No idea what he’s doing…

My very first serious hike turned out to be something of a comedy of errors, as you’d expect from someone who has no idea what he’s doing. The hike was part of a challenge organized by the Boys Brigade, a youth organization which is a rough approximation of the Boy Scouts movement in the U.S. Unlike the Boy Scouts however, little, if any, instruction was given in map reading, survival skills or orienteering. The BB, fundamentally a Christian organization with quasi-military overtones, was mainly about drills, gymnastics and football. And for me, as with many others, the main attraction was the football . We’d meet twice a week: Wednesdays, informally, and Fridays, in uniform. On Saturday the football team would play its matches. Although each summer, we’d have a two week camp in a variety of places around Scotland, most of our outdoor activities revolved around the football.

I don’t recall exactly how the prospect of the hike first came to our attention. One of the officers must have been notified of the West Lowland area’s annual competitive hike and been asked if our company would be entering a team. At any rate, we were asked if anyone was interested in giving it a go. At 18 years of age I was already in the habit of taking solitary walks, nothing that took me too far afield, although I had already walked the old road over the hills from Greenock to Largs, about 12 miles in distance. I didn’t consider myself a hiker though or, as it’s known in Scotland, a hill-walker, but I guess I was amenable to the notion of a competitive hike, and so I said, “Why not?  I’m up for it!” It was to be a 3 man team however, and my close friend Davy along with another friend Robin, both of whom were very athletic and ever ready for a challenge, agreed to go along.

IMG_0738

Hike progress booklet with rain water stains.

It would be a 3-day event: an evening of introduction and orientation followed by two days of walking. We travelled to Muirkirk in Ayrshire on the Friday night where, in a local school, we met up with the other teams. I don’t recall the exactly how many teams participated, but it must have been in the 30 to 40 range. We were served dinner, and then given instruction on the rules, hiking basics and good safety practices. Saturday would be an all-day walk, with stations set up along the route where we’d be given some task, mental or physical, to complete. Points would be earned for your performance on the task, and also for the time taken walking between stations. Sunday would be a repeat of Saturday but over a shorter distance. It all seemed pretty straight forward, so to speak. After the meeting we laid out our gear and sleeping bags in the school gym where we spent the night.

IMG_0743

The indomitable three.

The next morning, we woke to beautiful clear blue skies, the perfect conditions for first-time hikers. This being Scotland, however, the weather had a nasty sting in its tail. We set out full of optimism, heading toward the first check point. With no experience of map reading we went on the assumption that the shortest distance between two points was a straight line. But the straight line we’d chosen took us through thickets of bushes, down into a deep gully, across a fast-flowing burn, then up a steep slope to struggle through more annoying bushes. We quickly realized our strategy was seriously flawed, and was taking up far too much time. The 55 minutes we’d been allocated to reach the first check point had elapsed and the check point was nowhere to be seen. Finally, after 78 minutes of wandering, we got there. It was an inauspicious start. Zero time points were gained for obvious reasons, but we at least earned 12 points on the task, the nature of which I don’t recall, but it clearly didn’t relate to map reading. We had already failed that test.

IMG_0741

Off to a flying start.

On the next few legs of the walk, we began figuring out how smart people might handle this hiking business, and our times between checkpoints started improving. As a result, our points total happily increased. However, other clouds soon appeared on the horizon, literally. As we went on, the sky was becoming ominously overcast, and before long a few spots of rain could be felt. Soon the rain became more persistent and a mist descended on the hills around us.

Our lack of hiking smarts was clearly illustrated by our mode of dress which was a complete travesty of today’s sensible and effective hiking attire. No moisture wicking base layer, no GORE-TEX rain jacket, and no lightweight waterproof hiking boots. My attire was fairly representative of that of my two companions: denim jeans, green canvas parka with imitation fur rimmed hood (those were very popular in the 70s), and industrial safety boots with steel toe-caps, a get-up more suited for working in the local shipyards than for trekking across the Ayrshire hills. As the rain intensified the unsuitability of our dress became increasingly more apparent.

696828113_o

70s parka capable of absorbing an unlimited quantity of rain water.

We had done reasonably well advancing through the early afternoon’s checkpoints, the rain being more an inconvenience than an obstacle. But now it became an unrelenting steady downpour, and our inappropriate clothing just soaked it up. The parka in particular which was quilted with polyester fill became a huge sponge, a dead-weight draped around shoulders. Our jeans were saturated and cold against our skin. Walking became more and more arduous and uncomfortable, but we persevered and eventually we reached the day’s penultimate checkpoint, very tired but surprisingly only 5 minutes beyond the allotted time.

The final checkpoint was only about 2 miles away, but the weather conditions had deteriorated so severely, that the organizers had considered cancelling the event, as we later learned. We set out on the day’s final stretch feeling that the hike was now less of an adventure than an outright ordeal. By now we were absolutely exhausted. Putting one foot in front of another required a major effort on the soft, waterlogged ground. In the distance we saw a helicopter which apparently had been called in to airlift someone suffering from exposure. While my attention fixed on the distant aircraft, out of the corner of my eye I perceived that Davy had curiously been reduced to half his normal height. When he let out a yell, I realized he had stepped into a marshy area and was up to his midriff in the muddy water, continuing to slowly sink! Robin and I each grabbed an arm and, with great difficulty, hauled him up and out onto firmer ground. It was the last straw. We felt like lying down right there on the sodden ground, to wait for someone to come to our rescue.

IMG_0744

But there are no phones around…

It may have been Robin who urged us on. I can’t be certain, but I remember someone saying, “The checkpoint has to be over that next hill!” We somehow gathered our resolve and pressed on. But over that next hill was just another hill. So we dragged ourselves over that one, only to see yet another hill awaiting. Somehow or other we got to the top of it, and miraculously, there below us were the grounds of Sorn Castle, the location of the final checkpoint, and the campground where we would spend the night. Our relief was trans-formative! The two miles we had just walked had felt like 20. All three of us all agreed that never before, in our young lives, had we felt more physically drained.

We checked in and proceeded, zombie-like, to our tent where we just about had enough strength to get out of our saturated clothing and into something dry. Thankfully, our sleeping bags had remained dry, so we laid them out, collapsed on them and lay there utterly exhausted, until we were called to eat.  Fortunately our appetites were more powerful than our fatigue and we somehow got ourselves along to the dining tent. I don’t remember all that our meal consisted of, but I do know that baked beans and sausages were involved, and they never tasted better.

