Author Archives: The Zen Hiker

About The Zen Hiker

I served in the USMC directly out of high school and then taught for two years in the Bronx, NY. I was then a Special Education Coordinator/Special Education teacher at a public high school in the Lower Hudson Valley in Westchester County, New York, for over 20 years. Although I love going to Anthony's Nose, I try to get to different spots in the area. One great thing about living in the Hudson Valley is the abundance of great hikes. You can do the same hike in different seasons, and it will be as if you were hiking that trail for the first time. It doesn't get much better than that!

Where is Spring?

“We don’t stop hiking because we grow old. We grow old because we stop hiking.” – Finis Mitchell

“The best view comes after the hardest climb.” – Anonymous

 “A walk in nature walks the soul back home.” – Mary Davis

I thought for sure that our almost nonexistent winter was done. Planning for hikes and getting excited to be outside has occupied my thoughts for several months now. Throw in a couple of really nice days in the 50s, and you have the recipe for some pretty nice hiking.

Unfortunately, for a winter that really wasn’t, it decided today would be a good time to play one last nasty trick on us here in the northeast. At this point, I believe we have well over six inches of heavy wet snow, and it is still coming down really hard.

The one good thing is that since it is mid-March, the snow will melt at a much quicker rate than if it was January. Give it a couple of days, and it will be gone!

In the meantime, planning for the spring and summer moves forward. I’ve got quite a few new hikes planned that I will be sharing with you here on The Zen Hiker.

Happy Hiking!!!!

Spring Is Closer Than You Think

Hiking is not escapism; it’s realism. The people who choose to spend time outdoors are not running away from anything; we are returning to where we belong.”– Jennifer Pharr Davis

We live in a fast-paced society. Walking slows us down.”– Robert Sweetgall

It has been a pretty mild winter here in the Hudson Valley of NY. With no major snowstorms and except for one cold snap (if you could call it that), it has been a serious bummer for all of the skiers out there! Now that we are in mid-February, spring is right around the corner. With spring, of course, comes the promise of longer, warmer days and many hikes, both old and new.

Since I am retired and have lots of time, I have armed myself with updated maps of all of the awesome places to hike in the area. The last couple of weeks have been spent planning my spring adventures.

My plan is a simple one. Mix the old in with the new and also the ones that I haven’t done in some time.

 I will readily admit that once I find a hike that I really like, I tend to go back to it time and again. While that isn’t necessarily a totally bad thing, it would be nice to explore some areas near me that I have ignored over the years. Now is as good a time as any to get to some of the places that I have wanted to hike, but for one reason or another, I never did.

In the meantime, I will continue walking at the gym and getting into hiking shape. I know walking on the treadmill isn’t the same as hitting the trail, but it is part of my daily routine, and I enjoy it! I get to manipulate each workout based on how I feel that day or if I just feel like pushing harder than I normally do. Nothing grabs your attention like increasing the incline to try and simulate some of the hills like I might find out in the woods.  

The last three years have been interesting. I was hoping to be further along with my return to hiking than I am, but I’ll continue to take it one day at a time. I figure now is as good a time as any to take the plunge and stop being afraid of what might happen. If I worry about it 24/7, I’ll never get back into the woods.

For me, that is unacceptable.

HAPPY NEW YEAR AND HAPPY HIKING!!!!

“We don’t stop hiking because we grow old – We grow old because we stop hiking.” – Finis Mitchel

“Hiking and happiness go hand in hand or foot in boot.” – Diane Spicer

“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” – Beverly Sills

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!! I know, I know. It’s January 2nd!! That’s ok. A new year usually brings with it a whole new basket of resolutions that most people will not keep. I’m sure some folks will disagree with me, but at this point, I’m just keeping it real!

So, my resolution this year is a simple one. After a year of almost no hiking, I want to hike more in 2023 and capture those hikes through photographs.

In trying to achieve and keep that resolution going, however, I have to further refine how I prepare for my hikes.

Over the years, I have found that how I get ready for my spring and summer hikes has changed drastically since I was a younger lad.

Back in the day, my prep used to include the following: 1) Go to the trail and hike. Now? The script has flipped on this one, folks. These days I have to think about my knees and ankles and making sure my hiking route is written out in detail so if I get injured, my family will know where to lead the authorities.

Filling my day pack used to be a pretty simple deal as well. The contents used to consist of maps, water, snack, lunch, camera, bug spray, first aid kit, and other assorted nonsense.

As I have explained in previous posts, I can no longer use a traditional day pack and have to, instead, use a sling pack. Since they are much smaller, I have to now choose very carefully what I bring with me.

Most of the items listed above will stay, just more condensed and in smaller containers. I’ll start experimenting shortly with packing my sling pack as the winter progresses.

Physically this year, I am going to add training with resistance bands to my winter routine. After doing a great deal of research, it looks like it certainly couldn’t hurt, so I will add that to my regimen. I have also added specific exercises to help strengthen my ankles and knees.

The point of all this? To make sure that my hiking experiences are safe and continue to be fun. If hiking is painful and no fun, why hike? So preventive maintenance is the way to go.

