Walking Down the Hudson River

The city is so green and amazing now! I thought it was really interesting that there is a gardening club in Riverside Park. Lots of people were helping out. I wonder if something like that could ever take off in the Washington Heights section of the Hudson Greenway?

Fort Tryon Park and the Cloisters

My wife and I have been taking some time to go out for long walks while I’m not so swamped with classwork. Central Park is nice, but we live a lot closer to Fort Tryon Park, which is also an awesome place to visit. We can walk there from where we live and the park itself has some great views of the Hudson River and The Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art that houses a large part of the museum’s medieval collection.

We walked around there on a Saturday afternoon. Since it was a Saturday afternoon, the park was full of Jewish people relaxing for Shabbat. We saw families sitting on benches, walking together, taking in the view, and kids playing. There were groups of people on picnic blankets and some playing games.

My wife and I would like to go back and have a picnic. Maybe we can pull that off this weekend.

The High Bridge Trail

The High Bridge, as seen from the High Bridge path in High Bridge Park
The High Bridge, as seen from the High Bridge path in High Bridge Park

The High Bridge, officially known as the Aqueduct Bridge, was originally used to bring water onto Manhattan Island from the Croton River. Construction began in 1837 and was completed in 1848. The bridge had the appearance of a Roman stone, arched aqueduct. In 1928, the bridge was rebuilt using steel construction that worked well for quite a few years, but since the 1970s, the bridge has been closed to all traffic. New York City is working on changing that as part of an effort to create a network of trails and paths for biking, jogging and walking.

So far, the renovation looks good. It’s not done yet, by a long shot. My wife and I went down the long flight of steps from High Bridge Park in Washington Heights to take a look around. The trail is closed and all we could see was the very entrance to the bridge. We decided to check out the trail, which is well done. It’s wide, new, offers some interesting views, and opens onto either Amsterdam or Edgecombe Avenue.

The remnants of a party that looks to have gone terribly wrong.
The remnants of a party that looks to have gone terribly wrong.

There is also a dirt trail that you can walk on. At first, it narrows down to little more than a well-worn deer path, but then it opens up into something that looks like the city is maintaining it. There were a lot of people walking through there, mostly with dogs and their kids, but it looks like it could be a pretty spooky and dangerous place at night. We saw remnants of wild parties, and there was a kid just hanging around by the entrance of the path (where it opens onto Edgecombe near 155th) with a mobile phone in his hand. He had a I’m-the-lookout-for-my-robber-friends kind of vibe, so I kept my eyes open.

I wonder if the city is planning on paving that section and extending it through the deer-trail portion so it connects with the rest of the paved High Bridge trail that will lead over the bridge into the Bronx? I’m also curious as to how this section of bike/jogging/walking paths will hook up to the rest of the path system in Manhattan, because at the bottom end of Edgecombe, the only sign I saw that might be part of the paths seemed to double back to the north along Harlem River Driveway towards Harlem River Drive. Maybe one day I’ll go down there and see if there’s a way to double back again and head south along the river.

I really need to get a bike. It would make exploration faster. There’s so much to see in New York City that I doubt I could ever see it all just by walking.

Inspiration Point on the Hudson River Greenway

Inspiration Point on the Hudson River Greenway in Northwest Manhattan
Inspiration Point on the Hudson River Greenway in Northwest Manhattan

If you go up the Hudson River Greenway, between the 181st pedestrian footbridge and where the Greenway currently ends at the northern branch of Riverside Drive at the northern edge of Fort Tryon Park, you’ll find Inspiration Point.

There’s no way to access Inspiration Point except by using the trail. There are no parking spots and no way to pull over to the side of the road, though it looks like there might have been at one time. There is a raised section of concrete there that my wife stood on while she waited for me to finish taking pictures and looking around.

I suppose it’s a spot that not many people will visit. It’s isolated, and regardless of whether you enter the Greenway on the north end or at the pedestrian footbridge to the south, it’s a pretty long walk to get there. Maybe the fact that there are rarely people there is why the area is called Inspiration Point. You can be alone with your thoughts there, if you can ignore the highway traffic directly behind you anyway.

