Thursday, August 17, 2017

Hiking from Cortlandt to Scarborough

Oscawana Point

This week's Ramblers hike started at Cortlandt, wound through several parks, and then headed south to Tarrytown. A few of us cut it short at Scarborough, however.

There was much less road walking than I expected (although a fair bit of paved greenway), and the hike was mostly flat, particularly in the second half. Some of the parks we wended our way through were more scenic than I expected, like the short trail to Oscawana Point, shown above.

After having lunch by the Hudson, we more or less headed straight south, eventually joining up with the Old Croton Aqueduct. By the time we exited at Scarborough, we had hiked 16 miles, with supposedly three more to go. They ended up hiking seven more, so I'm glad I cut out!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Inwood Park stroll

I had planned a bigger hike for Sunday but ended up under the weather, so I did a short stroll around Inwood Hill Park.


On the way there, I went through Isham Park and discovered a garden I hadn't seen before - Bruce's Garden. It was quite charming. Below is what I assume is a student art project in the garden.


Friday, August 4, 2017

Prospect Park birding

Prospect Park

We went to Prospect Park to go look for birds. This, of course, is the Audubon Center on the pond.

Prospect Park

Here are some tiny little berries.

Prison duck

This guy is behind bars. Without a really great camera, you can't get good bird photos of smaller or faster birds, but ducks are easy.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Visiting Mt. Utsayantha

Mt. Utsayantha

Mt. Utsayantha is a Catskills peak but under 3500 feet, and the only one you can drive to. It's also a pretty spectacular bit of cultural appropriation. Back in the day, the town of Stamford wanted to get its share of tourists, so it made up a story about an "Indian princess" who killed herself when her lover died in war. They built a fake grave, and an observatory on the mountain where she supposedly died.

The observatory is still there (visible in the photo above), although a newer fire tower has been built, and the signage acknowledges the fakery. The view from the top is quite nice, as you can see.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Hiking Table and Peekamoose

Table & Peekamoose

I have only the vaguest recollections of previously hiking Table and Peekamoose. That's because I did them as part of The Six, and by the time we got to Table, we had already done four bushwhacks. I do remember literally kissing the trail, though, because I was excited to be on one.

This time, we did a shuttle hike from the Slide trailhead at Frost Valley Road to the Peekamoose trailhead on Peekamoose Road. At the Curtis-Ormsbee trail we made a slight detour. Well, actually, half our group went up the Wittenberg-Cornell-Slide trail and down Curtis-Ormsbee, while half of us turned up the Curtis-Ormsbee just as far as the second viewpoint. Neither viewpoint is particularly grand, although there is some steep climbing to get there.

From there we continued south. At one point we passed the eastern end of the Finger Lakes trail, which extends 580 miles through, you guessed it, the Finger Lakes, all the way to the border with Pennsylvania.

The hike is half over by the time one reaches Table, and from there it's a short jaunt to Peekamoose. Both have views, but neither have views right at the peak. The top photo is the summit of Table, and the bottom photo is the summit of Peekamoose.

On the way back to the car, we supposedly pass Reconnoiter Rock, which caused us the same doubts as Cornell Crack - there are so many rocks, why name this one? In this case, we weren't even sure which rock was Reconnoiter. But it's a long three miles out to the end of the trail - I guess we needed something to keep us on the lookout.

Table & Peekamoose

Friday, July 28, 2017

Revisiting the Burroughs Range

Slide-Cornell-WittenbergAfter warming up on Tremper, we headed out to the Burroughs Range the next day. We followed the same route I had taken previously on this hike, starting from the Slide parking lot at Frost Valley Road and ending at the Woodland Valley parking area. My previous hike had been in the fall, however, so it looked quite different in the green of summer.

This trail is a showcase for Catskills rock formations, with lots of climbing. One of these climbs is named the Cornell Crack, but the rest are unnamed on the map, which we found amusing - Cornell Crack didn't seem to be any more significant than all the other climbs!

The trail first reaches Slide, then Cornell. There are views near both peaks, and again rather typical of Catskills view - you have to peer over trees to see the mountains over yonder, with little view of the valleys in between. But once you climb up to Wittenberg, it's an entirely different story. I think it's probably the best view in the Catskills. That's true even on a humid day, where the haze obscures the farthest details.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Hiking Mt. Tremper another way

Mt. Tremper

Both of my previous hikes of Tremper have been out-and-backs from Phoenicia. This time, we hiked it one-way from the town of Willow.

