Monday, November 14, 2005

An amble through the Ramble

After 15 years of living in New York City, I finally discovered the Ramble.
OK, maybe that's just a bit of an exaggeration: last year, I went bird watching in the Ramble with Brian's second grade class (there are something like 230 species of bird populating the Ramble). But for the most part, I have pretty much stayed far far away from anything remotely "offroad" in Central Park (remembering the stories from the 1970's about the Ramble being home to gay men cruising and occasitionally getting murdered...silly of me really, given that our fine city has long since been Giuliani-ized and has now become a regular Bloom-burgh). Instead, I kept mainly to Central Park's main six-mile loop for runs, long bike and in-line skate rides and even for strolling with the many strollers and "Baby Joggers" I have owned over the years.

But the addition to Lewis the Beagle to the Yoga Chickie clan has created a need for off-road adventure. In the past month, I've been feeling the pull of the "wilderness", or at least the "wilderness" as distilled down for consumption by a city girl like myself. It's either that, or the endlessly monotonous sidewalks or, even worse, the dreaded Carl Schurz Park dog run, where Lewis has already been mauled by a alpha Pit Bull named Beta (!!!), and where the stench of urine wafts softly over the dank, dusty pebbles and where everyone needs a bath immediately upon returning home. And so, borne out of need, I have begun to explore the off-road adventures with which New York City so subtly beckons.

Last week, I began by exploring the woodsy areas of Carl Schurz Park, which for many years I have associated solely with its large, elaborate playground. Now, I am seeing it in a whole new light, what with its two (smelly, dirty) dog runs, and Gracie Mansion's HUGE backyard, which in the past my children have used for sleighriding, but which now serves as a wonderful place for Lewis to romp on grass and fallen leaves and pine needles (and the occasional stinky female ginko fruit, blech; thanks, Japan!). In addition, there are plenty of hidden grottos, including the one that houses the Peter Pan Statue.

This weekend, Adam and I decided to venture Central Park and beyond to visit the dog run at the Musem of Natural History, all the way on West 79th Street, between Columbus and Central Park West. It was a lovely walk through mostly the main roads of Central Park, but the dog run was, alas, just another dog run. And, in fact, it was a bit worse than the dog run at Carl Schurz Park because of the people whose dogs were there. Nasty people. Right before my very eyes, some bitch woman started smacking Lewis over the head with a rope leash.

When I asked her what the hell she was doing, she told me that Lewis was "attacking" her dog, "And I spent way too much money on this dog to have your aggressive mutt attacking her for no reason."

Excuse me?

"My dog doesn't have an aggressive bone in his body," I explained calmly. I was watching and listening to the whole thing. They were wrestling. No teeth. No barking even!"

"Your dog was attacking my dog!" was her reply.

"Actually, your dog is a Chow Chow, right?" I asked.

"Yes, and I paid a LOT for her."

"Well, Chow Chows have a tendency toward aggression. Not beagles or bassetts, which my dog is."

She harumphed her way out of the dog run. I guess she really didn't want her expensively bred fighting dog to be fraternizing with the riff raff pound puppies like mine. OK, Buh bye!

Dog runs kinda suck.

Thus Adam and I were happy to venture back through Central Park, seeking the quiet of the not-so-beaten path. We entered the Ramble somwhere south of the Puppet Theater on the West Drive and somewhere north of where the "Guitar Guy" has always played his James Taylor songs. And as soon as we did, we knew we were not in "Kansas" anymore.

The paths, when visible at all, are a mere yardstick wide.

Lots of them are covered with a light dusting of leaves, pine needles and woodchips.

The trees surrounding the paths grow so tall that the Ramble feels like a dark forest. Adam and I kept calling it the "Enchanted Forest".

And everywhere you look, there is some sort of visual treasure...

...a bench made completely out of tree trunks hewn together with rope and wooden nails, a skinny set of stairs made out of slabs of rock that lead from one clearing to another...

...a huge clearing in the middle of it all where a lone three-legged dog ran free of his leash while his people looked on with pride, a skinny brook with a narrow winding path snaking up its side, leading to another clearing...

a really cool rock formation/sculpture...

and one of the coolest bridges I have ever seen - the tunnel beneath it is a mere five feet across...

(another view of the bridge)

It is really awe-inspiring, especially when you consider it is right there in the middle of Central Park, right there in the middle of Manhattan, a cement island in the middle of New York City. Of course, in truth, "the 38-acre Ramble is an artificially created wild part of Central Park featuring rocks, trees, and a stream which can be turned on or off with a water tap. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the Ramble was one of the first parts of Central Park to be built in New York City." (source: Vacation Thus, the Ramble is in actuality,a highly developed, carefully architected "wilderness".

Nevertheless, the Ramble is a wonderful place to go on a gentle hike, to take an imaginative hound (e.g. Lewis) on a long imaginary squirrel hunt, to bond with your kids (or, I suppose, a lover...we saw some of those too). If it weren't for Lewis, I never would have bothered. So glad I did!


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Copyright 2005-2007 Lauren Cahn, all rights reserved. Photos appearing on this blog may be subject to third party copyright ownership. You are free to link to this blog and portions hereof, but the use of any direct content requires the prior written consent of the author.

About Me

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Northern Westchester, New York, United States
I live by a duck pond. I used to live by the East River. I don't work. I used to work a lot. Now, not so much. I used to teach a lot of yoga. Now not so much. I still practice a lot of yoga though. A LOT. I love my kids, being outdoors, taking photos, reading magazines, writing and stirring the pot. Enjoy responsibly.


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