In my last post, I mentioned how hiking the Appalachian Trail is, on the whole, a more challenging endeavor than hiking on roadsides from town to town. But in one big way the trail is in fact easier- it's literally a beaten path, where thousands of hiker feet tread each year. Consequently, there are loads of books detailing how to plan an Appalachian Trail hike, where to sleep and find facilities along the way, as well as numerous first-hand accounts of people's hikes.
Now I'm probably not the first (though off-hand I don't know of anyone else) to hike the length of the USA in the way I'm doing, but suffice it to say, I've never come across anyone's account of their "roadhike." So naturally there's a good amount of logistical planning that I have to figure out on my own. One such hurdle occurred to me when I was plotting my way into New York City. Originally I had hoped to hike across the Hudson River at Bear Mountain, about 30 miles north of the city, down through Harriman State Park and Bergen County, and then into NYC. From there I would go the length of Manhattan, into Brooklyn, across the Narrows Bridge into Staten Island and on into Central Jersey.
It sounded good, but unfortunately, when I checked on the availability of pedestrian walkways on bridges, I found out that walking across the Narrows Bridge was not an option. So that meant that if I wanted to hike around NYC without backtracking, I would have to come down through Westchester County and the Bronx (!), into and around Manhattan, and then out the George Washington Bridge into Jersey.
Which is what I am doing. Currently, I've made it as far as 96th Street and Broadway on the Upper West Side of Manhattan- where I left off yesterday around midnight. Today and tomorrow are off days in NJ, spent seeing friends, family, and searching for teaching jobs next year. But the last three days, I hiked through the Bronx, all over Manhattan, and even briefly set foot in Brooklyn.
Aside from seeing the sights, highlights in New York include the incredulous stares I received hiking around the city, showing three German navy officer cadets around the Lower East Side, stopping off at Yankee Stadium, posing for pictures with Slovenian tourists, making a pilgrimage to Ground Zero, and taking time for a game of Scrabble with the locals in Washington Square Park (I won easily, after playing the word "recoils" for 79 points). But most of all, I've most appreciated the continued generosity of all those I meet along the way, including a Guyanan immigrant who bought me an iced tea in the Bronx, three immigrants from Honduras who gave me $35 in cash on the spot on the Grand Concourse to donate to Fisher House, and a couple of women from upstate New York who also gave me an impromptu unsolicited donation. You all keep me going and give meaning to my hike on a daily basis, and I thank you tremendously for doing so!