After parking at the post office on Jessup Road, we roadwalked a bit until we reached the Willow trail. (The photo above is from the post office; I think that is Tremper.) The beginning of the actual trail was a bit weedy - it's clear fewer people come this way. Likely that's because this approach is 3.8 mikes instead of 3.05, and there is no parking lot at the trailhead, necessitating said roadwalk, which makes it even longer. The trail itself is not qualitatively different, though.

The Willow trail dead-ends into the Warner Creek trail, and turning left eventually brought us up to the summit of Tremper, where we enjoyed the fire tower. From there, we went down the usual route to Phoenicia.

It's a nice alternative if you have two cars for a shuttle. Otherwise, you could of course do the hike as an out-and-back if you are looking for a change.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Circumnavigating Roosevelt Island

Roosevelt IslandI had never been to Roosevelt Island - in fact, I hadn't been to any of the smaller islands that compromise New York City. Roosevelt Island is the only little island around Manhattan that is actually inhabited*.

You can get there by subway or by tram, and there aren't many cars on the island. Of course I was excited to take the tram, my philosophy on trams being similar to my philosophy on fire towers.** The island is two miles long but probably only a quarter-mile wide. The tram lets you off near the southern end, so I decided to walk around it counterclockwise.

Roosevelt IslandThat meant I started by going through the Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park (at left). It is still being built but is not fully accessible, which is a problem because (a) the Roosevelt in question is FDR, the prez with a wheelchair, (b) Roosevelt Island has a significant disabled population and (c) construction began well after the ADA. The park so far is vaguely visually interesting, but as of yet there was no evidence of the four freedoms, just a giant FDR head.

As I started up the east side of the island, I was blocked by construction and had to retrace my steps, so I figured I might as well go clockwise.

Roosevelt IslandAside from a few historic buildings such a lighthouse and smallpox hospital, almost every building on the island dates from the late 70s or later. The look and feel is very 70s/80s. It's not necessarily aesthetically beautiful, but it took me some time to identify what I was feeling as a weird mix of nostalgia and admiration of the architectural consistency. Smartly, they kept the entire waterfront open, so it's possible to walk around the entire island.*** At the northern end is an old lighthouse; alas, it is closed.

Going down the eastern side of the island isn't quite as attractive. That's partially because the hospital and some public services have their backs to that side, so there are a lot of parking lots, that kind of thing. Also, the view of Brooklyn doesn't necessarily show Brooklyn's best side - the Costco looks as ugly as every other Costco. On the other hand, the power generating plant looks pretty good.

Roosevelt IslandEventually, I ran up against a gate at the edge of construction and returned to the tram.

All told it was a little over four miles, completely flat. Only parts of it were shaded, so bring plenty of water in summer, along with a warm jacket for windy days.

* There is a small population on Wards/Randall's Islands, but you can't just move there. There are various shelters and services on Wards Island, so I suspect the population consists of either users or employees of those services.

** "Never pass up an opportunity to climb a fire tower."

*** Excluding, obviously, the temporary blockage of construction.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Hiking from Manhattan to Weekhawken

Hamilton Grange

This week's Ramblers hike was an urban hike, starting at 145th St. in Manhattan, and visiting several sites related to Alexander Hamilton. We started off slow, as we stopped frequently. We picked up speed as we headed uptown, going over Highbridge and then Washington Bridge, then over the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey. We then followed the water south, eventually coming a bit inland for a more direct route, before taking the Weehawken ferry back to Manhattan.

Some of the group went on to walk south to Trinity Church for a total of 20 miles, but we had already done about 15, so I went home at that point.

We had great weather, although it was a little warm because we weren't in the shade very much. Most of the New Jersey portion of the hike was new to me, so it was interesting to see.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Fast and slow at the Wertheim Refuge

Carmans River

On our way back to the city, we stopped at the Wertheim Refuge. We didn't have a lot of time, so we decided to do the shorter loop of the White Oak Trail. J was able to check out a pair of binoculars from the office for bird spotting, and off we went.

Although the short loop is 1.5 miles, we found out that didn't include the .5 mile connector trail to get there. The connector trail and the beginning portion of the White Oak Trail are along the Carmans River, so there were several scenic spots from which to bird watch, although we didn't see much of note. There were quite a few paddlers out on the river, although that didn't seem to disturb the swans.

