Howdy Transients, welcome to the forty-fourth traversal of HACK. If you’ve made it this far, we are now at the point where the tangent meets the circle.
I don’t know what’s worse…knowing that you don’t have a summer vacation and that it’s all going to be work even through the summer OR being reminded every year that you have a whole life, a whole spectrum of experience that must CEASE in September and pushed to the bottom of the well until late-June.
I guess it’s a matter of personal actualization. There’s no reason why I can’t do all the healthy, spiritually invigorating “summer” habits the rest of the year round. It’s just a lot HARDER. Look, I don’t mind working for a living. I just don’t understand why it has to be so consuming. I don’t mean in a personal investment sense, I mean in the sheer number of hours we must spend thinking about nothing else–putting our entire lives on hold.
Anyway, here are some places I may frequent this summer because they’re close to where I familiar, and relatively cheap. I tried to keep the list short because it quickly started to get out of control. Perhaps other places will show up in another HACK.
For those of you that live in the Tri-State area, I recommend taking jaunts to check out these joints. If you live too far away, keep these places in mind if you’re ever in the area…
Ocean Grove – Central New Jersey
Everyone who lives in New Jersey thinks they know the best Jersey beaches. They are all wrong. When I lived in South Jersey, I would have said Strathmere Beach (between Sea Isle City and Avalon) was the place to go…no lifeguards, easy parking, plenty of open sand. But the best beach is, believe it or not, in Central Jersey. Even though Central Jersey itself is Hell on Earth, the predominately Christian town of Ocean Grove, NJ is a piece of isolated Heaven. You actually go through giant gate-structures to enter the town. A simple grid of one ways, all ending at a boardwalk. The Victorian houses are all in pristine condition, their owners have restored, painted, and even named them. There’s an old church in the center of town which looks out upon the shoreline.
I have three prime directives for beaches:
1) as few people as possible
2) easy access to urinate
3) nowhere near shops, rides, casinos, etc. easy access to food is a bonus.
Ocean Grove fulfills them all. The sands are CLEAN. There are full bathroom facilities on the beach and on the boardwalk. There’s a food stand that sells EVERYTHING, even coffee. Nothing more fulfilling than a cup of hot coffee on the beach. Ocean Grove can get crowded like all other beaches, but it’s never as bad as other beaches. Nevertheless, I recommend going to the end of the beach, right on the border of Asbury Park. That’s where the Surfing Only Area is. You can’t swim there but it’s a good place to set camp because there are never a lot of people. If you want to swim, or piss, or get something to eat, it’s all within very short walking distance.
Tourne County Park – Mountain Lakes, New Jersey
Only 30 minutes from where I live, Tourne Park is probably my favorite place to escape to. I haven’t found a park with more square miles of forest (546.9 acres) anywhere in what is essentially a suburban/metro area. Tourne is also the name of an actual mountain that you can climb. The mountain is about 900 ft. though I’m not sure how far up the path takes you. There’s a baseball diamond, picnic shelters, grills, large fields of grass, a lake, a beachfront area, and plenty of hiking paths to explore. My favorite is the red trail, which takes you through the longest, hilliest and rockiest trek. This approx. 5 mile route takes no more than 90 minutes and can be divided into three major parts: The first part is relatively easy and scenic. The second part has a couple of high, rocky hills and twists and turns you deep into the woods. The third part is Tourne Mountain itself. You see many people coming down the flat, steep part. But it’s more of a workout to go up this part and go down gradually on the twisting rocky slopes of the other side. At the top of the mountain is a gorgeous view of North Jersey, and on a clear day, NYC. Sometimes you will see groups of Asians doing Tai Chi on the grass. There’s a war memorial made of rocks and statues and American Flags. The only downside to Tourne is the bugs. In the humid seasons they can be relentless. The way to avoid this is go early in the morning or as close to sundown as you can. Personally, dusk is my favorite time of day. So far at Tourne I’ve seen a variety of animals including: deer, bears, snakes, hawks, geese, misc. birds, spiders, slugs, caterpillars, chipmunks, squirrels, tortoises, bees, beaver, horses and dogs (with owners,) and these strange intelligent creatures called humans.
The name is ironic because while these used to be farms it now refers to a roughly 3 sq. mile. piece of land that contains headquarters of major pharmaceutical companies. Essentially I imagine a lot of evil shit taking place inside those beautifully architectured buildings. No matter, there is plenty of open field between them and the path. You can’t actually enter Giralda Farms, but there is a paved path which takes you all the way around. It’s right across the street from the back entrance to Drew University. Believe it or not, there was a time, long ago in sophomore year, when I was running 3.5 miles every other night around the Giralda Track. One of my first dates with a girl named Amy was a walk around the path. By the time we completed the circle, I think we both knew we were in love. The last time I ever saw my freshman year roommate Ken Rankins was an accidental meeting on the Giralda path, one day way after college. These days I go to Giralda to bike. I’m not a dedicated cyclist and my bike isn’t the best, so I like to keep it simple. I count success in terms of miles.
If I circle the Giralda track and then do a mini-figure eight loop through the back entrance of Drew University, it gives me an extra half miles takes me right past Welch Hall where I lived for two years, out back behind the tennis courts where Doug Palermo destroyed Scott Wood more than once, and finally past the Florence and Robert Zuck Arboretum…a piece of fenced in Heaven.
