BY HAYLEY BRIDGEWATER
Temperatures are dropping, crowds are scurrying to find pumpkin spice flavored goodies, and the winter boots, hats and scarves are making their first appearances. Though the crisp air and grey skies might tempt the masses to prematurely indulge in winter’s hibernation, a great many New Yorkers are gearing up for the fall hiking season.
As city dwellers, we are accustomed to stuffing as much as possible into our days. The pace of our city can leave us itching for wide, open spaces, fresh air, the sights and sounds of nature, and an opportunity to get out and stretch those arms and legs. Due to the extensive variation in length and intensity of trails in our area, hiking is truly a pastime for everyone. In Queens, we are fortunate to be a little more than an hour away from some of the most beautiful mountain trails on the East Coast, with many of them accessible by public transportation.
So where to go? Depending on the day, mood, and transportation options, you might try the Catskills, the Taconics, Harriman State Park, Bear Mountain, or even the Palisades. All are easy day trips, but one of the most popular and breathtaking areas to view the fall colors while getting a great workout is just around the bend in the Hudson Highlands. Not only are there numerous trails and climbs, they are served by the Metro-North train systems. The Peekskill and Cold Spring stations will bring you quite close to the trailheads and introduce you to some charming local businesses as well.
As you plan your hiking trip, I would like to stress that preparation is key. It can be the difference between an excursion that is inspiring and one that ends up catastrophic. Many of the Hudson Valley hikes will not require much in the way of fancy equipment, but it is good to have an idea of what to expect, as well as what necessities to bring to make your trail experience memorable and safe. As nature itself can throw twists, turns and detours onto the trails, it is smart to research up-to-date information on local hiking areas.
Be aware of personal restrictions and physical capabilities. Sure, you can go out and attempt to learn while you are on the ground, however, you may find yourself lost and waiting for the rangers to find you. Packing lists, maps, pictures, hiking reviews and emergency tips are at your fingertips if you know where to look.
Two comprehensive and well-maintained sites to consult are as follows:
New York New Jersey Trail Conference – www.nynjtc.org
Mike Todd’s Hiking Blog – www.hikethehudsonvalley.com
I check both of these sites before every hike and note GPS coordinates, trail changes due to weather, and events happening in the area. Hope to see you all on the trails. And remember, leave only footprints and take only memories.
Quotes from the trail…
“Hiking is so much fun! You get to work out for free with your friends and enjoy nature and the fine views it has to offer. It’s nice to leave the hustle and bustle of the city and spend the day in a serene and relaxing environment. In addition, I love that there are different levels of hikes ranging from the more experienced hiker to the novice just getting started. There is something for everyone to enjoy.”
Pauline Kakkos, Astoria native
“In the end we only regret the chances that we don’t take. I do what I want and I hike to feel free!”
Katherine Espino, Glendale native
“There’s always a great sense of accomplishment after each hike. No matter how many times you may travel the same trail, the journey will always be different. Nature has a way of making each hike unique. The flowers may bloom one day, the leaves may fall the next, the waterfall may be intense, and the uneven grounds allow your feet to feel a new experience. The sense of accomplishment doesn’t just come once, it pours out after each mile, with increase in elevation, and abundantly when you reach the top of the mountain. That is my favorite part! There’s so much peace up there. Lastly, the greatest part is sharing that moment with those who took the journey with you. It’s a beautiful moment to share the bliss, the courage and the strength that got us all up there.”
Allison Rivera, East Elmhurst native