Dan and Hannah Hike the Appalachian Trail at Bear Mountain in New York State

Bear map of BMSP

Before an evening of wine and reminiscing with my 101-year old Aunt Ilene, cousin Suzanne, and her husband Lou near Newburgh, New York, Hannah and I seek some Appalachian Trail Love at Bear Mountain on Palm Sunday.

Bear 2B AT sign

Arriving just after noon at the Visitor Center/Bookstore on the Palisades Parkway just south of Bear Mountain State Park, I ask the ranger where we can access the Appalachian Trail and still find any place to park.  You see, there is no way there is a parking spot at the hilltop trailhead of BMSP on this first sunny Sunday in spring.  We hit gold as we learn that just a half mile up the road at Exit 17, there is access to the AT from the nearly empty 2,000 vehicle Anthony Wayne parking area.

Bear 1 H on Fawn Trail

Small F trail marker on the tree to the right of Hiking Hannah

Bear 1A H on Fawn

Hiking in the Northeast is a rocky affair, not the sweet sandstone that caresses are feet in the national parks of Utah.  Taking to the well-marked Fawn Trail, we zigzag for 25 minutes before spotting the holy grail – the white blazes of the Appalachian Trail.

Bear 2 H on rocky trail

Bear 2D D at Rocky steps

Being the Sunday when Tiger Woods wins his 15th major at the Masters (Do you find that a troubling name for a golf tournament in the South with its reference to slavery and plantations?), we have done him one better by hiking in the mid-70s on this iconic trail getting all the Vitamin N we could want! (i.e. Vitamin Nature).

Bear 2E H at rung in rocks

Bear map

Appalachian Trail

It’s too early in the spring for thru-hikers to have begun the AT in Georgia to be here 1500 miles later, but we come across Jeff who is perspiring heavily in the midst of a ten-hour trail loop.  Graciously, he stops to answer our “where to go” questions and suggests we take a picture of his map to have a reference for our climb.

Bear 3 motorcyclists

Crossing the mountain away from the Palisades Parkway, we hear the roar of motorcycles racing down the country straight away.  I wonder if any of the loud motorcyclists who hit speeds of 100+ on the weekend do so in part because they have little control in their work life and, perhaps, don’t have the happiest of marriages?  Well, that’s a stretch, Dan.  As I think about that, it does sound a tad judge-y.  My bad.

Bear 2A Bear Mt in the distance

Bear Mountain in the distance from the AT

On a mid-April day where the trees have not leafed out, we get an excellent workout over two hours.  In the distance, we see the fire tower at the Bear Mountain peak.  Though we will not summit today, we have two hours of trail walking.  Tiger can have his 15th major, I’ll take an afternoon on the AT with Hannah any day.

Dan and Hannah Hike to Taughannock Falls near Ithaca, New York

Tau map of falls

Two things before I begin this blog.

First, a pronounciation quiz

Try correctly to pronounce the name of these local falls – Taughannock.

Now give the local Finger Lake a shot – Cayuga.

Check out the bottom of the page for the locals’ pronunciation.

Tau Fitbit

Second, Hannah and I are new Fitbit owners.  These sleek wrist watches primarily calculate how many steps one takes.  Typically, 10,000 steps is the daily goal.  We LOVE ’em.  We never thought of ourselves as Fitbit folks since we get plenty of exercise anyway.  But we do love the affirmation of our exercising life and the reminder to move rather than sit for long periods of time.

As you might have already guessed, my Fitbit reinforces my shallowness and the pathetic measuring of my self-worth by how many steps I get each day AND whether I beat my brother Richard (which I haven’t yet).

Tau map of Ithaca

After a morning of babysitting our ten-month old grandson Brooks, we know that though the forecast is raw with rain, we are going to find a hike and step, step, step to our Fitbit content.  With gorges aplenty here in central New York, we choose the Taughannock Falls, ten miles north of Ithaca, for our chilly willy hike with layers of clothes, gloves, and ski caps this mid-April Thursday.

