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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Hiking the Peaks Surrounding Putnam County, New York

Ain't No Mountain High Enough

For years I have taken the Metro North for day trips up the Hudson River and marveled at the mountains that cover the landscape of New York State.  I would watch people get on at Grand Central in hiking shorts and back packs and think to myself these people are freaks. I mean, you work hard all week to then work harder on the weekends with exercise? I would even see mountain bikes and protective gear.  People are going out for day trips two hours out of the city for this? I can't believe this also is a weekend getaway thing but alas there are people who travel with just a backpack, water, wallet and a change of underwear for these types of trips. No thank you sir, that's a little hardcore for me but a day trip, yes ma'am!

Storm King Mountain was named after by a proposal for the name by 19th century writer Nathaniel Parker Willis.  Willis was quoted saying -
"The tallest mountain is...looked upon as the most sure fore teller of a storm.  When the white cloud-beard descends upon his breast in the morning...there is sure to be a rain-storm before night. Standing aloft before other mountains in the chain, this sign is peculiar to him.  He seems the monarch, and this seems his stately ordering of a change in the weather.  Should not STORM-KING, then, be his proper name?"
That's right on target with those clouds, seeing how I was once trapped on another mountain as its beard swallowed up the the mountains' tah-tahs.  Ah, poison ivy on the eye. There is nothing like it.

  • Note: When you are caught in a storm and take cover under a rock, there is a great possibility the run-off from the mountain will drizzle off the rock into your eye! Viola! Maybe check the weather on your phone app before trying to be a hero.  It might save a trip to the doctors office.

Having said that, Storm King is a great place to start if you are not an avid climber. There are basic trails but you do need to pay attention when having to climb on a slight incline now and again. This loop around the mountaintop is very rewarding by means of not being a long hike at all.  The bonus is in the view, of course.  This is an easy day trip by train or car.  I recently drove south along Storm King Mountain and wrote an article about it. I must say at 200 meters above sea level, the views are amazing.

  • Note: When taking a train to the City of Beacon you will have to take a cab across Beacon-Newburgh Bridge to Storm King Mountain.  A car might be the better bet after all.  Being on the opposite side of the river where Metro North tracks are prove driving oneself to this adventure is easier and cheaper in the long run. What Uber driver wants to pick you up 410 meters above sea level?


My first indoctrination into becoming one of these weirdo hikers was Mt. Taurus. The stop is Cold Springs Train Station where you arrive in a beautiful quaint town from another era.  A recent article of mine covered my love affair with this town. One can stop and have a light lunch at any of the cafe's that line Main Street next to antique shops but don't let that distract you for long. There is a mission and that mission is to climb a mild but long trek up Mt. Taurus.  This has been a staple for myself for years. I spend more time midway on a rock that appears to look more like a couch then ever climbing to the top.  I sit on my couch rock and take in the view like a couch potato would be glued to a TV screen.  You cannot get better than this.  Just make sure that you are with trusting, faithful friends. Your feet literally dangle off the ridge that goes several hundred feet down to an abandoned quarry.  

Go on, stretch your legs and take in all that nature goodness!

Flatironbetty at Mt Taurus 2012

My last consideration and one that I have not taken yet is actually a quite popular hike for the Tri-state area.  It's even open on the evening of July 4th.  Many hikers may enjoy the fireworks above the river from neighboring towns.  You can see almost 5 towns away all the star spangled display.

Break Neck Ridge is a great place but as you can see from the video below, is a little more on an incline and a very narrow path.  I have friends in the 70's who make their way up in about two hours and then climb down to the neighboring town of Cold Springs for lunch. So this is doable by anyone not minding a little concentration with footsteps and pacing.  The views are amazing any season from photos I have seen.  I must confess that fall is my jam but again don't let the winter barren trees persuade you to stay away. It's a fantastic morning hike from what I have been told.  This is another great view of seeing the winding Hudson River as it makes its way up to the Canada and down to New York City.  

  • Fun Fact: The Hudson is considered an estuary because the currents run both north and south.

Get out and hike today in New York State.  Who knows? We might meet one day while I'm twirling and singing The Sound Of Music somewhere on a mountaintop near the Hudson River.

Ladies, Liquor, Law and the Lord: A Look at Ocean Grove, New Jersey

A Dry Town on Jersey Shore?

If you ever want to stretch your legs for the weekend and sit on a porch of a Victorian style bed and breakfast on beachfront property, I recommend Ocean Grove, New Jersey.

This summer I got to experience this quaint historical town just two hours outside New York City.  If you choose to take the NJ Transit train you can sit back and take in the sights of neighboring towns filled with seaside manors of Elberon, Allenhurst, and Deal before getting off the train at Asbury Park.

This jewel of town started out as a Victorian-era camp meeting site for the United Methodists of America in the 19th century.  The land itself is still owned by the church.  This means you can buy a house in Ocean Grove but you lease the land for 99 years before returning it to the town.  It's odd for me to comprehend but I suppose instead of property taxes to the government, you are pay a leasing fee to the city.  Don't quote me on that.

Everywhere you look is a Victorian style residence.  The town claims to be the largest neighborhood of Victorian style homes in the Northeast and I believe them.  You walk ten blocks in any direction and are inundated with Mansard roofs or Queen Anne style homes with some blend of pink or purple in the moldings.