As soon as we’d eaten, around 8 PM, we returned to the tent, got into our sleeping bags, and slept like babies until the breakfast bell was rung in the morning.

On Sunday morning we woke to find it cloudy but dry, and there was apparently no rain in the weather forecast. Remarkably, all three of us felt completely refreshed, and ready for our push to the finish line. I’m uncertain where the finish line actually was. I recently conferred with Davy, who normally is Mr. Memory Man, but he too was unsure. From the hike booklet we were issued to record point totals and times (see above), I’ve calculated we must have walked about 8 miles based on the time allocated to reach each checkpoint.  Having studied a map of the area I’ve come up with two possibilities. We could have taken a wildly circuitous route to Mauchline which is just 3 miles, as the crow flies, from Sorn Castle. As I remember it though, the building we ended up at was very similar to the one we set off from, so it now seems to me more likely that we actually returned to Muirkirk, by way of an entirely different, shorter and less challenging route.

In all, there were 5 checkpoints to pass through, including the end point. As I said, we were completely re-energized, and with the lessons learned from the previous day’s mistakes, along with the gentler terrain and more benign weather, we pretty much breezed through the remainder of the course. Our times were close to, or less than the times allowed, and with each task being successfully completed, we made a significant addition to our points total.  Despite the trials and tribulations, not to mention incompetence, of our first day, we were quite satisfied with our overall performance.

IMG_0742

That’s more like it!

When every team had completed the course, we all assembled in the school cafeteria for the final placements to be announced and awards to be given out. It really didn’t matter to us where we were placed. We were just happy we’d managed to complete the course. We were awarded a certificate which I had pretty much forgotten about, but I retained the impression that it showed we hadn’t disgraced ourselves. I recently looked it out when I decided to write about the hike for this blog, and on reading it for the first time in many years, I was shocked to see that we’d finished in 16th place. Considering how inexperienced and even inept we were, we did remarkably well. Looking back I’m very proud of our modest achievement. For me it was definitely one of the most memorable episodes of my life. I lost touch with Robin a few years later, but Davy has been a lifelong pal, and I like to think that the Boys Brigade’s West Lowland Hike of 1972, played a part in the formation of our close, enduring friendship.

IMG_0745

Not too bad!

 

And now, with my walk on the West Highland Way fast approaching, memories of the difficulties encountered on that first hike suddenly have greater resonance. I’m much more experienced now, but the magnitude of the challenge revives the uncertainties and doubt I felt in those youthful days. Will I be equal to the physical demands of six consecutive days distance walking? Will the notoriously unpredictable Scottish weather present intolerable hardships? Hiking in the northeastern U.S. does have its risks, but generally it is comfortably familiar and predictable. Scotland is an entirely different world though. There’s a wildness, a chilly rawness to it, with its sullenly grand open spaces, its constant rushing waters, its solemn silent mountains and constantly shifting clouds overheard. Its great majesty can be intimidating, but it is mesmerizing and irresistible too. And so I’m looking forward to the challenge of the West Highland Way with a mix of apprehension and hopeful excitement.

A Tale of Two Hikes.

I don’t want to limit myself to road walking to increase the distance I can walk comfortably. Just as important will be the ability to climb steep inclines, of which there will be many in the latter stages of the West Highland Way. So it was time to get away from the road, get into the woods and out onto the hills. Each of the last two Saturdays I ventured out with the hiking group I belong to, going on two very satisfying hikes, particularly this past weekend’s which, at 11.5 miles long, was terrific training for the WHW.

But first, the previous week’s hike, a loop around Sterling Lake in New York’s Sterling Forest, just 8 miles long but estimated to be 4 hours in duration. I felt that was a good amount of time to spend on the trail, and although the distance was relatively short, it would present some steeper climbs.

On starting out, a chilly mist enveloped the forest. Any personal chill was soon gone on the climb to a ridge which, on a clear day, would have given excellent views of the lake. This morning, though, the lake’s outline was barely discernible.

img_0653

On our descent to the lake, the mist began to dissipate. Blue sky could be seen breaking through the clouds. After the gloom of the mist, the bright silvery light surrounding and reflecting off the water gave the landscape a magical uplifting quality.

img_0655

This was my first visit to Sterling Forest and I was surprised and delighted at the expansiveness and beauty of Sterling Lake. As the clouds gave way to blue skies, the view across the lake took on an even more charming and pleasing aspect.

img_0654

On an outcrop at the foot of the lake we had our lunch, a perfect spot to take in the lovely surroundings. I sat alone not wishing to be caught up in conversation, preferring to be lost in my own thoughts as I contemplated the view.

img_0656

I may have mentioned before the variety of personalities encountered on these group hikes. They range from the extremely reclusive to the untiringly talkative. Occasionally, as was the case today, there’s someone who prefers walking in a bubble of isolation. This guy appeared to be a serious hiker with enough gear for the Alaskan backwoods. He walked map in hand as if he was venturing out into the unknown, except here there were blazes marking the trail and a leader to show us the way.

Then there are those who talk, and loudly offer opinions from the beginning of the trail to the end. Sometimes it’s interesting to listen in, but also depending on where you are in the walking line, you’re forced to listen whether or not you want to. Today I found it more irritating than interesting. One guy is banging on about the importance of taking your own snorkeling equipment on a snorkeling trip because the rental equipment is infested with germs. As we walked I increased my stride to separate myself from the talkers, finding a position among the more circumspect.

Usually I don’t initiate conversations myself. I’m quite content to be moving along taking in the surroundings, but I do try to maintain a friendly, approachable manner. When someone starts a conversation with me I’m more than willing to engage, letting it take its natural course. And as it happened, today several of those easy conversations developed, with the talk touching on my West Highland Way walk, which did attract a fair amount of interest. One woman, a highly experienced hiker, made the comment that our itinerary seemed “ambitious.” I’m choosing to use that as further motivation to do all I can to be physically prepared.

All told, the hike was a good workout. When it was over my energy levels were still high and I was feeling as fresh as the proverbial daisy. Could it be my training is beginning to pay off? Well I got to put it to the test a week later on the second hike. The hiking group web site billed it as, “One of New Jersey’s most difficult hikes. NOT for beginners!” The route was around Splitrock Reservoir which is just north of the town of Boonton. As mentioned, it was an 11.5 mile loop, an ideal distance for my training, but what made it especially challenging was the relentless elevation changes. It took in part of the Four Birds trail, a 19.4 mile rugged path running through the New Jersey Highlands.

