Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Walk in Snowy Central Park and Environs (Area activities link here)

Even though we had a brunch date on this third day after the big snow, we didn't forget our daily goal to walk 10,000 steps. Besides, knowing that we'd be walking it off, we did indulge in Pancakes and French toast in P.J. Clark's, right across the street from Lincoln Center. Fortified with yummy food and our gortex hiking boots, we waved so long to our friends as they piled into a taxi, and we began what turned out to be a 10 mile walk by hoofing it over toward the 72nd Street and Central Park West entrance to Central Park. The Transverse starts there and leads straight across to 5th Avenue on the Upper East Side.
(This is an update of this post. Some of the less snowy photos were taken at another time.) 

Books and media list below post.

An architectural tour of Central Park West is definitely one of our goals. For now, though, we can name three buildings. First, we can recognize The Dakota, one of New York City's most notable apartment houses, so called because when it was built at the end of the 19th century, it was so far from the active center of Manhattan that it might as well have been in North or South Dakota!

The Dakota's amazing facade. It's claim to fame: Roman Polansky's horror film, Rosemary's Baby, was filmed here, John Lennon and Yoko Ono were residents.
Another grande dame of New York apartment buildings, the Majestic stands right across from the Dakota.

As we entered the park, we glanced back to catch this glimpse of the Majestic's towers.

Another of the four grand apartment buildings that define Central Park West, the San Remo is just north of the Dakota and the Majestic. Many notable people have called this Art Deco beauty home, from Eddie Cantor and Hedy Lamar to Steve Jobs and Steve Martin.
Just inside Central Park, this pathway looks just like a country lane--in the middle of the Big City.

Strawberry Fields, one of Central Parks most visited sites is a memorial to John Lennon.

Bethesda Fountain, featuring the Angel of the Waters statue, is considered the crown jewel of Central Park.

These pedicabs will take you anywhere you want to go--for the right price.

Pilgrim Hill, just north of the 72nd Street entrance to the Park at Fifth Avenue, hill has been a favorite of sledding kids for generations.

Before exiting the Park, we took a turn south to check out some other hills and smaller paths.

Literary Walk, with the Bethesda Fountain behind us.

This doggie is heading east to 5th Avenue, but we're not ready to exit yet.

Here's action on another hill. Watch out for tree hazards!

The brave headed up yet more byways in the snow. We decided it was time for a reward.

We exited at the 72nd Street Transverse and walked one block east to Madison Avenue, and then north to...

The Maison du Chocolat, a trek up Madison Avenue, is a good place to warm up on a cold New York Winter day.

After the wonderful, warming chocolate, it was a walk back down to East 66th Street.

Enjoy your 10,000 steps.... or even 20,000 as we did this snowy day.

Books and media List
Central Park (1961) Poster Print, 24x36


Central Park, An American Masterpiece: A Comprehensive History, Miller 

Central Park Then and Now (Then & Now Thunder Bay)

The Park and the People: A History of Central Park

Central Park (Snow, Color) Art Poster Print - 24x36

Simon and Garfunkel - The Concert in Central Park

Streetwise Central Park Map - Laminated Pocket Map of Central Park, 

 The Complete Illustrated Map and Guidebook to Central Park

 Poet's Walk, Central Park, New York City Art Poster Print by Henri Silberman

 Creating Central Park (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

 Frederick Law Olmsted: Mogul of Parks and Landscaping (Titans of F…

Monday, December 20, 2010

Hiking with Poles - Don't Leave Home without Them!

Why Use Walking Sticks?


1. Knees, knees, knees!Gotta save them.

2. Balance and safety

3. Upper-body workout

Post Summary : Benefits of using hiking poles; tips for correct use; shopping information.

                                         My third hike ever. I couldn't have walked that plank without the poles.

What do these two photos of hikers at Mt. Taurus have in common? Throughout our photos, you see a lot of hikers making their way up hills, across streams, and negotiating rocks with walking poles. Our hike leaders and orthopedists recommend poles as a surefire way to save wear and tear on the knees and other parts of the body due to overuse—and avoiding surgery on those parts when you reach your 40s, 50s, and beyond. We both have knee-cartilage problems and spend considerable effort building up the quads and hamstrings for stability, but one of us resisted using poles for a few years. And then, ... one day, ... the tumble. Just a few feet from the end of the trail, disaster waited in the ruts of the last grassy slope. Yup, poles would have saved that day! And the rest of the summer, which remained hikeless.

