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Culture, Destinations, North America, Travel Tips

A Day in the Park

October 26, 2017 • By

I’ve lived in New York City the greater part of 16 years and I never tire walking through Central Park. It’s my favorite spot to seek solace and tranquility in an otherwise hectic environment.

Fantasy Aisle, Central Park, the heart of New York City

Central Park, the heart of New York City

A few weeks ago with summer bleeding into fall, I explored the park as if it was my first time. I entered 72nd Street on the east side (off limits to cars on weekends) and joined the hoards of runners and bicyclists moving uptown along their respective paths. It was hot and humid and I admired the fitness levels of those zipping past me. People dressed in sponsored training attire, fathers and mothers pushing strollers, friends talking to friends and others like me making the most of a morning in the park.

Fantasy Aisle, Early morning runners and walkers

Early morning runners and walkers

The falling leaves signal the change in seasons as shady areas succumb to open patches of golden yellow and blazing red. The squirrels don’t mind because this is their territory and they out number people. They move quickly popping in and out of pathways diving into the leaves–they are not shy.

I venture off the crowded pathway into the “Ramble” where winding walkways lead to a man-made forest within a city. The sounds of fire engines and traffic disappear and I weave around huffing and puffing in silence until I spy a couple kissing passionately. I startle them. How long have they been hiding? This is the perfect place to seek shade, read a book, grab a pair of binoculars and bird watch. I hesitate but then continue with my goal to make the 6.02-mile loop around the park.

Next, I take in an adult soccer game on the Great Lawn. They see me lurking and put on a good performance before I find myself zig-zagging on another walkway to reach the Shuman Running Path bordering the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. The direction for runners and walkers remains unchanged year after year and I make a mental note to voice my opinion.

Fantasy Aisle, The pesky Central Park squirrel

The pesky Central Park squirrel

At the north end of the reservoir, the city skyline comes into view. There is a slight fog obscuring the tallest skyscrapers but it provides a simple backdrop to the simplicity of the calming water and the fall foliage. I walk half of the 1.58 mile-loop and exit to a bridge I’ve crossed a hundred times. It’s an antique straight out of the chalk drawing in the “Mary Poppins” Jolly Holiday scene.

Fantasy Aisle, Gothic bridge, connecting the Reservoir to the Tennis Courts at 94th Street

Gothic bridge, connecting the Reservoir to the Tennis Courts at 94th Street

I take a quick bathroom break at the tennis courts and watch a match in progress. The courts both clay and hard are filled with people of all ages and levels. If only I brought my racquet, I could practice my serve.

My feet ache for a timeout but I push myself through the Conservatory Garden. A beckoning bench reads, “Take time to sit and smell the flowers,” useful and timely advice.

Fantasy Aisle, Conservatory Garden located on the Upper East Side of the park

Conservatory Garden located on the Upper East Side of the park

Now on the West Side of the park and the sun bearing down on me, I wipe my sweat and duck into the North Meadow walking briskly to Belvedere Castle and the Shakespeare Garden. The tourists are awake and occupy the castle’s landing with cameras and tripods. I check to make sure the turtles are still roaming freely at Turtle Pond and remember my first performance of “Much Ado About Nothing” during the 2014 season of Shakespeare in the Park.

Fantasy Aisle, Empty swings await

Empty swings await

Fatigue sets in and I’m counting the 40+ blocks I need to finish the 6.02-mile loop. The joy has vanished from my face and my walk transformed from a leisurely activity into a mission of sorts. I notice a woman on a swing and move to take her picture but pause. We exchange pleasantries and I admit I haven’t sat on a swing in ages. She tells me to give it a try and I do. I’m kicking my legs faster and faster and soaring into the air. We swing together but not in unison. She is in her 60s I guess and loves the park for the swings. She stops, waves and bids me a good day. I let my hair blow in the wind and push higher and higher until I am scared and slow my pace. A child inhabited my body and I jump off the swing making a skittish landing on the sand. I recover. That was fun.

Fantasy Aisle, A beautiful bride poses at Bethesda Terrace and Fountain (lower passage) in Central Park

A beautiful bride poses at Bethesda Terrace and Fountain (lower passage) in Central Park

Central Park serves as an open-air museum and events center to New Yorkers and its guests. There is something for everyone whether it’s catching rays of sun in Sheep Meadow, paddling a rowboat on the pond near the Loeb Boat House, pledging wedding vows at the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain or listening to the talented musicians scattered along Literary Walk.  A day in the park is only the beginning.

When I bought a park map from Karina, a 24-year-old student from the Bronx, I asked her what she enjoyed most about the park and she answered, “Literary Walkduh. I finished my adventure along the Mall admiring the statues of Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott and talking with Shayneh Starks, a native of Newport Beach, CA who has been visiting Central Park for the last 20 some years. She sits and listens to the magical music of Ralph U. Williams who is a talent on the saxophone. We discuss her first visit to the park with her mother when she was 21-years-old and I tell her I love zooming around the park on my bike but early on weekends before the tourists arrive. I ask her what she likes most.  She pauses and with passion and a smile answers, “The best part of Central Park is the fireflies.”

Fantasy Aisle, The Mall and Literary Walk, a favorite of many in Central Park

The Mall and Literary Walk, a favorite of many in Central Park

I agree. I thank Shayneh for the conversation and hunt for an empty bench in front of Kerbs Boathouse. The next few hours I bask in the sun reading my book and forgetting I live in a city with 8.5 million people.

My Favorite Spots in Central Park

The Pond at sunrise.  Take in the view of the Gapstow Bridge and a glimpse of the city’s skyline

Sip a coffee or a grab a drink at Kerbs Boathouse/Conservatory Water

Walk/Run the 1.58 mile loop around the Reservoir

Fancy a game of tennis?