We took the shortcut to make the short loop and headed back on the portion of the trail that is deeper in the woods. Then J's phone rang - it was the Refuge office, telling us our binoculars were due in 15 minutes. We started walking very briskly, as we figured we were a ways out.

Finally, I offered to run jog to return them. I made it back on the dot of 4, with J only three minutes behind me. I don't run if I can help it so my pace, although steady, is slow. Nevertheless it's faster than we were walking.

It would be best to do this hike when one has enough time (or one's own binoculars), and if you're interested in birds, likely at a different time of day. It was an attractive woods-and-water hike, completely flat of course. If your goal isn't birding but more of a workout, I'd suggest both the White Oak and Black Tupelo Trails, for a little over 6 miles.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Birding at the Morton Refuge Nature Trail

Last September, J and I hiked to Jessup's Neck at the Morton Wildlife Refuge. When we went back this weekend, the beach was closed so piping plovers could nest. We did just the 1.2-mile nature loop, which leads to the beach but not down it.

J has been coming here her whole life and knows where to look for birds. We fed chickadees briefly, including one chick young enough to still have a few tufty baby feathers. We also saw a swan family, pictured above, plenty of frogs, and several ospreys and egrets.

It's an easy walk, but if you stop and take in all the sights, it ends up taking quite a while. Nevertheless, some people just rush past it as a cheap way to get to the beach.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Camping at North-South Lake

North-South Lake

I've camped at North-South Lake many times now, but on this past visit we had the best campsite yet. The above photo was taken where our site met the water. Plus, this same view was visible from the site itself - a few sites have short paths to the water but the view is blocked by trees.

10/10, would do again.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Birdwatching in Bashakill


We decided to explore a new area on our way back to the big city, and J wanted to get some birding in, so we stopped in the Bashakill Wildlife Management Area to try to find the eagles. She wasn't sure where they had seen them before, seeing as her notes were at home, so we took a shot in the dark. We didn't find that area, but we did find visit a nice viewing platform.

After turning on Haven Road, we parked at the side of the road where the Shawangunk Ridge Trail/Long Trail run through on an old rail bed. The trail then parallels Basha Kill Lake for a mile, before a side trail leads to the platform. The view from the platform is shown in the photo above. From the platform, we mostly saw catbirds and red-winged blackbirds, so nothing exotic, but it was pretty. Other birds were around - there were swallows where Haven Road crossed the lake, for example.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Chill hike along the Kaaterskill Rail-Trail

Kaaterskill Rail TrailThe day after summiting SW Hunter, we thought it best to take it easy and do a nice recovery hike. Since the 1.5-mile Kaaterskill Rail-Trail was very close to our campground, we decided to stroll it.

We parked at the eastern end and walked to the other end, where the historical society is located. The entire trail looked very much like the photo at left. Occasional vernal pools or small embankments on either side mixed things up a bit.

Once we returned to the parking lot (which, unlike far too many Catskills parking lots, actually had port-a-potties!), we decided to also head up the .3-mile trail to the viewing platform above Kaaterskill Falls. You can't actually reach it from the main falls trail. Last time we were there, we actually saw construction on this area. I don't know if some day they will connect.

The view from the falls is nice, although popular, given its proximity to the parking lot. The platform itself is sturdy. (Seriously, people, you all have no more excuses for randomly wandering off trail and falling to your death! Stay on the paths.)

Kaaterskills Falls overlook

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Quick trip to Ashley Falls

Ashley Falls

At .2 miles round-trip, the walk to Ashley Falls is about as short as a hike can get. Still, you get to see a waterfall, so it counts, right?

The falls (above) are a little hard to photograph, because there is a large rock slab at the base that dominates any photo. Still, they're pretty.

On this trip, we had the added bonus of a duck couple hanging out in the stream along the trail.

Duck fam

Friday, June 16, 2017

SW Hunter, my final Catskills 3500 hike

SW Hunter

SW Hunter was my only remaining Catskills 3500 peak, and it was becoming my nemesis. Not because it is so challenging, but because we simply tried it at the wrong time twice.

