Of all places and all people where and from whom I might find my next bikin’ & hikin’ adventure, it was a nun down at the Catholic Worker who hipped me to INWOOD HILL PARK, located at the northern tip of Manhattan Island. And so yesterday (Sunday), when I awakened to a cool crisp day, it seemed appropriate to take her advice and do a little exploring.
Now I’ve been up the Hudson River Greenway and am well aware the entire route is complete and without interruption (unlike the East Side – see last week’s entry). For a city ride, it’s about as bucolic as it gets. But I’d only been past 179th Street and the old GWB lighthouse a few times. The hill from that juncture up to Washington Heights is prohibitive. I’ll put it to y’all this way: With my Cannondale, I could just about make it up without dismounting. But my current ride (a heavy but comfortable Fuji hybrid)? There was no way. I had to walk the last part.
The previous times I’d pedaled all the way to Dyckman Street, there was a portage involved (many stairs) if you wanted to continue on (which I only did once while circumnavigating Manhattan Island – a ride I wouldn’t recommend – and never repeated). To my delight, I discovered that since my last time around, the city has constructed a wonderful ramp which leads right down to (drum roll) Inwood Hill Park!
Having perused the location on Google Earth, it was no problem finding the trail head I sought. Orange jobbie! Here I come. Not all that impressive at the outset. The trail is poorly marked. Without the advice of an Asian couple who were just exiting, I’d have missed a crucial turn just a few yards in! And the actual trail is so overgrown and unmarked, a hiker would be hard-put to find or think the trail was anything but a wrong turn!
After maybe a hundred yards, I arrived at a clearing which featured several dozen discarded empty cans of Cobra…numerous blunt rappers…and an equal number of empty little plastic bags. Gotta love New York City! No respect for the environment. Just a bunch 0f homies gettin’ high at their favorite clandestine spot – though not that clandestine considering the amount of detritus!
Unfortunately, I did not print out a map or bring a smartphone for the trip. But that didn’t stop me from jumping from trail to trail in search of one on which I was out of earshot of the West Side Highway. Presently, I was successful and found myself in the woods with no sensory evidence of the city in which I dwell. Seeing a tough vertical climb which I figured would lead to a scenic overlook of the Hudson featured on the map I didn’t bring, I went for it. Up to some rock formations and caves with homeless inhabitants (hey…this is New York City), I continued forth on what I could only term as a steep, dangerous, bushwacky pursuit. This was the real deal. One false move and I’d be with a broken bone screaming for help!
Fortunately, after what I’d estimate as a 200′ vertical, I arrived at a paved path populated by two separate bird-watching couples who clearly looked the part. Ya know…nerdball hats and binoculars with which they scanned the treetops? Sorry! I’m sure bird-watching induces all manner of orgasmic reactions in some. But the thrill is lost on me! I’ll get my orgasms the traditional way: By interfacing with the opposite sex (talk about throwback)!
With help from the “birdees,” I was at the vaunted lookout over the Hudson where I climbed a fence to perch myself on a rock for a spell while gathering in the beauty. Apparently, not that exclusive a spot after all as once again, I found litter of not just the blunt and reefer set…but opened condom wrappers from people clearly doing the nasty at the lookout. But all was not negative. I found a nice little bag of weed somebody had left behind – and one which I will be forwarding anon to a paramour who partakes. I myself no longer smoke the stuff as peeing in a cup has become a reality of my new retired existence.
For more or less another hour or so, I meandered around the park to see not much more of interest, and exited way too far from my original entering spot. Advice to those who would take this trip: Print out a map or bring your phone. It’s easy to get lost in the mother fucker. Once out of the park at Seaman Avenue and Isham, I actually knew where I was from my cab-driving days. Who says cabbies just stay in Midtown? I’d been at that spot many times before – though always very late at night when I’d accept that long-ass ride!
Back at the bike – which thankfully had inflated tires (not only had I not brought a patch kit…but I forgot my pump as well), I ventured farther north on a path through the River side of the park and reached the end of the line at about 220th Street – where I took that shot of the freighter/tug (whatever it is). Enroute was an interesting cultural experience. An hispanic cultural experience which felt and appeared more Central American than say Puerto Rican and Dominican. I say that because of the music I heard…the actual look of the people…and the fact that I could understand their Spanish. Lots of kids, fat mamas, dudes and barbecue. My gringo ass was in admiration. They were having fun.
Alas, enough of the fucking river. Time to head back – which I did with a few breaks – and ended up safe at home 5 hours after leaving with a sore ass from riding – but no sore muscles from pedaling or hiking. I guess age is just a number – at least for the time being.
All in all, yesterday’s ride and adventure far surpassed last week’s debacle of grit, dirt, detours and such. Again…not like a trip to the country. But for the city? Not too shabby. I may do this one again when fall arrives with the changing of the leaves. Something to look forward to.