Dislocated shoulder and a double fracture of the arm.
 Two sticks are better than one. More and more, we see even the younger hikers come equipped with telescoping, light-weight poles. In our own experience, we find they boost confidence and balance, especially on loose, rocky ground or when stepping from rock to rock to cross streams. They give you safer footing, and they take some of the stress off lower body joints, especially on the descents. Lengthening the poles and placing them one step below, just before the foot hits, eases the impact. Of course, when you readjust them for level ground or uphill, each time they are adjusted, the sections must be securely retightened or they will collapse under weight.

And here’s an added plus: by transferring some of the body weight from the legs to the arms and shoulders, the poles help you tone up your upper body. Shoulders, chest and upper arms show added definition beyond the gains of our regular weight-training programs since we started hiking using the hiking poles.

Tips on Using Poles Correctly
Of course, it's important to get instruction on how to use the poles correctly. Get advice from experienced hikers, and check the instruction manuals and videos. Incorrect use can strain the wrists, so be sure to get off on the right foot by first reading the instructions. As in most other things, it takes practice to use poles to get all their benefits.

1. Ideally, you would have time on a hike to adjust the length:
      longer for balance and support on the down-hill stretches,
      shorter to bear weight on the ups.
     When on even terrain, adjusted height should allow the forearm to be parallel to the ground. (Truthfully, we don't usually get the time to stop to adjust when the grade changes because we're too busy keeping up with the leader, and yet they are still very helpful.)

2. The straps are adjustable and should be entered by the hand from underneath so they support the wrist and palm before the hand grips the handle.

3. Practice your gait. We like to use the poles in opposition to our feet, i.e. Left pole digs in at the moment the right foot steps down.

Features and Prices
Features vary and so do prices. We look for light-weight, collapsible, shock-absorbing walking poles that we can hook onto our backpacks when en route to hikes, and that will fit in our carry-on suitcases when we travel. The lighter they are, the higher the price. We did a little shopping for you and stuck with the features we find essential. Note: One hiker on our Greek Isles hiking trip bought an inexpensive pair for less than $20 which lasted only a few hours before they fell apart and were junked.

Shopping Information for Collapsible Hiking/Walking Poles With Anti-shock Feature
Hikker HP-5 Anti-shock Hiking Pole, 2-pack                      
Mountainsmith Pyrite 7075 Trekking Poles, Red                                  
LEKI Nordic Walking Traveller Nordic Pole 
Mountainsmith Carbonlite Pro Trekking Poles, Slate
LEKI Nordic Walking All Season Poles                                         
Trail Antishock Trekking Pole - pair-Leki                      

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Walk/Hike 6+ miles Central Park, NYC: Bridle Paths and North Woods

We were hiking with AMC right in the middle of Manhattan, stepping our way to better health along the bridal path, park roads, paths and bridges, through ravine, loch, duck pond, Harlem Meer and Conservatory Garden. (The dirt paths and occasional hills allow the listing as a hike.)

Safety: Some parts of the Park can feel isolated at off times. It's more fun to have company, so please don't go alone.

 For this walk, you'd do well to wear hiking shoes in case you come across some muddy spots.

Note: You would be greatly aided by a park map. At each park entrance, or "gate", the Central Park Conservancy has kiosks where you can ask for maps. These maps are excellent and can guide your walk when you want to digress for rest rooms or other marked sites that we bypass on this circuit. If you are not able to get a hard -copy color map, here is the next best thing on line. For more information about park maintenance, events and free tours: centralparknyc.org.

Route Summary: We made the round trip from the beginning of the bridle path up to the north end of the reservoir, then onto the paved paths, north through the Ravine and other loops in the North Woods,out to the Lasker Pool/rink, and then a spur to the east along the Harlem Meer and south to the Conservatory Garden at 5th Avenue. Then south (about 10 blocks) to pick up the bridle path again at the reservoir and continued walking back west and south to the end of the bridle path where we began. Our pedometers read 6 miles.

For questions, contact: Bernice and Dan.
Book List at end of Post

We took the subway to Columbus Circle and entered Central Park at 60th Street through The Merchants' Gate. Appropriately, the merchants were setting up their striped kiosks for the Christmas gift fair.

Good place to bypass if you're here for walking, so keep to the left and shop later, after you've covered the whole trail to complete the round trip.

You'll know the bridle path because it's unpaved. We love walking on the soft earth because it's so forgiving on the old bones, unlike hard pavement. As you step onto it and go northward (to your left), a look back to the right shows the end of the bridal path just beyond the bridge, your destination for the return.

 At this point, still in the low 60s (numbered streets), our path led northwest, toward the periphery of the park.

This mini mall with gift shop, cafe and rest room, is the only operational part of the former, famous Tavern on the Green restaurant, which used to be the sheepfold, housing a shepherd and the flock that grazed the Sheep Meadow until 1934. Finally, it dawned on us why the large tract of land just across the path, a favorite meeting place for picnickers with blankets, is called The Sheep Meadow!

