Posts Tagged With: hiking

Auld Lang Signpost

IMG_5438Another year gone by already – well, that didn’t take long. And it’s apparently that time of year again to reflect on how 2015 was for hiking.

My hiking time this fall was a bit limited, especially due to a rather brain-draining graduate school project that I had to wrap up over the last few weeks. (It’s also the reason why the blog’s been a little quiet of late. So I beg your indulgence on that one, oh trail heads.)

All things considered, it was a pretty awesome year for outdoor pursuits.  I got to take on a short chunk of the Appalachian Trail back in June, during a National Trails Day gathering up at Bear Mountain. Took a first run out on some cool multi-use trails, including the Columbia Trail out in western New Jersey and the Pine Creek Rail Trail out in central Pennsylvania.

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Hiking for the heck of it

So it seems to have been a world-setting kind of week (or couple of weeks).

Most of you have probably heard the story of the two guys who spent just over two weeks scaling El Capitan, the Dawn Wall, in Yosemite National Park.

My reactions to the news (and the photos of the vertical ascent) tended to fall into two main categories: “Wow, that’s really cool!” and “What the heck are you guys thinking!”

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Categories: Hiking, Other, Walking | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Time to (geo)cache in

IMG_8077The GPS unit said I was about there. So I tucked it back into my pocket and started looking around.

I was on the Long Path on the top of the Palisades, near a kind-of-hidden rock ledge overlooking the Hudson River. It was a late summer-early fall morning, still kind of warm, and decent weather for a hike.

On this particular morning, though, I wasn’t on a full-length hike. I was there on a geocache run.

I’d keyed in the cache’s coordinates, and the clue that I was given said to look for a boulder, with your back facing the river.


So I start scanning. There are some rocks that are certainly big enough to qualify as boulders, but none of them, as far as I can see, have any crevices or gaps big enough to stash a cache.


After a few minutes, I stepped out onto the ledge itself to get another look at the area.

Then I noticed that there’s a crevice in the rock at the back of the ledge, and… “hey, that piece of asphalt doesn’t look like it was here originally.”

I lay down, on my stomach, to get a better look and…bingo!

I used my hiking pole to pull the chunk of asphalt, and the cache container (a plastic box about six inches square) it was holding in place, toward me.

It had the usual contents – plastic jewelry, business cards, a Scout badge, a few coins, etc. I added a bookmark to the cache and poked it back into the crevice for another searcher to find.

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


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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Eagle River Nature Center, Chugach State Park, Alaska

One of the wildlife viewing platforms on the Rodak Nature Trail at the Eagle River Nature Center.

One of the wildlife viewing platforms on the Rodak Nature Trail at the Eagle River Nature Center.

I was born in Alaska, in Anchorage to be exact.

It was in those days, you see, that my family belonged to a tribe of nomads known as the United States Air Force. Dad was a flight surgeon stationed at Elmendorf AFB – now Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

We moved back down to the lower 48 (that’s the continental United States to the rest of you) in the summer of 1989, when I was three years old. So my memories of Alaska from those days aren’t as clear as the rest of the family’s, but I do remember some things – the house we lived in on Foxhall Drive, for example.

Last year, like salmon returning to the spawning grounds (and trying not to get eaten by a bear in the process), we came back to Alaska for the first time in 24 years so we could make some new memories – including a couple of hikes up around the Eagle River Nature Center in Chugach State Park.

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Fall’s almost here already?

View of the Kaaterskill Clove, in the Catskill Mountains, NY, in October 2012. (Photo by Walt Roll.)

Yep, Sept. 1. Labor Day. Back to school for the kids tomorrow, and back to work for the grownups. For me, as a woman with a full-time job and part-time graduate school work, it’s both.

Spent my day doing a short hike/geocaching run on the West Essex Trail in the a.m., later followed by a stop for ice cream in the late afternoon. So not a bad way to spend a day off.

Amid all the school supply sales and the wisecracks about how you’re not supposed to wear white after Labor Day (who came up with that rule, anyway?) there’s a lot of laments about how the summer seemed to go way too quickly. Including from the outdoors people – including me.

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Patriots’ Path: Morristown National Historic Park, Morris County, NJ

Blazes for the Patriots' Path.

Blazes for the Patriots’ Path.

What was it, exactly, that enabled the Continental Army to win the Revolutionary War?

Depends on whom you ask, I think. The historians and the primary school history books will probably say it was bravery, honor, intelligence – the usual stuff.

Personally, I think that America’s birth as a nation depended a lot on a good set of calf muscles. And if you’ve ever hiked along some of the trails in the Morristown National Historic Park in central New Jersey – the Continental Army’s stomping grounds in the late 1770s – I think you’d agree.

Some of the hiking trails there are a nice easy amble. But others – they’re a bit of a push to get up. So imagine, if you will, a soldier in 18th century uniform marching uphill with musket and powder horn.

And this was a thought that was crossing my mind once or twice when I went for a hike on the Patriots’ Path on one of my days off this summer.

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Mount Nemo and the Niagara Escarpment, Ontario

View from the North Loop in Mount Nemo.

View from the North Loop in Mount Nemo.

During a trip to Toronto and central/southern Ontario a few years ago, we decided to work in a hike at Mount Nemo, up along the Niagara Escarpment.

Mind you, we’d already done quite a bit on this particular trip since arriving that Tuesday. In the space of three or four days, we’d done a bike ride around the Toronto Islands, gone up in the CN Tower (the Plexiglas floor on the lower observation deck is not for the vertiginous), gone down to Niagara Falls (yes, we did Maid of the Mist), and driven up to Gravenhurst for a boat trip on Lake Muskoka. And that was all in the space of a few days. (We certainly know how to pack it in.)

So on day four of our trip, a Saturday morning, we piled into the car with backpacks and hiking boots and headed west out of the city toward Burlington.

It was a gorgeous day – blue skies, lots of white puffy clouds. It was August, so the weather was warm, but not brain-cripplingly so. Simply put, it was perfect hiking weather. And there were quite a few other hikers out taking the trails that day as well.

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Categories: Ecology, Hiking | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

West Essex Trail – Verona and Cedar Grove, NJ

View from the southern trailhead on Fairview Avenue in Verona.

View from the trail entrance on Fairview Avenue.

“Is that the trail up ahead?” I ask the two bikers – likely a dad and kid – coming out of the woods on Fairview Avenue in Verona, NJ.

“Yes – right where we came out.” The dad looks over his shoulder back toward the woods.

“Cool – thanks!”

I’d had a co-worker recommend the West Essex Trail to me as a hiking spot of a weekend. My hiking time has been a little limited this summer, due to a sprained ankle that took a while to heal, plus the usual time-eaters (work, grad school). So, having a few spare hours on a recent Sunday afternoon, I drove up Bloomfield Avenue from Montclair to Verona, boots on and backpack in tow.

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Categories: Biking, Hiking | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A prescription for a long walk – continued

Just a short post for today. Robert Zarr, a D.C.-area doctor who has been working with the National Park Service on the Park Prescription (Park Rx) program, was featured on a segment on NPR this week. The segment also deals with the topic of how to encourage children to get more exercise – including walking to school or playing in the local park. Check it out here:

To Make Children Healther, a Doctor Prescribes a Trip to the Park: NPR, July 14, 2014

Categories: Health, Hiking, Walking | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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