My co-worker invited me today on a hiking trip with some of her friends for the Labor Day holiday. My first reaction to her offer was skepticism; after all, how authentic of a nature experience could one possibly find in the sprawling metropolis of New York City? But I quickly learned it's amazing how far a two-hour train ride will get you. From Grand Central Station, the Metro North Harlem line takes you right to the trailhead of a section of the famous Appalachian Trail and to a much more serene part of the state. During our walk, everyone kept commenting how strange it felt to experience so much silence and solitude, a jarring departure from the bustle we left behind in Manhattan earlier that morning. I hiked with a ragtag group with many of us meeting each other for the first time, but it was a pleasant challenge getting to know the diverse and friendly individuals who made up our nine-person company.
The hike itself was a seven-mile round-trip trek that gained quickly in elevation. It was no stroll through the park, but the weather cooperated beautifully, and we walked at a brisk but steady pace. The journey began over a swampy grassland, which we traversed following a network of rickety boardwalks. Then very abruptly, we entered the cool, breezy hardwood forest, followed by a wide-open swath of reclaimed farmland now consisting of wildflower fields.The last bit was the tricky part: a steep and tiring ascent over rocky paths with frequent switchbacks. Finally, we reached our destination, an overlook known Cats Rock, which offered a pleasant panoramic view of the surrounding farms, the nearby town of Pawling (which we learned was the hometown of daytime television stars Judge Judy and Sally Jesse Raphael), and even glimpses of Connecticut. It was a marvelous place to rest our weary legs and take an hour-long lunch before returning to our railroad stop.
I slept for most of the train ride back into Manhattan and grabbed a quick bite to eat in the city before returning home. I decided to try another pizza joint called Little Italy Pizza next the Empire State Building. Despite decent Yelp reviews, I was sorely disappointed in my slice of chicken and ricotta, which was dry and bland. But on a brighter note, I did finally return to Stumptown Coffee Roasters, which came highly recommended by many people, and bought some grounds for my new coffee press (thanks, Daisy!). They gave me a complimentary cup o' Joe while I waited for them to grind my beans, and it was absolutely amazing. I can't wait to make my own, and here to hoping it will taste nearly as delicious!
|Although this scenic overlook came at the end of our hike, I wanted to lead off with this photograph to show off how picturesque the view was.|
|Same outlook, just looking the opposite direction into Connecticut. It was a wonderful place to relax, have lunch, and admire the natural beauty of the area.|
|We crossed a bridge over a stagnant creek early in the hike.|
|Under the shady canopy of New York's forest growth, the weather felt absolutely divine.|
|Flat fields of yellow flowers stretch out below the green hills.|
|See the spot of brown rock up on the hillside in the upper left-hand corner? That is Cats Rock, our hike's destination.|
|Several people mentioned the pastoral setting was ideal for singing songs from The Sound of Music.|
|I love rustic bridges on trails, no matter how rickety and frightening they may be.|
|Stopping for a frequent water break due to the very steep incline.|
|I absolutely love the way sun shines through leaves and makes them translucent with light.|
|No hiking trip in the woods is complete without obligatory close-ups of local flora!|
|Can you spot the bee in this picture?|
|Also from the plant nursery, but aren't these blooms beautiful?|
|Having departed that morning from Grand Central Station, the train stop at the rural trailhead was laughably quaint.|
|The Metro North train coming to take us back to the bustle of the Big Apple.|
|For dinner, I decided to try another New York-style slice topped with chicken and ricotta at Little Italy Pizza across from the Empire State Building. It was sadly lacking.|