Backtrack: I began hiking the Catskills peaks three years ago with Hunter Mountain. As a solo hiker, new to the Catskills, it didn't occur to me to hike it with SW Hunter, although that is how it is frequently done. Fast-forward to January of this year, when J and I spent a weekend in the Catskills. After doing Balsam on Saturday, we had planned to do SW Hunter on Sunday. But with the weather being exceedingly brisk, we scaled back to just going as far as Diamond Notch Falls. Then in March we again spent the weekend, trying to get some peaks in before the official Club end of winter (March 21). Naturally, we came up right after a major blizzard, and once again we only made it as far as the Falls. Meanwhile, I had finished Eagle, my penultimate peak.
So back to this trip, where neither snow nor below-freezing temps were likely to be a problem. We started out once again from Rider Hollow, where we encountered a group of four 3500 club members setting out to do a one-way hike of SW Hunter and Hunter. They zipped by us as we hiked the easy stretch (seen in the photo at the top) to the Falls.

We then got on the Devil's Path and started going up. Most of the hike is fairly unremarkable. Oh, sure, it is uphill, and it is pretty woods, but there are no major landmarks, intersections, or scrambles. Finally, we reached Geiger Point, the only real viewpoint on the trip, seen below.

SW Hunter

Now, SW Hunter is considered trail-less because it can't be reached by trails formally maintained by the DEC. But it's like Bearpen, Vly, and Kaaterskill in that there are use trails or old roads - it's not bushwhacking. We found the old logging road to turn off on pretty easily, after only one false turn to a campsite. The next turn, off of the old logging road to the summit, was well-marked by cairns.

Because of this, the canister is easy to find; you don't have to hunt for it. We found it and signed in, finding a note from Tom (thanks!). In addition to my final peak, SW Hunter was also J's first trail-less peak, so it was an exciting moment for us both. We didn't linger long, however, thanks to the flies.

SW Hunter

The trip back down was only notable for a brief rainshower near the end.

So ... there it is, the end of my 3500 quest. What now? Do I work on the winter patch? The grid? Red-lining? New England's 100 highest? So many decisions?

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The bridges of Gowanus

By Sunday, I felt up to a slightly longer walk, so on a whim (with a push from J), I decided to walk across all the (pedestrian) bridges of the Gowanus Canal.

Up first, we have the Union St. Bridge. (All photos are looking north from the respective bridges.)

Gowanus canal

Next, the Carroll St. Bridge.

Gowanus canal

Third St.

Gowanus canal

Ninth St.

Gowanus canal

Hamilton Ave.

Gowanus canal

And last, a bonus bridge, at the Fourth St. Basin. If you look at a map, it shows the basin terminating west of the street, but in fact in terminates just east of it. Unlike the above photos, this is of the bridge, rather than from it.

Gowanus canal

Monday, May 29, 2017

LASIK recovery update


Lasik recovery is going quite well from a medical standpoint. I've had very little discomfort, although I've been quite tired. No doubt healing eyeballs is work, but also I've had mild cramps all week and my allergies are kicking in, so it's hard to know exactly how to apportion blame.

From an amusement standpoint, it's a totally different outlook. The day after surgery, I had a meeting, a work lunch, and commencement, which was all I could handle, even with an aggressive nap in there. The next day was better, but I quickly ran up against the limits of my amusement. Reading for any extended period was out, as was television. A two-mile walk left me tired - again, allergies or eyes, it was a toss-up, but I certainly don't want to harass my eyes with pollen.

J is out of commission with some crud, so there was no one to entertain me on command. I tried a recorded short story but couldn't concentrate on it. Having listened to books on tape before, maybe it was just the narrator. I tried several podcasts, which are not a Thing I Do, and now I know why - mostly I was frustrated at listening to something I could read in a third of the time. I finally found one I like, the Bowery Boys. It's tightly written, without all the chatter of morning radio show hosts.

It turned out there were a couple of things I could do, though. One, cleaning. My apartment was already pretty clean, but now I've cleaned things you didn't even know could be cleaned. (No worries, no nasty chemicals or kicking up dust allowed.) Two, I could cook. I finally made a sourdough that worked - kind of a cheater, though, since it also used yeast.

I have taken a few walks, although nothing strenuous. The photos at top and bottom are from Riverside Park.

Spring flora

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Laser eyes!

This week, I am having LASIK surgery. It requires that I wear my glasses for two weeks prior, which is a good reminder of just how annoying they are. They get dirty, my peripheral vision is shot, they slide down my nose, I can't wear sunglasses, and it's hard to be active. Contacts, of course, are a vast improvement, but they don't work in all situations - it was much easier to do the Long Trail without worrying about contact hygiene.

