Finding Wilderness Within Civilization

I read this article from The Guardian about an ophthalmologist who is spending his retirement living out of a backpack and hiking all around the US. Most of it is only mildly interesting, but I loved this part:

The next night, we slept in a copse of gnarled oaks beside a graveyard, a shady grove carpeted with slender, rippling leaves. It was strangely lovely. Eberhart found them everywhere, these forgotten little shards of wilderness. The problem, he said, was that hikers tended to divide their lives into compartments: wilderness over here, civilization over there. “The walls that exist between each of these compartments are not there naturally,” he said. “We create them. The guy that has to stand there and look at Mount Olympus to find peace and quiet and solitude and meaning – life has escaped him totally!”’

I’ve found that it is very important for my well-being to seek out and spend time in this urban wilderness. I live in Yonkers, which isn’t nearly as dense as most parts of NYC, but life here is still dominated by apartments and concrete. For someone who grew up where houses, yards, and trees are the norm, finding these little places are necessary.  

I’ve found three great refuges within walking distance of my apartment. I’m writing this post on my iPad from one of them right now. I like to go for a walk at least once a day and 4/5 days per week (weather permitting) I work outside from one of these spots. Working these places into my daily life greatly improves my well-being.

While I’m not physically more than 50-100 yards from the street, the feel is completely different. Green replaces grey, the smell of grass and trees replace the smell of trash and exhaust fumes, and the sound of birds chirping replaces the sound of car engines.

For times when you need to get away from the city completely, there are tons of great hiking spots within an hour’s drive of NYC: The Palisades, Bear Mountain, Doodletown, Breakneck Ridge, Anthony’s Nose, and Ramapo Lake to name a few. You can even reach a section of the Appalachian Trail by Metro North.