“You’re off to great places, today is your day. Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way.” – Dr. Seuss
When I first moved back to New York after almost 20 years in Oregon, I felt like the outdoor scene was never good enough. The rock climbers weren’t badass enough, the buzz of cars from below grated on me while I was climbing in the Shawanagunks, and there aren’t any snow-capped peaks in the Adirondacks. I spent my weeknight evenings training at The Cliffs in Queens and my weekends at the Gunks – jamming my Brooklyn friends into my car after picking them up from the 2 train at 96th St.
6am really means 5:45am
No one took climbing seriously enough as far as I was concerned. I would sit fuming in my VW Tiguan, backpack carefully organized with climbing gear, lemon and honey infused tea in the cup holder, high protein breakfast eaten and lunch packed, only to be waiting for my slightly hungover friends to text me that they had just missed the train and would be a few minutes late. Of course, inevitably they wanted to stop for coffee and maybe, if I wouldn’t mind, could they take a few minutes to organize their gear before we did the hike in?
My Oregon friends on the other hand knew that if we were meeting at 6am that really meant 5:45. Climbing, like the knots that we tied to ensure our safety, was organized, neat and efficient.
The reality was, at the end of the day, I was nearing 40 and these Brooklyn kids were like, 25, maybe. I don’t even know what to call them. Millennials? Gen Z? Couldn’t say. They liked me because I could lead climb and had a car. As my climbing friend Marnix put it, if you’ve got a car in NYC and know a thing or two about climbing, everyone wants to be your friend. Not sure my taskmaster style suited the 20-somethings either, but, hey, I didn’t even ask them to chip in for gas.
What am I doing?
One Saturday afternoon when I was sitting in the salon chair of my super hip and ridiculously expensive hairdresser in Gramercy, he asked me what my weekend plans were. I found myself excitedly explaining the minute details of my rock climbing “project” and the weeks I had spent trying to “send” it. I had literally spent the last few weekends analyzing how to move from one 3 millimeter hold to another one a foot away.
He stifled a yawn.
At that moment it hit me that I had been living in New York City for four years, and yet, could not even tell you one interesting thing that was happening that weekend. I hadn’t been to The Met or the MOMA, I hadn’t walked on The Highline, I hadn’t had a martini at a rooftop bar, I didn’t go to Broadway shows or Madison Square Garden for concerts or Rangers games, I hadn’t even ridden a Citi Bike.
What, in god’s name was I spending a ridiculous portion of my meager teacher’s salary on NYC rents for anyway? I was almost 40, I wasn’t going to the Olympics, no one cared if I could lead 5.9 trad, and I seriously needed something else to talk about. So, I gave it up. I sold my rack (climbing gear) to my 20-something Brooklyn friend Katie and started enjoying the city. I saw jazz in the West Village at Smalls, I got tickets for To Kill a Mockingbird, Hadestown, and Network, and I watched the sunset over the Hudson River from the Top of the Strand.
I also started spending more time in that lovely little corner of the world we all call home, the Hudson Valley. I gave up climbing, yes, and began to discover the myriad of hikes in the areas around Millerton and Salisbury including my two personal favorites, Alander Mountain and Lion’s Head.
If you are in the mood for a quick bit of exercise and some fresh air and views, Lion’s Head is absolutely the best hike in the area. The Berkshire Hiking website states that “Lion’s Head in Salisbury, CT might have the distinction of being the shortest hike with the greatest views in western Connecticut.” (http://berkshirehiking.com/hikes/lionshead.html).
I’ll often do this hike in the evening after work as I can make it up and back in just over an hour. This is especially convenient because it is located just outside the village of Salisbury which means you can swing by LaBonne’s for groceries or Sweet Williams for a coffee and a pastry when you’re done.
If you have more time and are looking for something longer (eight miles round trip) and more challenging (gradual uphill the entire way), then I highly recommend Alander Mountain. There is more than one way to access the summit, but my favorite route is from the parking lot of the Mt. Washington State Forest Headquarters. (https://myhikes.org/trails/alander-mountain-trail).
Part of the appeal of going this way is that you drive through Copake Falls where you can check out Bash Bish Bicycles as well as Bash Bish State Park. And, on your way back after eight miles of hiking there is nothing better than a cold beverage and some live music at The Taconic Wayside Inn.
The perpetual quest
I have lost count of the number of times I have done these two hikes over the past few years. Perhaps that will seem unoriginal and redundant to some. And, I get it. I used to be on a perpetual quest for something new, more challenging and unknown. But time and let’s be honest, age, now prevent me from being the “badass” I always aspired to be. Most of my time when I was younger was spent training for a short slice of time in nature. Now, I just try to enjoy it. On repeat.
“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” – John Burroughs