A semi-Saunter

At least we got to sleep in

Having one of those days: My heart is racing—maybe the coffee is too strong—and everything I have read (news) and haven’t read (the email response I’m waiting for) is a source of anxiety. I’d be lying if I said days like this never happened before the pandemic but they’re more frequent now, and it’s more acceptable to talk about them. But I’m going to try to set that aside to recall our walk last Saturday…

We slept in. This is one of the only perks of not being able to walk The Great Saunter properly; you don’t have to wake before dawn to take the train to lower Manhattan. You just don’t have to start the day that early if you’re not planning on walking 32 miles.

By the time we were eating a late breakfast/early brunch, our friends had updated us from their respective saunters. Emma jogged to Prospect Park, walked the loop, then stood in a long line to buy fancy fish at the greenmarket. She had to then walk the fish back home to her fridge before embarking on saunter part two, but got held up by work.

Becky got an early start thinking to avoid the crowds at the nearby woodsy reservation. She said this mostly worked, and she rarely had to don the mask she wrapped around her wrist. Look at those trees!! I’m so jealous.

Scenes from my social-distanced saunter.

The official Great Saunter—a 32-mile walk around Manhattan’s perimeter on the first Saturday of May—was postponed, but my Saunter crew paid homage by taking our long-distance walks from a safe distance (across state lines, in my case). #pinchoflongdistancewalking
May 2, 2020

We didn’t leave until after noon. We wore a buff or handkerchief around our faces that we pulled down around our necks when walking stretches of empty sidewalk. I steered us to one of the avenues in the neighborhood that has more residential buildings than commercial, and we turned north. Our destination was Newtown Creek, a tributary of the East River that stretches 3.5 miles inland and makes up part of the border between Brooklyn and Queens. It’s also a toxic dump laced with oil and raw sewage, and a designated Superfund site since 2010. I wanted to find where it ends (or rather, goes underground) and then trace it back to the East River before turning back home.

On our way up we walked by two friends’ apartments, texting or calling as we passed. One didn’t pick up; the other texted after we were a block away, and we turned back to say hi through the gate of her backyard, our mouths carefully covered, everyone excited about the brief and extremely welcome bit of socializing.

But we had a long day of walking ahead of us, so we said goodbye and continued north. It was exciting to be out of our own neighborhood! Our world these past few weeks has shrunk to the streets closest to us, with occasional forays through Crown and Prospect Heights to the park. Walking through Bushwick was new and fresh! And it was a glorious, sunny, blue-skies day.

We found Newtown Creek’s vanishing point, peering through a fence protecting what appeared to be a FedEx parking lot or distribution center of some kind, on a busy road where most of the sidewalk had been sacrificed to parking. We retraced our steps and did our best to keep the Creek in sight as much as possible, even though the roads and sidewalks don’t generally run alongside it. We sashayed through some parking lots for a closer look and walked down many a dead end, and went miles through some truly deserted industrial backwaters. Out there, with our facial coverings dangling around our necks, and hardly anybody else in sight, it almost felt normal.

Modest ~16 miles along Newtown Creek and back #pinchoflongdistancewalking
May 2, 2020

Then of course we recognized the corner where we met for a Newtown Creek walking tour during Open House New York years ago, and then the industrial, sewage processing eggs rose up before us, and we were back in familiar territory, and had to share the sidewalks and wear our masks more often than not. We stopped to share a 32 oz. beer from a Greenpoint brewery, slurped down while gazing out at the East River.

(Incidentally, after it was brought to my attention that bathrooms would be fewer and further between on this expedition than usual, I decided perpetual dehydration was the answer. During our 5+ hours out, we stopped only once at a gas station, and even afer downing the beer, I didn’t have to go again until home.)

Not ever photo can be a glamour shot…

By this time my legs were leaden and my feet had those telltale hot spots that announce a coming blister. We followed the East River a bit longer and then turned inland. In all we probably walked between 15 and 16, maybe 17 miles, if you take the average between one watch and one phone. No Great Saunter, but enough to give me blisters on my pinky toes, and to make me realize how unprepared I would have been, again, for the real thing.


Walk this way

Thanks to those of you who shared your saunters with us using that ridiculous hashtag!

Joe found an empty stretch of beach to enjoy with his dad. Check out that vintage (2015? 2016?) Great Saunter hat; Joe was the first person to tell me about the Saunter when we met on the Long Trail/AT.

Getting out way East at Jones Beach with dad.
May 2, 2020

Jude also sought out water, specifically the intertidal zone.

Halley went on a birthday saunter and saw a beautiful sunset. Happy belated birthday Halley!

This didn’t get the hashtag but it belongs here.

And we had a few submissions from people who scorn social media, or at least Instagram.

After her initial walk to Prospect Park, Emma sauntered down Nostrand to Parkside, and then across Parkside to the parade grounds. She writes that she “was appalled that no one was on their porches.” (I wonder if people who can afford porches can also afford summer houses elsewhere? Or if there really is no respect for porches in the city.)

And finally, in the spirit of sauntering, Susan extended an obligatory 3-mile walk into a longer ramble, and absolutely wins the unspoken mask/hat competition.


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