Posts filed under Life in New York

Conquering Algonquin Peak

Adventure Tuesday

Go North

When our friends sent us a wedding invitation to come to Montreal we did not hesitate to rsvp yes right away. It had been a different issue if we still lived in Madison. Money is always an issue and flying is (almost) always expensive. But living in New York, Montreal is actually really, really close. But we couldn’t just drive all the way up there and back again so we decided to make a stop in the Adirondacks on the way back to New York City. Driving north through the Adirondacks we were treated with the most eye catching fall colors I have ever seen. Red, orange, yellow and some greens from the coniferous trees. It was so beautiful and we knew we would see that again in a few days.

Heart Lake Campground

We hadn’t done enough research on where to camp or where to hike either to be honest. I found a hike on a website that looked pretty cool. They said it is moderately trafficked, because here in New York State there are many many people, and finding an empty trailhead is unheard of. The hiking itself was rated as hard! We chose the nearest campground to the trailhead, which is run by the Adirondacks mountain club. We arrived in the late afternoon and were a bit worried as we approached the campground and there were plenty of cars parked on the side of the road. We knew New York State is different from Wisconsin, Alaska, and Montana, but we were pretty shocked to see the amount of people that a trailhead like this apparently brought. There seemed to be plenty of open camping spots though, but it comes with a price. 40$. I was shocked, because you can literally get a large hotel room in Las vegas for 35$ (we actually did once) so paying 40$ to pitch a tent felt wrong. But since we hadn’t done any research and were tired since this was also the day after the wedding we sucked it up and payed, for one night. The next day we payed for a second night. We also bought firewood, because you have to have a fire if you are at a campground. We payed 7$ for a bundle. Started the fire and the wood was partially wet. This made me even more pissed but we sucked that up too. And we did have a nice evening at the smoky fire anyway, reminiscing about that time in Canada, where every campground provided free (and dry) firewood.

Not that prepared?

We hadn’t really checked our grab box with all the kitchen stuff so we also discovered essential pieces were missing. Like a can opener. The lighter was singing on it’s last song too…but we (barely) made it. (wouldn’t have been the whole world because you could buy lighters at the campground). I had saved important information about the hike on my phone, in my maps, but I closed te map app and with no cell service we could not access that again. Which didn’t really matter because the next morning my phone died anyway (my battery is also singing on it’s last song). The next morning when W went and payed for our second night he bought a map.

Avalanche Lake

The morning had shown some beautiful pink colors mixed with the existing fall colors. I went down to the lake and saw termination dust at the top of the nearest mountain, the air was cool, but I don’t know the temperature. Clouds were slowly coming in, and the weather forecast had said 70% chance of rain. We didn’t see anyone at the trailhead, and only a couple of parked cars. It was Monday after all, so we probably wouldn’t see that many other people. We met about three other pair of people coming back to the trailhead during the first three miles and those were the only people we saw until the very last bit of the hike. The hike starts through a beautiful forest dressed in yellow orange and green with some hints of red. You continue through that during a few miles at the same time as you are hiking up in elevation. Eventually you reach Avalanche lake. Low hanging clouds draped the lake and the surrounding mountains in this beautiful white veil that made the whole lake seem surrealistic and spooky. We continued hiking along the shoreline which included climbing boulders, ladders and hiking over the water on boardwalks. It was slow, because of all the obstacles and we started to get a little concerned about time. We had started around 9.30 am and this was suppose to be a 12 mile hike after all. You hit Avalanche lake after about 5 miles, so only a bit more than a third of the way (more or less), and I think it was starting to get close to noon as we approached the other side of the lake.

Up, Up, and Up

After the Avalanche lake we had some light rain in the air and could still see nothing (no view that is, which we never ever did during the rest of the hike either). But, even rainy days like this create a beautiful landscape. We hiked on a severely eroded trail, which looked like a stream bed, and from time to time I was unsure if we were actually hiking in a stream, because there was some water running through here too. Something I still wonder about, or the trail is just this heavily eroded that a stream bed has actually been formed due to the heavy traffic. The trail is hard on you because you basically traverse large boulders constantly, and no way to not hop from one boulder to another. We crossed streams, jumped stones and boulders, hiked through the forest up up and up. All of a sudden the trail took us up a waterfall. The hike went on to a completely covered bedrock layer, and then switched again to boulder hopping, stream crossings and continuing up and up and up. I started to get tired, and wondered how we could still be going up and up. Time got closer to 2pm and now we really started to stress about time. We passed a sign that warned about continuing without proper gear. I was thinking to myself what is proper gear, do we have proper gear, because now it was raining a little bit more and it was cooler. But we had more than enough, I knew because I had been carrying the backback about halfway, a backpack full with snacks, sandwiches for us, our down jackets, headlamps, first aid kit. I mean what could we possibly not have. Already after a few miles we had decided that only bringing one bag was a bad idea because, it’s heavy.

