hiking the manitou point preserve

I love hiking. It is one of my favorite things to do. I had given it up a few times in the past due to knee and foot injuries and that hurt my soul. One thing that I have learned from my recent diagnosis with Endometriosis is that I can’t let anything hold me back from doing the things I want to do NOW because someday I might not be able to do them. Live in the moment.

I made a loose plan to take the Metro North train to Manitou Point Preserve to go hiking on Sunday. I almost miss my train at Grand Central at 7:40 am because they are filming a movie and the entire crew is taking up the entranceway to the main terminal. I have to run and the ticket guy says I have 3 minutes to catch my train! OH, 3 minutes is plenty of time to get a cup of coffee!

The train ride is only an hour north, but the train only stops at Manitou twice in the morning and a few times in the afternoon so timing is critical. The Manitou stop has no stores, restaurants, or public bathrooms – nothing. There is just nature and that is all I need today.

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I get off the train and look around. On one side of the tracks is a little rocky beach area along the Hudson River and on the other side of the tracks is a small road with a spectacular view of the Bear Mountain Bridge past the marsh land full of cattails and bluffs. I great place to learn to paint a memorable landscape to hang on your wall.

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It is a warm early summer day with clear skies and the sounds of frogs in the marsh area are wonderful to hear! It’s been a long time since I’ve made a trek up north to go hiking.

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I continue down the road and see this sign to my left. I find out later that this is the back trail to the Manitou Point Preserve. Most of the land is now private properly and it clearly marked as to where hikers are allowed to go.

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I get a few feet down the path and see a few abandoned buildings, most of the roof and some of the walls are gone so it’s an easy place to explore and fun to photograph. I see a lot of these little orange salamanders on the ground. I’m glad they are bright orange so I don’t step on them because they never move out of my way.

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There is only approximately 4 miles of trails in the Manitou Point Preserve, but there are several trails to take to make it an entire day hike. I want to be on the blue trail because it extends along the Hudson River giving us a great view of the mountain region. The trail is dense and secluded and I enjoy the 4 miles through the woods. The trails are all clearly marked and easy to navigate on your own. It’s a great solo day hike if you are searching for a quiet break from the city.

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The path winds around until I get a view of the Hudson River – it is amazing! The path is literally on the edge of the river bank with drop offs close to your hiking boot. I can see the water hitting the rocks down below. I sit and catch a snack and some water and enjoy the view.

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You are looking at the The Taconic Mountains or Taconic Range, running along the eastern border of New York State, going northwest to Connecticut to western Massachusetts, north to central western Vermont. Some of the summits of this range are quite magnificent to view in Vermont. It is part of the Appalachian Trail also. 

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I continue on the blue trail which is starting to lead me back into the woods, towards the railroad tracks. The path goes over a small bridge where you can see the Metro North train from above. I start to walk up the other road and see a small waterfall and stone bridge. There are large brown salamanders all over so it’s hard to sit and eat my sandwich.

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I walk further up and find the parking lot and main entrance to the Manitou Point Preserve. There are a few cars in the parking lot but I only saw a few people along the trail in the 4 hours I was out there. I felt like I had the entire place to myself.

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I hike back down to the train because there is a train at 1:40 pm and 4:40 pm only and I need to catch it one of those trains. I had finished the hike much faster than expected. Well, I didn’t know what to expect. I had just planned to go somewhere I had never been and explore.

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I have plenty of time to sit on the rocky little beach I saw earlier and eat my lunch. I had packed a sandwich, snacks, and plenty of water because I knew there wasn’t anywhere to go. If you hike this area make sure you are prepared. I always pack more food than I can eat. If you hiked with me you know that I am always eating on the trail.

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The view of the Hudson River is wonderful here! If you want a simple day hike with an amazing view then come to Manitou Point Preserve!

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Well, the train came on time and I was sad to leave. I had a great day hike. I estimated that I hiked approximately 8 miles total and my knee was a bit tight and sore later on that night. All good. I am looking forward to my next hike!

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in need of beach therapy

It’s 42° out and I am taking the bus to Far Rockaway for some “beach therapy” this morning. I’ve spent the last few weeks at home lying on the couch recovering from surgery. The most excitement I’ve had is walking six … Continue reading

happy new year 2014

New Year’s Eve is a chance to celebrate, to anticipate wonderful things can happen in the new year. Take a moment to truly reflect on what you have accomplished before you make resolutions of change. Recognize this opportunity to make a commitment to become better in our career, relationships, and passions. The last few months of a few difficult times and hard work have brought unexpected rewards and given me more courage and strength to pursue my goals, the support and encouragement I’ve received has been astounding from friends, family, and fellow volunteers. I am so very GRATEFUL! No matter how you celebrate tonight, be SAFE out there. I wish a HAPPY, healthy, and wonderful NEW YEAR 2014 to all my friends and family!