This summer the Township of Ocean Historical Museum put on an exhibit that presented women of the Methodist Church that owned their own businesses and/or were leaders in the community.  Yes, before 20th century feminism ladies like Amanda Smith inspired both black and white women by being a preacher and traveling the world. She made her way through Ocean Grove to share her stories during summer camp with other Methodist women.  She started numerous charities to help disadvantaged children and left a legacy for those to follow in her footsteps.

There are many women who worked around the Ocean-township dry town. It seemed women had more power because of it.  They were were privately owned inn keepers and young professionals that took care of the people.

While most Ocean Grove Methodists lived elsewhere and gathered here only for the summer. It eventually became a year round residence for all kinds of folks.

The town itself is still dry.  This means you cannot buy alcohol ANYWHERE in town. OK, before you freak out, you can walk over to Asbury Park.  This is literally a two minute walk.  Then, make your way to the nearest wine store and Voila booze yourself sideways to your hearts content.

The rules are laxed when it comes to 'in town' wine tastings and, of course, having a gathering at one's home.  If you rent a house or even a room you needn't worry by sitting under the table with a flashlight and flask.

You can still see the remnants of the gate that used to surround Ocean Grove when you stroll to the outer parameter. These were efficient in stricter times.  Up until the 1970's the town used to lock up and have night watchman let "year round residents in." This was a century old way of protecting the town from outside "sinners."  My grandfather, a World War II vet from South Amboy, used to sit in his Buick with a Michelob and a cigar on the Asbury Park side making fun of them, classy guy.  Sigh. I miss him.

I must say though, this did come in handy when Asbury Park, a once seaside resort town for the wealthy, took a downward spiral in that same decade.  Now as the neighboring towns have come back in recent years with city folk buying up and rehabilitating once dilapidated houses. The town of Ocean Grove is attracting more and more visitors every year. Many of the old residences have been bought up and chopped into condos or bed and breakfasts.

There are plenty of inns to pick from. My favorite are the "Inns of Ocean Grove."  They are pretty cheap in the off season.  Having said that, there are not many places you can stay in luxury and pay under 200 a night for a weekend in peak season right across from the beach. So forget Cape May before the summer is gone. Check out this boozeless, hip town that supported broads to do something with themselves long before Friedan or Steinem.

Check out the history. Check out the beach!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Little Explorer in Me

Why Am I Such An Explorer?

This traveling blogger started her adventures around four years of age. She lived for the first few years of her life in a small coastal town not very far away. It had much history and was well lived in by a few generations.

She started by visiting with Oma, the elderly Russian woman whose backyard was adjacent to hers.  Sneaking around the fence from the side with a hole big enough for a little one to sneak through, she would crawl down on her knees to get the vegetable garden Oma kept.  Once through the fence, the little girl would walk through the patch of tomatoes, lettuce, and sunflower stalks that were so high they were touching the sun.

Ariel View of Elberon, New Jersey

She marveled at the colors and the smells of the garden.  This was her first experience of the outside world by herself.  There were no adults, nobody holding her hand or talking over her four year old inquisitiveness. She knew that the outside world, away from her own boring realm of cartoons, naps and playtime in a guarded area of the house could have possibilities of sights, smells, and activities that were beyond her imagination.

One day she decided to ride her red tricycle through Oma’s garden.  This took her through the yard to the driveway that led to the street on the other side of the house.  She felt empowered and not afraid to ride down the sidewalk past unfamiliar houses that would lead her to that next adventure.  Just like Pippi Longstocking, Alice and Wonderland or little Jackie Paper (friend of Puff the Magic Dragon) she would meet new friends and have those memories of merriment to carry all her life into the boring adulthood that she saw all around her in the grownups that she knew.

Elberon Train Station

She made it all the way to the train tracks, looked both ways, and crossed over.  She was of course a mature, responsible four-year old.  No one understood how articulate she was but just like any other life form on the planet, she could figure things out.

She rode past the stable of beautiful mares looking perplexed as this little human rode by on that red tricycle and waved, “Hi horsey’s!”  The beach was two blocks away and the smell of pine and salt water inspired her to keep peddling.

The little girl made her way to a firehouse with the fireman washing the big red truck.  “My bike is red is too,” she said.  A young fireman smiled and looked over her head.  She knew in her little mind he was looking for an adult that should have been minding her.  She waved and mentioned she was running an errand for her mother and quickly rode away. 

Elberon Firehouse and Drug Store

The excitement of being sneaky was overwhelming but the little one realized she was testing the limits of freedom that day.  That didn’t mean she couldn’t stop at the candy store with a few pennies she found in the yard. Afterwards, it was a nod at the tracks, look both ways, and ride as fast as she could all the way home.

This time she rode down the street she lived on. The little girl rode up to her front yard where she was met by the towering hedges.  A great place to hide a bicycle, she thought, as she heard her mom walking in those platform sandals clonking down the driveway. 

The little girl stood on the sidewalk and pretended she was playing hopscotch as her mom grabbed her hand and said to her, “Dear, you shouldn’t play outside the yard where mommy can’t see you.” The little girl responded, “I’m sorry mommy. I was playing hide and seek again with my (pretend) friend Marsha.”

She then was whisked inside for another bout of a cartoon afternoon.  She reveled in the excitement of the next sneaky adventure to come.

Now, to my readers: This is an actual event that I have a clear memory of from childhood.  I am sure this inspired my adventurous side.  I thank God everyday, I was never harmed and it goes to show you, how easy a child can wander out of eyesight.  Either way, I learned early on that outside play and fresh air when we are young could inspire our adventurous side the rest of our lives.

Enjoy Living.