Algonquin Peak

Finally we got to a sign that informed us that we were approaching alpine and arctic environment and that the plants here are fragile. A warning about staying on the bedrock to prevent harming the fragile landscape we were about to stumble upon. I could see bunchberry and labrador tea on the side of the trail, it made me smile because they remind me of home. Both Alaska and Sweden. We still continued up and up, the coniferous trees were at a majority now, and they got shorter and shorter until we finally broke out in the open, onto the bedrock tundra. We were at the top. We could see absolutely nothing. It was even hard to see where the trail was. Up on the top it was windy, very windy. We could see patches of snow, or sleet. The wind made us colder pretty much instantly. I got scared and kept thinking what are we doing here. We kept going, it was hard against the wind and I kept thinking about the warning sign about proper gear. I was tired and I was thinking that maybe I had gotten in way over my head. W was walking (or almost running) ahead and all I could think about was to keep following him so I didn’t loose him out of sight. I was so tired. All of a sudden he veered off to the left.

- What are you doing? I said
- That’s the metal plate in the bedrock showing that we are at the highest point

I felt like I couldn’t care less, but still walked up there and stood there for a moment, actually smiled. Then we continued again, faster. We finally seemed to be going down in elevation, now we got headwind. It was ripping in our face and I got cold, so cold. The bedrock seemed less appealing now because half of it was covered in ice, and we slid down on our bums for large parts of it. Finally I started seeing trees again, short, but as we dropped in elevation they grew taller. Until we finally hit the sign that showed Wright peak 0.4 miles. That is yet another peak you can climb, if you want to. We did not want to, actually we probably didn’t want to climb any mountain ever again at that moment. We were out of the wind a bit and could finally have our lunches. We ate, sandwiches, chips, cookies. I was so hungry.

W said: -that is the beauty of doing a loop, there is no return after you gotten halfway, might as well keep going.

And then the Rain Came

Once we got back to the campsite it was already about 5 in the evening. We took a shower and after that the rain started. It was pouring down. We were sitting in the back of the car drinking beer and hoping for the rain to stop. But after a while I said, we better start cooking because I don’t think this will stop. It didn’t stop. We had already been wet, now we were dry so weren’t too excited about potentially getting wet again. We ate tortellini in tomato sauce and it was the best meal I’d had in days, well not really but at that moment that is how it felt. We went to bed pretty early that night again. On the way back I started googling about the peak and discovered that this was the second tallest peak in New York state, who would have known. We want to come back and conquer that mountain and see all those 360 degree views. We did a total of 12 miles and a net gain of about 4000 feet. We were beat but it was probably one of the best hikes we have ever done. AND on top of that we were literally the only people on the trail. As we were leaving the campground we could already see the distinct difference in the fall landscape. All that wind had literally blown all the leaves off the trees. And we have already started thinking about next years fall trips.

Where Chambers Street ends and Rockefeller Park Starts

Big City Life

Rockefeller Park and Bronze Statues

    Today we have been promised really hot temperatures, and they have issued a heat advisory, with temperatures up to 95, and the real fell up above 100. Im pretty sure we had days like this in Madison too, but maybe not as frequent. In Fairbanks and Alaska on the other hand, these things never happened. Instead we could hear about the air quality advisories on the radio while sipping coffee in the morning. Smoke from all wildfires which created this grey to yellow smoke that hovered over Fairbanks, sometimes for weeks, or air quality advisories in the wintertime because of pollutions that stayed atop the city for months. Now that I have lived here for a couple of weeks I am used to this heat and the heat advisories, or rather I know when to venture out and what to expect versus times when it's probably best to stay at home. One thing about New York that always surprise me when I do venture out are all these small parks spread across the city, and all the trees and bushes you can see where you least expect it.  The other day I took the train south, to Brooklyn Bridge. I got off, and followed Chambers Street towards the water on the west side of Manhattan. Once there I stumbled upon Rockefeller Park, that joins up with Hudson River Park if you continue north along the water. The first thing I noticed was this large bronze statue to the left of the stairs leading down into the park. As I continued towards it, I suddenly saw all of these other bronze statues scattered across the area. Statues of creatures, people, bankers and robbers, laborers and pilgrims, predators and prey. If you ever find yourself in New York City, I would definitely recommend this park, to find some shadow and to relax and enjoy all these sculptures. New York is such a large city with so many tourists, but you can still come across areas like Rockefeller Park that is close to empty. I guess I can compare it to when people visit National Parks. Most people stay on the road, in the car, and hardly anyone actually get off the road, and if they do few people hike more than 1 mile from the road system, or the most popular places. If it is off the beaten path, fewer people go there. 

