The Antidote That’s Always There
by Roger Dubin
You won’t get coronavirus from contact with plants, dirt, rocks and animals. What you will get is a break from the stress and risk that comes from being with other people in confined spaces.
My 27-year-old daughter, Tara, who lives on Maui, texted me in mid-March: Dad I miss you. How’s it going back on the continent? Of course this text arrived overnight because of the time difference.
My text back: What a wonderful way to start the day, with a loving text from my daughter. I was doing fine till I checked the news reports about the virus.
Tara: Oh Dad, rookie mistake. You have to stay away from the news, particularly in these times.
Dad: I get that, but where I am I can’t always close myself off from what’s going on around me. Sure, for me that’s relatively easy, I just go out into the woods. But I can’t stay in the woods forever. Sometimes I have to come back into town.
And then it hit me. While I can’t go into the woods forever, I can go there whenever I want. So my answer to this pandemic is the same as my answer to many of life’s trials and tribulations: Get outside in nature—take a hike.
CDC guidelines speak to the importance of not spreading the disease. How does the disease spread? When one person who has it comes into contact with another person who doesn’t. So we went from not having gatherings of 500 or more, down to 200, then 50, and now, at the time of this writing, 10.
And what should we do when we do have to be with other people? Practice social distancing.
Social distancing is very easy out in nature. Simply walk a safe distance from any of the people you happen to be hiking with. Or go it alone.
Oh, and you won’t get the virus from contact with plants, dirt, rocks and animals. What you will get is a break from the stress and risk that comes from being with other people in confined spaces.
Schools are closed. Restaurants and other gathering places are closed. Even playgrounds are closed. Guess what? The parks and the woods are open. The walkways along the rivers are open.
Get out there and breathe in the fresh air. Maybe pick up the pace and break a sweat. Or sit quietly on a nice flat rock (or bench) and just listen to the birds, feel the wind, smell the flowers, and be free from worry for a little while.
Hug a tree! Find one with nice smooth bark. Get up close and wrap your arms around it. You can get as close as you want. Feel the energy transferring from the leaves touching the sky to the roots reaching into the earth.
My antidote to the coronavirus? Take a hike and get out into nature. Nature is always there, and it always provides. Be safe, and happy spring.
Roger Dubin is marketing director for Natural Awakenings, volunteer trail supervisor for the New York-New Jersey Trail conference (NYNJTC.org) and day hike leader and naturist for the Nature Place Day Camp (TheNaturePlace.com). Contact him at MrNaturalNYC@gmail or on Instagram @MrNaturalNYC.
In These Chaotic Times
Harriman State Park consists of a network of trails which connect with each other and can be accessed from many parking options throughout the park. This is one of the great features of Harriman because multiple hikes with different features and levels of difficulty can be fashioned from the same parking location or trail head. But you must check before you go because some areas are closed to hiking or may be particularly crowded, especially on the weekends.
For example, the Anthony Wayne Parking area, which is the largest in the park with its upper and lower parking lots, is now a NYS Drive-Through Testing center and is closed to hikers.
So, know before you go plus have back-up destinations in case parking is unavailable.
Two of my favorite destinations which are options at the time of this writing are the Reeves Meadow Visitor Center area and the Lake Skannatati area. Both are located off of Seven Lakes Drive which runs through the center of the park from Route 17 in the South to Bear Mountain in the North. Here are two hiking options, but there are many. If you go, be sure to bring a map or app.
Pine Swamp Loop
Lake Skannatati Parking Lot - This is an easy-to-moderate hike suitable for those of all ages; it’s three miles with an elevation gain of 330 feet (without the mine excursion) and has beautiful swamp and lake views with the option for more experienced hikers to explore an abandoned mine.
There’s a kiosk at the northern part of the parking lot which is the starting point. Take the Arden - Surebridge (A - SB) Trail (Blazes - Red Triangle on White background) 1.15 miles to the Dunning Trail (Yellow Blaze). Make a left turn (head south) on Dunning with the Pine Meadow Swamp to your left and an unmarked trail to the mine (for experienced hikers) on your right (about a quarter mile south from intersection). It is 0.7 mile from the A - SB trail to the intersection with the Aqua Blazed Long Path. Make a left and this is your route back to the parking lot–1.3 miles with lake views to the right.
Seven Hills Loop Trail
Reeves Meadow Visitor Center Parking Lot - This is a moderate-to-difficult rated hike. This option (just under four miles with about 900 feet in elevation gain) has some steep climbs, passes multiple vistas and then ends along the beautiful Stony Brook. There are many ways to do this loop and many other loops in the area. This one is relatively easy to follow with the least turns. It is the perfect introduction to this amazing part of the park for experienced hikers that don’t mind using their hands for help during some climbs.
Start at the trail head for the Reeves Brook Trail (White Blazes). It is on your right approximately 80 yards north from the parking lot via the Pine Meadow Trail (Red Square on White). Take the Reeves Brook Trail (White Blazes) up the mountain enjoying views of the beautiful, cascading Reeves Brook to your left. After a number of hills, you will reach the intersection with the Seven Hills Trail (Blue Square on White blaze - 1.35 miles). Make a left turn and head north. Here will be your biggest challenge: a steep hike up a ravine where you will be greeted at the top with sweeping views. Continue for 1.2 miles over additional vistas to the Pine Meadow Trail. Here there are multiple options for side trips and your return, but the easiest and most direct way back to your car is to make a left turn on the Pine Meadow Trail (Red Square on White) and head west back to the parking lot, 1.2 miles away.