On Wednesday night, as I was planning and prepping for a hike on what promised to be a beautiful Thursday, I received a phone call from my job which advised that another manager was experiencing a family emergency and that I would need to adjust my week's schedule to cover.
Begrudgingly, I capitulated. As a devoted creature of routine, this unexpected change completely shifted my planned objectives and threatened my goal of hiking each of the 52 weeks this year. Daily life and mundane responsibilities are sometimes murderers of aspirations; the changes would leave me very little time to hike in between very long days at the office.
However, I could not bring myself to imagine abandoning my goal because of a work-related scheduling conflict and began to figure out what I could do to sneak in a short hike this week.
So, after spending Thursday, which turned out to be a truly magnificent day, at work, I woke up very early on Friday morning and headed out the door for a brief hike in the Palisades before starting another shift later in the afternoon. I hastily chose the Closter Dock Trail off of the NY-NJTC map as the path was nearby and quite short. This day was entirely different than the day before; instead of blue skies and a fresh breeze, I was met by heavy fog and steady rain.
On my way to the trail, I decided that I would extend my hike by visiting the Fort Lee Historic Park, where I was brought by my parents often as a child. The park is located in the shadow of the George Washington Bridge and features a museum housing Revolutionary War artifacts, replicas of Patriot cabins and weapons, and educational signposts which provide facts on the history of Fort Lee and its place in the fight for American independence.
The park was all but abandoned when I arrived and was much smaller than I remember. The views of NYC across the Hudson River that usually welcome visitors were completely whited-out by low-hanging fog and rain pelted my hood as I sauntered along the asphalt walking paths. I stopped from time to time to read the signposts along the way and slowly wandered over to the north end of the park.
I passed the museum building, now closed, toward the lookout nearest the bridge. As I approached the lookout, I was surprised to see a small deer grazing inside of a fenced area nearby. The racket coming from the nearby GWB seemed not to phase the creature at all as it calmly chewed on grass. I pulled out my camera and began to take some pictures.
Moments later, I was startled by another deer appearing in my peripheral as it casually wandered within 3 feet of me and through a hole in the fence to join the other deer for a bite to eat. This was truly the last place I would have expected to see "wildlife", but here at the foot of one of the busiest roadways in the country, two majestic animals were allowing me to come within a few feet and snap photos and videos with impunity.
I stared at the scene in awe for a few minutes as the animals intermittently raised their heads to glance in my direction. Eventually, I lowered my camera and put it back in my pocket. I took one last look and turned to find yet another deer standing about 10 feet behind me. Although this wasn't quite a nature area and was noisier than most places I could have gone, the presence of deer made this location feel surprisingly satisfying.
I left the park happy a few moments later and drove the short distance up the Palisades Parkway to Alpine where I would catch the orange-blazed Closter Dock Trail. I passed the Palisades Interstate Park Commission's headquarters and the Alpine Police Station and parked in the mud on the side of the road.
The path begins with an aqua blaze signifying the Long Path Trail on a tree down a small slope to the left. This trail descends down a rocky, winding path which becomes slightly more secluded each time you reach another bend. The rain continued to fall as the dock area on the river came into view through the mist.
As I came to the bottom of the path, I passed a plaque commemorating the "Old Alpine Trail". The text indicates that British troops led by General Cornwallis had landed here to attack the colonists during the Revolutionary War. However, this has been disputed and Huyler's Landing is now believed to be the location of the British landing. Nevertheless, the docks were completely deserted - only 2 bathing ducks and I looked out upon the thick, white murk that hung over the river.
I only spent a few minutes down at the edge of the water before I started back. I sprinted up the trail on the ascent as to give myself some sense of a workout and in an attempt to break a good sweat. If it isn't a strenuous hike, there are ways to make it that way. I completed my whole trip in 2 hours (including the historic park and the 10-minute drive to the trail).
This week's hike was not particularly interesting, exciting, or spectacular. The weather was absolutely horrible. It entailed no special ability, preparation, or exertion. I required no map, compass, or drinking water. Hiking the Closter Dock Trail was simply a practice in the art of dedication. When I set the goal of hiking every week of 2018, I anticipated that, at some point, circumstances might force me to alter my plans. This short, rainy hike was my answer to those unfortunate circumstances.
I truly could not come to grips with failing myself. Even if I hiked twice next week, I couldn't check the box for this week. So, this hike was unusual, short, and somewhat uneventful, but it was a hike nonetheless - hike 14 of 52 for the year.