Urban Parks and Urban Heat Islands

    Did you know that woodlands are cooler than urban areas? And that city parks can be as much as 5 F cooler than surrounding areas during the day, and even cooler during the evening and night time? The concept of buildings being hotter than say parks is often referred to as the Urban Heat Island. Dark non-reflective buildings absorb heat, and will re-release the heat throughout the day, making the surrounding area warmer. Vegetation cool the surrounding area through the evapotranspiration process, and hence a park with moist soil and a lot of vegetation will have a cooling effect. Of course the urban heat island concept is more complex than comparing dark and non-reflective buildings to vegetation, but overall the outcome is cooler parks, compared to surrounding buildings, as you can see in the temperature and vegetation map of New York below, from NASA. So, think about the cooling effect next time you walk in a large city and encounter a park.

Views along Chambers Street, Rockefeller Park, and Hudson River Park:

    Do you have a favorite park in the (any) city you always visit?

New York - First Impressions

New York City Life

    We have now lived in New York for more than one month, and actually spent a couple of weeks here together. It was kind of a whirlwind before we were able to actually settle down here. I worked almost up until the actual move, we then packed our pod, packed the car (read tried to fit everything else in the car), and cleaned the apartment in Madison before we eventually left. Once we arrived about a day later, we unpacked the car, and cleaned the new apartment, and then went to bed. It turned out that driving in New York City, as in driving in Manhattan, wasn't so hard after all (although, W drove, I didn't so what do I know). It was a lot harder to find a parking spot. We spent one full day in New York together, going to Target and Costco, and then at 8 in the morning the day after, I was sitting on a plane to Nome, Alaska. Once I got back W had already left to Boston, and then to Alaska. So, we really didn't even live together in the apartment up until now, these past two weeks!

Manhattan

    You can constantly hear the sirens from ambulances, firetrucks and police cars mixed in with people honking, but they do quiet down during nighttime. Many New Yorkers are intense and very forceful. Kind of as if they forgot that there are good humans out there in the world. People are yelling at each other in the streets, in the grocery stores, yeah about everywhere. I wonder if there is such a thing as a happy New Yorker sometimes. The two first strangers in New York I met was on my way to Alaska. First the driver to the airport, who said he hated New York and New Yorkers, how he didn't think it was diverse enough. On the plane between New York and Seattle the woman I sat next to was moving back to Seattle, leaving her husband (although not leaving leaving, just saying he can come if he wants but I am not staying) behind in New York. She said she hated New York and New Yorkers, said she was sorry for me who just moved there. 

East Harlem aka El Barrio, Spanish Harlem

    We live in East Harlem, or Spanish Harlem which it is also called along with El Barrio. East Harlem has a large population of Puerto Ricans and other Hispanics. Back in the day, 1800's and beginning of 1900's East Harlem was mostly an Italian neighborhood, and today has one of the most exclusive restaurants in the US, an Italian restaurant called Rao's. The closest we have gotten to Rao's, well except walking by the restaurant, was when we purchased their famous tomato sauce at our local grocery store. As you can imagine there is a wide range of cultures that are merging in East Harlem, and with that a wide range of interesting restaurants that we have to explore. We have a really nice apartment with a guest room and actually two bathrooms (well the technical term is one and a half). We live very close to the subway and it takes about 20 minutes for us to get to Brooklyn bridge with the subway. We have of course spent many many days in the apartment, but we have also been exploring the neighborhood some. Every day has been hot, well hot to me. We have had temperatures in the 80's and 90's ever since we moved in, and our AC units have been running a lot these past weeks. Now the temperature is finally dropping and we can actually leave the windows open to create a nice breeze through the apartment.

