guest blog by Ed Perratore
Every long trek has a lesson for us, and a good walk on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail is no exception. At the start of my first round-trip hike here, I witnessed buds erupting everywhere, birds flitting about to build their nests and the glistening sun melting the last ice patches of winter. Growth was in the air, filling me with every breath. It was early April.
But most of what the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail’s Westchester portion has to tell is not about the 26-mile pathway and its surroundings, enchanting as they are. No, walking the trail teaches us mostly about ourselves: what we lose touch with through the daily routine of managing a career, family relationships and the household.
For me, I had so much to think about along this trail during my second round trip that I began to take notes, often using a digital audio recorder, for what grew into my long love letter to the serpentine park. It became a book, titled One Man’s Journey: A Walk on the Croton Aqueduct Trail, that today is available in paperback, large-print paperback and Kindle ebook, and I’m blessed with the attention it’s gotten. Along those walks, in addition to my descriptions of the book’s historical and navigational details, I dwelled on several issues of concern to me at the time. Invariably when I hiked, I left the trail feeling better about my problems than when I first set foot upon it.
What I’ve noticed, too, is how the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail itself seems to take on moods of its own. In Ossining, Tarrytown and lower Yonkers, the trail departs temporarily from its wooded setting with a familiar rise of land to the east and a descent to the west. Its passage amid the bustle of bus, truck and commuter traffic gives the trail a subtle tension it imparts to hikers and others following its path. Once it winds its way back to the realm of natural growth that characterizes most of the trail’s course to the city line, both trail and traveler can sigh in relief.
Aiding anyone who walks the trail are increasing signs of a bee’s nest of activity in the form of the Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct. Whether it’s adding and improving helpful signage or clearing invasive vines that choke off trees bordering the trail, there’s always something new to enrich your experience.
Some highlights from my hikes:
The pathway blasted through this rock mass in Croton-on-Hudson is a tribute to dogged determinism.
This stone wall near the Pocantico River in Ossining has rings for tying horses. It’s a shady area for riders to rest, too.
Ventilator #15, just north of Irvington’s Sunnyside Lane, down the road from author Washington Irving’s lush estate, is one of many constructed to relieve pressure buildup in the system.
Behind the Dobbs Ferry Parks & Recreation board on Cedar Street. The trail crosses the street and resumes on its way past the Keeper’s House, the headquarters of the Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct.
The trail winds its way through Yonkers’ Tibbetts Brook Park soon before it reaches the New York City border and the northern fringe of Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.