Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Green Day Trip From Manhattan

I’m infatuated with the Hudson Valley. Many of the towns are easily accessible from Metro North and are a quick trip from Manhattan. Cold Spring is one of those towns, just one-and-a-half hours from midtown. But, though, many people come for one of two reasons: scrambling up rugged Breakneck Ridge or wandering Main Street for the many antique-laden shops, I traveled here one morning to make other discoveries. Arriving early before the crowds descended on Hudson Hil’s, a charming restaurant along historic Main Street with a shaded, flower-rimmed porch and locally-sourced items, I dined on a black bean burger that was served with corn tortillas, guacamole and salsa, and delectable homemade potato chips. (I had the place to myself for all of 20 minutes but that’s ok.) Then, of course, I went in search of green spaces. I didn’t have to search long. The Foundry Dock Park is a scenic waterfront spot that’s a former Civil War loading dock. Now, you can picnic, walk the trails or just relax. Or, take a side trail to the West Point Foundry Preserve with its paved and unpaved paths, ruins of the Boring Mill -- the waterwheel is impressive against the wild foliage, and tumbling Foundry Brook. Before this ironworks plant opened in 1818, these lands were dense with woodlands that, sadly, were cut for charcoal. Now the area is a peaceful delight dotted with benches including two set beside a marsh that attracts plenty of bird life. 

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Saturday, August 27, 2016

New Green Spaces on New York's Governor's Island

What if I told you that a five-minute ferry ride from Manhattan allows you to climb landscaped hills for scenic views, relax in hammocks set amid wild brush, zoom down an almost 60-foot slide, and rent bicycles to a waterfront picnic spot? This is what visitors find on Governor's Island that sits off the southern tip of Manhattan. And, yet, so many New Yorkers never make it to these green, placid shores. The island recently opened up a newly-landscaped, 10-acre sector with a cluster of four hills, proving awe-inspiring views of the lower Manhattan skyline as well as art and entertainment options: think the slide quadruplets, and sculptural installations. The photo collage below is what I found on Governor's Island on my most recent visit where, of course, I criss-crossed the island on bicycle. There's no excuse for not hopping on board the ferry for an afternoon or a day away from the city's chaotic streets.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Fargo, North Dakota in Pictures

When someone mentions Fargo, North Dakota, what do you think of? If you're like just about everyone I spoke with, it's Fargo, the movie or the award-winning black comedy series on the FX network. And the image that comes to mind is, of course, the infamous wood chipper that figured prominently in the Coen Brothers' movie. But the Fargo I experienced was a fresh, savvy, creative one with a bustling main street, myriad art galleries and coffee shops, large swaths of bikable green spaces, and a community spirit bubbling with youth and entrepreneurship. This short YouTube video slideshow provides a tiny window into my Fargo experience. (And, North Dakota makes the 50th state I've visited.)

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Central Park's Newly Opened Garden

Central Park’s Southeast corner sees its share of crowds. In fact, with the Zoo, Wollman Rink and The Pond all located in that sector, it might very well be the busiest spot in the  park. And yet, for decades, since the early 1930s, a four-acre plot of wilderness remained truly a hidden treasure, sealed off as an inaccessible (to the public) bird sanctuary where nature was allowed to take over. Hidden, that is, until last month when it reopened with limited hours. It’s well worth visiting the Hallett Nature Sanctuary, a wee, wild landscape with rustic wooden gates, benches and overlook balustrades -- all constructed of black locust wood -- that reminded me of features I might’ve seen in The Hobbit. The skyscrapers around Columbus Circle are all visible through the dense foliage and yet this crowded part of the park may be one of the most serene. I recently took a guided tour -- though I don’t recommend the tour which I found lacking in terms of providing much in the way of informative bird and botanical information -- and fell in love with this small parcel of land with its curvy wood-chipped paths, and schist outcrops. (This is the rock that’s the bedrock of Manhattan.) Even on a day when the mercury hit over 90 degrees with muggy humidity, my visit was saturated with shade, the scent of fresh foliage and the sounds of birds. The Central Park Conservancy thinned out many of the invasive plant species, such as black cherry trees, as well as the Norway maple that the Asian longhorn beetle attacks. As I roamed about, we spotted hoary mountain mint, native grasses, pokeweed, tulip trees, mayapples, and strawberry bushes. The conservancy planted trees that are wind resistant, such as the hackberry. One lovely specimen sits at the center of a wraparound wooden bench perfectly positioned beside a scenic overlook, and my favorite part of this garden that feels like a micro Manhattan oasis. 

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