I can honestly say this was one of the most enjoyable hikes I’ve been on with the group. It was a true roller-coaster route with continually shifting elevations. Rarely did you walk on level ground. While there were few spectacular views, the variable landscape ensured it was never monotonous. A criticism I have of many hikes in this part of the US is that they run through swathes of forested land where nothing is seen but trees. I prefer the treeless open spaces of Scotland, where you’re never closed in and wonderful views surround you. Although most of the hike was through the woods, the reservoir often came into view, to be seen from a variety of perspectives, and when the trees enclosed us the changing contours of the land somehow presented a captivating picture. Some sections of the trail skirted plunging rocky cliffs, strangely altering perception of the forest.

img_0667

There was a nice mix of people in the group, with a noticeable absence of overbearing talkers. People seemed to interchange and interact organically as the hike progressed. Although the usual familiar faces were there, a good number of new people took part also.

This was my first hike led by the guy who was the leader of the day. I had been on other hikes with him when he was just a follower like myself, and he seemed to be just your average weekend walker. So I was quite surprised when, right out of the starting gate, he set an extremely brisk pace, and maintained it throughout the length of the hike. Not only did we walk a challenging route, we did it at, what for many, was a breakneck speed. For the first time I saw a couple of the more experienced guys fall behind, and heard a few other regulars saying this hike was “kicking their ass!”

As for me, I’m delighted to say I took it in my stride, so to speak. There were a few occasions when I was aware of my heavy breathing and elevated heart rate, but not once did I feel exhausted, or have any need to stop and rest. Often, when I’ve reached the final mile or so of a trek, I get to a fatigued point where I just want it to be over. But not on this day. I felt like I still had several more miles in me. Judging from the condition of some others at the end, it did look like we had completed one of New Jersey’s most difficult hikes, but for me personally it just seemed like just another day on the trail. It really did feel like my training was actually paying off!

I can’t allow complacency to creep in though. With the looming specter of the West Highland Way’s 20 mile stretch between Rowardennan and Crianlarich, over perhaps tougher terrain, the hard work must be maintained. And besides, any smugness I may have acquired from the Splitrock hike, was completely dispelled the following morning when I awoke with some very sore muscles and stiff joints…

img_0669

 

 

 

 

 

Contrasting Trails

In early spring, I’m traveling to Scotland to undertake my greatest walking challenge yet. Along with my brother-in-law, George, I will be walking the West Highland Way, one of the country’s top hiking attractions. It’s 96 miles in length, stretching from Milngavie on the outskirts of Glasgow all the way north to Fort William, at the foot of Ben Nevis, Scotland’s highest mountain. We will have 6 full days of walking, doing an average of around 16 miles a day. The shortest daily distance will be 12 miles, and the longest, a daunting 20 miles. While I’m really excited about it, I’m also a bit apprehensive. Will I be up to the challenge? Will my aging body handle the physical demands? Will the pleasure I normally find in walking turn into an ordeal? And what about the notoriously unpredictable Scottish weather?

The longest I’ve walked in any one day was 17 miles, along the entire length of the Columbia Trail here in New Jersey. It was a slog, but it was mid-summer with the temperature in the high 80’s. On the plus side, early April in Scotland certainly won’t present those conditions. So 17 miles in one day is manageable, especially when you have the following day to recover. But on the West Highland Way those 17 miles, give or take, will be repeated 6 times with no days off. Now that is a challenge!

However, I have found whenever I’ve been on walking holidays when you’re required to walk one day after the other, each passing day you become increasingly stronger. That was the case with Ramblers in Bavaria and Norway, and just last year with HF in the English Lake District. Hopefully the same will hold true for the West Highland Way.

But to give myself the best chance of successfully completing the trek, I’m now working on being as well prepared physically as I can possibly be.  I have been doing leg and core strengthening exercises at home, but I’ve read that the most effective way to train for a long-distance hike is frequent long distance walking, and I’m now trying to do that on a weekly basis. Early on a Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago, I walked from my Nutley home all the way to Montclair State University and back, 13 miles in total. Then, this last Monday, Martin Luther King Day, I did an out-and-back along the Saddle River Pathway, from Saddle Brook to Ridgewood with a detour to Glen Rock, about 14 miles in all. Granted, there’s a huge difference between a pathway through suburban Bergen County and the terrain to be traversed in Scotland, but right now the point is to extend distance covered and time spent on the basic act of putting one foot in front of another, since I’m starkly aware that on the day we have to cover 20 miles, we could be walking for as long as 10 hours.

img_0636

Is this tree beside the Saddle River Pathway trying to tell me something?

The Saddle River Pathway is paved all the way. You’d think that would make for easier walking, but constant impact on a hard surface for a long distance is quite tough on the feet, so this route has its own challenges.

img_0642

28,113 steps according to the Fitbit

The trail follows the meanderings of the Saddle River, winding its way through parks, recreation areas, and housing developments. It passes underneath several busy highways and roads, including Route 4, one of northern New Jersey’s busiest roadways.

img_0644

Busy road overhead.

However, although you’re usually within earshot of traffic noise, the surroundings are quite pleasant and even soothing, with the river your constant companion, gently flowing and reflecting the light of a cold, sunny day.

img_0638

Saddle River

I started out from Saddle Brook’s Saddle River County Park which is where Google indicated the trail began, but the first mile marker I encountered showed I had joined the trail 1.5 miles beyond the start point. I resolved to complete that section on the way back. It was straightforward pleasant walking apart from having to negotiate the occasional ice patch in shaded areas, remnants of the weekend’s snowfall. Around mile marker 4.6 the trail splits along with the river, one branch leading to Glen Rock and the other to Ridgewood, and the trail’s northern end. I decided to explore the Glen Rock branch and it brought me to an attractive, spacious park surrounding a sizable pond. As far as I could tell the park’s name was Glen Rock Duck Pond. I circled the pond and returned to the Pathway, heading back to the beginning of the Ridgewood branch and followed it through a wooded area which was the most isolated and tranquil section of the Pathway, and then continued all the way to the end in Ridgewood’s Saddle River Park, in the center of which, like neighboring Glen Rock’s park, was a large pond with a duck theme, this one named Wild Duck Pond. I guess the ducks are domesticated in Glen Rock!

Here I ate lunch on a park bench looking out over the pond, facing the sun, its warmth punctuated by the occasional gust of chilling wind.

img_0639

Wild Duck Pond – low water and no ducks.