Camp out all night for free tickets to Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theater (I usually cheat and become a member of the public theater)

Take a break at Strawberry Fields and listen to the Beatles greatest hits played by visiting musicians

Enjoy paddle boating at the Loeb Boathouse

Read a book and fall asleep in Sheep Meadow

Enjoy an outdoor lunch at Tavern on the Green

Let someone else do the driving on a romantic Horse Carriage Ride through the park

Breathe in the sounds and sights of Literary Walk/the Mall

Catch a free movie night in the Park

Plan for a Concert in the Park

Snap pictures of the Boathouse and people getting married at the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain

Fun for kids and parents

Make some figure eights at the Wollman Rink

Get dizzy on the Carousel

Pet an animal or two at the Tisch Children’s Zoo

Go paddle boating at the Loeb Boathouse and take in city views


General travel, North America, soul searching

Redefining Sexy by Brooke Edwards, Wild World Wanderings

September 15, 2017 • By

This is the first post as part of a new series featuring strong and determined women travelers and guides. Today’s guest author is Brooke Edwards of Wild World Wanderings on “redefining sexy”.

Fantasy aisle, Brooke Edwards in deep snow redefining sexy

Redefining Sexy

Alaska Girls Kick Ass reads the hot pink bumper sticker donning many a vehicle in the 49th State and beyond.  And it’s actually true, Alaska girls DO kick ass.  I truly feel honored to be a woman amongst some of the strongest, most athletic, interesting, hard-core, sexy, feminine, beautiful, talented Renaissance women of Alaska.

Being sexy here is not the curve of your breasts, nor is it what ridiculous amount of money you spent on designer jeans. Alaska Sexy is how a woman skis a more jaw-dropping line than most dudes. It’s how she rows the rapid and pulls over to catch, fillet and cook her salmon over a fire.  It’s how she owns the dance floor with wild confidence, secure in her own skin and extra tufts.  Alaska Sexy is a goggle tan and sunburned lips.

Alaskan women are wilderness guides, hunters, fisherwomen, carpenters, adventurers, endurance athletes and more. They build their own homes, catch their own fish, chainsaw their own firewood and fix their own trucks.

Fantasy Aisle, redefining sexy by Brooke Edwards, Brooke with skis on a mountainside

Photo Courtesy of Heather Thamm. Brooke

In 1998, life presented me a quandary: move to Montana to chase a boy, or embrace the wild unknown of my lifelong dream to go to Alaska and guide.  I chose the wild unknown, and, with what little savings I had, managed to purchase my first home: a small hippie shack dry cabin in a bog on railroad ties with the address Toadstool Turnpike, Girdwood.  Hearing that I would have to heat my cabin with wood and haul my own water, my dad gifted me his 25-year-old Stihl chainsaw with a big red bow on it as an early Christmas that year.  He wanted to provide me with the gift that heats you twice: gathering your own wood and burning it later.

Fantasy Aisle, redefining sexy, The Girls Gone Girwood logo on a t shirt

The Logo as part of Girls Gone Girwood

When I first moved to Girdwood, Alaska, I was expecting to find a bunch of dudes who fit the state saying “The odds are good, but the goods are odd.”  I steeled my resolve to keep my independent status while I survived being the fresh meat in town.  Instead, I found an incredible group of inspiring women, from boat captains to bush pilots, heli-ski guides to firefighters.  They took me in, taught me real skills that in 20 years of wilderness guiding in Alaska have proved invaluable.  Namely, skills that are hard to define, such as perseverance, tolerance for adversity and following your passion over money.

Fantasy Aisle, redefining sexy, girls of Girls Gone Girwood in skis on a mountainside, photo courtesy of Ralph Kristopher

Photo courtesy of Ralph Kristopher. Girls Gone Girwood

I am grateful for my Girls Gone Girdwood, the funny name we called ourselves back in the day.  Without the GGG, and other phenomenal women getting after it, I would still be struggling to redefine sexy from what society has stuffed down our throats–the airbrushed, manufactured, far-too-skinny magazine model female–to the different vision I embrace today; of strength, power and inner beauty shining from inside out.

To get a sense of what I’m talking about, check out this short 9 minute film highlighting two of my favorite girlfriends and mentors: Leighan Falley and Kirsten Kremer.

The last two summers, I was lucky enough to guide Colton Smith and Jack Steward with the TV show Rock The Park on ABC Saturday mornings.  One year, I took them on a remote river trip on the Aniakchak River where you fly into a lake in the crater of a volcano and raft it out to the ocean.  The next year, they asked me [to join them] for another adventure and this time we ventured on foot deep into the heart of the brutally rugged Arrigetch Peaks in Gates of The Arctic.

Their show is an educational TV show aimed at families with the mission of inspiring more folks to get out and enjoy our National Parks.  Their motto is “If we can do it, so can you!”  To me, this couldn’t have rung more true as I pondered the impact on little girls nationwide watching me, a woman, guide these young fit men in some of the wildest corners of our planet.  I thought to myself, “pay attention, girls: If I can do it, so can you.”

Here’s to redefining sexy and owning our power in the wilderness and at home, ladies.  Let’s Do This!

–Brooke

Brooke Edwards of Wild World Wanderings hails from the Great Pacific Northwest, where her passion for all things outdoors was born. Alaska has been her home for the last 20 years. You can find her year-round exploring mountains and rivers in both the vast wilderness of Alaska and international wild locales.  Brooke has an M.S. in Environmental Education with a primary focus on Ecotourism from The Audubon Expedition Institute. She’s spent over 2 decades incorporating these principles in her guiding.  Brooke would love to share her passion for all things travel by custom designing the perfect itinerary for you.