The doctor tells me my vision should be pretty good the next morning. However, my eyes will be healing, so I'll need to avoid/reduce some activities for a week. Specifically:

  • No swimming
  • No eye makeup
  • No "dusty, dirty environments"
  • No TV
  • No long bouts of reading
  • No driving
  • No going to the gym
The day immediately after is commencement, so I do have to work, but luckily that mostly involves sitting there. But then it's a four-day weekend, and I can't hike, can't read, can't binge-watch Netflix ... what, exactly, am I supposed to do?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

We came, we saw, we Sauntered

Great Saunter

I've always intended to get around to the Great Saunter someday, although admittedly I wasn't in a hurry (and let's be honest, that's partially because there is no patch). But an opportunity came up this year when a friend's husband had to cancel on her, so there I was, standing at the oldest tavern in Manhattan early last Saturday morning, ready to walk 32 miles. Or at least as ready as one can get, which is to say, not really.

For the record: The Saunter is not actually 32 miles. No, if E's calculations were correct, it's almost 36 miles. The distance varies slightly from year to year based on detours, but underestimating by at least three miles is significant. I demand credit for all my steps!

Also: 3 mph, the advertised speed, is not a saunter. Sauntering is 1, 2 mph tops. Sauntering is "without effort" per one dictionary.

Now with that out of the way, back to the story. We got off to a reasonably fast start. The Saunter goes clockwise, starting with the more scenic west side. I don't just say that as a biased west sider - not as much of the east side has been developed as a greenway, and in fact a considerable chunk of the east side is away from the water. Eventually, we saw the George Washington Bridge in the distance. And kept seeing it. For miles.

Great Saunter

The downside of finally passing the bridge is that the route actually goes uphill after being flat all morning, leaving the water for the first significant stretch, then uphill again into Inwood Park. The park is the official lunch spot, but we saw people stopping before then, and I can't blame them. We were getting pretty hungry and ready for a break. (Yes, we had snacks. We're not animals.)

After food, rest, and sock changes, we were good to start down the east side of Manhattan. There is a good chunk in Harlem where you're on the water, but the park isn't nicely developed. One thing you can see on this journey is where the city likes to put its money - then again, you can see the same thing by comparing subway stops across the boroughs and neighborhoods.

Anyway, after this, the route cuts inward, and farther than usual this year because of some construction. The neighborhoods are perfectly fine (except for the creepy police mural. Seriously, is that the eye of Sauron up there?), but walking inland is not what is advertised. We were ready to get back to the water - and we did, into the plush environs of the Upper East Side. See, even the statuary is classier on the UES.

Great Saunter

The exhaustion was starting to kick in hard around here. After we somehow missed another set of restrooms, we cut inland a couple of blocks early to hit up Starbucks. Coffee never tasted so good! Then we passed the United Nations and were back at the waterfront, and honestly I couldn't tell you much from there. There was a lot of walking, and tiredness, and grim determination. But we got through the last few miles - once you see the Brooklyn Bridge, you really have no excuse to quit anymore. We even managed to miss the forecast rain, with only a few gentle drops falling on us as we returned to the tavern.

So there you go: The Great Saunter.

Great Saunter

Friday, May 5, 2017

Hiking through Sterling State Forest

Sterling State Forest
Spring had appeared seemingly overnight a week ago, so by Sunday's hike in Sterling State Forest, it was green everywhere. The hills were still visible through the trees, and the weather was a pleasant 60-something (after being in the 80s the previous day). It was the perfect day for a tough 15-mile hike with the Ramblers along the Appalachian Trail.

We hiked through Sterling State Forest, starting near Arden and ending at the Bellvale Creamery - spoiler alert, probably the best way to end a hike. I'd done parts of the hike before, mostly in the second half, although the first time, it rained. (The second time was a backpacking trip in the opposite direction.) This time we added a little fillip onto it by adding a loop using the new Doris Duke Trail.

The end of the hike was the most spectacular part, going over Cat Rocks and ending at the creamery.

Sterling State Forest

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


Just a reminder that I have Instagram. Currently, I am obsessed with spring flowers.

A post shared by Eve Proper (@eproper) on

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Hiking in Bear Mountain State Park

Bear Mountain

Not, you will note, on Bear Mountain, but south of it! Our Ramblers hike this week combined some trails, some old roads, and some getting lost. The weather was perfect, and with the trees bare we had great views of the surrounding hills.

The only downside (unless you count the bushwhacking) was that the trails were quite wet; my feet did not stay dry. Luckily, it was warm enough that wet feet didn't also mean freezing feet.

Bear Mountain

All told, we went about 10 miles with approximately 2,000 feet of elevation gain.

Bear Mountain