When done, I returned to the Pathway, retracing my steps back to the 1.5 mile marker. The path has a distance marker every 1/10 of a mile over its entire length. On the way back the markers became quite annoying. When you have racked up the miles, nearing the end of a walk, and beginning to tire, markers repeatedly ticking off incremental distance, make the walk seem longer than it actually is. Nevertheless, at 1.5 I soldiered on to the zero marker where, rather disappointingly, was an unremarkable road in the shadow of a Garden State Parkway flyover. I just turned around and walked the 1-1/2 miles back to where I’d parked my car, satisfied that I’m another 14 miles further on, in my West Highland Way preparation.

As a footnote, the Pathway was fairly busy since it was a public holiday. I was struck by the fact that most people I encountered were speaking Russian. Apparently, as I later learned, the area around Saddle Brook is home to a great many Russian emigres. Fair enough, but over the years I’ve noticed in public parks, when I encounter others who are out for the specific purpose of walking for enjoyment, more often than not they are foreign born. Considering native born Americans are in the overwhelming majority they are scarcely represented when it comes to walking for pleasure. Why do Americans have such an aversion to walking? A question for another day…

 

The Bermuda Railway Trail and beyond.

I’ve been meaning to write about the Bermuda Railway Trail for a while. It’s been percolating in my mind for some time, but I had a persistent reluctance to start on it. Now it’s been written, I know the reason for my hesitation. There was much to say, several thoughts and attitudes to convey, a variety of facts and history to be articulated. It just seemed like an awkward mixture.  And as may be discernible if you choose to read on, it was certainly awkward and time consuming to write. Frankly, I’m not entirely satisfied with the results but since I’ve spent so much time on it and I haven’t posted for a while, I’m just going to put it out there. Who knows? There may be one or two little nuggets of interest for a few of you, and if not there are some pretty pictures to look at.

Anyway, here it is. Take it or leave it. And if your choice is to leave it, I completely understand.

——————-

Early in the last century, Bermuda had no transportation system to speak of. Most visitors to the island were wealthy Americans wishing to escape the bustle of north-eastern U.S. cities. Bermuda’s attractions were its climate, its beauty and its tranquility. As tourism increased, transportation on the island became a pressing problem. It was felt the introduction of the automobile would ruin the island’s tranquility. After years of deliberation it was decided that the best solution was to introduce a train service.

A single railway line 22 miles in length was constructed, running from St. George’s on the eastern end of the island all the way to Somerset in the west. From the start the railway was beset by problems. There were construction cost overruns as well as poor design and shoddy workmanship. The train service ran from 1931 until 1948 when it was forced to close because it just wasn’t financially sustainable. Paradoxically, while the 2nd World War years were its busiest, with many U.S. and British servicemen being stationed on the island, those years contributed to its demise. With greater numbers using the service, more maintenance was required, but the operators did not have the money to pay for it. Motor vehicle restrictions were relaxed to accommodate the military, setting a precedent that led to automobiles being made available to the general population in 1948 when the railway was finally shut down. Since Bermuda is surprisingly densely populated and most roads are quite narrow, restrictions on automobile use still exist. Only permanent residents can own a car, and just one car is permitted per household. Car rentals are not available for visitors. To get around, the tourist can only rent a moped or scooter, hire a taxi, use the extensive bus service, or walk.

The railway, which was built to replace walking as a means of getting from one place to another, has now been transformed into a way of making walking from one place to another easier and more pleasurable. In 2001, the rail bed was reopened for hiking. The Bermuda Railway Trail is now promoted as one of the island’s top tourist attractions.

My wife and I were completely enchanted by Bermuda on our first visit in 1981, many years before the trail’s existence. When we eventually came back in 2015 and learned that a new hiking trail had opened up, I was thrilled not only to have returned to this beautiful island, but also at having the prospect of a new walking venture to experience. No matter where we travel I always seek out places ideal for a good long walk, and now here in Bermuda I discovered something new, a trail stretching for a full 22 miles. Just perfect!

Well, not exactly perfect. For one thing it’s not a continuous trail. Some sections come abruptly to a halt, forcing you to make a detour onto the road. Others end where there once was a bridge across water, now requiring a bus journey to loop around to the next section of the trail. Some areas are better maintained than others. Quite often as you pass close to a residential area the trail is strewn with litter. Many information plaques along the way, while still legible, have become rather shabby, and some stretches are not as scenic as might be hoped for. Despite the flaws, it’s not to be missed by anyone who enjoys walking.

The stretch between St. George’s and Ferry Point Park is particularly appealing, with its beautiful views out to the Atlantic Ocean to the north and Mullet Bay to the south. Along the way you skirt Lovers Lake Nature Reserve surrounded by mangroves. Farther on, the trail terminates at the former Ferry Point Bridge, the remains of which are crumbling concrete supports projecting from the water. The St George’s/Ferry Point section was a glorious introduction to the Railway Trail for us in 2015. We now had high expectations for the remainder of the trail yet to be explored.

On returning in 2016 we set out to walk two consecutive sections at the western end of the island, from Khyber Pass (a popular road name in Bermuda) to Church Road, and then from Church Road to Evans Bay. We took the bus from Hamilton to just west of the Belmont Hills Golf Club and accessed the trail by way of Tribe Road No. 3, a narrow path through a mini-jungle.

img_0552

Picking up the trail we began our walk west. It was pleasant enough walking but not nearly as scenic as the section we completed last year. There were a few notable points along the way though – the old quarry, which for many years produced building material for the island, and then one of the few remaining stations on the trail, Riddell’s Bay Station, still very well preserved.

img_0554

Farther along the way an opening appeared giving us a view of the sprawling Fairmont Southampton Princess Hotel perched high on a hill. Here we made a detour, walking up the steep drive to explore the hotel and its surroundings. Inside, it has retained its elegance and grandeur, but the exterior has a rather faded 70s appearance. We stopped here for lunch, eating our own sandwiches on the extensive lawn at the rear of the building, making ourselves completely at home.

img_0557

Returning to the trail, we continued on to the next section beginning at Church Road, but this last phase was quite nondescript and, from what we could see, there appeared to be little improvement on the stretch ahead. So we decided to deviate from the plan, something I rarely do, being strictly a follow-the-directions kind of guy whether I’m hiking or using a recipe when cooking. Instead of continuing straight ahead, we turned onto Church Road leading to the south shore where many of the most attractive and popular beaches on Bermuda are found.