Inspiration Point

View of the Hudson River from Inspiration Point
View of the Hudson River from Inspiration Point

Inspiration Point

Regardless, the structure is really well made, and really interesting. It has a sort of ancient Rome feel to it, minus the red brick flooring anyway. What was this structure originally built for? I can’t imagine such an extravagant structure would be erected just for the occasional walker on the Greenway. Looking at Google Maps, I got the impression that the section of the Henry Hudson Parkway between where Riverside Drive stops at 181st Street and where it starts again north of Fort Tryon Park used to actually be Riverside Drive and was then converted into the northbound lane of the parkway.

A little further down from Inspiration Point are two pillars on the opposite side of the road that look like the entrance to an old driveway. It is currently overgrown. That, and what looked like an old parking area near Inspiration Point makes me think traffic on that road used to be a lot slower.

On a blog about infrastructure (infrastructureemily.com), I saw a picture of stairs leading down the side of the Inspiration Point structure to another lookout area. I didn’t even notice that. Now I definitely need to go back and take another look. The author of the other blog didn’t try to sneak down there and look around. I might!

Billings Terrace
Billings Terrace
Billings Terrace
Billings Terrace

Right next to that driveway I mentioned earlier is Billings Terrace. It’s very cool looking from down on the Greenway! I really want to go up there and take a look around. Billings Terrace is in Fort Tryon Park, where the Cloisters and most of the medieval art from the Metropolitan Museum of Art is housed. There are also renaissance fairs there sometimes.

Semi-Domestic Wild Deer in Fort Lee Historic Park, New Jersey

Wild deer in Fort Lee Historic Park
Wild deer in Fort Lee Historic Park

On Sunday, when my wife and I walked over the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey, we stopped by the Fort Lee Historic Park, which is right next to the bridge and offers a great view of the Hudson River and Manhattan, which, I suppose, was the reason the fort was originally built. We didn’t really expect to see a whole lot there. We were just looking for a place to take a short break before turning around and walking back over the bridge. We were both surprised by how much of the historic fort has been restored. We want to go back sometime with real cameras and spend an afternoon there looking around.

The best part of the pit stop, though, was when we saw wild deer snacking on the underbrush in the middle of the park. Even when I lived in Georgia, it was rare to see deer in high traffic areas, and it was especially bizarre for me to look one way and see the skyscrapers of Manhattan, and then to look the other and see a little family of deer hanging out like they were special guests in a petting zoo. It reminded me of a snapshot I’d seen on instagram a few weeks ago (I think) of a deer eating flowers from a planter in the middle of an outdoor, strip mall.

I first spotted them when we were a good distance away and I snapped a few photos, because I expected them to bolt the moment they realized we were there. We kept walking closer though, and they didn’t seem to mind at all. The mother deer kept looking up at us, but she decided we weren’t going to bother her and went back to eating. Later, a large Chinese family with loud kids showed up and the deer just kept grazing. I got the impression that these deer live there and people are used to seeing them in the park. I stood about arm’s length from the mother deer and she ignored me. They’re almost domesticated.

In a way, it’s a great bonus to have wild deer hanging around the park. It helped take me completely out of the city and let me better enjoy the trees around me, the open space, the smell of foliage and dirt, and the lack of crowds.

Trekking Across the George Washington Bridge Into New Jersey

Lower Manhattan and Hoboken (I think), New Jersey as seen from the George Washington Bridge
Lower Manhattan and Hoboken (I think), New Jersey as seen from the George Washington Bridge

When I was in the Army, there was a running cadence that went something like this:

I can run to Jersey just like this,

All the way to Jersey and never quit.

