A typical NYC weekend for this adventurer looks a little bit like this: sleep in late to pay down the sleep debt accumulated over the past week. Stop by the neighborhood coffee shop while pondering where to have brunch and what to do for the day. Sit down for some light reading or outdoor destination research over brunch. Jump in the rig and seek out said desination, thereby rejuvenating my spirit and preparing me for another week in the concrete jungle. So the weekly cycle goes during the cold consulting months.
This weekend's destination was Hook Mountain, near Nyack, NY. It's a hike I had discovered late in my former full-time residence in the city, but had mostly forgotten about until now. It's one of the nicest, most accessible hikes I've found close to the city, for people who have access to a car, and it offers the choice of quick elevation gain to the summit or a longer loop, both with great views of the Hudson River and Rockland Lake, apparently a major former source of ice for New York City.
There seem to be a ton of interesting restaurants in the area, so this time I settled in after the hike to a hearty dinner accompanied by craft beer (I was delighted to see a travel-friend's brew on tap) across the river in Sleepy Hollow, NY, almost ready for another busy week.
One of my city escapes came a couple of weeks ago over Valentine's Day weekend. I was feeling a certain longing for a cozy fireplace in the woods, and, having searched a bit for a cabin to rent, remembered that I have access through my family to a house in Cape Cod that conveniently contains a fireplace.
You could say I am an appreciator of weather. Nature's imposition into the flow of our modern lives and the overcoming of its impediments delight me. Thus, I was unfazed by my parents' warnings that I would be driving into a blizzard and some of the most snow the Northeast has seen in years. I'm well equipped for driving in conditions unsuitable for travel, and I was not about to let a vigorous winter storm pass me by while I was confined to a Brooklyn apartment. I set off on Saturday afternoon for the Cape, and got as far as Queens before the first flurries of snow flitted across my windscreen (when referring to a Land Rover, it seems most appropriate to use the British terminology). The next seven or eight hours offered a varied array of winter conditions, ranging from light snow to white out conditions. I passed several cars (mostly Subarus) launched into the snowbanks aside the road, and a couple of motorists, embarrassingly unprepared for the conditions, being assisted by the police.
I arrived with only exhaustion and hunger to show for my journey and spent the next half hour or so clearing a path for me to park the rig on the snow next to the driveway. The driveway itself was not an option due to the four foot snow drift blocking its uphill path. I happily spent the rest of a lovely weekend filled with lounging in front of a fire, traipsing around the windblown beach, and enjoying dinner with new and old friends close by.
It's been several months now since I last posted. Consulting in NYC is going well, and, true to fashion, has been consuming most of my time and attention. I made a decision early on that if I were going to stay longer than a few weeks in NYC, I would drive the rig back across the country in order to have my means of escape close at hand. I followed through on that decision by making the long trek across the country over Thanksgiving week, and it has proved instrumental in maintaining my sanity over the past months. Having a car in the city allows me much greater freedom and flexibility to get away on the weekends, to get a much-needed taste of the outdoors on a regular basis. As I'm settling into the long haul of a winter full of consulting work and starting to hatch ideas for my next adventurous moves, my attention turns to the piles of photos I still haven't edited down or posted from the last round of travels. As the first installment in what will hopefully become a steady series of retrospective posts, here are a few photos of the journey from San Francisco to NYC, including my glamorous Thanksgiving dinner in the only restaurant I could find still open in Nebraska.
A fairly hard reality of the adventure life is that roaming around the world, consuming gas, food, and coffee requires a certain, non-zero amount of funds. One of the things I've learned along the way is how adjustable that amount can be: living in a Manhattan apartment and dispersed camping on National Forest land occupy opposite ends of the financial spectrum, with other variables added to the equation such as restaurant eating vs. cooking for myself, sampling local coffee shops vs. brewing my own, and how far and frequently I'm traveling. Inescapable, however, is that without an ongoing source of revenue (I'm still working on that front), an adventure can continue only so long as is supported by the available funds and the rate of outflow of said funds. Unfortunately, this adventure's end is steadily approaching.