“The Florence and Robert Zuck Arboretum is an arboretum located on the southwest part of Drew University. The arboretum is open to the public by appointment. Created in 1980 in honor of faculty members Robert and Florence Zuck, the arborteum contains a mix of native and introduced trees. Its two small ponds serve as student laboratories. They contain turtles, goldfish, catfish, and muskrats, and are also stops for migrating Canadian geese, ducks, and herons.” –Wikipedia
For me it’s one of the simplest and most spiritually invigorating walks to take. SO. MANY. MEMORIES. Seriously, they are all flooding back to me now and I’m just going to move on…
Back to the Giralda Path. So yeah, I go around one way and back the other way and repeat to see how many miles I can get in. It’s not easy. There is one giant hill going one way and a long, slow uphill on a residential street the other way. Either way, good workout.
Lehigh Gorge, Pennsylvania
I’m referring in general to the Lehigh Gorge Trail which follows the Lehigh River for 26 miles. There are miles and miles of campgrounds and hiking trails, plus all the fishing, canoeing and whitewater rafting you could want. In the town of Jim Thorpe is the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway. For me though the highlight is Glen Onoko Falls, one of many waterfalls in the area but the only one I’ve been to. In certain spots you can sit/stand/lay under the fresh, pounding, ice-cold water. Bliss.
“The Glen Onoko Falls trail is a challenging hike up steep and rocky terrain that holds secluded wonders that many never see but are unforgettable to those that do.” –phillyonair.com
I’ll be honest. I’ve spent a total of 7 years living up here and I feel like I’ve still only barely touched upon the wealth of experience that awaits in NYC. I almost always have a guide or meet up with someone when I go. But what I really need to do is go on my own and spend a series of full days exploring.
But I really want to go back to Governor’s Island. Last and only time I was there we got rained out of a Dr. Dog concert. Well, they still played but my guests didn’t wanted to leave before they even started. Anyway, point is: New York is the city I hate to love.
There’s plenty to do in Beacon, NY. First off, there’s the heart: Stately Jane Manor. Here Noelie will show you any video he wants you to see, play you any music he wants you to hear, and if you’re lucky he’ll LOAN you some of his books that he wants you to read. Noelie always has the best (sometimes exotic) snack foods and beverages, the holiest of these being Janie’s shrimp bisque with root beer–though you can only get that combo during Noelmas.
If you can Noelie to leave the house, we’d meet up with Attila, the famed King of Beacon at Madam Brett Park. Sit on the giant rock overhanging the waterfalls, walk the railroad tracks, traverse the King of Beacon trail, or sneak into the dilapidated ruins of an early 20th century–well, I don’t remember what it used to be, but now it’s an awesome place for exploring and tagging.
There are so many other things to do in Beacon: get a drink at the Barking Frog, a bite at the 84 Diner, a full dinner at the Jade Palace, cotton candy milkshakes for dessert, visit the Cashino, not visit the Dia:Beacon, pick fresh fruits and vegetables at Fishkill Farms, hang out at the Beacon Waterfront, and climb Mount Beacon.
Cory & Anthony – Massachusetts
Now I know you can’t just knock on Cory & Anthony’s door and expect them to let you in. But this how cool these pair are. If you tell ’em Towel Boy sent ya, chance are they’d welcome you with open arms (after a quick phone call to me vouching for you.) Visiting Cory & Anthony’s has become a regular summer mission of mine. They recently moved into a new house, so this time should be even more novel. Here’s what you can expect: complete and total hospitality, the best cooked organic/vegetarian meals you’ll ever eat, a big screen with video games and Netflix, and the occasional scenic visit. Like, one time we went swimming in Walden Pond. But really, the best part about driving all the way up to Massachusetts is spending time with Cory & Anthony. They are just that awesome.
Mammoth Cave National Park – Kentucky
OK, this one’s more of a wish list kind of thing. I once spent a whole week camping alone 4 miles deep into the woods. Aside from being huddled in a flooding tent with Fellowship of the Ring and a flashlight during a giant storm with lots of prepositions…oh, sorry…aside from that vivid memory, I found my true catharsis in the caves.
Mammoth Cave boasts the world’s largest underground cave system…over 250 miles of explored. You can do the usual walk-through tours or you can do The Wild Cave Tour. Twelve people max, hard hats, lights, 6 hours, 5.5 miles underground, crawling through tunnels barely wider than your chest. Flowing through the park is the Green River which carved the caves, though the same river which flows below in this cave system is called the river Styx. Apparently named after some band, I dunno.
But yeah, you should definitely take a trip to Mammoth Cave National Park someday. I haven’t been there in twelve years.
This place gets a special note of recognition. It lies just down the road from the back entrance of Mammoth Cave National Park. Yes, you read it right. Golgotha Fun Park. Golgotha. As in, Calvary. As in, the hill that Jesus was crucifiied on. As in, mini-golf. Golgotha…Fun Park. I remember the first and only time I was there. It was like Christmas had come early but since the birth of Christ didn’t actually happen on December 25th, for all I know it could have been Christmas! I mean, this place actually exists! Or, existed. They closed down. Gee, I wonder why. Well at least there are lots of pictures. Golgotha. Fun. Park. I tried to videotape the place but they shut me down. Fair enough. I AM a heretic. And I definitely like to burn some bush. Wow, that joke is funny on at least two levels, three if you capitalize Bush.
Of course there many more places but my summer vacation hasn’t started yet. Tell us about your special place in the comments section. Have a safe, satisfying and serendipitous summer.
Towel Boy got out of Dodge a long time ago.