After 18 hours and 19 minutes of walking, split over two days, I finally limped into upper Manhattan. I was tired and knew I wouldn't be able to make it to my final destination, Grand Central Terminal in time for my bus to Philadelphia. Defeated, at the 143rd Street Station I took a #1 train downtown. Out of a 65 mile walking adventure, I failed just four miles from my destination. Shoot.
The day before, my brother and I had left from his home in Newburgh, NY in search of an adventure. Mike came up with the idea to walk to Grand Central Station, and since I’m someone who can't turn down a challenge, I took him up on his offer.
So, just like that. We strapped on our backpacks and hit the road.
Our first day of hiking ended earlier than anticipated. The June heat and distance was taking a toll on both of us. Mike seemed particularly dehydrated, so we stopped after 25 miles (out of a planned 30 for our first day). Outside of its bone-chilling (and much appreciated) air-conditioning, our motel in Peekskill was a dump. Luckily, we didn’t stay long.
Mike and I started our second and last day of the trip at the painful hour of 4:30am. As the sun rose, my feet felt strong, but I started to realize the challenge ahead. Today we needed to walk ~41 miles–farther than I’ve ever traveled on foot in a single day.
We followed along Route 9 and Route 9A, again paralleling the Hudson River as we cut further into Westchester County. Luckily, the weather was noticeably cooler than the day before, with temperatures rising into the lower 80s. A cloud cover also helped to mute the blistering sun that had scorched us yesterday.
As we continued south, the town names started rolling in faster and faster: Buchanan, Croton on Hudson, Ossining, Briarcliff Manor, Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown, and Irvington, and on, and on.
Seeing the world through the eyes of a walker (or runner) means you see things so much more vividly than if you were speeding along in a car, or riding a bicycle.
We passed landmarks like the home of the first African-American Millionairess, Madam C.J. Walker (1867-1919) and the first golf course on the continent (1686).
As the miles rolled past us, Mike and I were making progress towards our goal of reaching Grand Central Station. Unfortunately, this was not without a toll.
My brother started to show signs of discomfort as we passed mile 40 on our trek. Finally, at Hastings on the Hudson he told me he couldn’t go any further. Mike had work the next morning and couldn’t risk further injuring a serious cut that had developed under his foot. Mike told me he was done.
“Shoot, you know what this means” I joked. “This means we’ll have to do this again together another time!”
After we deciding to try the trip again together next Thanksgiving, I hugged Mike and he got on a train headed back home.
I took a moment to rest, then continued the walk south. Now I was going it solo.
The rest of the route cut through the dense urban streets of White Plains and Yonkers. I was warned by locals about the “sketchy” areas up ahead, but guessed that my sweat-soaked clothing and disheveled hair made me the scariest looking thing around.
I just kept plodding forward. One foot in front of the next.
My walk passed high-rise projects with courtyards littered with trash, children cooling in water from open fire hydrants, and emaciated prostitutes trailing what looked to be well-fed pimps.
As I crossed over from Yonkers into Manhattan, I had hoped that I’d be magically rejuvenated. Unfortunately when the moment came, no such bolt of energy arrived. I had covered 37 miles since that morning and my feet were smashed to a bloody pulp (I didn’t have the courage to look).
Despite the pain and my sluggish pace, I continued south and made it to 143rd street in Manhattan. It was now 6:00pm.
I had been traveling for over 12 hours today and realized that I wouldn’t be able to stumble the remaining 100+ blocks, and still make my bus to Philadelphia where my Aunt was waiting to pick me up.
I realized I would have to quit. My walking journey was over.
I took a moment to grieve my failure, then headed down into the subway.
I made it to the station in time to catch my bus. My Aunt greeted me when I rolled into Philadelphia two hours later. While I wasn’t able to finish my walking adventure, I had a great time with my brother and got to see a lot of amazing sites along the way. Mike and I will attempt the walk again soon.
In the meantime, this experience has reemphasized for me the idea that people can find amazing adventures everywhere. I know I did.
- Miles Traveled: 61.84
- Time: 18h:19m (over two days)
- Calories Burned: 6,011
- Altitude Gained: 7,000+ feet