That's a red-tailed hawk sitting on the middle branch just a second before he took flight. By now, most people have heard another hawk, Pale Male, a sometime perch hopper here. BTW, there is also an owl or two hanging around, but we didn't have the luck to see them that day. As a point of interest, over 270 species of migratory birds have been sighted in Central Park, a major stopping point on the Atlantic Flyway.

December still gives the gift of fall foliage, though much sparser each week.As this section of our path hugs the western wall of the Park, we will be just bypassing Strawberry Field, The Lake, The Swedish Cottage, The Ramble, Belvedere Castle and The Delacorte Theater, all to our right.

This tree has the unique ability to graft crossing limbs into each other into closed, solid polygons. There are more than 26,000 trees in Central Park.

Double bridge. The design for Central Park is called "The Greensward Plan," submitted by Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux. It includes 30 bridges and arches, and 11 overpasses across sunken transverse roads. It took 16 years to construct the Park. Central Park is the first major public park built in The United States.

The Reservoir, a 106-acre body of water, is surrounded by a 1.58 mile soft-surface running track. The fountain on the far side has 5 jets, one jet for each borough of NYC.

At the north end of the Reservoir, in The North Woods, we took the left fork of the bridle path, not the one that continues around the Reservoir, and we headed north. We left the bridle path altogether where it turns east. We continued north along The Loch.

The bridges and waterfalls of the Ravine reminded us of The Adirondack Mountains, which was the intention of Olmsted and Vaux. This end of the park was the site of military fortifications during the American Revolution and the War of 1812 because of the views it commanded of the rivers and Long Island Sound. Troups were quartered in The Arsenal during the Civil War.                                        

   Now, we find the tranquility of waterfalls ...

         ... and Rustic Bridges...

               ...fallen trees left in place -- trimmed only if they are blocking a path.

Then out of the woods to the Lasker Pool and Skating rink. At that moment, skaters waited off the ice while the ice-resurfacer machine did its job.

We hooked around the north of the rink, keeping Duck Island on our left.

The Charles A. Dana Discovery Center features hands-on exhibits and programs for all ages, including after-school activities, weekend workshops, and performances. Fishing poles are available for use at adjacent Harlem Meer. For hours and information, call: 212-860-1370.

The Conservatory Garden was our next stop, just south of The Meer, running along 5th Avenue, the eastern wall of the Park. Here we found the long shadows of late fall where last spring we had enjoyed the apple blossoms and fragrant lilacs. But artful nature presents beauty in any season in this 6-acre formal garden with spectacular displays of bulbs, perennials and annuals. The spring tulip display is not to be missed. Each spring, thousands of bulbs are planted, many gorgeous variations included, and then removed and donated elsewhere when blooms are spent. Only the first showing appears here.

This spiral suggests a maze now, but when in bloom, looks like a colorful tapestry to the residents on the Avenue looking down at the English garden from their windows above.

The 3 Graces, The Untermeyer Fountain, by Walter Schott.

Arcades, bowers, benches, a great place in the warmer months to sit and read a book.

This fountain and sculpture by Bessie Potter Vonnoh, was donated to the Garden as a memorial to playwright and author, Frances Hodgson Burnett, known to children for The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, and Little Lord Fauntelroy.

We left the Garden and headed south. The East Meadow was closed and under restoration until the fall of 2011. We decided to walk outside on 5th Avenue until we reached the eastern side of The Reservoir.

About 10 blocks down, at 90th Street, we found the next entrance at Engineers Gate.

The Reservoir was just inside. At this point, the old pedometer read 4 1/2 miles.

We picked up the bridle path and stayed on it all the way around the south of the Reservoir, and then took the fork to the left (south) and didn't stop until ...

Voila. Back at the starting point. Time to have a treat. The food kiosk and Christmas market is just a bit to the right back at Merchants' Gate where it all started.  We basked in the knowledge that we were 14.000 steps further along to better bone density, and continued weight control. Oh, no! We felt so good, we went and had the flapjacks at P.J.Clarks just across from Lincoln Center. What was that about weight control?

Recommended Related Books and Media:

1. Seeing Central Park:The Official Guide to the World's Greatest Urban Park.
2. 212 Views of Central Park: Experiencing NYC's Jewel from Every Angle.
3. The Park and the People: A History of Central Park.
4. The Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted: The Years of Olmsted, Vaux & Co.
5. A Clearing in the Distance: Olmsted and America.
6. Bridges of Central Park.
7. Central Park, An American Masterpiece: A Comprehensive History.