Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Cold Day in Cold Spring

In the early hours of a cold November Sunday (meaning at about 9:00 am, which for most New Yorkers constitutes dawn on the weekend), NCT and I met one another at Grand Central Station and bought two round-trip tickets to Cold Spring, NY. Our mission: to undertake one last, gut-busting hike before a cold snowy curtain dropped on 2009. As our train sped through the Hudson River Valley, and past suburban towns that still lay quiet in the Sunday morning sunlight, we alternately dozed, watched the river, and tried to read the paper. The journey was further heightened by my inability to find a trash can anywhere on the train--the result of an anti-terrorism campaign? Or Albany budget cuts? Alas, I laid my Zabar's paper tea cup to rest in one of Cold Spring's many conveniently placed trash receptacles in front of one of its many antique shops while NCT and I meandered to the trail head. Two and half hours after leaving Midtown Manhattan, our feet were crunching dry leaves as we climbed above the Hudson.
The Cold Spring circuit trail that most hikers undertake is about six miles long, and it begins by rising sharply above the river valley before undulating along a ridge. Despite keeping relatively fit this Fall through a combination of running (NCT and me), biking (me), and kettle balling (NCT), we were both red-faced and out of breath within minutes (so much for our alpine-induced fitness). That said, we were still hiking quickly, and as a result, we reached one of the trail outcrops much faster than I anticipated; to the South we could see West Point's campus nosing into the Hudson, with the town of Garrison just across the water. To the North stood Storm King Mountain, with its fearsome, sharp face dropping straight into the river. As we climbed what had began as a sunny Fall day became cold and foggy; I couldn't help but remember the lines from William Least Heat-Moon's River Horse, which had seemed more benign in the warm fields of di Suvero sculpture. The "dim, wet cloves" that surround the mountain started to feel more immediate, and disconcertingly so.
Once the trail leveled out, and as it alternated between large, exposed rock slabs and leaf-covered depressions, NCT and I began one of our increasingly favorite hiking pastimes--of where does this trail remind you? Due to the odd foggy weather, which was soon obstructing our views and swirling the treetops in soupy mist, NCT stated the Cascades; as a result of the uniform bare trees and leaf/mud mix, I named the Finger Lakes and the Berkshires. I was about to wonder what other place(s) might evoke all three when NCT announced that it was lunchtime, and I shut up in favor of sourdough bread, sausage, cheese, Lake Champlain chocolate, and a Jonagold apple the size of my face. We sat on a giant rock and watched the fog descend.
We, too, began our descent, and as we circled back towards Cold Spring, we encountered a man who asked us our opinion of the Americans caught hiking into Iran, an abandoned dairy farm, a preternaturally cheerful golden retriever, and a mud pit the size of my apartment (hence, bigger than one might think). The sunlight returned, and even the leaves seemed greener, once we turned south along the river and walked back into town. Any visit to the Hudson River Valley involves a requisite antiques shop tour, and so NCT and I took our muddy boots into a warehouse-like store that possessed, among other things, armoires, cooking paraphernalia, and an impressive collection of 1950s Playboys. Our curiosity sated, we sat by the river and watched Storm King watching us while we ate Perry's ice cream cones.

Back on the train, and wearing every single one of my layers, I took out the Sunday crossword puzzle so that we could use our combined brainpower to finish at least half of it. We made it as far as Garrison--at which point we watched all the cadets hop off and make their way back to school--and then fell asleep. When we awoke it was dark, and the train was about to pull into one of Grand Central's tunnels. We were both quiet as the train stopped in the fluorescent station light, and after saying goodbye, we walked in opposite directions to our subway lines. I stood on the 1 train and watched some Cold Spring dirt fall off of my boots onto the car floor. Then I walked home along the pavement and under the street lamps on my block, and dreamed about next year.

No comments:

Post a Comment