Outdoorsy Part VIII: Climbing Cut Short

Since I’ve begun getting my nature on, I’ve been rained on. Actually, I also got rained on a whole bunch when I went to Portland and took myself on a municipal fountain walking tour and figured since it rains there all the time, this is what people do—look at fountains in the rain. Anyway, what’s relevant here is I go outside now, and it rains outside, and I am sometimes in that rain.

However, the forecast said that the rain would not come down on my head when I hiked at Cold Spring Harbor State Park. It was raining on my way there, and it stopped as I arrived after taking the scenic route courtesy of my GPS and a street sign not agreeing which way a certain road runs. And I added an extra three minutes to my arrival time after taking a detour into the library parking lot, which is where the Captain and I wound up to start anyway. The parking lot has gravel and no bathrooms, so we went up to the very fancy library to use theirs.

Then we doused ourselves in Deet and hiked. But first, we waited for the two ladies on the path to go ahead of us. And then we went ahead of them. I’ve never seen anyone hike in this way—they would go a little bit and then stop to have a conversation. They were talking while walking. They weren’t stopping because they needed a break. It was almost as if they forgot they were on a hike. So strange. Eventually, they caught up to us and passed by. Then they went right and off the Greenbelt, and we went left to stay on.

Yes, again with the Greenbelt, but also no. This is a different Greenbelt. It’s the Nassau Suffolk trail. Also, it’s different because it’s not exactly a trail but steps built into a mountain and then no steps only inclines and wishes for good luck not falling on your ass. Since it had rained, the terrain was a bit wet. Thankfully, I had my hiking shoes on.

Side note about the hiking shoes. I didn’t buy them for hiking. They are shoes my mom bought for me a few years ago to wear in the winter when walking across campus. I’ve worn them a few times, but to teach in them proves a horror show on my feet. To hike in them is not the most comfy thing, either, but now that I’m breaking them in while walking in the woods, they may start to give way to more comfort.

So we were taking some time on some of the up and downs. It was a trail that required a bit of concentration. And then there was thunder. And then there was rain. Since we were in a rather woodsy part, the rain had no effect at first. Then I saw people coming down. Then I saw people continue to go up. Then we got to a point that was rough to climb at the same time some rain broke through. I was like, Should we keep going?

Captain was like, What do you want to do? I was like, I want to keep going. He was like, so let’s keep going. I was like, But I think we shouldn’t. He was like, then let’s head back. Then I was like, But I don’t want to. Then he was like, So let’s keep going. Then I was like, I’m a bit worried about going down if it really gets wet. He was like, I think you’re right about that part.

Then the rain really broke through, which decided it for us. We headed down, and it wasn’t easy in some points. I followed the Capt. towards a different trail. He found a flatter way for us to go, which circumvented some of the rougher hills down. I was like, Do you know where you’re going? He was like, Sure. I have no idea how people do that—like know where they are at all times.

Then we came upon a house in the woods and a lawnmower. Not creepy. At all.

For a feather in my cap, when we made it almost back to the beginning, Capt. make a left, and I was like, Nope, we came from the other way. Now we have a rule that I put in place since our trek in Caumsett—when I have ideas about paths and choices, he needs to overrule me because I don’t have any sense of spatial recognition. So at this point, he looked at me and was like, Are you sure??? I was actually sure of it because when we’d come down from the beginning hill, I saw this path and thought, Where does that go?, and we passed it by. So yup, I was right this one time. Solidifying that I made the right choice was a few yards further along when I saw a piece of a Snickers wrapper on the ground and said, Yes I remember that!

When we got to the beginning, it was pouring down rain. We hung out by the trailhead map and saw some groups who had passed us going up start to come back down and run to their cars. I don’t know exactly how far we’d gotten, but I know they didn’t get much further. Which means we made the right choice and no one fell. The End.

Sick Sock Game, yo

Outdoorsy Part VII: Christina Wears A Poncho! And Goes To A Museum! (Another Sibling Adventure!)

My brother and I got to partake in two sibling adventures this summer! If you’ll recall, the first involved finding a large boulder at the top of a high hill. This time, we drove up to Nyack to take in a lake and some artwork.

It rained. The weather report said the rain was going to stop by the time we got to Rockland Lake. It still rained. Before getting out of the car, I was like, I guess I’m finally going to use this poncho. As my brother enumerated all of his poncho complaints from the days he wore one at the Army Navy games, I unfolded a large piece of thin plastic from its plastic pouch. And kept unfolding. And unfolding. Then I thought I ripped it only to find, no, I had to unfold more. With every unfold, I shouted and laughed with glee. I was gonna wear a poncho! (Later on, my brother commented that he was getting a little worried about how giddy I was. He simply doesn’t understand the joy of life’s little pleasures).

Getting out of the car, I draped myself and my backpack in plastic. The wind kicked up, and the plastic billowed all around me, and I laughed hysterically. I was like Glinda The Good Witch in my own plastic bubble, only instead of a poofy pink dress, I had on my hiking shoes and high socks. My hiking fashion is on point, yo. My brother opted for his orange rain coat. I have a matching one, but it’s too hot for summer attire. He took one look at me and was like, I don’t think I explained this park well. I understood why when we walked to the water. The path was paved and flat, and I was ready for the woods and the beach like on my more recent outdoorsy adventures. It didn’t matter. Hiking is hiking is walking is poncho-ing.

