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Friday, 22 May 2009

The Hike

By Lyn Burnstine of The Lynamber Times

Jean, my friend for half a century , is my age. Usually when we get together, it’s for lunch or to check out a thrift shop. When we were younger, she, her husband and I camped out sometimes. Over time, we gradually moved to cabins, an old farmhouse and finally a motel at night after enjoying the daylight hours at a campground. So why did we - two slightly-crippled old ladies - end up struggling up an incline on a hiking trail in the woods?

Well, it was kind of a series of small mistakes and pretty much my fault. Jean has a forgiving nature –after all, she, a devout Methodist minister’s wife, has forgiven me being a Unitarian Universalist all these years as well as a frequently blasphemous utterer of “Oh, God,” and “Jesus” when I’m startled. So I feel confident that we’ll still be friends.

It all started with a phone call from her, suggesting that I check out the special activities at historic restorations as part of the Hudson Valley Ramble, and choose someplace I’d never been. I chose Wilderstein, a historic house I’d always wanted to see.

The website said the grounds were open daily free of charge. Since we couldn’t find a mutually free week-end to take the house tour, we decided to take our picnic lunch and enjoy the grounds.

Mistake #1 - I didn’t download the trail map, assuming there would be one there. Jean drove over from Kiamesha Lake, then I drove us on up to Rhinebeck, stopping at interesting libraries and bookstores, and pointing out local scenery. The entrance to the house and grounds was chained off.

I had expected to be able to walk around the manicured lawn – mistake #2. A sign pointed ahead to a parking lot for the trails. When we reached the parking lot we ate our picnic sitting on the log border in lovely fall sunshine. So far, perfect.

A kiosk had a basic map of the trails, but we couldn’t take it along. We still expected to end up on the mansion grounds or down by the river. The wood-chip path felt soothing underfoot, and the walking was easy. We both like to examine woodland flora so we ambled, looking and naming. I had brought my cane for stability. It was a short trail that a young person could have sprinted in no time.

We came to an overlook with a rustic bench and a view of the river where we rested and took photos.(Rested from what?, you might ask, but then you’re probably not seventy-five and slightly handicapped.)

We were still thinking there must be better river views and a path to the mansion grounds. I saw a semblance of steps leading down to a path, so I suggested we could probably manage – I had my cane, didn’t I? Did I mention that Jean, also, has a long history of foot problems? And did I mention that we both have pacemakers?

Mistake #3 – We headed down the steps slipping and sliding on the bare patches of eroded ground between the logs. The path went absolutely nowhere. When we started back, we realized why the going had been so easy (till we came to those damn steps): it had been a downward slope all the way!

I climbed the steps awkwardly, aided by my cane, offering to throw it down to Jean when I got to the top. She was probably envisioning my beaning her with it or it flying over the cliff. She declined. Two of the steps had pegs at the side, holding the logs in place; they made handy handles to pull myself up with. The view from behind must have been real cute - my butt up in the air like a baby on feet and hands.

At this point, I had serious doubts that we’d make it back to the parking lot and that maybe we’d have to use her cell phone to alert Dick to the possibility that he’d have to prepare yet another memorial service, like my sweetheart’s in 1979.

Although an uphill climb still lay ahead for us, it did get easier and we made it back to the car. On the way home, I introduced Jean to the site we should have visited in the first place, the Vanderbilt Estate, where the grounds are flat, easily walked with many people around who could come to the rescue of two old ladies who don’t have sense enough to realize their advanced age and limitations.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


How great to have a friend to share adventures like this for 50 years.

This was fun to read -- sorry about that. Reminded though of my own visit to Wilderstein, which occurred while FDR's favorite cousin was still living there. I'd come by to pick up some papers that someone I knew had left there when he interviewed her and I lived relatively closeby -- compared to him. At the time I was oblivious to the story of Daisy and FDR and anyway, the 90's something lady digging in the garden certainly didn't fit the bill. We went inside, which was very dark, to get the papers and she offered me a cup of tea. Stupid me, I was in a rush, as usual, did not appreciate that I was in the presence of living history and so declined and went on my way. Sigh!
Glad you ended at the Vanderbuilt -- it's my absolute favorite place to walk/run in Dutchess County.

PS - Lyn - Just had another memory of the Vanderbuilt. You and I had a picnic supper there one lovely Spring evening after work, possibly about 28 years ago, and watched the magnificent sunset over the river.

Lyn - Nicely written and funny! I felt like I was there with you.

As I approach 72, I dread the day I have to stop hiking. My yoga helps with balance and ankle strength, but I hope that as parts of me begin to fail or function poorly, I will be half as adventurous as you and Jean. - Sandy

Yes, I agree with Mary. What a blessing to have a wonderful friend to spend the day with.

My friend of many years and I had lunch one day at the Beekman Arms and then toured FDR's Hyde Park home.

I admired Eleanor Roosevelt very much and enjoyed visiting the only place she ever called home: Val-Kill.

Your story was well written and interesting. I enjoyed following your hiking adventures.

Thank you all for your comments. I've decided I probably won't publish any more books--the instant response on this blog site is far more satisfying--cheaper, too, and a heck of a lot easier. Lyn

Oh My what a frightening little adventure. You two were very brave. I'm just a gimpy middle aged lady but I certainly do understand. Yes, Vanderbilt estate next time. I want to see that anyway. :)

I have gotten into trouble by not realizing my limitations and I can identify with your problems of going up hill. I'm glad it turned out to be a nice day, nonethless.

A mere year later, I could not have done this. The moral of this story is to do it while you can, no matter how tricky or difficult, and enjoy the hell out of it!

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