“I have always loved, and will always love, wild nature: Plants and animals. Places that are still intact. Though others might avoid the word, I insist that we talk about ‘love’ in conservation, because we only protect what we love. The reason we act when something threatens our family or our neighborhood is because we love these people and places. Maybe it takes a tangible threat to our home environment to make us realize that we really do love the earth.”
-- Michael Soule
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“People today have forgotten they’re really just a part of nature. Yet they destroy the nature on which our lives depend. They always think they can make something better.”
-- Akira Kurowawa, Dreams (1990)
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“I felt my lungs inflate with the inrush of scenery -- air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, ‘This is what it is to be happy.’”
-- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar (1963)
The above quotes are from the April 2018 issue of The Sun magazine (thesunmagazine.org)
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I had scheduled our “Rain & Weather Forecasts” discussion for this week, but I’ve postponed it for a week to address another subject relevant to our spring hikes.
Schedule changes are common in winter and much less so during the warmer months, but it’s necessary to make more changes for the next few weeks.
The reason: trail closures due to massive tree damage in some areas caused by that series of unusual March nor'easters, which was behind the often extended power outages experienced by millions of people living in suburban and rural areas.
If you’re a resident of NYC or another urban area you may not be aware that the damage in some areas was as severe as that caused by hurricanes Irene and Sandy.
On recent hikes we've encountered occasional downed trees and branches on trails in NY & CT, but nothing extreme, and the trails were definitely passable.
But last week I heard the bad news that the damage was especially severe on the Pennsylvania side of the 40-mile-long Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, where several of our most spectacular spring waterfall hikes take place.
Most trails in those areas are currently closed until further notice due to unsafe conditions. In some cases trees may have crushed bridges and wooden walkways that were built into some steep mountainsides, often making the trails impassible.
It's not yet clear when those trails will be reopened. Work crews will be out clearing trails and rebuilding them when necessary, but that could take weeks, months, or a lot longer, which was the case after the 2011 and 2012 hurricanes.
[Complicating things is the fact that one political party in Washington has been ruthlessly cutting the budgets for national parks (including “national recreation areas”), starving many parks of staff, meaning there’s less money and fewer employees than ever to deal with storm damage and to rebuild bridges, etc. inside the parks].
Both of the hikes on our schedule for this coming weekend were to have been in areas in PA that are now closed. I’m instead rescheduling two hikes that were cancelled in late winter or early spring due to snow issues or other reasons.
On Saturday 4/14 we’ll be (finally) doing our moderate 8-9 mile Palisades/Giant Stairs hike in NJ & NY, which includes a splendid waterfall along with terrific Hudson River vistas. And on Sunday 4/15 we’ll be offering our 6-7 mile easy-moderate hike in Manitoga/Hudson Highlands State Park, featuring another fine Hudson River vista.
I’m crossing my fingers that we’ll still be able to do our two Raymondskill Falls hikes in PA (4/28 & 5/13), which I’m leaving on our schedule for now, since the trails are wider there and less likely to be made totally impassable by fallen trees.
I’m also leaving our 5/6 Hornbeck’s Creek hike in PA on the schedule, although that one involves a deep gorge that has been badly damaged in previous storms.
I’ll be checking trail reports and we may be able to do some of those hikes if the trails are reopened in time, which definitely won’t happen for this coming weekend.
As many of you who hike with us know, no matter where we go, the wild natural scenery is almost certain to be wonderfully beautiful, the mountain vistas impressive, the air deliciously fresh, and the woods peacefully tranquil.
Over the years I’ve learned that the majority of you aren’t particular about where we hike each week and may not be disappointed by schedule changes. But if the location of a hike IS important to you, and you’d rather not go to a different location, please get in touch. You’ll get a trip credit if you can let me know by Monday noon.
Finally, spring is here, and in addition to the attractions of waterfalls, wherever we go we’ll be seeing lovely signs of the season, including new sprouting vegetation and new wildflowers every week. And on our 3/31 hike in CT we heard our first singing frogs!
-- Charlie Cook