Clouds rolled over the lake. Purple flowers grew from the muck. We saw deer! When we first came upon them, one was on his hind legs, biting into some tree leaves. Then he stopped and stared at us as his deer friend did. We stared at them. They won the staring contest. We kept going and found a garden with a scary scarecrow. Like, scarecrows are supposed to be scary, but this one was jacked up scary. And then I found a flower that was glowing.

We made our way out of the unwoodsy park and towards the Edward Hopper House. I love Hopper’s stuff. I love the empty rooms, squares of light through door frames, lonely women in badly fitting outfits. I used to have a version of Nighthawks hanging in my college dorm room—the version where the people in the poster are James Dean and Marilyn Monroe and such. Why is that a thing? I don’t know what that’s a thing. Is that still a thing? College kids buying posters with James Dean and Marilyn Monroe? Anyway, Hopper. He’s great.

The woman at the Hopper House is also great. She was so welcoming. I think she was simply happy there were people there—it was us and another woman. A bit later, an older couple showed up, and though they hadn’t gotten tickets in advance, they were allowed in. We all had our temperature taken. The woman gave us some history of the Hopper family. When we got to a room that plays a film on a loop, she started it over for us and was concerned that we were not sitting to watch. It was a short film. We were fine.

My brother and I like to read almost everything, so we were there the longest. Actually, he reads everything, and I read almost everything. Some things I skim. And when we’re at the Baseball Hall of Fame, he reads everything all day long, and I go get ice cream after making an ass of myself by staring down statues. [Caution: Link contains photos of the past, which I don’t mind but you might].

Anyway, the exhibits were fabulous. A contemporary photographer found locations of Hopper’s painting subjects, and the photos and picture of the paintings were hung side by side. Hopper’s drawings and doodles were on display along with his paints and palette. A lot of the film and some of the drawings were about Hopper’s focus on water. I never think of him as an artist who painted seascapes, but apparently that’s half his career. I always think of the houses and rooms. My mom requested a postcard of a Hopper lighthouse; we found a bookmark instead. There was artwork inspired by Hopper. The second floor recreates his bedroom where the lighthouse light shines in at night and the Hudson is on view. The floors are magnificent.

The rain stopped by the time we were finished with the museum and said goodbye to the nice lady. We took a map of a walking tour of Hopper’s Nyack and went up and down the streets to find places he painted and views that inspired him. Then on the main drag, we went into a new agey shop (my brother was like, You can go in without me, and I was like, Really you’re not going to go in? He went in.) Then we found a bookstore, which meant we had to go into the bookstore. It was the kind of store where you can’t find anything but the guy at the counter would know exactly where it was. It’s also the kind of store that will bury you in books if there’s even a hint of an earth tremor or maybe a vibration from a large truck passing by.

While the museum taught me about Hopper’s history, my brother taught me about ice. That’s right. We had an impromptu chat while walking around the lake about the ice industry. This is what it’s like having a sibling adventure—you learn stuff. He told me he learned it because there’s a sign in the park somewhere that he read. Aha! So he doesn’t just know things. He reads them and retains them and then shares at pertinent moments that seem random. My fun facts usually are a bit more random, like Tesla had a thing for pigeons. And this is why we get along. Facts.

PS All the sepia pictures and some of the better pictures were taken by my brother, whose work can also be found here.

Outdoorsy Part VI: Orienteering

More hiking means more summer wishes came true on a rather lengthy excursion to the end of the North Fork. As a South Shore gal, I know Montauk as The End, so I wonder what everyone on the North Shore calls Orient. It’s also an end. It’s a really far end. Along the way, I saw farms. It’s that kind of far.

Upon arrival at Orient Beach State Park, a lovely woman in the booth gave me and the Captain the rundown of what to expect in the park. She told me to drive really slow because there’s no rush. It’s two miles from the booth to the parking lot, so we could look out the windows to take in the scenery. She showed me a map of how we got there from Riverhead to the point. Then she showed me another map with the park trails. When we looked at the trail map, we saw really it’s only one trail, and the map shows it magnified at several levels. We made our slow drive the two miles to the lot, and we found that the day was already heating up.

We hit the trail where it was marked Start and End. That seems surreal, but it’s not because the trail isn’t a loop. When you walk towards the booth end, you’ve gotta walk back unless you plan to walk home. We took a side nature trail for a moment and read about a guy who was there once in history, and then we went back to the normal trail because I wasn’t wearing high socks and I’d refused to put on bug spray. So onto the paved path we went.

High socks and bug spray were not necessary on the pavement. After walking a bit, we went down onto the beach. Yup, this was pretty much a trip to the end of the earth, and it was heaven. Also, there was red sand. I’ve got a penchant for any sand not sand colored.

