Sunday, November 24, 2013

Hiking Boonton and Mountain Lakes


Every time I wore my really warm long underwear when hiking last winter, I ended up regretting it. Unfortunately, I learned from my experience and didn't wear it today. The temperature was 28 but, according to my weather app, it "felt like 15" thanks to the wind chill. I should have also brought my warm gloves and a warm hat, because this hike was bitterly cold.

I haven't hiked with the Ramblers since my surgery, so this seemed like a good hike to get back in with - no scrambling, not killer in length (10-12 miles was the estimate up front), not entirely flat but no Mt. Everest either. It ended up being nearly all those things, as it clocked in at 12.7 miles.

We took the bus to Morris County, New Jersey. The hike started in Boonton with a leisurely look at the old Morris Canal, and I seriously thought about going home at this point; I wasn't sure I was warm enough to have fun. Then, a few things happened: I ate a Luna bar, the wind died down somewhat, and the sun came out. We also started hiking more briskly (or perhaps I should say, stopping at fewer sites). In fact, the hike up the Tourne, a large hill or small mountain, was downright warmifying. We then stopped at another section of the canal and Boiling Spring before heading to and around Birchwood Lake. Then it was back up an old trolley line, across Rattlesnake Meadow, and back to the bus. Incidentally, Boiling Spring is not a hot spring, simply an underground spring, and Rattlesnake Meadow is not a meadow, nor do rattlesnakes feature prominently (although to be fair we didn't exactly check thoroughly).

It was, overall, a nice hike, although I would have likely enjoyed it more under warmer circumstances.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

New York Botanical Garden

Waterfall by TheTurducken
Waterfall, a photo by TheTurducken on Flickr.
The NYBG, in the Bronx, is the largest botanical garden in any city, or so I am told. We visited to see the train show and saw only a small fraction of the larger gardens.

The train show is held in the conservatory (in the rain forest, specifically), so we saw a little bit of that, and we walked past some features such as the Ladies' Border without really taking them in.

We went in search of the crabapples, which turned out to be a much smaller stand than we expected, then walked past the wetland and through the native forest to the waterfall. The falls, as you can see, are not natural but the result of an old dam.

I would like to come back with more time to walk around and explore the grounds, as well as to take photos. It's not a place for serious hiking - it's less than a quarter the size of Van Cortlandt Park - but more of a place for meandering in nature.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Putnam Trail at Van Cortlandt Park

Colors by TheTurducken
Colors, a photo by TheTurducken on Flickr.
Despite having spent a fair amount of time at Van Cortlandt Park, I had never been on the Putnam Trail, which runs up the eastern side on the park - mostly because it isn't accessible from the northwestern corner of the park, where most of the trails are. I was extremely surprised to see how pretty it was, even though in some places it's a narrow strip between two sections of the golf course.

Of course, it was a beautiful fall day, and everything looks better under those circumstances. Still, that's only a small part of it. Much of the trail runs alongside Tibbetts Brook and Van Cortlandt Lake, making for some nice water views and diverse wetlands.

The trail itself is the source of some controversy. The city plans to pave it, which has pitted cyclists against other users. In some ways, it's a perfect candidate for paving. It's a former railway, so the trail is flat and straight, and the northern terminus is the start of Westchester County's South County Trail. However, paving it would destroy much of its character, and given the number of cyclists I saw on it, asphalt is hardly needed to make it accessible to them. ("Character" is elusive, sure, but compare the trail to the South County trail it joins - Putnam is a scenic trail, but South County is nothing more than a carless road.) Besides, what's 1.5 miles to a cyclist? It's the blink of an eye.

So, yes, I suppose I'm against the idea of paving the Putnam Trail.