We were both glad we took this unplanned route. Where Church Road meets South Road we discovered St Anne’s, a charming little church, standing immaculately white in the sunshine.

img_0560

Diagonally across South Road which, as you would expect, runs along the south coast, was the aptly named Church Bay Park, a lovely setting with a gorgeous, secluded little beach. We lingered in the park for a while, but with the day drawing to a close, we opted to continue east along South Road in search of a stop for a bus to take us back to Hamilton.

img_0559

Along the way, we passed the swanky Reefs Resort in which we poked around for a time pretending to be paid up members of the rich and famous.

img_0561

Just beyond the resort we came to the bus stop beside which was the Henry VIII restaurant and a small convenience/liquor store. Across the road laid out below us was an extensive developed area with some well-maintained beaches. Roads were arranged to a definite plan, but curiously there was a complete absence of buildings. Something about the layout looked familiar to me, and from nowhere the name Sonesta Beach Hotel came into my mind. Just then a man came out of the convenience store, and I asked him what exactly was this area which had caught my attention. He told me it was the former site of none other than the Sonesta Beach Hotel, now used as an exclusive beach club for residents of the distant Hamilton Princess Hotel. Suddenly it came back to me that we’d visited this area back in 1981, when the hotel had looked to me like a relocated Mars space colony, as you can see in this picture of the hotel before it was demolished 2006.

sbh

Anyway, I experienced a wee frisson (hoping that’s not too pretentious a word – the “wee” is an attempt to deflate it somewhat) at the fact I’d recalled the name of something I hadn’t thought of in many, many years. As I age, something like that has become an increasingly rare occurrence, and provides a feeling of deep satisfaction. Small-mercy gratitude!

And on that uplifting personal note, not a minute too soon, I bring my meandering, in every sense of that word, to a close. Time to board the bus…

img_0562

Morning Walk.

I’ve settled into a morning routine, an essential part of which is my morning walk. I rise at 5:15 AM, make breakfast which consists of tea and toast with marmalade. In the winter I also eat porridge made with oatmeal I’ve steeped overnight. For half an hour, while taking my tea and toast, I read either a novel or the New Yorker magazine. Since the election it’s the novel I’ve favored, since the New Yorker gave me the comforting impression that Trump would be easily defeated. Now my faith in its wisdom has been seriously shaken. My reading occupies me until 6 AM at which time I go for my walk.

I have two routes I alternate between. The first takes me through what I consider to be my neighborhood’s Little Italy. That may be a bit convoluted since the town of Nutley is seen by many as one big Little Italy, if that makes any sense. The other route is for me, in the early hours of the morning, particularly while still dark, a microcosm of an enchanted world. It would be quite understandable if those of you acquainted with Nutley reread that last sentence to check you haven’t misunderstood it. As far as I’m aware, the word Nutley and the notion of enchantment have rarely, if ever, been encapsulated in a single sentence.

The route takes me from Hay Avenue, along Washington Avenue to Nutley Avenue. These street names will have no significance to most who read this, but I ask for your indulgence because for me, an uncommon suburban walker, there’s a sort of poetry in the names of streets. I follow Nutley Avenue to the top of the hill and make the turn onto Tennis Place, a short street leading to Highfield Lane which takes me back downhill to Walnut Street, then to Grant Avenue, through the Washington Avenue intersection to Villa Place, returning to Hay Avenue and home. My route is a sort of figure eight loop that’s about a mile and a half in distance.

If you have failed to see the poetry in those street names, and are impatiently waiting to enter my world of enchantment relief is at hand.

First off, the act of walking through silent, deserted streets in the early morning darkness in itself conjures up an atmosphere of enchantment. The magic begins more tangibly shortly after the turn onto Nutley Avenue. That’s where the witch’s house sits. You can tell if she’s up and about if the red porch light is on and the lamp with the bare red light bulb is illuminated in the kitchen window. On the coldest of winter mornings she can be seen in her winter coat standing stock still in the middle of the road, a thick shawl draped around her shoulders. She carries a walking stick and will stand motionless for many minutes pointing the stick directly at a neighbor’s house as if willing a spell on it. And if you walk by as she stands there she will point the stick at you, following your progress as you move along the road.  There is a mysterious significance in the pointing of the stick which must be maintained even in her absence. In the front yard she will set up lawn chairs each one propping up a long narrow piece of wood, a walking stick surrogate, pointing in a very specific direction. One morning as I walked past her house she was nowhere to be seen, but through the silence I heard the faint sound of what seemed like the voice of a little girl. I looked more closely, and there in the shadows far back in the driveway stood the strange old woman. Whenever I approach the house I do so with a mix of caution and vigilance. The possibility of her presence is quite disconcerting.

img_0578

Further on up the avenue, a happier more reassuring sight awaits. Overlooking our little magic kingdom, Nutley’s very own Sleeping Beauty Castle stands proudly and garishly on the hillside, festooned with brightly burning lamps and further illuminated by an array of spotlights, these lights shining all night long even though no one is there to be impressed by the spectacle. As I walk by I’m convinced I can hear the frantic ticking of the electricity meter as it registers the proud home owner’s humble contribution to global warming. Since no one else is around at this time in the morning, perhaps I should leave the master of the house a note thanking him for keeping the lights on for me, and me alone.

img_0576

Soon the mysteries and marvels of Nutley Avenue are left behind, and I now come to Highfield Lane. The name itself is very misleading. It conjures up a vision of a charming narrow English country lane winding through a quaintly picturesque landscape. It’s far from being that, but it is undoubtedly one of Nutley’s most handsome thoroughfares, a wide avenue lined with grand houses all with spacious well-tended yards. For me its greatest feature is Grace Episcopal Church, located on the crest of the hill. On viewing it you feel it has been magically transported from the English countryside of the 18th century. With its high Gothic bell tower, its slate roof and low walls formed around a courtyard with a lovely well-manicured lawn, in the pre-dawn light it exerts an indefinable and mysterious allure.  It would make the perfect setting for an illicit romantic tryst in a Jane Austen novel.

img_0577

I have no religious beliefs to speak of, but for some reason over the years I have been drawn to this church. Whenever I walk in Nutley, I always try to include it on my route. I’m not exactly sure what the attraction is, but it does evoke a number of emotions in me. Its old style architecture and setting transport me to a cozier, peaceful, more orderly world which is in stark contrast to the chaos and fast-paced life of contemporary suburban America. And, to be perfectly honest, there is unquestionably a spiritual allure there as well. Maybe not a desire to find God, but the recognition that life does have a spiritual dimension, and in some strange way it is infused in the presence and appearance of Grace Church itself. And yes, I do have the urge to attend a church service there just for the experience of it, but so far I have never acted upon it. Maybe I’m influenced by the irrational thought that by participating in a Church of England service I am somehow being a traitor to my Scottish Presbyterian upbringing.