Then I tried to make a bird friend again. Why do I stalk the birds? I don’t even like birds all that much. Captain and I even talked about how I know a lot of birders and am not into birds. He considers birds dinosaurs.

We skipped rocks. That’s right, we. I got some skipping to happen. I’m heading for the Olympics soon.

After a bit more walking, Capt. was like, This is the hottest and sweatiest I’ve ever been. I was like, Oooh look at how the sand is so pretty. He was like, Let’s find some shade. I was like, Everything is so pretty! He was like, There’s shade over there, so let’s sit. I was like, Why are you so hot? He was like, It’s boiling out here. We climbed up between some boulders and got into the shadows of some trees. Then I felt sweat literally pouring into my eyes, and I had to use the flap of my backpack to wipe it away. Actually, yes, it was very, very hot. It kind of snuck up on me.

We rested and agreed to keep going at least to the next half mile marker. But first, we broke some rules.

A breeze kicked up as we ventured to find a lighthouse. We saw one, but it didn’t look like the one on the cartoon map. I thought the one we were looking for was on the other side of the beach and the marsh. We headed back, this time taking the paved path and reading the signs along the marsh. Everything felt cooler until we hit the patch where it was maybe 20 degrees hotter. I have no idea how that happened, but for a stretch, we were drenched again. I made a plan: get to the car and blast the A/C for at least five minutes while downing lots of water. I’d brought my insulated cooler bag packed with water and coconut water that I’m drinking because I have dehydration issues lately and I don’t like drinking it but I am because I have to.

Next, we walked the beach. Captain spotted a kayak at the lifeguard station and offered to grab it so I could sit in it. I declined, pointing out that it was daylight, there were lifeguards around, and they probably wouldn’t want us to do that.

Why the kayak? I cannot quite explain this. For the past year, almost every new person I’ve encountered has talked to me about kayaks. This prompted me to remember a found poem I wrote called “Survey” that lists all the weird questions I get when I take surveys to get free stuff. One of the questions for quite some time was “Do you own a kayak?” (The poem got published in an anthology put out by one of my favorite journals, and now that journal has closed indefinitely because the editor decided to be a terrible human towards a writer and then shuttered everything. Sigh.) The surveys also asked, “Do you own a crab pot?” What the hell is a crab pot?

Anyway, the kayak thing. I decided one of my summer wishes was to sit in a kayak on land. When I shared this on Instagram, I got a slew of replies about how to possibly make this wish come true. This bolsters my point: I know kayak people. The universe is telling me something.

I can’t swim. If you are saying to yourself right now, Everyone can swim, stop that thought immediately. I get told this often. I know how to swim. I can do the doggie paddle across half a six foot pool. I do not float. Accept this, and let it go.

Therefore, I’ve never understood kayaks. I refer to them as Little Boats of Death. They are cousin to the Canoe, The Boat of Death for Two.

I learned some things walking at the beach at Orient. First, we found ourselves at another body of water. When you’re out on the end of the fork, there’s water everywhere, and we found what seemed to be half-beach-half-marsh. People were paddle boarding and kayaking. We skipped some rocks. That’s right. We. Olympics here we come. I learned that skipping rocks does not make people fall off of their paddle boards.

I also learned that some kayaks are open. I didn’t know this. I thought you were basically in the boat as part of the boat. Thirdly, some kayaks fit two people. My mind kept exploding.

Then we saw them. Kayaks on the shore. Captain sat in one. He was like, It’s a good fit. He got out. I got in. And there ya go. Wish granted.

After kayaking on land, we went around through another path and found the parking lot again. We looped back onto the beach for a final shot at rock skipping and ocean watching. Then we were done with the park, which had been filled to capacity. We never found the bug lighthouse. On the way out, I pointed out a replica of the lighthouse we did see. Turns out it was the Orient Lighthouse, which seems appropriate.

On the way back West, we stopped at The Candy Man. We got candy.

Then we stopped at the Lighthouse Museum. It was closed. We found a set of steps down to another beach. So we took them. I lost count of the steps when I saw seashells in the trees. After a few minutes of beachiness, we headed back up. I took breaks every landing because I knew if I didn’t, I’d keel over at the top. I know this because once I decided to take the stairs instead of the escalator at that subway stop where the E and the F meet and it’s vertical and maybe the equivalent to climbing a mountain, so I took my time.

We tried finding some art galleries on the way back. Whatever we found was closed. I found a library for a bathroom break, and the librarian was like, We have an art gallery upstairs. I love serendipity. And apparently my new thing is taking pictures of signs in bathrooms. You should know that I sanitize my phone a lot. Like a lot a lot.

And I love Long Island. I love that I can drive out to the ends of the earth and make my way back all in one day. I love that I can see different kinds of water and beaches. I love that I can pass by real farms and vineyards. I love that roadside stands have hand-painted signs to sell corn and honey and pie. And you can bet I’ll be heading back to have some corn and honey and pie. And there’s a whole community of kayakers that I still don’t quite understand, but I have somehow become adjacent to, and it’ll be fun figuring out why. Whatever the universe has in store for me, I’m ready for.