Thursday, July 5, 2012

Concrete Canyons, Wacky Wildlife: America’s Greatest Hike

Rocket Dog flats, Fossil leather purse, magenta summer dress – my hiking gear is akin to an outfit worn by a Macy’s mannequin.  No, I’m not making a fashion statement.  Yes, I’ve shopped at R.E.I.  I even own a pair of hiking boots – but they’re sitting in a garage, 3,000 miles away from my new home.  When I packed my bags for Manhattan, I did not anticipate a hiker’s heaven.  Oh, was I wrong! 

My feet are sore, sweaty with swollen blisters.  It is 97 degrees outside – too hot to travel by foot.  The air is stale; it smells like sewage, body odor, and fast food.  I weave through the mazes of impatient businessmen and women, racing against the strangers and the time.  Walking home from work is my new, favorite game.  Yesterday, I made it to my apartment in 24 minutes: record time!  

My phone vibrates.  I reach into my pocket to answer the text message, all the while being careful not to disturb the fast, forward momentum.  Walking in New York is an art.  Four weeks in Manhattan have instructed me to: watch the traffic lights and not the walk signal; edge out into the middle of the road while waiting to cross the street; never, ever stop in the middle of the sidewalk; and jaywalk whenever possible (I guess my mom’s a liar.).   

Seventy miles: the distance I’ve walked in Manhattan, thus far.  I’ve hiked to, from and/or in Harlem, Korean Town, Chinatown, Little Italy, Central Park, Brighton Beach, Williamsburg, Coney Island, the Highline, Hell’s Kitchen, Washington Park, Bryant Park, Times Square, Union Square, and the Financial and Meat Packing Districts.  Unlike a natural trail, my paths are almost always indirect: curiosity, hunger, thirst, and air conditioning often lead me astray.  I can’t resist a pit stop at Sephora (for make-up and AC).  Or a slice of one-dollar pizza.  The other day, I wandered across a television shoot featuring Heidi Klum, that is, of course, after stumbling across fastpitch softball games in Central Park.

I’m almost home when an adjacent side street catches my eye.  I turn left.  Home will have to wait, as curiosity takes me away.

Jenneke Oostman, ASME Intern, Travel + Leisure

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