I can run to New York just like this,

All the way to New York and never quit,

Because I’m hardcore,

Motivated,

Dedicated,

etc. etc. (The cadence changes here depending on the unit type)

Well, when I crossed the bridge on foot yesterday, I wasn’t running, but this cadence was rattling around in my head. I was thinking that, of all the times I responded to or called that cadence when I was in the Army, I never actually crossed any state lines during PT (physical training). But, yesterday, I started a walk in Manhattan and ended up in the Fort Lee Historic Park across the river in New Jersey, and then came back again. Maybe in a few months I will go back and run that route, but for now I’m trying to take it easy and just enjoy myself.

The bridge’s walkway is pretty popular. I saw a lot of tourists with name tapes stuck to their shirts as well as families walking across, or hanging out on the bridge. Just as a side note, I noticed a lot of Jewish people hanging out up there. I was reminded of how many Jewish people I saw in the Bronx Zoo last June. I don’t say that to be racist or anything. I’m just wondering if I’m stumbling across popular hangout spots for Orthodox Jewish families, because I don’t recall seeing that many Jewish people hanging around lower Manhattan, the Natural History Museum or the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Or it could be that I just never noticed?

Anyway, the views going across the bridge are stunning. My iPhone photos aren’t going to do it justice. I’d like to go back with a real camera to try to get some better shots, and I will definitely have the opportunity, because even if I don’t run across the bridge one day, I’ll definitely be walking all the way back to Jersey.

Also, just as a side-note: In my last blog post I wrote about walking up the Hudson River Greenway underneath the George Washington Bridge and I noted that it seemed like the bushes along some parts of the trail were hollowed out, like people live there. Well, it seems like there are some homeless people living in the park, after all. When I was on the bridge, looking down, I saw a homeless guy through an opening in the trees trying to get comfortable. You can barely see him in this image, but he’s resting his legs on that blue box:

A homeless man getting comfortable in the bushes off the path in Fort Washington Park along the Hudson River Greenway.
A homeless man getting comfortable in the bushes off the path in Fort Washington Park along the Hudson River Greenway.

The Hudson River Greenway

The Hudson River Greenway
The Hudson River Greenway

I’ve started taking long walks for exercise purposes. While I’m out, I usually listen to the news using a new app I found called Umano (which is pretty cool, by the way), but still, looking at the same scenery over and over gets old, so I’m always looking for new places to go. Normally, I walk down Riverside Drive and head south along the river, past Riverbank State Park. Saturday, my wife and I took a detour and discovered the Hudson River Greenway.

My wife and I had seen the Greenway before, from Riverbank State Park, which is completely elevated, but we didn’t know how to actually access the area. The Greenway is a route that follows the edge of Manhattan island and caters to cyclists, joggers and walkers. There are plenty of places to picnic and barbecue along the way, as well.

So, Saturday, my wife and I were walking down Riverside Drive when I saw a woman walking up a set of steps that led down towards the highway. We’d always wondered where those stairs go, but the area looks a little creepy, so we never went down to check. The woman told us the stairs lead down towards a park, so we decided to take a chance and headed down the steps. The path led to a set of metal stairs at the on-ramp for the Hudson River Parkway at 158th Street and at the bottom of the steps, we found the Greenway.

We went right, only because we were hoping for good views of the George Washington Bridge. We didn’t realize how long the path is, or how much stuff there is down there. There are parks, camp areas, tennis courts, basketball courts, and there are areas under construction that look like they’re going to be really nice sitting areas.

We didn’t leave for our walk until late. We didn’t expect to find an interesting trail to follow, and while we were down there, it started to get dark. It’s a little spooky down there when the sun starts to go down. There are places along the trail where the brush is hollowed out like people (or animals) are living there. I was really surprised at how many people there are using the trail, though, and how even after dark women were walking through there alone. I don’t think I’d want to walk there alone at night.

We followed the trail under the George Washington Bridge, where it doubled back on itself and headed up to street level, and then we headed back home through the city. The walk was really fun and not too tiring at all. And, we discovered that the neighborhood around the George Washington Bridge is really, really nice. We saw a few new restaurants we’d like to try. I suppose that’s one of the great things about going out for walks. It helps you discover cool stuff in and around your neighborhood.