If you've been reading this blog for a while, you might remember that I visited Pelham Bay Park once before and didn't enjoy it at all. So why did I go back? It occurred to me that it might be better in winter, since the worst problem was the overgrown and undermaintained trails. Plus, it is close by*, and I was feeling lazy.
Last time, I'd reported that the Westchester 45 bus didn't stop at the park. Well, this time it did, no problem. Did I not request the stop before? Was I not paying attention? Was the driver cranky? I don't know. All I know is that the bus still only runs once an hour most of the day, which is something to take into account when planning, but not a serious inconvenience.
The Bartow-Pell Mansion was closed. There were some workers outside in white coveralls working on a project, and they were literally the only people I saw in the park. Weekdays in winter tend to be good days for hiking solitude, even in more popular parks, and Pelham Bay is at the far edge of the Bronx. Again, there is a downside, which is that the restrooms are therefore also closed, but ... well, I was in a park full of trees and nearly devoid of people.
I walked over to the lagoon and up the Siwanoy Trail, up the Split Rock Trail to the road crossing, and then back, taking the other half of the loop back to the mansion. The trails were in much better shape than on my previous visit. I can't honestly tell you how much of the improvement was due to the time of year or whether any of it was due to trail maintenance. Either way, it was much more pleasant than on the previous visit.
There was an abundance of wildlife, perhaps because I was the only one around to scare animals off. The top photo was taken moments after watching what looked like an egret take off. But I also saw sparrows, chickadees, geese, bluejays, robins, swallows, swans, and woodpeckers, plus two black squirrels chasing each other up a tree. There was even a white-tailed deer, dashing quickly but silently away into the underbrush.
Once back at the mansion I did another short loop. The bus had come about ten minutes earlier, so I decided to walk back to the 6 train via the Hutchinson Greenway. It follows Pelham Bridge Road but then turns west next to Orchard Beach Road, crosses the Hutchinson River, and ends at a major bus stop. One could walk to the train on sidewalks from there, although I didn't.
All this was only a small part of the park. West of Pelham Bridge/Shore Road is mostly golf course; east of the lagoon is Orchard Beach and a good chunk of land. To the south is another section of park, separated by the Hutchinson River, but it is mostly athletic fields. Judging from the park map, Hunter Island/Orchard Beach are also worth exploring.
To make a long story short, I owe Pelham Bay Park an apology. I still don't know that I'd go back in summer, but it made a lovely walk on a sunny winter's day.
* "Close" is an odd term in New York City at times. If I were a crow, it wouldn't be far at all. But getting there from my house takes an hour and a half. Besides, if I were a crow, I wouldn't have a house.