Once again, Happy New Year and, of course, HAPPY HIKING!!!

2023 Catskills Fire Tower Challenge

“Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.”

– Henry David Thoreau

If you are reading this, you probably enjoy hiking. I know that I do. But one thing that makes hiking better is a challenge! I received an email today from the NYS Department of Conservation that had in it the 2023 Catskills Tower Challenge.

If you hike to each of the towers listed between 1/1/23 and 12/31/23, you will receive a certificate of completion as well as a very cool commemorative patch! (Shown above)

Here is a map showing the locations in the Catskills of each of the towers.

I won’t list all of the particulars here as I am sure that if you are like me, you like to do your own research. I can tell you that I have already Googled the distances from my house to each of the towers as well as the distance of each hike. I am thinking that since most of these are between 1.5-2.0 hours away, so I will try to do at least two a day, if not more! That will be a decision that I will make at a later date.

So, to get you started, here is the NYSDEC website address:

http://www.dec.ny.gov

You can use the link or Google Catskills Fire Tower Challenge. When you get to the site, all of the information that you need to plan for and complete the challenge is there.

One thing that is guaranteed is that no matter what order you decide to hike these in or the season you hike them, you are going to be treated to unbelievable views that you will be hard pressed to find anywhere else!

Let me know in the comments if you think that this might be something that has piqued your interest and may consider attempting.

HAPPY HIKING!!!!!

An Anniversary I Wish I Didn’t Have To Acknowledge

“Hiking is a bit like life: The journey only requires you to put one foot in front of the other…again and again and again. And if you allow yourself the opportunity to be present throughout the entirety of the trek, you will witness beauty every step of the way, not just at the summit.” – Anonymous

“I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.” – Rosalia de Castro

Today, 12/26/22 is the third anniversary of my heart attack. Since then, I have made changes to my life that I would think are for the better. After totally overhauling my diet, I find that I don’t crave all of the old crap that I used to. Candy is off the list (even sugar free candy, I can’t stand the taste of it). Fast food, like my favorite, Taco Bell, has also been filed in my brain as a “thing of the past.”

Physically, I feel better today than I have in years. It is amazing to me that you can feel bad for so long and not truly get it that something is drastically wrong. Talk about NOT listening to your body! Once COVID hit, unfortunately, it had my head spinning like a top. Can I still get out and hike? Should I hike?

In between the HA, CHF, and Type 2 diabetes, I have spent way too much time researching each of the conditions as well as how each can affect the others. I’ve probably learned way too much about ejection fractions and echocardiograms. I have also learned a great deal about the medications that I now take to keep my ticker ticking.

Mentally, the journey has been a little tougher. With COVID and the constantly changing messages regarding vaccines, masks, and, well, everything about the virus, it has been incredibly difficult to keep adjusting to every new idea that is floated to the American public. With all of that said, my focus remains on maintaining and also continuing to improve my health, both physically and mentally. I keep all of my doctor appointments and have learned that if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

So now I live my life much differently than I did three years ago.  It’s pretty clear that if I hadn’t changed my ways, today would more than likely look very different.

Hopefully, these changes will help to prolong a life that has been altered by years of bad habits and choices.

The most important thing? Stay positive and motivated!

Happy Hiking!

Back On The Trail…Soon Enough

As the coldest air of the season sets in, thoughts turn toward spring hiking. When I was younger, the idea of hiking in the cold, rain, and snow was never an issue. One time in the early 2000s, my hiking buddy and I hiked Anthony’s Nose in a blizzard. While it was an awesome hike, it probably wasn’t the best decision I have ever made.

As I have grown older, my desire to hike in extreme conditions has waned. The need for every hike to have an epic view has waned. Needless to say, my hiking priorities have changed, and every chance that I have to be out in the woods is just that, a day spent on the trail. If the hike is two miles or eight, the focus is on the hike, not on checking off boxes that some folks think are important.

So, why am I telling you this? Today is the day before Christmas, and with the “once in a generation” storm now over, the frigid air has settled in, and it truly feels like winter. All I can think of now is planning hikes for the spring. With new maps in hand, my thoughts are now consumed with preparing for and getting out hiking.

While It is true that I have not been able to get out hiking much in the last year, it is my hope that 2023 will be much different. I miss being out on any trail. I miss the smell of the earth, the feel of the trail under my feet, and most of all, just being outside.

The first step in this process is complete. I have updated each of my maps: Bear Mt. (Northern & Southern), East and West Hudson, and Ward Pound Ridge Reservation. Now I can pore over them and revisit hikes of the past, as well as combining different trails to make new hikes.  

As in the past, this sometimes time consuming task is a vital one. I don’t find many things to be calming, but this happens to be one of them. Sitting with each of the maps, I can spend hours going over trails, distances and calculating the time needed to complete a hike. It is, quite simply, soothing.

Does this mean I won’t venture out before spring? We’ll see…

So feel free to join me as I begin my journey back to the trail.

A Cautionary Tale

“Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time — past and future — the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.” ― Eckhart Tolle

I am not the type of person who likes to tell people what to do. I am also a person who doesn’t like being told what to do. As I sit here after my early morning visit to the gym, I always spend some time reflecting on what got me to the position I am now in.

