The High Bridge was constructed as an aqueduct to carry water from the Croton Reservoir to Manhattan. It is the oldest bridge connecting Manhattan to another land mass (the Bronx), and the only one restricted to pedestrians and bicyclists. It is scheduled to reopen in 2013, about 40 years since it closed.
Word of the Day: Aqueduct: a conduit or artificial channel for conducting water from a distance, usually by means of gravity.
(from Latin aqua water + ductere to lead or convey)
What a crazy start to the day. Our fearless co-leader Onyx was stuck in the hospital after being in a car-on-car collision on the way to work! Fortunately he wasn’t injured. But it meant we couldn’t pick up our riders at the Beacon program so we soldiered on with the abbreviated crew. It was also Kara’s last official day with us–we’re going to miss her.
But the rest of the day was fantastic. We awarded Destinee and Jasmine their hard-earned 25 mile badges before heading up 1st Avenue on our way to Highbridge Park in Manhattan. (The Bronx side is for another day…) We said hello to Harriet Tubman’s statue as we headed north on St. Nicholas. Sliced watermelons smelled fresh at the roadside stand. But we churned steadily up the hill, past City College, without pause until we reached our surprise stop at Sylvan Terrace and the Morris-Jumel Mansion.
Sylvan Terrace is a row of houses built in the 1880’s, connected to the mansion property, that looks like a time capsule on cobblestone. Destinee and Jasmine strolled up the steps of the mansion and knocked. The docent let us in and the riders saw historical documents, works of art and antiques from the revolutionary era. Apparently George Washington used this as his headquarters, partly because one could see south to New York harbor. (Now one can see south to the apartment building across the street.)
Next we found the dirt path entrance to Highbridge Park, passing an angry, barking dog straining against his leash as if we were entering Hades. Into the woods! Our mountain bikes sure came in handy as we plowed through some mud. On top of a rocky clearing we fixed a problem with Calvin’s brakes while Destinee took a clementine break. Soon after diving back into the woods, we caught our first glimpse of the High Bridge itself, and then the water tower that used to supply Washington Heights.
At the entrance to the bridge (still blocked off) we took a well-earned break to try some lychees. Destinee, Cappy and Kara voted yes, Jasmine and Calvin no, and Jhevaughn was equivocal. Jhevaughn tried to recall his geology lessons in assessing the mysterious large rock on display in the middle of the path–it’s either igneous or metamorphic, but no further clues were available.
Decisions time: to take the stairs or not. The water tower is high up the cliff at street level and the recently repaired, but old, staircase was daunting. The fellas decided to go for it and the gals opted for riding back to the ramp access about half a mile back to rendezvous at the tower. Little did the fellas know that their climb would be rewarded with locked gates! No way out except back the way we came. The two groups conference on either side of the tall iron fence and decided to meet back at the “Sunken Playground,” where we refilled the water bottles before heading back.
Downhill on St. Nick was universally perceived as easier than up. We crossed back to the east on 120th street, with a quick dowsing under a fire hydrant’s spray, and a quick look at the top of Pleasant Avenue, a.k.a. Avenue A. On the East River path Cappy cut a new sample of the tree Destinee had sampled last week and Destinee looked it up on the Arbor Day Foundation site. Turns out it’s a baldcypress (yes, apparently one word).
Great day overall and we hope Onyx will be back in action for our next one.
This trip was on August 2, 2012
Distance: 11.9 miles
Participants: Calvin Debrecourt, Destinee Moore, Jasmine Romero
Leaders: Cappy Collins, Jhevaughn Langley, Kara Metcalf
2012 High Bridge Manhattan