For the next six weeks [of which one has already elapsed by the time of this posting], I'll be trading my woods office for one more traditionally enclosed by walls and windows. The capable baristas of Manhattan and Brooklyn will be handling my coffee needs, and my Aeropress will get a bit of a break. I'll have a bit less time in the elements and more time in pizza shops and cocktail bars. My travel will be more focused on the tunnel between Brooklyn and Manhattan and the Northeast Corridor to Boston than on the mountains, canyons, forests, and deserts of the American West.
This change in atmosphere will facilitate consulting work that will fund the next adventure. The rig is waiting in San Francisco for me to return to the west coast, where it remains to be seen whether I'll pick a place to stop moving for a while longer or continue traveling around to new destinations (candidate next stops are still as wide ranging as ski trips to Colorado and beach camping in Baja).
My goal this round: to live efficiently in the city so as to bank enough to further the outdoor adventure as much as possible while incorporating some "woodsyness" into city life so as not to burn out by the time I return to the woods. I think I'll have succeeded if I feel a little less relieved the next time I get back to the woods.
[Author's note: I'm way behind on posting, and this was written several weeks ago. The next few posts will likely be similarly time-delayed as I churn through the thousands of photos I've accumulated in the last month and spend some time near civilization.]
Since my parents leaving Santa Fe, bringing to a close the one event adding structure to my life, I'm left with a peculiar freedom of time that can be both liberating and challenging. On the one hand...what do I do now? There are so many things. So many places yet to be explored. I could go in any direction. Just weighing the options can be daunting. On the other hand, well...here's what I did yesterday.
After packing up my camp nestled among painted hills next to the Rio Chama, just downstream from the Abiquiu Lake dam, I headed west along route 96 in northwestern New Mexico toward Chaco canyon. Admiring the vibrantly colored cliff formations to my right, I noticed a little dirt road that headed off toward a particularly stark section of exposed cliff. Why not see if it takes me to a closer view, I thought, and quickly pointed the nose of my trusty off-road contraption toward toward the rougher path. Not far along, the county road turned into a Forest Service road, and a quick glance at my Forest Service map told me it would lead me up above the cliffs to the top of the mesa. After passing through a washed out section that provided a thrilling test of my traction and ground clearance, the road quickly began to wind up next to the cliffs, gaining altitude and better views of the cliffs and valley below. Reflecting on the scenery above me and time remaining in the day, I figured it was worth taking some time to explore. I had enough daylight to spend a couple of hours looking around, and I was headed into National Forest land, so camping opportunities would be abundant if I decided to linger.
This is one of those times where a bit of exploration really pays off. The road up the cliffs was a beautiful and exciting ascent, a worthwhile adventure in itself. When I reached the top, the ecosystem changed from the scrub brush and sage of the dry desert floor to more lush ponderosa and piñon pines and grasses of alpine forest and meadow. I took a branch of the road that brought me directly above the cliffs, where I could gaze down on the same formations from above. I spotted an old antenna system there, where I could peer in through the broken door at vintage VHF equipment, seemingly abandoned. Not long after I arrived I heard the slow alarm call of peregrine falcons circling high above. The upper edge of the cliff presented itself as an excellent spot for a quick lunch, where I spotted the falcons again, now below me.
From this vantage point I could see that the mesa continued to rise and the road went on in that direction, so I opted to see if I could get to the other side and discover what views were there to be had. After a bit of a trek on a rather good road that eventually became rather bad, I reached the other side of the mesa. Right at the edge, there was an open area perfect for camping, with a fairly luxurious fire circle and a pile of fragrant piñon wood waiting to be burned. The views opened up over the whole valley I had driven through the day before, with the colored rock formations of Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings spread out below me. I couldn't pass up the opportunity, so I decided to build a fire and camp there for the night. Chaco could wait one more day.
Experiences such as this really make me appreciate the freedom of having unstructured time. To be able to discover new enchanting places and decide to spend time in them on the spot is an amazing privilege and one of the great payoffs of organizing my life for adventure and keeping plans to a minimum.