Monday, July 27, 2009


Me on the trail.

Before moving to New York City, before the days of Dan, I used to hike. I have a book called 50 Hikes in New Jersey, and at one time, it was my goal to do all of them. At last count, I have already done 18.

I don't really hike anymore, mostly because it's inconvenient from where I live and I have a companion who doesn't express interest in the outdoors, but it's something that I really like to do. Walking in the woods is a great escape from everyday life. To me, it makes everything feel so simple. It focuses my mind and forces me to appreciate the beauty around me.

I am not an outdoorsy person at all, but I've always felt like I could be if I surrounded myself with people who were and knew what they were doing. When I was in college, I took a backpacking course, and my class took a weekend trip to the Adirondacks. We arrived in the evening and had to canoe across the giant lake in the dark to get to our camp site. It's something I would never have attempted to do alone, yet it was one of the best moments of my life. The silent and still water, the moonlight reflecting on the water, it was magical. I will never forget it. I read the book A Walk in the Woods, about hiking the entire Appalachian Trail. While the author of the book was unsuccessful and does not paint a rosy picture of the experience, if someone I knew and liked asked me to do that with them, I totally would, but it's not something I would seek out myself.

This weekend, while I was in New Jersey to visit my mom and buy my wedding dress, I decided to go on a first-time-in-a-long-time hike in Jockey Hollow. Jockey Hollow is a park close to my hometown, but it's also a historic place because it's where George Washington and his troops camped one winter during the Revolutionary War. This fact usually makes one line in the history books, but it's a big deal around here. I have done this easy 4-mile hike several times and it's so quiet and untouched that each time I do it I can't help but picture the soldiers who lived here.

The hike happened to fall on the 11th anniversary of my grandma's death so I spent most of the walk thinking of her, mostly imagining what it would be like if she came to my New Orleans wedding in May. When she was alive, grandma lived with us and almost never left the house (a trip to Bradlees was a really treat in her life) so the idea of her traveling all the way to Louisiana takes some imagination. Yet, I could see her sitting on a bench in Jackson Square, holding her cane, people watching. She would have loved it. It was pleasant to remember her in this way.

I came across a lot of wild raspberries on the trail. I recently read The Omnivore's Dilemma and there is a passage about how Western cultures are uncomfortable with eating food in the woods, like mushrooms, while people in Eastern Europe are more educated about choosing the right kind of wild produce and see nothing wrong with it. This is totally true because I am totally freaked out by it, yet when I went to Poland, they were obsessed with gathering wild mushrooms in the woods for their soups.

Normally I would never eat anything I found in the woods. However, once I went on a bike ride with my brother Pete, who I guess bridges the line between cultures, and he picked and ate wild raspberries on the side of the road, and he encouraged me to do the same. So on this hike, I decided to eat some too. They were sour and tangy but very refreshing in the heat. I didn't fall down and die as one would expect.

I noticed so many raspberries on the trail that I guessed that none of my other Westerners were taking part of the feast.
Then, on the way out of the park, I saw a group of men and women standing in some bushes. They were picking raspberries. I didn't have to listen, I could just tell. They were speaking Polish.

Wild raspberries everywhere.

A replica of a soldier's hut during the Revolutionary War.

Tree that fell over with all its crazy roots.


David said...

If you're planning to hike the Appalachian Trail, you might want to call Marc Sanford since he's already done it.

Willytheprince said...

SO fun. I miss hiking. I would have taken part in that raspberry feast.

I want to read Omnivore's Dilemma sounds interesting.

Peter said...

The raspberrys can be tart but when your on the trail excerting yourself, they taste so much sweeter. The ones in your picture look yummy! We really should hike and camp the Appalachian trail like we've been talking about forever.