Tau 2 south rim steps

The initial stone steps to the South Rim

With many of the local falls’ trails still closed this spring day because of ice on the stone walkways, Taughannock is ice- and snow-free.  Soon we are climbing the stone steps to the South Rim trail, hundreds of feet above the gorge below.

Tau 2AA above the gorge

The gorge

Having the trail mostly to ourselves, we, as exercise-first hikers, appreciate that there are no roses to smell or crowds to get in the way of our mission for 10,000 steps!

The south rim offers views into the gorge, but, as yet, we don’t see the waterfalls themselves.  After crossing over a century old bridge above the falls, we descend on the fenced-off north rim trail where waterfall viewing awaits.

Tau 3B D and H at overlook falls

Taughannock Falls, photographed by a Canadian

Arriving at the stone work overlook, we ask two folks to take our picture.  We soon learn that they are among the nicest people in the world (by that I mean, they are Canadians).

Tau 3C D above north rim gorge to lake

From the north rim out to Cayuga Lake

Once completing the rim loop in just over an hour, we have part deux – the popular gorge trail for our hiking pleasure.  Twenty feet wide, bordering the Taughannock Creek, the trail is ¾ of mile of levelness to the base of the falls.

Tau D and H at falls

The Taughannock Falls from the Gorge Trail

At the end of the trail, we ask another couple to take our picture.  In turn, Hannah asks if their family would like one as well.  Mom demurs.  And then this is where Hannah’s persistence and understanding of the human condition shines brightly.  Three minutes later, Hannah sweetly asks one more time.  They agree, I shoot, and they are so damn pleased with the result.

Fact is, “Yes” has been our go-to answer when someone offers us something.  It’s amazing what doors that affirmation opens.

Tau 1B B and H

10 month old Brooks and his Omi

Two hours after we start, we are back at the trailhead ready to hang out with Brooks pleased that our Fitbit step goal has been destroyed.



Taughannock – Ta-GAN-ick.

Cayuga – CUE-ga.

How’d you do?


Additional photos from Taughannock Falls

Tau 2 sign at start of falls

Tau 2A falls above the falls

Tau 4A rapids on gorge river

Tau 4B gorge walls

Looking up to the North Rim Trail

Dan and Hannah with Owen and Max Explore the Santa Barbara Zoo

Our grandsons, Owen (kindergarten) and Max (preschool), have come with their parents to California during February school vacation week in New England.  Whether it is including the boys at an evening potluck with local friends in California, exploring the beach in Carpinteria, or taking them on a train ride to Ventura, we look to make memories with our guys.

Rattle 3B Rawdings at meadow

At the meadow two miles into the Rattlesnake Trail in Santa Barbara

Yesterday, Hannah and I with the Family Rawding hiked the Rattlesnake Trail in Santa Barbara.  Click here for that adventure.

Today, we will take the boys to the Santa Barbara Zoo while their parents hike up Gaviota Peak 45 minutes north on The 101.

Zoo map

Arriving at the zoo fifteen minutes from our home-away-from-home in Carpinteria, we have a sunny, blustery day for los animales.

Zoo 1 flamingos with O and M

Flamingos that are worth a good thirty second for Owen (in red), Max (in orange), and me

At each exhibit, the boys’ age-appropriate short attention span matches mine.  While Hannah reads about the animals and tells us one of the listed fun facts, I take a good thirty seconds to take in the tropical birds or the elephants or the lions or the giraffes.  Then the boys and I move on.  I am not a stop and smell the roses animal lover.  I gotta be me.

Zoo 2A tortoise 2



Pausing in front of the tortoise enclosure, we learn from the keeper about these forty year-old tortoises.  As herbivores, they are making a comeback from endangered status thanks to zoos and private owners.  Unfortunately, their shells are still harvested, which, upon removal, immediately kills the tortoises because their backs are directly attached to their shells.  Some kill the tortoises for their livers, which they believe have wonderous medicinal properties.