I’ve digressed a little here, but I hope I’ve shown how the witch’s house, Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and the old Gothic church together have created this enchanted world my early morning walk takes me through. All too soon it’s back to reality. I return home to the ritual of shaving and showering, and then the rush to dress and prepare myself for the day ahead. The confines of the office cubicle await…

 

 

Post-turkey Hike

The hiking group I belong to is for over 40s in northern New Jersey. Being over 60 I easily qualify. In fact I’m so far over 40, that if such a thing existed, I should be granted distinguished membership status. But that would be undeserving since I’ve just completed a paltry dozen hikes with the group, while many others have surpassed 100. So my seniority is merely age related. Nevertheless, there is some merit in that. Although the vast majority of those hiking are in their 40s and 50s, I’ve never had any difficulty keeping up, nor, on returning to the trail-head, do I appear to be any more fatigued than anyone else. Mind you, I’m fairly certain no one has more aches and pains than me.

If I’m one of the group’s oldest members, I don’t really see myself as that. My self-perception is that I still belong in the 40-50 age range. I guess perception is in pretty close proximity to delusion. As illustration: A middle-aged man visits a new dentist. When the dentist, looking old and delicate, enters the room, the man thinks there’s something familiar about him. He bears a strong resemblance to a guy who was in one of his high school classes. If it’s who he thinks he is, he’s certainly aged badly. Submitting to curiosity, he asks him, “Weren’t you in my class in high school?” The dentist replies, “Quite possibly. What did you teach?”

I can pass for a 50 year-old? Yeah, right! In my dreams.

The group has over 3000 members, but judging from the hikes I’ve been on, no more than about 150 of them are regular participants. As in all groups that meet regularly it has developed a hierarchy which can be broken down into four distinct levels. First, there are the leaders, numbering around six, but there may well be more. Then there are the long-time members, all very friendly with one another, and as far as I can tell, they attend virtually every hike. Next are the people like myself who have been members for over a year and show up at irregular intervals as time allows. Finally, the newbies who are there for the first time but, more often than not, are never seen again.

Each hike is limited to a party of 25. Above that number, you are added to a waiting list which could have as many as 20 or 30 people on it. As the date of the hike approaches these numbers seem to decrease by attrition, on both the hike and the wait lists. So if you are on the waiting list, when the day of the hike arrives there’s an excellent chance you’ll make the final 25, particularly if you are already known to the leader of that particular outing. Occasionally, someone who was not part of the final 25 will just show up expecting to be included. They are known as stowaways. It’s made clear to them that just showing up is frowned upon, but they won’t be turned away.

My most recent hike with the group was billed as the Post-turkey Hike, an annual event on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I had done it last year under quite wet weather conditions, and it involved rock-hopping across several fast flowing streams. Memorably, the slippery rocks caused two of our party to slip, giving them a fairly comprehensive soaking. The weather this year was cool and dry with intermittent sunshine. As a result of northern New Jersey’s current drought conditions, seen graphically by the alarmingly low water levels in nearby Wanaque Reservoir, last year’s bountiful streams had completely dried up. So no risk of a “dooking”* this time out.

The route was through the northern part of Norvin Green State Forest, by way of the Hewitt Butler Trail, taking in Lake Sonoma and Horse Pond Mountain. In my view it’s not the most scenic of hikes, although there are a couple of decent viewpoints, and Lake Sonoma is quite pretty, making for a very pleasant walk around it.

img_0588

img_0587

Unexpectedly and in complete contrast, toward the end of the hike, deep in the forest, we passed two severely wrecked and abandoned old trucks. What happened to them and how they got there is a complete mystery.

img_0590

Rather than for scenery, the trail was chosen more for the physical exertion required to complete it, a way to work off excessive calories gained in the course of Thanksgiving dinner. It’s over 10 miles in length with several steep ascents and descents along the way, so it does make for a very strenuous, sweat-inducing walk. All told, an excellent work out.

img_0589

Afterwards, as is customary a few from the group head to a nearby hostelry for a mid-afternoon lunch. I usually go along, but rarely eat. For some reason, any sort of sustained hard physical activity kills my appetite. I’m only there for the beer. Two pints of IPA, and I wouldn’t call the king my uncle!

*An old Scots word. Go Google it!

My first walk.

Today, November 22nd, is my mother’s birthday. She died in 1999, just over a week after her 70th birthday, and a month before the advent of a new millennium. My sister has pointed out to me that the date has significance in the literary world also.  Aldous Huxley and C. S. Lewis both died on this day in 1963. However, news of their deaths was eclipsed by the assassination of President John F Kennedy on the very same day.

Thoughts of my mum, took my mind back to what, I believe, was my very first walk of any significance, a solitary walk that caused her a great deal of alarm and distress.

I would be about 5 years of age and, as was her habit on a Saturday morning, she took me with her on the bus into Greenock town centre to do some shopping, and if things went in my favor, buy me a wee toy in Woolworth’s. I loved when she shopped there, and I got the chance to spend time at the toy counter, or even better the model counter where, among other things, the Airfix models of World War 2 fighter planes and battleships were on display.

Things were going as I’d hoped they would. There I was in Woolworth’s, at eye level with that enchanted toy counter, mesmerized by the array of colorful plastic delights on display. I turned to talk to my mum, most likely to say, “Will you buy me that, mum?” But she had disappeared from view. I walked around the shop for a bit, looking for her, but she was nowhere to be found. My meager 5 year old brain told me, “Oh well. If mum’s not here in the shop and I don’t know where she is, I might as well go home and she’ll see me when she gets there!” And so I left “Woolies,” as it was more commonly known, and headed for home.

No bus for me. It was easier to walk, and anyway I had no money for the fare. At the time I would hardly know the name of the streets I walked through, but I now see them in my mind’s eye. Along Cathcart Street to Rue End Street, the continuation of the busy “main road,” on the left Victoria Harbour crammed with tug boats, on the right the Fire Brigade. Then a turn up Cartsburn Street and left onto Arthur Street past Kincaid’s Foundry, through the sooty black stoned railway bridge and onto St. Lawrence Street, up the Bally Brae (that was probably the only street I knew the name of). Next along Morton Terrace, past the Victoria Bowling Club, onto East Crawford Street, all the way to the end, and finally left onto Grosvenor Road and home. Number 17. One of the old steel houses, no longer standing.

