Wednesday, May 10, 2017
We came, we saw, we Sauntered
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.
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.
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.