Zoo 3 giraffe skull

Giraffe skull

Zoo 3B giraffe hoot

Giraffe hoof

On the path by the giraffe enclosure, two volunteers intrigue us all with the skull of a giraffe.  Next to them they have a 15” bicycle tire tube that represents the length of the giraffe’s tongue.  Then the volunteers set a rubbery mat on the ground which indicates the size of the giraffe’s hoof and lets the boys compare their feet to that of a giraffe.

Zoo 3 giraffe

Giraffe with the Pacific Ocean in the distance

Lions, elephants, alligators, anteaters, and penguins rock our world, albeit briefly.

Zoo 1C Max with lion

Max checking out the lion

Zoo 1CC the lion

Tough life tanning 200 yards from the Pacific Ocean

Zoo 1A O and M with elephant


Zoo 1B Omi as zookeeper

Perhaps I should have taken this picture when the sun went behind the clouds


Zoo 4A alligator

See you later


Zoo 6 anteater

The anteater is one big dude!

Zoo 6B penguin with max

Max at the penguin aquarium

Zoo 6D O and M with penguin

Owen and Max check out Peter the Penguin

Wisely constructed in the center of the SB Zoo, a favorite spot for our young guys, is the AstroTurf mound at the playground where Owen and Max slide down the hill on cardboard.  Owen teaches his brother how to surf down the play hill.

Zoo 5 more playground

Zoo 5 playground

With cool temperatures near 60F, we are not exhausted after nearly four hours among the mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.  That said, once home, we turn the boys back over to their parents, and have one sweet siesta.

Dan Wonders If Being Hopeful is a Habit that Can Be Learned

Hannah and I get the New York Times most every Sunday.  For me, it was a tradition started by my parents back in the 1950s in New Jersey.  My Sunday morning begins with a cup of joe, one of Hannah’s biscuits, and the Sunday Sports section; next, before I try to decipher the Sunday Crossword with my trusty iPhone, I read the Sunday Styles section.

NYT sunday styles 2

The Sunday Styles section has the weekly Modern Love column which has folks writing about their relationships (e.g. For last Sunday (4.28.2019), the titled piece was It’s Not You, It’s Men: I re-evaluated my life after two long-term girlfriends broke up with me while coming out).

I then move on to Social Q’s by Philip Galanes who gives advice about, again, relationships.  (e.g. My good friend, who is white, is raising her young biracial daughter as a single mother.  She is a loving mom, but in my opinion, she has not given enough thought to helping her daughter form a healthy self-image as a person of color…)

I then move on to the wedding stories, and this is where I get to my point.  Cheese and rice, Dan, it’s about time!

NYT Small Victories anne lamott

Under the Vows heading, the piece is titled A Writer Finally Gets to That Happily-Ever-After Part.  It’s about Anne Lamott!  I have been a fanboy since the 1990s when she wrote the popular guide for writers, Bird by Bird.  She gives Ted Talks with humor and insight.  Click here for here for her entertaining 15-minute talk on 12 Truths.

In the review of her wedding to Neal Allen, Lois Smith Brady offers background on each one and how they met.  Married at 65, Anne says, Never give up, no matter how things look or how long they take.  Don’t quit before the miracle.

NYT Neil and Anne

Anne with Neil at their wedding

What caught my eye was this paragraph.  In some ways, they are opposites.  She [Anne] is afraid of almost everything, whereas he’s [Neil] afraid of almost nothing.  ‘It never occurs to me that anything will go wrong,’ he said.

That makes me think , could being fearful be a choice, not part of one’s DNA.  Many of us learn to be fearful at a young age and hone that “skill” over a lifetime.  But could it be that with some self-talk, or what some would call prayer, we can “reprogram” ourselves from looking for the possible pitfalls, the dangers, and the roadblocks to being hopeful.  I’m not suggesting the transition would be easy, but it seems feasible if one has the “want to” to transform from fearful to hopeful.

NYT choose hope 2

Case in point.  Hannah and I have water issues in our upstairs bathroom.  The stains on the plaster walls are disgusting.  With a  contractor coming in the weeks ahead, I am hopeful that any damage can be dealt with successfully.  I’ll not go down the path of what could go wrong.

Being hopeful, like getting to Carnegie Hall, takes practice, practice, practice.