It’s easy to get trapped in New York City. Everything you need is here, that is part of the Big Apple allure. One day you wake up and realize you haven’t been outside the five mile radius in six months. NYC and you, you’ve become that couple, the one who spends every moment together. You need time apart, you know it’ll be good for you. But it’s not easy to pry yourself away from a love like New York, you need to be up for the challenge.
One sunny Sunday morning, three city girls woke up and decided they were up for the challenge. They put on sunscreen (no other make-up), threw on t-shirts and sneakers (outfits usually confined to the gym), packed their backpacks (a bag so functional it’s not even considered an accessory) with bottled water and snacks, and raced to Grand Central Station. After sprinting through the terminal with barely enough time to buy train tickets and coffee (both given the same priority), they boarded the 10:07 AM train with not a minute to spare. They settled into the cushioned seats of Metro North and spent the next hour watching the scenery change. The apartment towers of East Harlem fading into the manicured lawns of Westchester followed by the Hudson River landscapes of Putnam County.
A pleasant seventy minute train ride and the conductor is announcing their destination station. The town of Cold Springs: a small riverside town surrounded by considerable hills with a copious number of hiking trails all accessible from public transportation. They exit the train and survey the unfamiliar surroundings. Standing on the town’s main street, they can see a smattering of antique shops and cafes. No taxis, not a Starbucks or bodega in sight.
They decide to buy sandwiches and fruit, a picnic for the hike. An ancient deli presented itself, its painted sign woefully faded, the Hostess products on the counter giving the distinct impression they’d sat there unsold for months. The homely woman behind the counter is confused by their requests for whole wheat toast and no mayonnaise. She only has white or multi-grain bread. “Multi-grain is fine,” they say, rolling their eyes. They leave the shop, sandwiches in hand, disappointed the price was no cheaper than that of sandwiches in the city. “And they didn’t even have avocado!”
It is a land of large houses, yards, elaborate gardens, and supermarkets with parking lots. All-American fixtures, but strange to eyes accustomed to skyscrapers and shoebox apartments.
They turned around a corner, started down a path, and the next moment they are surrounded by thick woods. No other people in sight, no signs of civilization, apart from the occasional yellow trail marker. They sally forth, dappled by sunlight shining through the trees.
As they hike, they remember stories from summer camp, share plans for the summer, and check GPS from an iPhone that still has service. They befriend a toad, pose for pictures, and dish about the various men in their lives. The exclamations of “this was such a good idea”, “we should get out of the city more often”, and “it’s such a perfect day” are numerous.
They hike for several hours, stopping to eat their sandwiches (“not bad”), to admire views, and bemoan the blueberry bushes that are not yet baring fruit. They all agree this is the best exercise they could hope for and a fantastic way to spend a Sunday. “Let’s promise we will do this more often,” they vow.
They stand at a vista point. “This is higher than the Empire State Build. Breathtaking.”
The hike ends with a long stint down hill and some unsure footing. The woods ends abruptly, cut off by the highway that leads back to the town. For ten minutes they walk on the shoulder of the road, no sidewalks in these parts, passed only by the occasional car.
That hike would earn anyone an ice cream, but as city girls they opt for frozen yogurt covered in blackberries and chopped mango. The next train departs in 30 minutes: the perfect amount of time to stroll down to the river and to finish their frosty treats.
They sit by the water in the early evening and wonder if they’ll ever move to the suburbs. The thought isn’t exactly appealing, but in a future with a family- who knows? What they do know, right in that moment, is that as much as they love New York City, they love leaving New York City too.