Author Archives: The Zen Hiker

About The Zen Hiker

I am a Special Education Coordinator at a public high school in the lower Hudson Valley in Westchester County, New York. As you can see by the title of the blog, hiking is what I love to do. I get out as much as I can and 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!

F…(Forget) The NFL

A couple of days ago I wrote a post on hiking as a form of escape. In it I said that heading out to the woods was a way of escaping the pressures of every day life. I used to feel this way about the NFL. Every Sunday I couldn’t wait to turn on the Fox pre-game show and then watch the games all day long! I knew that for a few hours on Sunday I could just veg out and not think about anything.

When Colin K. began his protest last year, I feared that the politics of that gesture would creep its way into the game that I loved as it unfortunately has happened in Hollywood. Sure enough, in the space of a year, it has come to the point where I can’t watch any of it. The pre-game, the games itself or the post game shows. All have been politicized to the point where they are totally unwatchable.

Thankfully our great country has a Constitution and it clearly states in the First Amendment that every person has the right to free speech. I don’t have an issue with anyone who wants to protest. I served my country in the USMC so that all of us will continue to have the right of free speech. My issue is where they choose to do it. As I said, sports and by the way, I’ll add movies and concerts along with this because they are venues where we choose  to get away from it all. They have now ruined it.

With the money that they make, I am certain that they could find a more suitable place and time to air their grievances instead of alienating at least half of their audience. Let football be what it is-a game. Get rid of the politics.

Where and when in our culture did we get sidetracked by the idea that because you can play a sport, sing or act, that you are now an enlightened political voice? I do not now nor have I ever expected someone in sports or entertainment to provide me with political commentary or guidance. they are not role models. I do not look up to them in any way and do not expect them to feel the need to be burdened with that responsibility.

So what do I think? Even though I disagree with those who do not stand, I will support your right to do so. For all of you athletes, actors and singers, please just shut up and play your game, act or sing your songs. That’s it. Nothing more. Until that time I won’t be watching the NFL or paying to go to the movies. I refuse to finance your incredibly hypocritical political views.

So for now, join me as I say F…(forget) the NFL.

 

Sunday At The Reservation

“I slow down when hiking. The rhythm of nature is more leisurely. The sun comes up, it moves across the sky, and you begin to synchronize to that rhythm.”
-John Mackey

It was another beautiful morning in the Hudson Valley. I would really love it if it were about 15 degrees cooler, but that’s ok, it’s just good to get outside. As you can see below, the sunrise was spectacular and an outstanding way to start today’s hike.

The most important thing that I have come to love about Ward Pound Ridge Reservation is the flexibility that you have in determining the length of hikes. With the marked trails and the plethora of connector trails, you never have to do the same hike two times in a row. Going in the opposite direction of what you are used to also adds to the diversity of what the reservation offers.

So to mix things up today I traveled the initial mile on the Red Trail and then made a right turn on a connector trail. This trail took me to the Leatherman’s Loop Trail which I stayed on until it returned to the Red Trail. Almost immediately after getting back on the Red Trail, another connector trail veered off to the left and traveled through the woods until it came back again to the Red Trail. You then stay on the Red Trail until the finish.

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Happy Hiking!!!

2017 Mileage:

9/24/17-7.1-241.22

 

It’s Officially Fall!

“Our minds, as well as our bodies, have need of the out-of-doors. Our spirits, too, need simple things, elemental things, the sun and the wind and the rain, moonlight and starlight, sunrise and mist and mossy forest trails, the perfumes of dawn and the smell of fresh-turned earth and the ancient music of wind among the trees.”

-Edwin Way Teale

“Although the vast majority of walkers never even think of using a walking staff, I unhesitatingly include it among the foundations of the house that travels on my back.”

-Colin Fletcher

If you have read this blog of mine, you know that fall is my favorite time of year. Apple picking, college football, cool days, cooler nights and of course awesome hiking make every day truly magnificent. Today I was back hiking the Labyrinth at Ward Pound Ridge. As I was in sight of the finish, I felt good and decided to make the left turn onto the Yellow Trail to add some mileage.

Making my way up the trail. I pulled out the map and saw that the RT Trail would soon take me off of the Yellow trail and then put me on the Red Trail for literally a couple of hundred feet. Heading up a small hill, it then finished on the Green Trail.

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On the Red/Green trail.

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My trusty pack and poles leaning on my favorite resting rock at 2.5 miles. 

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The view directly behind the rock where I take a break just before the Green trail veers off to the left.

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The trail about one mile from the finish.

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Some of the more interesting rock formations along the trail.

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More of the Red Trail.

 

From this point on I will be listing my mileage as an accumulation for the entire calendar year. Taking the information from my blog as well as my GPS, I have calculated that prior to the first hike of the summer I had hiked 45.2 miles. I am adding that to the 181.22 that I did for the summer, giving me a total of 226.42 miles. With the addition of the 7.7 miles that I hiked today, that brings my total for the year to 234.12 miles.

