, June 4. I’d joined the Invasive Species Task Force from the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference up at Bear Mountain-Harriman State Park in just-barely-upstate-New York the year before. We’d spent an energetic – albeit prickly  – morning removing barberry bushes, a shrub once popular for hedging but now deemed an invasive species, hence the PSA. I was game to try again – and crews would be planting some native species plants along the now barberry-free slope.

My mom was up for a visit and she was game to join in, so Saturday morning found us making the amble up the Palisades Interstate Parkway.

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Sundown in Tenafly

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Pfister’s Pond in the Tenafly Nature Center, just before dusk.

Tonight’s posting is a short but sweet one, trail heads, a bit of quietness – and I think we could use a bit of quietness after that ruckus today over the alligator being caught in the Passaic River.

*

Do you believe things happen for a reason, or do you tend to think in terms of coincidences?

That’s one of the questions a group of hiker friends and I were mulling over as we sat on the banks of Pfister’s Pond at the Tenafly Nature Center early one evening back in June.

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Happy Earth Day!

Interpretive signs along the Whistler zipline platforms, describing the local ecology.

Interpretive signs along the Whistler zipline platforms, describing the local ecology.

Well, hi there, trail heads.

I’m up to my ears in this and that and everything else, but I’m just popping in to post a super-quick message to wish everyone a happy Earth Day. I hope that, either today or later on in the week (or any day for that matter), you get a chance to spend some time outdoors, whether it’s just in the backyard or out in a state or national park – or any place else you can get out among nature.

We talk a lot about our resources: water, clean air, energy. And our parks, green spaces and other walkable (and hikeable, climbable and campable) places are an especially precious resource. If we didn’t have those places, we’d be a lot poorer and a lot more miserable as a species. So that’s something to think about, both on Earth Day and on every other day of the year.

I’ve got a few postings lined up, including a rail trail hike I just did a few weekends ago out in western New Jersey. Stay tuned!

(And don’t forget the Leave No Trace rules: Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints and kill nothing but time.)

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Restoration in Progress: A Walk on NYC’s High Line

People walk, sit and take selfies amid the hollies and other trees in the Chelsea Thicket on the High Line.

People walk, sit and take selfies amid the hollies and other trees in the Chelsea Thicket on the High Line.

A few weeks ago, gentle readers, winter gave us one last flipping of the bird by causing it to snow on what was officially the first day of spring.

A wicked case of cabin fever had me craving a long and substantial walk, especially since I needed to start getting back into shape for longer summer hikes. But where to go? Most of the more rugged hiking trails I like to frequent were, after the first-day-of-spring storm, covered in snow. On top of that, I was facing the usual crunch of five million demands on my time.

Here’s how I managed it.

On the second day of spring, a Saturday, I had to go into New York to run a couple of errands. And there was a place in the city that I had been meaning to check out for quite some time – the High Line.

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It’s 2015 – so where are we going hiking this year?

IMG_5438Well, Happy (a few days after the) New Year to you, trail heads – hope 2015 is going all right for everyone.

Today’s posting won’t be a long one – after all, like all of you I’m still transitioning from “holiday mode” back into the normal grind of things.

I’m usually not one to make resolutions (and generally if I do make resolutions, I resolutely do not keep them). But the turning of the calendar has got me thinking about where I want to go hiking this year – and in the process, get more material for this blog (which got off to such a swimming start in 2014).

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Going in circles: Labyrinth walking

An overhead view of the labyrinth in the sanctuary at First Congregational Church in Montclair, NJ.

An overhead view of the labyrinth in the sanctuary at First Congregational Church in Montclair, NJ.

One of my favorite authors is the late Marsha Mehran, author of the Babylon Café novels set in northwest Ireland in the 1980s.

There is a scene in the second novel, “Rosewater and Soda Bread,” where the Italian widow Estelle Delmonico leads a mysterious mute girl – who is recovering from serious physical and psychic wounds – on a walk around her garden overlooking Clew Bay.

Estelle has a circular stone path winding through the garden, a gift to her from her late husband Luigi:

“Estelle stopped in the middle of the flagstone path, turning to face the girl in the wheelchair. ‘This is the center of everything. Here I find peace. That is what Luigi had built for me. A circle garden I can come to when I have problems, yes? I walk this when I can’t walk too far because of the weather or my feet, and I walk this circle when I have too many pains in my thoughts, too.’”

The path is not described as such, but it sounds as if the path in Estelle’s garden is a form of labyrinth.

Most of us who hike on a regular basis probably can attest that a long (or not-so-long) walk is good for the mind and the spirit as well as the body; one term I sometimes use when I’m out hiking is “recharging the batteries.” (Sometimes I think that if more people could get out and go for a hike or just a walk in the woods, we wouldn’t need gym memberships or therapists.)

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Turtle Back Trail, South Mountain Reservation: Essex County, NJ

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View of one of the carriage roads intersecting with the Turtle Back trail.

You know how it is, hikers. There are moments, in your day-to-day life, when the burdens of work and/or school and/or family life get to be a little unmanageable, and you feel that the only cure for it all is to get your boots on and get out into the woods.

For me, it had been one of those weeks. Or rather, one of those couple-of-weeks. Between work, graduate school projects and 10 million other duties and responsibilities, I’d been practically chained to my computer. And it didn’t help that I’d spent too many weekends recently catching up on all the things I hadn’t been able to do during the week.

Last weekend, however, saw the kind of fall weather that hikers dream of. Blue skies, temperatures in the high forties (cool enough to require a sweatshirt), and the trees were starting to turn color. So I said to myself, “That’s it. This weekend, I’m going hiking. No excuses.”

I felt like doing something local (or at least something that didn’t involve taking the Garden State Parkway or the NJ Turnpike), and decided to head down to South Mountain Reservation in West Orange. So that Sunday morning saw me making my way down Pleasant Valley Way toward the reservation.

I left my car at the Turtle Back parking/picnic area, started stretching, checked the map, took a swig of water and headed off into the woods.

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We’re talkin’ trash: Litter on the trails

I think a lot of us might have a story like this from some point in our lives or other.

I remember one time, when I was 12 or 13 or so, going out for a bike ride one Saturday morning. As I was rounding the corner, a car – might have been a pickup or an SUV – came driving by, and the occupant (not sure if it was the driver or a passenger) pitched a beer bottle out the window. It landed on the street and shattered, about five feet in front of me (and my bike tires).

Needless to say, I was pretty miffed.

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Proposed smoking ban in NJ parks and beaches, part 2

Well, I’m a bit disappointed.

Earlier, I did a posting about how New Jersey was contemplating a bill that would ban smoking in parks and beaches. A few days ago, it was announced that Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the bill.

Here’s the article about the veto:

Christie vetoes limit on smoking in parks, beaches: Associated Press, Sept. 12

But as I’ve said – smoking can be a real fire hazard in parks and campsites (it’s been pretty dry out in the west this summer, by the way), and cigarette butts are a choking hazard for fish and wildlife. On top of that, all those stubbed-out cigarettes on the beach are pretty gross.

What do you think of the ban and the veto? Post your own comments below. (And keep it civil – if I see any trolls, I’m calling in the goats.)

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This really bites

Don’t forget the bug spray when you’re going outside. The New Jersey Department of Health has sent out some warnings over the last few days about a couple of mosquito-borne illnesses: West Nile Virus, chikungunya and dengue fever.

The full press release is here.

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