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i’m in miami b*tch…

This year we decided to travel to Miami for our long Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Our flight on Wednesday was on time despite the rainy cold weather threatening the skies of New York. The weather forecast was telling us that rainy ice and snow was on the way and we were anxious to leave our winter coats behind and enjoy the nice sunny weather in Florida! :)

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The cold front followed us to Miami for a few days but I definitely enjoyed 60 degree weather over 20 degrees and snow! We spent four days exploring Miami’s sandy beaches, eating seafood at several restaurants, and window shopping at all the local stores.

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The beaches in Miami are absolutely breathtaking! It is my first time in Miami and I fell in LOVE with the area! I also noticed the beaches were very very clean especially around the resorts and hotels. I saw several city workers emptying the trash cans and sweeping the paths through 0ut the day. My time on the beach would not be complete if I didn’t do my part. I walked the beach early each morning picking trash and enjoying the sunshine.

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I found a few mylar balloons stuck in the bushes near the beach and a few beer cans by the paths but otherwise my bag was still half empty after an hour on the beach. It was really nice to see the beach so clean.

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One small defender of the sandy beach of Miami! I found this little plastic toy and a few blue creatures on my second day of beach cleaning while on vacation in Miami Beach! And I found out later these are NOT jellyfish, they are  Portuguese Man O’ War (which are actually siphonophores). Apparently their stings cause excruciating pain and can grow up to 165 feet in length!

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Any time that I am able to sit and relax on the beach I am HAPPY! It was a great vacation! :) We are already planning our next trip to Florida.

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We rented a car one day and drove down to the Florida Keys. We only had time to stop in Key Largo for a quick half day of exploration. On the way we drove through the southern part of the Everglades. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to take a hike or fan boat through the Everglades but that is on our list for our next trip.

Key Largo is the northern most part of the Florida Keys and is 33 miles long and still connected to the mainland and is called the “Diving Capital of the World” because the living coral reef a few miles offshore attracts thousands of scuba divers, and fisherman, and explorers. The weather was windy and the sea was rough so our snorkeling plans were canceled for the day. This tropical area is quite different than what I pictured though. We found out that because it is on the coral reef there is no sand and all beaches here are man made. The shoreline is generally rocky with limestone and fossilized coral and caprock.

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We drove into the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Here you can rent a kayak, canoe, or go snorkeling or take a tour in a glass bottom boat to check out the beautiful coral reef. The park covers approximately 178 nautical square miles of coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove swamps. The park extends 3 miles into the Atlantic Ocean and is approximately 25 miles in length. These areas were established to protect and preserve the living coral reef here in the United States.

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The visitors center has a 30,000 gallon saltwater aquarium to view living coral and exotic fish. We learned a lot about the coral reef and the Florida Keys. I’ve traveled quite a bit in my  lifetime so far; swimming in the Mediterranean Sea in France, kayaking the bays of the Atlantic Ocean, exploring the beaches of the Pacific Ocean in Northern California, and fishing on the Mississippi River, but nothing compares to the feeling of being on the coral reef in a tropical area that holds so much diverse living organisms and beauty.

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We took the short hike through the Mangrove Trail in John Pennekamp State Park. In all my hiking adventures I’ve never seen mangrove trees and it was exciting to explore. The trail was secluded and we were left alone with the sound of birds and frogs in the dense mangrove forest.

Thanks to the net, I learned that a mangrove tree thrives in salty environments because they are able to obtain freshwater from saltwater. Some secrete excess salt through their leaves, others block absorption of salt at their roots. In Florida, there are over 469,000 acres of mangrove forests and are very important to the ecosystem of the southern coast. Unfortunately, these areas are not all protected and urban delevelopment is the main reason for the decline of this ecosystem. The mangrove trees provide shelter for fish and shellfish, and food for some marine life. They also provide food for a multitude of marine species such as snook, snapper, tarpon, jack, sheepshead, red drum, oyster, and shrimp. Florida’s important recreational and commercial fisheries will drastically decline without healthy mangrove forests.

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In Key Largo, we stopped for dinner at Jimmy Johnson’s Big Chill Restaurant. We relaxed on the waterfront deck sipping margaritas and eating fresh Key Largo Mahi Mahi steak and Old Bay peel n eat steamed shrimp and homemade conch chowder. After the sun set behind the clouds, we walked over to the tiki bar for one more drink  with the locals to celebrate our day of adventure in the Florida Keys.

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We had a few hours to drive through downtown Miami and see the cruise ship terminals at PortMiami. This area is known as the cruise capital of the world and the cruise ships are a sight to see if you are ever in the area. Miami’s unique geographic position makes the Port easily accessible to Caribbean and Latin American markets, as well as those of Asia and Europe by way of the Panama Canal.

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The marina here is filled with fishing boats, shopping, and bars. It was a great place on the water to enjoy lunch and watch the ships come in.

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On our last night in Miami, we took a taxi to South Beach and walked Ocean Avenue and found CJ’s Crab Shack for dinner. It was rated the best place for crab! My boyfriend ordered a bucket of steamed blue crab and I ordered the stone crab legs and garlic shrimp. It was delicious!!

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Miami was a great vacation! The last few months have been stressful and we needed some time to relax and unwind and spend some quality time together. Miami offered us both our favorite things to do and see and our memories will last forever.