2017 Mileage:

Hikes from 1/1/17-6/26/17-45.2-226.42

9/23/17-7.7-234.12

Escape With Me…

“We travel not to escape life…but for life not to escape us.”

-Anonymous

No matter how long the hike, be it a short day hike, a weekend backpacking trip or a week long venture into the woods, part of the reason for getting out there is to escape. The first result after utilizing Google says that escape means to “break free from confinement or control.” Let’s face it, we are all subject to some form of “confinement or control” in our lives. At work or at home, the pressures of just being a member of society dictate that we have some time to get away, if only for a couple of hours.

In my humble opinion, the most important part of escaping involves disconnecting yourself from everything, mostly technology. Having a cell phone is good in case you have an emergency or you want to take pictures while you are on the trail. Otherwise, turn it off. No answering calls and no texting. And as much as I love music, I won’t bring my ipod with me on any day hike. If I am doing an overnight or multi night trip I’ll probably keep it in my pack for when I make camp after a long day of hiking.

Part of the “escape” for me is being enveloped by the woods around me. The changing terrain, the breeze making its way through the trees and the awesome views. You can’t fully embrace the disconnect unless you are truly disconnected! With all of the sounds in the woods acting as your own soundtrack, why would you make a conscious choice to disturb that?

So make the choice on your next hike to disconnect and then reconnect with your surroundings. You can thank me later!

Happy hiking!!!

 

Shed That Skin

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”

“Anything that costs you your peace is too expensive.”

-Buddha

As an educator I get to mark the end of summer two different ways. First, I see the return to school. Second, the date finally arrives when it is really, truly over. Today, September 22nd is that day. As I noted in an earlier post, my goal this summer was to get out as many times as I could. Looking at things statistically, from 6/27-9/21 I went on 31 hikes that covered 181.22 miles averaging 5.85 miles per hike.

Overall I think that this summer was an excellent one. I was able to clear my mind and get some weight off of my shoulders. The hikes this summer only reinforced one thing-that getting out in the woods can truly be therapeutic. Each mile that I spent walking the trails, carefully meditating on every step that I took, helped me shed anger that had been building up since the end of June.

Feeling the cool breeze in the morning, watching the sunrise and looking over the Hudson Valley on my many different hikes allowed me to shed that proverbial snake skin.  According to the web site Wonderopolis, “snakes shed their skin to allow for further growth and to remove parasites that may have attached to their old skin.” I couldn’t have said it any better!

So what is the goal now? The goal is to keep moving forward…

Happy Hiking!!!

The Last Hike Of (Official) Summer (31)

“When the seasons shift, even the subtle beginning, the scent of a promised change, I feel something stir inside me. Hopefulness? Gratitude? Openness? Whatever it is, it’s welcome.”
-Kristin Armstrong

It felt really good to get out hiking again. With the start of school and traveling for my daughters hockey team, it makes it difficult to get out as often as I would like. As it is with the transitioning seasons, you never know what the weather is going to be like. It turns out that the last two weeks of August and the first week in September were cooler than it was today.

At the start of the  hike today it was 71 degrees and very humid.  Despite how sticky the air was, a nice breeze fell over the woods at the start and stayed with me the entire hike. As you can see in the picture below, it was still dark when I started at 6:00 am. For the first time ever, I forgot my camera at home. As a result, the pictures here were taken with my cell phone. And…since my cell phone is not on the upper end, the pictures aren’t that good!

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A 6 am photo taken with my lousy cell phone!

The great thing about hiking during these several weeks going into fall is that everything is evolving. You can see evidence of the leaves changing but the majority of the trees are still green. Soon, however, the woods will be transformed-the color, texture and the smell, until is looks like a giant bowl of stuffing. That is why fall is the best season of the year!

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The leaf covered trail with green still in the background.

Happy Hiking!!!

Summer 2017 Mileage:

9/21/17-6.0-181.22

Tick Tock

pro·cras·ti·na·tion
prəˌkrastəˈnāSH(ə)n/
noun
 
  1. the action of delaying or postponing something.

Several months ago I bought the wood I needed to make a coffee table for our living room. I have found that completing projects like these actually calm me down, except when I keep putting them off. I downloaded the plans, cut each piece to its proper length, but have never pulled the trigger and put it together. Why is that? I wish I could give you an answer.

Since I am a teacher I do have the summers off and this should have been a signal that with that much time off I could have had it done. I remember thinking several times over the last several months that it would be cool to get it done. But I have kept putting it off even to this day. With the weather changing and daylight fading, I am running out of time to be able to get it together and then stain it to my satisfaction.

Here’s the thing-I really want to get it done. I have no doubt that it is going to look really cool once it is finished but I just can’t get it together (no pun intended) long enough to assemble it. So this weekend I am off for four days. My goal is to get this thing put together. Will the weather cooperate? I don’t know. Will it get stained? I don’t know. Will I find some excuse to not  get it done, again? I don’t know.

Anyway, as I put it together I will take pictures to show my progress as it makes it way from pieces of wood that are currently stranded on my porch to (hopefully) a magnificent coffee table.