Central Park and community gardens

    During the weekends we have been doing chores around the house and then gone to central park to relax. Central Park is actually a National Historic Landmark and has been put on a tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This past weekend we went there and had a picnic in the afternoon sun. Central Park is my favorite part of Manhattan, of course who would have thought? Northern Central Park gets less touristy compared to southern Central Park (not too suprisingly). Other than Central Park there are a lot of other parks in Manhattan of course, and a ton of small community gardens that are run by the neighborhood communities and NYC parks. It is called Green Thumb and is the largest community gardening program in the US. The community gardens are run by residents in the area, and anyone can join a community garden. Of course, these gardens aren't open at all times, since they are run by the community, but you are mostly free to enter and look around if you happen to come across a garden that is open. We have one right by our apartment, which I will try to join!

We are Moving - To New York City

IMG_3284.jpg

New York City

The Big Move

Being a Swede in the US

NYC

    Last year we took a trip to NYC. We wanted to check out the city, but W also went for a workshop and I renewed my passport. Because as a Swede in the US there are only so many places you can renew your Swedish passport, and NYC is one on a list of two, yeah a total list of two places in all of the US where swedes can renew their Swedish passport, New York and Washington DC. There are mobile passport centers each year, but they usually get booked several months in advance. Last time I renewed my passport I timed it with a trip to Sweden, because flying to NYC or Washington DC from Fairbanks, AK, is equally expensive to flying all the way to Sweden, if you include cost of hotels etc. 

Fall in New York City

    While W was busy with his workshop I explored the city some more. I have never liked New York City unfortunately, but now I will have 2 years to learn to love the city. We are excited about exploring the city and finding our new favorite spots. During the time there this last fall I walked on average 9 miles per day. I am not much of a subway person, but maybe that will change once we move there. It's not the first time I have been to New York though, I was there when I was 6 years old, well if that even counts, but I have strong memories from that trip. I went there again when I was about 20 years or so, but I only spent a couple of hours in the city, and that didn't really add any positive vibe of the city. 

Central Park

    The best part about Manhattan is Central Park. While exploring the city through google maps I have learned that there are a lot of green spaces around New York city and all of the city's different neighborhoods. Even walking around as I did this past fall, I found a lot more green space (as in trees) than what I was expecting. The favorite green space and probably one of the places I will hang out around the most is Central Park. While I was walking around there, there were definitely some places where I was the only one around, which is suprising since NYC is a pretty big city. It could also have something to do with the rainy weather during that specific day...

How do you Move to NYC?

    The last couple of weeks we have been scratching our heads trying to figure out what the best way to move really is. How are we going to move? I think we have settled on shipping our larger furniture, like the bed and bookshelves with a pod. That seems to be the most reasonable way, but we will see if we change our mind before the move actually happen. We are planning on going to NYC at the end of May with a smaller load of our stuff, and store that in a storage area outside the city. When we make the big move a couple of weeks later we hope that we will have a lot less stuff of course. 

Where in NYC are we going to Live?

    Well, that is a pretty easy question, but the details are more complicated. We are going to focus on Manhattan, and the area around and north of Columbia University. There are plenty of neighborhoods up there, Upper West Side, Washington Heights, Harlem, and Sugar Hill. North of that we have Hudson Heights, Fort George and Inwood. Those places look pretty nice, but they are unfortunately a little bit to far north. There are plenty of parks around there though, which would make that area ideal. We have screened the internet on how to get an apartment in New York, and Manhattan is of course to no ones surprise the most expensive place to be. While New York City is one of the most expensive US cities to live in, it is does not have the highest rent. Can you guess what city in the US have the highest rent? I'll give you the answer at the end of this post. Due to travel time to work we have to be around that area, unless we want to commute for more than 1 hr. The northern part of Manhattan have fewer skyscrapers, and fewer tourists, and I think we can find a nice place around there. In addition to actually finding a place you have to be careful about the ads you see online, there are many scams, and many people use false or stolen images to bait you and then tell you the place isn't available any longer, but then they say: here is another place, which more often is not a great place at all. You read stories about bedbugs, high crime areas and everything in between. Some people hire brokers, yeah brokers that charge 10-20% of the annual rent as a a fee you will never ever see again, in order for them to find a place. Some people pay 3000$/month for a studio apartment. We hope that we can get by without a broker, and still find a decent place. Time will tell. 

    What's your favorite place in New York? Have you spent some time at the northern part of Manhattan? So what city in the US have the highest rent? Well it is not too surprising but it is San Fransisco, CA. At least if you are comparing the median rent for 1 and 2 bedroom apartments.