Please understand, I am grateful to be alive after my heart attack, and I have made changes to my entire lifestyle that will hopefully give me some more quality years than if I hadn’t. If I had listened to my doctors and family when I was in my early thirties, I truly believe that maybe I would not have gotten CHF and diabetes.

The truth of the matter is that death is not on our radar when we are younger. The grim reaper does not concern us. Our careers, families, and everything associated with them eats at our time and our souls. By the time we realize that the reaper is rapidly gaining on us, it is often too late.

In my case, the years of a strictly American diet combined with the stress of everyday living and a spotty exercise routine had taken their toll.

So mine is a cautionary tale. Unfortunately, I know that most people will react the same way I did every time my doctors told me to change sooner rather than later. Tomorrow was always my favorite word, and in my mind, the future was just that, the future.

But as we all know, life has a way of flying by without us even realizing it.

When we are young, it is easy to believe that getting older and the afflictions associated with it are a long way off, but all of us are only on this earth for a very brief period of time, and we should all make the most of that time.

So who should heed my tale of caution? If you still think that tomorrow either will never come or that you can escape the Grim Reaper, you are sadly mistaken.

Why not make the changes to your life now, so you are around for a good long time. You know if you need to change. You know that if your diet is crap, you need to change.

Please do it now before it is too late.

And that’s all I have to say about that…

Looking For Some Peace

The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms.-Nhat Hanh

Walk so that your footprints bear only the marks of peaceful joy and complete freedom. To do this you have to learn to let go. Let go of your sorrows, let go of your worries. That is the secret of walking meditation.-Nhat Hanh

After riding a stationary bike for a little over a year and a half, I have decided that I want to start walking again. You know, mix things up a little. Instead of walking outside, I will be going back to the gym. This time, however, I decided to change gyms. Not because I didn’t like the old one, but COVID dealt it a death blow that it could not recover from, no matter how much they tried.

The next best choice for me was Planet Fitness, which I found out is much cheaper and offers more machines than the old gym. The one thing that I liked was when I told the woman behind the desk that this was my first time exercising there, she asked if I wanted a tour. I told her that I would concentrate on cardio, mainly walking, due to my heart issues. Not only will that help my overall fitness, but it will also prepare me for some fall hiking!

Unfortunately, I have found that my days of hiking when it is even remotely warm or humid are over. I thought at first maybe it had to do with staying hydrated, but I quickly ruled that out. I found out after doing some research that some of the medications that I take say that you should stay out of the sun, which, believe it or not, produces heat!

My goal is to use my time training to hike during what happens to be my favorite time of the year, the fall. The mornings are much more refreshing than summer days, and the rest of the days follow suit.

With that said, I will most certainly pay a visit to Anthony’s Nose, which is still my all-time favorite hike. If you want to get the most out of this fantastic hike, park your car on South Mountain Pass, where the Appalachian Trail crosses the road. The views during the fall are second to none, and if you choose the right time and get lucky, you can have it all to yourself.

Another great area to visit during the fall is Fahnestock State Park. Miles and miles of trails crisscross and give the hiker many loops, point to point, and just about any configuration of hike you can think of making. All you need is a map, a beautiful day, and the desire to explore!

This year, I am excited because COVID pretty much killed the fall hiking season last year, keeping everyone confined to their houses. Unless something drastically changes, we should be in the clear, and the hiking will be excellent!

Happy Hiking!!!

Back to Ward Pound Ridge

“I go on hikes expecting to see the great outdoors but spend most of the time lost in my own head.” – We Dream of Travel

“I love that moment in a hike when you snap to and suddenly realize for the last 10 minutes you’ve not been observing nature but have instead become a part of it.” – We Dream of Travel

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

As much as I like and expect to post my hikes the same day, sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way. In this case, I went out on Tuesday and the weather was awesome. With the wind blowing through the trees (with no leaves) it still sounded like a winter morning. As of last Tuesday, although it was still warm, the trees are still bare and the woods have a gloomy look to them. I think that it will only take another week or two to show its true colors!

As always, the hiking was nice. I kept it slow and soaked in the warm air and the silence, taking a different loop than I did the previous hike. It was all good with the exception of my left hand which I injured the week before. It made gripping my trekking pole more difficult than it should be. All in all, any hike is a good hike so I was happy and even happier that the next few days were kind of rainy and with the temperatures fluctuating the way they have been, I won’t journey out in the rain until it gets warmer.

But journey out I will. I have plans to go to Bear Mt., Fahnestock State Park, and the Black Rock Forest. I just have to plan my hikes more carefully than I have in the past. Since I am now retired, that is not an issue.

Here are some photos from my last hike.

The result of going to the bathroom at 3:30 am. All is good. This made gripping my trekking difficult.
A section of side trail.
Still more side trail. SILENCE!
Some debris left over from the winter. They did a nice job clearing the trail.
Part of the main trail.
Some more trail.

Feel free to check out the site, “We Dream of Travel”. A great deal of useful information for all hikers.

4/13-3.2/5.9

HAPPY HIKING!!!