Exploring new places expands our perception of  life and gives us a better understanding of our inner self and the world around us.

Adventure and love both make me HAPPY! :)

raking leaves in astoria park

Brrrr! It is a cold November morning but I am eager to get to Astoria Park to volunteer with New York Cares and the Astoria Park Alliance. Astoria Park is 59.96-acres city park that runs along the East River in Queens that has many beautiful trees which means ALOT of leaves to rake in the Fall!

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The Astoria Park Alliance is a GREAT organization that was started in 2007 to create a bridge between the community surrounding Astoria Park and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. Volunteers and supporters assist in keeping the park maintained and clean and bring awareness to the community. They hold many fun events such as Leaf Fest and the NY Cupcake Run to encourage people to become more involved in Astoria Park and the community.
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Even though the weather was chilly that morning, a large group of volunteers arrived and within a few hours we filled over 100 bags of leaves! And it was nice to hear that most of the black garbage bags we used to fill with leaves are re-used from previous volunteer events in the park.

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Build It Green! NYC is a nonprofit that takes in salvaged material such as doors, windows, and wood from construction sights, supplier, and other sources to stop these items from going in the landfill. Most of these items are sold in their warehouse and some are donated. This is a GREAT idea! Reuse! Recycle! AND Build It Green! NYC has a program called BIG!Compost that works very hard to increase the participation and acceptance of composting. They supplied a truck and driver on Saturday to come pick up all the leaves we raked to compost at their facility. This compost will later on be used as mulch for city parks.

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It had been a really stressful week for me so it was great to get outdoors and enjoy being outside in my favorite park and participate in a fun volunteer event! :) HAPPY!

gardening with the good friends of gantry

I arrived at Gantry Plaza State Park early to sit by the water to enjoy the spectacular view of Manhattan skyline while I enjoyed my cup of steamy black coffee. Since this park is a short commute away from both my apartment and the studio I visit here often. I love to ride my bike down to the water early in the morning and relax on the hammocks and read a good book.

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I signed up for the gardening project earlier in the week on the New York Cares website. We were also teaming up with the Friends of Gantry Plaza State Park, a non-profit organization dedicated to maintaining this beautiful East River park since 2001, along with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation.

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On their website, the Friends of Gantry Plaza State Park state their mission “…is to enhance the quality of life in Long Island City, NY, by promoting awareness of, concern for and participation in the publicly accessible green and open space in the neighborhood and along the waterfront.”

At 10 am we met up with Theresa, our Project Leader from New York Cares and Bill Bylewski, the President of Friends of Gantry Plaza State Park. We signed our waivers and volunteer service agreements that are mandatory to fill out each year to volunteer at this park because it covers a person with insurance in case of an accident.

Each volunteer gets a bright green vest to wear  that were supplied by New York Cares during I Love My Park Days which is a great idea because it shows park goers that volunteers are maintaining the park they are enjoying and to encourage them to ask us how to participate as a volunteer if they are interested as well. And a vest goes on top of any outfit!

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A big THANK YOU to Anne, Irene, and Anika for allowing me to photograph their hard work in the rose garden and allowing it to be on my blog. Everything that is done by the Friends of the Gantry is on a volunteer basis, including all the office work that goes into a non-profit organization.

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As we worked we talked about the park, our lives, and our volunteer experiences. It’s always nice to hear others passionately share their volunteer experiences with me. Some volunteers were new to this park and loved the view and the beautiful gardens. It’s surprising to find out how many people are not aware this park exists. Come to Queens and visit us more often!

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After weeding the rose gardens I strolled over to the outdoor cafe to check out the menu. A fresh pot of coffee was graciously brewed for me. I needed more coffee!  :)

I love, New York Cares

After moving to New York, I was searching for a new volunteer opportunity, and I found an organization called New York Cares. It is the city’s largest volunteer organization, running volunteer programs for 1,300 nonprofits, city agencies, and public schools. They have almost 56,000 volunteers signed up right now. New York Cares has many different programs and volunteer opportunities.  They also show if the volunteer opportunity would be something good for children, families or groups. After a quick orientation meeting you can go to their website and just sign up for any program that you are interested in at the time that is convenient for you because we both know that life never slows down.

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A few projects I have participated in have been: to clean, revitalize and garden in Astoria Park in early summer, spread mulch and weed flower beds in Riverside Park in the fall, played sports with children with disabilities for KEEN at  the East 54th Street Recreation Center, served water and snacks during the 5 Boro Bike Race,  and helping out at the Long Island City cat sanctuary owned by Bobbi and the Strays. I have had a lot of much fun and gained a lot of experience by volunteering. I have met some amazing people and made a few friends. I’ve learned a lot about the city as well.

If you would like to get involved please go to www.newyorkcares.org and sign up for an orientation. If you want to donate go to http://www.newyorkcares.org/donate_now/. New York Cares also has several opportunities to donate your time to the Hurricane Sandy Relief efforts.

Most of these organizations would be not running without the help of their volunteers. It’s a great and easy way to volunteer your time and give back to the NY community. We all have our reasons to donate our time and we all have different reasons why it makes us HAPPY!