52 Greenbelt Walks: From Boise to New York. The Amazing High Line Trail

Today, June 20. Summer Solstice. Longest day of the year. Tomorrow is the official start of summer. We have had a lovely series of springtime walks out on the greenbelt, and elsewhere. Even though my posts are a little behind, I do plan to get them out. You’ll hear about alternative trails we took since much of the Boise Greenbelt was closed because of flooding. You’ll hear about our ‘tree walks’ as we are learning to identify more of the flora around these parts. And I’m happy to finally bring you this little gem, about a greenbelt walk in another part of the country. As someone keen to travel and visit new places, this walk was pretty epic in my mind. Enjoy!

How I felt on this walk! 🙂 How they felt? (No! My 16-year old son liked the trail, except for having to push the stroller. And my baby daughter woke up and got to see lots of new things, including nature.) 

May 17. Our recent trip to New York for my cousin’s graduation put me in a bit of a conundrum. We left Boise on a Friday, and returned 8 days later on a Saturday night. Being gone the entire week, what was I going to do about my commitment to walk the greenbelt each week in 2017? Find a greenbelt to walk in New York City, of course.

What a treat to walk New York’s famous High Line Trail, a 1.45 mile long converted, elevated railway line. It was green. It was linear. It was beautiful. It was free. It was a breath of fresh air in the middle of the city. It gave of us great views. And it was a blast to walk with my son and baby daughter.

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May Walk #3 New York City High Line Trail

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1.9 miles. Front pack. Strollers. Bikes not permitted. We accessed the trail via elevator (because of the baby stroller) at 16th Street right outside the Chelsea Market. We wanted to walk the entire trail, so we headed towards the southern tail end. We reached the terminus, and then turned around to walk the trail, south to north. This trail runs along the west side of Manhattan, transecting the Chelsea Neighborhood of New York. It can be reached by foot in about 20 minutes from Pennsylvania Station, as we did while we were waiting for our train to Washington, D.C. More information about the trail entrances and entire route can be found on the Friends of the High Line website.

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Our walk: I’m loving my walks on the Boise Greenbelt and revel in each outdoor experience with my baby. There’s something new and interesting every time. But I was positively giddy with excitement when I learned of the High Line rail-to-trails walking path in New York City prior to our visit. We were on the east coast for a full week, so I was thrilled to locate and fit this weekly greenbelt walk into our itinerary.

On our last day in New York, before we headed out of town to D.C., we made it to the trail. A quick walk from the train station where we had stored our luggage and we were there.

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The minute we stepped off of the elevator onto the walkway I was enchanted. The plants, open space and general vibe were a nice change from the grunge of the normal city street in New York. Much of the trail is boardwalk-type surface, although there is a rocky-asphalty substrate at the northern end. It is elevated about 2 stories (total guesstimate there), so it offers a whole new perspective on city buildings and streets. Not to mention the lovely views of the Hudson River that separates Manhattan from New Jersey. There were people in all manner of recreation, walking, lounging, chatting, and enjoying the day.

Overall it was a flat easy walk and the stroller did great. First heading south, we passed through a couple of underpasses that provided welcome shade from the sun. It was a hot day, and the concrete of cities magnify the heat, creating an urban heat island. This is just one more reason why green spaces in cities is so important. And makes the High Line that much more beloved.

At the southern end, the trail turns into a wooded, shrubby ribbon of greenery.

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Art work, and even water features, offer surprises around some corners.

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In certain sections, historic railroad tracks are imbedded in the path, creating visual interest and adding to the historic context.

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Once we reached the southern end, we turned around, retraced our steps, and continued on towards the northern entrance to the trail. Back at the underpass right near Chelsea Market, a series of food carts were offering drinks, ice cream, and other treats for thirsty or hungry walkers.

We passed buildings at mid-level, with some right next to the path. It’s quite a different perspective to be partway up a building as you walk by.

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In some cases we were looking down on courtyards and straight at balconies. I’m not sure if I would want to live right by the trail knowing that 5 million people (true stat for the High Line) will pass by each year.

And speaking of perspective, there were some stunning views. The Statue of Liberty and Hudson River Bay peak between buildings, and are on display at wide open vistas when headed south.

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Views of the Empire State Building graced our northerly route. The planners also built in viewing decks that jut out from the trail over the streets below to take in the city views. It’s interesting to see that some side streets are extremely lovely and scenic. Others, not so much. That’s ok, it’s all part of the package.

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I loved seeing the artwork, including sculpture and murals along the trail. This giant mural was right by the trail. So cool! I wish I had taken a better photo. Google ‘high line trail art’ and you can see many of the hip installments that grace the path.

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Landscape design is a form of creativity too of course. Each open area, public amenity, spot to rest, and naturalistic element was chosen to enhance the public outdoor experience. Much more so than the Boise Greenbelt, this trail was designed to be beautiful and functional and appeal to the public’s desire for both in their open spaces. One cool detail that I appreciate as a nature nerd, is that many of the plants they used in the landscaping are actually volunteer species. That is, they had begun to reclaim the railway on their own before the trail was built. I don’t think they are necessarily “native” plants, but they were flourishing in an unlikely place, and making the city greener without any help. You’ve got to appreciate that. 

When I look back at the photos, the trail looks very busy. I don’t remember feeling super crowded out there though. The trail just flows. Some people might dislike crowds, but I love to see people enjoying the day.

At the northern end the skyscrapers are behind you and the wide open path makes a big arc around a train yard connecting to Penn Station, and along the Hudson River with views of New Jersey. This part of the trail was very exposed and not quite as charming as the rest.

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We disembarked from the trail by the ramp that gradually connects the High Line to street level and marks the northern end.

I love so many things about the High Line. It is lovely, full of growing things, and offers great opportunities for being outside in green space in the city. And I love that this rails-to-trails route was once a train thoroughfare, serving the industrial sections of New York. With that history behind it, it has now been upcycled, in a manner of speaking, into something beautiful and useful. Conversions like this make the world a better place.

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I was enchanted. I was enamored. I walked New York City’s High Line trail, and it was a highlight of my visit. If you find yourself in New York City, I encourage you to go check it out too. A greenbelt in the city is one of the best uses of public space. If you are somewhere else, find all that is green, reclaimed, and beautiful where you are.

 

 

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