I tried the door but it was locked. No one home. My dad, a joiner in the building trade, was no doubt working overtime, money being tight. Mr. Strang, the friendly old man who was our downstairs neighbor, as usual was working in the front garden, tending to his rhubarb or potato plots. To pass the time I went to talk to him. Just as I was explaining to him that I walked home from the town because I lost my mum in Woolies (I wonder what he thought of that), who should come running frantically into the garden but my distraught mother! With a mixture of fury, relief and delight she enfolded me in her arms.

“Where the hell did you get to? How did you get here?” she yelled.

“I walked home,” I said, now completely confused by the distress I had apparently caused her.

“You what???” She said incredulously.

I have no clear recollection of what happened afterwards. In fact I can’t say with confidence the events of the day unfolded exactly as I have described. The passage of time does distort memory. But that’s how I recall them now, and the emotions invoked are genuine, authentic and precious. A loving mother reunited with her lost, oblivious child. Only now as a parent myself, do I have a full understanding of what she must have gone through, along with a deep appreciation of the depth of her maternal love.

So there we have it. My first serious walk. A distance just short of 2 miles. Not bad for a 5 year old! You should be proud mum. Maybe you were…

greenock

Carry on up the Khyber

Our first night in Bermuda was everything I feared it might be. Watching the election results come in on our apartment’s TV, the realization grew that the more qualified and experienced candidate would lose and our next President would be a man who, among other things, has mocked the disabled, bragged about sexually assaulting women, denied the existence of climate change and has no experience in governing whatsoever. Of course a sleepless, anxiety filled night ensued.

My go-to antidote for anxiety is a good walk, and when it’s done in warm sunshine and its end point is a beautiful beach, it must surely be completely effective. The following morning we put it to the test. As it turned out, even that failed to completely dispel the gloom, but it did lighten it and make it more tolerable.

We’re staying in St. George’s, the small town that’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and, having been settled in 1612, is reputedly the oldest continuously inhabited English town in the New World. It’s a charming little hamlet but there are signs it is currently experiencing an economic downturn. Today most of Bermuda’s tourist action takes place at the opposite end of the islands, in the area surrounding the Royal Naval Dockyards, a commercial district catering mainly to tourists from the massive cruise ships which regularly berth there.

Our apartment, high on a hill overlooking St. George’s Harbor, is in the last building of a cul-de-sac, at the end of which are two flights of stairs leading down to a narrow, straight road traversing St. George’s Island. This road is called Khyber Pass and we know it takes us in the general direction of Tobacco Bay, the beach which is our destination.

The only similarity Khyber Pass has to its original namesake is that it cuts through the high point of the island and, although close to the town, has an air of remoteness about it. The name conjures up visions of red-coated British troops fighting off marauding Afghan tribesmen. And to me it brings back memories of one of the old English comedy films from the Carry On series: Carry on up the Khyber, the cast including Sid James who plays Sir Sidney Ruff-Diamond, Charles Hawtrey who’s Private Widdle, and Bernard Breslaw playing Bungdit Din. What great names! But for us no laughs to be had today, nor any threat from prowling bandits. Just the occasional passing car, the drivers of which, more often than not, give us a friendly wave.

Once we clear the cutting the road opens out onto the abandoned St. George’s Golf course, no longer used or maintained but now gone to seed. On Tripadvisor I’d read comments referring to it as an eye-sore. But I don’t see it that way. Rather than an artificial landscape, containing beautifully manicured fairways and smooth carpet-like greens, it has become a natural parkland with many interesting trails, formerly golf cart paths, going off in all directions.

We leave the road and make our way down on to the grass which slopes away below us, offering us a glimpse of the brilliant blue sea in the distance.

IMG_0537.JPG

Following the trails, many of which are blocked with fallen trees and strewn with displaced branches, all as a result of Hurricane Nicole which, a few weeks before, wreaked havoc on the island. All we encounter as we wind our way through the parkland is nature’s handiwork, formed on a man-made foundation.

 

My thoughts turn to the President-elect who lives in a rarefied world of gleaming towers, grandly pretentious hotels and expensively exclusive golf courses, all catering to the rich and influential, a created fantasy world inaccessible to the little guy, the so-called “losers,” those he has seduced into thinking that he is their champion. These creations impose a false and harmful order on the natural world with their squandered energy and poisonous pesticides. The neglected old golf course of St. George’s once belonged to that synthetic world. But not now. Not today. It’s accessible to anyone regardless of class or income level, to everyone who takes pleasure in a countryside walk and who seeks the benefits of fresh air. Ironically, economic necessity has brought about a kind socialization of the landscape.

Having skirted a smattering of brightly colored Bermuda cottages scattered around the periphery of the course, we finally come out onto Government Hill Road which leads us down to Tobacco Bay and its attractive little beach.

 

And here we settle to spend the balance of the day enjoying the sea air and the views out across the bay. We may face an alarmingly uncertain future, but we live in the moment and in this moment we feel blessed.

But come January, we’ll all be up the Khyber Pass. The marauding bandits will be in the White House…

Bearfort Mountain and Surprise Lake

So last weekend’s hike was one of the best I’ve experienced in New Jersey as far as great views were concerned. I’d chosen it because NJHiking.com had selected it as one of the state’s best hikes for viewing the fall foliage. It was to be my daughter Lesley’s birthday hike in what’s becoming something of a tradition. Originally planned for the previous weekend, the high winds and wet conditions at the time  caused us to postpone it for another week, which was a pity, I felt, because it seemed at that time the fall colors were at their peak. However the week’s delay, as it turned out, had only slightly diminished their beauty.

Our small group included myself, Lesley and son-in-law, Keith. Ever since a bear attacked and killed a student in this very area in 2014 I’ve tended to hike as part of a larger group believing there’s safety in numbers. Although that attack was seen as an extreme aberration, you have it in the back of your mind that you’re quite vulnerable out alone in the woods. But I’m determined not to let anxiety limit my enjoyment of the outdoors and I’ve recently started venturing out again solo or in small groups. The large group hike is fine and comfortable. All you have to do is follow the leader. But to me it’s more of a challenge and more of an accomplishment at the end of the hike knowing you got yourself around through your own navigation and decision making. The mental application can be just as rewarding as the physical.

