Tag Archives: hiking

Van Slyke Castle

One of the things I’ve really come to love about living on the East Coast (yes, there might actually be more than one, although I’m not sure of that) is the presence of history, thick history, everywhere. The buildings are old, the roads are old – and best of all, there are ruins to be found, all over the place. I love it. I love it when we’re out hiking and come across surprise ruins – but there’s a lot to be said for the ones we go seeking, as well.

There happened to be a day recently when we rented a car to take care of some errands. And since those errands were only going to take a couple of hours, we decided to drive somewhere we would never normally be able to go. After a little research, and based mostly on this link, we decided to go to Ramapo Park where we could explore Van Slyke Castle.

It was so worth it.

The first part of the trail we took to the ruins. the Indian Head Trail, was built by a (possibly very crazy) man named Joseph “Ace” Tachine. Which I wouldn’t have known, except for the fact that his name was all over the place.



And why was the trail so named?



Tons of those. All over.

The trail got less crazy, though, and after an easy meander along a long, narrow, glacially-formed lake, we headed up a tiny mountain for the ruins. And up. And up.



It was excellent.



And while there is no part of me that is actually capable of imagining what life in this house must have been like, I’m glad that someone one hundred years ago decided to be a crazy rich person and built the house of their dreams.




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D is for delightful

Dear everyone,

As any serious vitamin hound knows, supplements are only a small portion of the discussion when it comes to making sure a human is adequately nourished. They are, in fact, the final line of defense, after good diet and a healthy lifestyle fall by the wayside. Eating your rainbow of vegetables and getting outdoors in direct sunlight are vital components of holistic health.

Which is a good part of why I feel so fan-freaking-tastic this evening – I got outside, in the sunshine, for a good 6 hours today. That’s more sun than I’ve gotten since winter began, and my body is therefore synthesizing more vitamin D than it has considered making in months. (To be truly nerdy, I will mention that vitamin D is not, strictly speaking, a vitamin, since a nutrient is only considered a vitamin if it can’t be made by our bodies, and must be consumed in food or supplements.)

Where was I soaking up all of this gorgeous sun? Hiking, of course, in 25 degree weather with a wind chill that put it down around 10 degrees today.

pine meadow 2(Pine Meadow Lake photo thanks to Raven, since my camera battery died in the first half hour.)

Despite the cold and wind that cut like little knives, there were pockets of stillness where the day felt nearly warm. And after this long winter of cooped-up-ness, and the recent move to an office where there are no windows of any kind, this day in the bright light was exactly what I needed to reset my mood.



After a hike that involved only minimal slipping and sliding on the ice, we got back to town to realize that there was still an hour before our bus. The relentless wind and cold were starting to wear us both down, so we decided to kill some time at Rhodes North Tavern, where I ate all of the fried food in the world, and nothing was ever so delicious. (Seriously, if you find yourself windblown and chilled to the bone, their fried zucchini will be the center of your world and make everything feel better than you could have dreamed.)

I’m not sure how fried zucchini (and sweet potatoes… I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fried sweet potatoes that I ate, as well) play into a lesson about getting adequate sunlight. Nonetheless, I’m pretty sure the joy that came from hot fried food gave me a jolt of some kind of vitamin – perhaps it was just the fun vitamin, in which I’ve been severely deficient lately.




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Go for a walk

Yesterday was the kind of golden, sun-bright, autumnal day that I will be dreaming about in the dead of winter.  Cool enough to want a light jacket, but not so cold that falling in a stream made my day miserable. I barely knew they made days as beautiful as this.

Light and shadow and all of the colors of the rainbow, except for purple. There was not a lot of purple out yesterday.

Raven and I took the bus to the bus shelter on Route 17 and walked to the Parker Cabin Hollow trailhead. We made our way to Lake Stahahe, stopping for lunch at Stahahe High Peak – at the end of an unmarked trail we’d never taken before. Having taken it, it’s unclear why we hadn’t done so before. But we will again.

Then it was onward on the Nurian trail and back to Southfields to catch a 4:40 bus. We ended up looping all the way back to the bus shelter on 17, since we had an extra half hour and I didn’t want to sit and wait for our bus on the side of the road. Such a princess.

Red Apple Rest continues to be delightfully dilapidated and abandoned, and I continue to love to take pictures of it.

I have not been as present-minded as I would like, lately – too much what if and but you said going on for me to be focused and centered. Even yesterday, crunching through ankle-high piles of red and gold leaves, I found myself dwelling on things I cannot change, but also can’t accept. Eventually, though, I slipped into the present, and fell into the golden afternoon. It was such a relief to do so.

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Here is a terrible picture of an amazing spider:

While taking a break in one of the gazebos at Castle Rock Unique Area (a name I love nearly as much as I love the place itself) during a Sunday hike,  Raven* spotted a stunning orb web. He pointed it out it to me, and as I shifted on my bench to see it better, a large fly bumbled into the web.

“Oh,” Raven laughed, “someone is going to be lunch.”

We watched as the fly struggled, neither of us inclined to intervene in something that is very much not our business.

“Wait! Is that the spider?” Raven pointed at a solid yellow lump on the gazebo ceiling, directly above the center of the web. It was large for a spider, bigger across than a quarter and, with her legs pulled in, looked more like a bit of art than an arachnid. Even as my brain wanted to deny that this could possibly be the spider that made this web, she unfolded her legs and made her way down a guyline to investigate the hubbub below.

There is a strange majesty to meaty bugs (yes, we can quibble about that word), those creatures that cross the threshold from incidental members of a biomass to individuals with their own weighty presence. This one moved like a sea creature, like a nightmare, like something with her own story who doesn’t need some soft pink creature to tell her story. Despite knowing full well that orb weavers aren’t the bite-iest (it’s a word now!) spiders, my instincts told me to shy away, to give this lady her distance while she made good on her lunch. And despite my best efforts to focus on the fascinating structure of the abdomen, the incredible speed with which the fly was wrapped, removed and consumed at a distance, my OH GOSH EW GROSS instinct was in full overdrive.

So, my hands were shaking – ever-so-slightly but enough – while I took her picture, trying to capture a piece of a world that I don’t think about that frequently. Spiders and their meals fill the world, but I am often far too invested in thinking about whether my pants make me look terrible. (Hint: they do.)

Moments like this are moments that reconfirm my devotion to the world outdoors, valuable reminders of our ultimate smallness, our relative unimportance. We humans may build the world’s infrastructure, but the world will go on without us. We may trigger (or have already triggered) catastrophic climate change that will make this beautiful world unlivable for us and most of the creatures on it. But when it has worked through the damage that we’ve done, when we are only a part of the planet’s memories, when mile-high glaciers have scraped our proud cities flat, someone like that spider and someone like that fly will appear again, and live their lives of tension and survival, and never miss the humans they never knew. And for whatever reason, that very fact makes me want to be a better world citizen, to do as little ill as possible and spend as much time watching spiders (birds, frogs, chipmunks etc.) as I possibly can.

*No-duh disclaimer: my husband’s name isn’t Raven, but I don’t think it’s fair to use his real name – especially when there are people on the internet who want to know more about him than he’d care to share. Raven isn’t even his totem animal of choice, but they share enough traits that the name is apt and natural to me.


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