Here’s an easy-breezy way to find great hikes if you live in the North East (Washington, DC to Maine): join the Appalachian Mountain Club. The AMC offers day hikes, as well as weekend trips and longer treks (including international ones) year round, and they also lead kayaking, mountain biking, rock and ice climbing trips and other outdoor activities (birdwatching, anyone?) The AMC is a non-profit group, and your membership dues ($40/year) go to maintaining trails, education, and lobbying to protect parks.
Last weekend I hiked in the northern section of NY’s Harriman State Park (near Bear Mountain) with AMC folks and it was great. There were about 16 of us and 2 leaders (seasoned AMC volunteers who really knew the trails) and we hiked 12 miles at a brisk pace. “Brisk,” by the way, means “no joke,” – my friend Dara (just back from The Island Experience!!!) and I were impressed and more than once my inner dialogue went something like, “Go go go go, you can keep up, just dig,”…which I did. (Note: hikes are rated on a scale of 1-5 for speed and this was a 4. Elevation and mileage are also noted so you know what you are signing up for. We chose a fast hike but slower and shorter ones were and are offered.) The best part was the hike was stress-free: I could talk with folks or be quiet and mentally drift off and meditate on the boots of the person in front of me, and either way, I knew we were in good hands and I could just enjoy the experience and not worry about maps and compasses and all that. Someone else, metaphorically, was driving. Ahhhhhh.
We met at the Harriman train station right off of rt. 17W (1 hour’s drive/train ride from NYC) and from there caravanned to the trailhead parking lot nearby on Rt. 6. The hike started on the Long Path and crossed the Appalachian Trail before connecting with the RD and 1777 trails, and along the way we passed streams, a few eagles, some wooden lean-to’s for overnight hikers and finally a big gorgeous lake the looked perfect for a dip (a bathing suit is going in my pack, next trip, for sure.) We started at 10:15 and returned to our cars, mellow, happy and accomplished, at 4 pm – long day, great day. And oh yeah, the leaders gave us cookies. (Note to self: Must investigate why everything tastes one billion times better on the trail…)
A few summers ago, I hiked a hut to hut circuit in the Presidential range in New Hampshire (Mt. Washington, Mt. Madison, Mt. Pierce) with the AMC and I loved it. The huts provide dinner and lodging (you sleep in your sleeping bag inside a big cabin) and we carried backpacks but no tents. My trip was four days/three nights but you can sign up for different durations. It was a great experience, even with the wacky Mt. Washington weather. Dooooo it. Just bring your smile and your Gore-Tex. The AMC also introduced me to Breakneck Ridge, my all-time favorite NYC dayhike.
See you on the trails! xxoo S