The start of the hike is a real eye opener, especially this early on the morning after one of my regular Friday nights at the pub. Right out of the parking lot you’re into a steep 600 ft climb on the State Line Trail (blue blazes) up through the woods. After about a mile you leave the trees and emerge on to the ridge to immediately face a spectacular view out across Greenwood Lake, a long narrow body of water which extends all the way from Passaic County New Jersey up into New York State. We hang out on the ridge for a while taking in the views (the NYC skyline can be seen in the distance) and catching our breath from the climb. The sky has a thin cloud veneer which infuses the scene with a bright silvery glow, helping to banish any remaining traces of early morning sluggishness.gl-early

We continue along the ridge on the Ernest Walker Trail (yellow blazes) – Hey! That’s me: an earnest walker! It’s an easy rocky path overlooking the lake and ends in a turn back into the woods, leading to Surprise Lake which suddenly appears before us in an opening in the trees. Thanks to my printed directions there was no great surprise in arriving at it, other than coming across a couple of tents pitched on some high ground to our right looking out across the water. Two couples are up and about preparing breakfast. A young woman, with her sleeping bag still wrapped around her, exchanges a few words with us. She seems quite bohemian and laid back, fitting the scene perfectly.

Further on we come to a rock face which involves a satisfying scramble upward to another ridge with more spectacular views. With the sun now clear in the sky we see the tree covered landscape in all its fall glory. New York City can be picked out more distinctly than ever. Going on we pass the the Appalachian Trail heading south, but we head north following the yellow blazes. Most of this section of the hike is along the level, smooth rock of the Bearfort Ridge so it’s easy walking, a welcome relief from the forest paths which are studded with irregular rocks and boulders.  Along here we stop for lunch, cheese sandwiches for Lesley and Keith, plain boring old peanut butter on whole wheat bread for me (where’s the jelly, you may ask… sorry not for me!). It’s like eating cardboard but as a creature of habit I always find it somehow reassuring and believe it’s as good as anything for maintaining energy levels. We share a few squares of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate for good measure before getting going again.

At this point I’m acutely aware of muscle tightness in my inner thigh, so I shorten my stride somewhat for fear of pulling a muscle. It may have been due to my movements during some of the earlier rock scrambles. At my age, every little twinge causes some mental questioning. Could this be a long term problem? What if it causes an injury that inhibits my walking habit? How many more years or even months can I continue to hike? As I go on though, it eases up. I relax and get my mind back to focusing on the trail. But it’s a concern. Next April I’ll be embarking on my most challenging hike ever over a period of six days, and it’s essential that nothing diminishes my fitness.

Continuing along the ridge we’re blessed with other viewpoints looking out over the lake. At one of these points, someone has wedged a long straight branch between the rocks, at the top of which a ragged and frayed stars and stripes ripples in the wind. It strikes me as a perfect metaphor for the state of our country as we approach the end of this fearful and squalid presidential election campaign.

We come to the end of the Ernest Walker trail (the twinge in my leg has made me an even more earnest walker), and join the Appalachian Trail (white blazes) heading north, and soon come to to the New Jersey/New York state line which is marked clearly on the rock surface with remarkably fresh white paint. Of course we have to stop to take pictures of us straddling the border.

A little farther on, looming ahead as the trail veers to the right, is a large rock formation known as Prospect Rock which we leave the trail to ascend. Suddenly and dramatically, reaching the top, a stunning uninterrupted vista ravishes our vision, a bronze, yellow and orange carpet of trees glowing under the sun and reaching as far as the eye can see far north into New York State. We stand here for some time struggling to absorb the beauty of the view. At this moment it strikes me that, yes, life is indeed good!pr

Eventually we drag ourselves away, returning to the trail and descending a slanting rock face into a deep shadowy gully. Here in the gloom, it feels quite forbidding but there is something mysterious and alluring about it too, a combination of greenery and moisture laden rocks, among them black openings and crevices, perfect, it occurs to me, for the den of a discerning bear. But if there are any bears around today they’re keeping themselves very well hidden.

The gully soon opens out to an attractive wooded landscape. My printed directions tell me that here we will “rock-hop a stream with nice water cascades that will be heard before it’s seen.” But not today. The stream is as dry as a bone, testament to the lack of rain we’ve had throughout the summer and fall.

As we walk on we are soon faced with a towering rocky ridge high above us. Surely the trail does not take us up there… but yes, it does indeed. And so we scramble upward until we come to a vertical face which, conveniently and somewhat incongruously, has a series of metal rungs fused into the rock, a ladder leading to the top. Up we go, and when we reach the top, once again a glorious panorama is revealed to us, now looking east spanning Greenwood Lake and New York’s forested, gentle hills. Again we linger, aware of the immense privilege of being exposed to such beauty. And again it’s an effort to drag ourselves away.final-view

This is as far into New York we will go today. We now have to retrace our steps along the Appalachian Trail back into New Jersey. We descend the “ladder,” scramble back down  through the rocks to the valley below, across the non-existent stream and return to the mysterious bear gully at the foot of the rock face leading to Prospect Rock. Feeling quite fatigued now I suggest we take a break before what will be the day’s final climb. We sit in the shadows chatting and eating our granola bars, and then head upwards slowly making our way back into the sunlight above.

We return along the trail until we see the blue blazes of the State Line trail, the continuation of the trail we started out on 4 hours earlier. This will take us back to the parking lot. The path leading steeply downhill is slippery with fallen leaves. Now I use the one walking pole I have in my possession to give me the stability I need, such is the requirement of the older hiker, unlike my two youthful companions who follow behind heedlessly.

Soon we hear the noise of the traffic on the road by the parking lot, and the welcome sight of the lot’s portaloo.  Here we are back to our starting point, more tired than I would normally be after a hike of 7-1/2 miles, the many steep rock scrambles having taken their toll. But I’m not alone in this, Lesley and Keith both are experiencing a similar tiredness. But for me, and clearly for the the both of them too, it’s a tiredness infused with contentment, a sense of accomplishment and deep relaxation.

What a fabulous hike it was! The scenery,the foliage, the varied trails and, yes, even the rock scrambles all combined to make this one of the best hikes I’ve experienced in New Jersey, and one I hope to revisit repeatedly in the future, notwithstanding my dodgy muscle twinges. And much to my delight, Lesley was more than satisfied with the birthday hike her old Dad had chosen for her.

Of course a day hiking is not complete without a couple of beers. And before we parted we ensconced ourselves for a short time in Nutley’s Cowan’s Public Bar, IPAs for Keith and me, pumpkin ale for Lesley. Cheers!!!

 

 

Aromi Di Napoli

No long hike this Saturday. Just a short walk up to Aromi Di Napoli bakery to buy some of the best morning rolls to be found anywhere. It may be close by but when you enter you feel like you’ve been magically transported all the way to Italy.

image

Hay Ave, Nutley

imageimage