I did something today I bet you thought you wouldn't see here again - I went hiking. Yeah, hiking in Manhattan hasn't been easy, and I've only been "real" hiking once. Part of it is the haul - the only unpaved trails longer than a mile in the city are in Staten Island, and it takes two hours to get there on public transit. But today I - well, I kind of hiked.
See, my definition of a "hike" is that it is unpaved. I do recognize exceptions for the occasional paved wheelchair-accessible and boardwalk trails (heck, I spent time building one back in Nashville), so already it's not a hard-and-fast standard, but generally greenways != trails. But that was before I visited Inwood Hill Park.
Inwood is the northern tip of Manhattan, and nearly all the trails are paved. On the northeast corner, where the ballfields are, it could be any city park. But once you get up into the hills, suddenly you're in an actual forest. An actual forest with giant trees:
No matter what the surface was, it felt like hiking, so I'm calling it hiking.
The park has a network of trails. I guess there's a map, but ignore it. The trails are too complicated and unsigned. At the same time, it's impossible to get lost. Just remember, the ballfields are at the north, the Henry Hudson toll road is on the west, and if it's flat, you're on the eastern strip. The middle of the park is, as advertised, a big hill, one that's impossible to get a photo of. You can get photos from the top, however:
Like any New York park, there are random, delightful moments that make you glad to live in this place:
As I got there, a middle-aged white d00d was perorating tiresomely about how this was a "classic symptom of OCD." Or maybe it was just a creative soul making a site-specific installation with the materials available at hand - outside outsider art.
At one point, a man with his son asked me if this was "the way to the secret staircase," and I had to tell him I had no idea. I had seen several staircases, and I didn't know which one was supposed to be secret. It could have been this one:
As wild as the park feels, there are reminders that you are in the city. There's the occasional view of Marble Hill and the Bronx, as well as the noise from the highway on the western side. Then there are things like this:
It's also my understanding that it's not a great place to be after dark, and I can see why. I turned a corner and saw a fabulous lamppost that would have made a great photo, but loitering under it were six teenage boys smoking pot. I couldn't care less about the marijuana, but they were a bit too "friendly" - probably in part defensive about being caught. I didn't stick around for the photograph.
But the park has almost everything. Vertical elevation: check. Woods: check. Water: check. Surprises: check. Fire rings: check. Caves: check. Wildlife:
Check. OK, no waterfalls, but I guess a park can't have everything.