2014-12-25 41 -73
Woods in an extremely wealthy area near Bedford Hills.
Not sure about access, but I'll try it since I have nothing to do on Christmas. Bus or walk to the Metro-North Harlem stop, train to Bedford Hills and then walk (hike?) it. Not sure when yet, but probably early afternoon or midday. Feel free to suggest a time if you also want to come! -- OtherJack (talk) 23:41, 24 December 2014 (EST)
And here are said details. I had just moved to New York from the West Coast four days before. I hadn't seen the sun once, and it was supposed to finally emerge on Christmas Day, with temperatures still in the 50s F (>10C). Plus, almost all the shops were closed, so I couldn't keep buying stuff for my new place as I'd occupied myself with the first few days. And, the 41,-73 point looked very convenient for a wheel-less hasher, only two and a half miles from a suburban train station (with trains still running every hour on Christmas!) So, with no family around and friends largely visiting their own families, a Christmas geohash practically threw itself upon me this year.
I'd originally meant to walk the thirty minutes to the Metro-North station, so as to check out Harlem along the way (I'm a big jazz fan and play jazz piano, so the neighborhood is a storied one for me.) However, the train was due just a bit too soon for comfort, so instead I enjoyed the Harlem sunshine from inside the 125th Street bus. This turned out to be wise: when I arrived, I found the unwelcome surprise of a giant, slow-moving line to use the scant three ticket machines, with no agents selling tickets at the windows. The line was especially slow because the machine interface was way too complicated, especially for older folks. It looked like most of the passengers were unfamiliar with it, either because they didn't normally need to take Metro-North or because the station was normally staffed with agents - I wasn't sure which. (Christmas in the US is not a normal day.)
But in the end I still managed to get my round trip ticket and make the train with about 5 minutes to spare. The scenery was interesting enough - industrial Bronx, then lots of tony suburbs and pleasant, hilly, brown woods. However, un-forecast clouds began to overspread the sky, the lunch I brought wasn't enough to quench my hunger, and the train crawled quite slowly through certain stretches (maintenance?) This was not a great start but after an hour's journey I got out at Bedford Hills and began walking. Things improved shortly when I passed a deli that was actually open (on Christmas, and in a small suburban town at that!) and got a big, tasty corn muffin which I ate while walking.
My stomach happy, I finally began to enjoy my surroundings. It was a more humble place than I expected - rather than mansions, there were older, white-painted wooden houses and apartment buildings on modest lots, very Northeastern-looking and with a rural feel. Everywhere families were arriving in cars bearing Christmas dishes and presents. Once I turned onto the next road the land became properly rural, and hillier and curvier too. Soon I passed the Bedford Hills Correctional Center (American for "prison"), which I'd noted on the google map before the trip. It had a high fence and a few buildings of varying ages. I tried to look non-suspicious to the passing cars, and as far as I knew I was successful.
After passing under I-684 and climbing a short but steep hill, the landscape changed again: now there were gigantic, old-money country estates lining both sides of the road! I was geohashing in the land of the 1% -- heck, the 0.01% probably. This was definitely a first for me. Again hoping not to arouse any suspicion (of a different sort), I proceeded south down the road to the little lane? driveway? that Google maps depicted as the closest approach to the hash.
Finding the hash
The driveway had a gate, but for cars only - easy to walk around. But just then, a car actually drove out the gate and stopped at the road. I wanted it to turn and drive off, but it stubbornly stayed put. I tried to look like I was just browsing my phone, but soon enough an older man wearing a University of Michigan shirt got out of the car and asked if I was lost. When I explained what I was doing and asked his permission, he summarily denied it. He did suggest a possible alternate route, though, via a vaguely located bridle path. I remembered seeing a horse-crossing sign somewhere, so I told him I'd try it and began heading back north as he drove off.
My hopes weren't high at first, but then I thought of the old trick of trying the next-door neighbors. Somewhat nervous, I headed up their front driveway and their walk. Their house wasn't so huge though - it was a bit more like the ones in town, which reassured me a little. I knocked, two little dogs sprang into view on the couch and began yipping, and soon a laid-back, middle-aged guy named Denny answered the door. When I told him what I was doing, he was quite receptive, almost enthused! He gave his express permission to go to the point, and even gave me advice on how to get there - apparently the bridle path could be accessed from right behind his barn, and went straight back toward the hash. We kept chatting for a few minutes - he was from the area (and had the New York accent to prove it), but had lived in California for a while and had frequently gone to Seattle on business from there. So that was a nice connection.
In any case, I headed past the barn (no animals, just cars) and promptly found the bridle path. Fittingly for this area, it was the Park Avenue of bridle paths - wide, luxurious and oddly clean. Most interestingly, it appeared to run straight back toward the road behind me, meaning I would have crossed it (twice!) while on the road earlier. Why didn't I notice it at the time? I wondered, as I proceeded forward into the hashwoods. But I forgot about all that when I saw the Michigan neighbor's mansion on the left, behind a super-high, golf-course-grade fence. That thing was huge!!! It must have been worth 20 million dollars at least - he was seriously loaded. No wonder he was suspicious of me. Plus, the hash wasn't even on his property. I was very glad I'd found the correct neighbor.
In short order I was due south of the point according to geohash droid -- now it was time to turn on the real GPS. It took forever to lock on with the all the tree trunks, branches and clouds, but finally I strolled a few dozen meters through the tidy, peaceful early-winter woods and nailed the hash. First East Coast success.
The train was coming in just 37 minutes (the next one was an hour later, and would have dropped me in Harlem after dark), so I quickly and briskly started walking back. I tried to take the bridle-highway all the way back to the road, but soon found out why I hadn't noticed it earlier: it quickly degenerated into a messy, puddle-ridden gulch. I scampered out of it and back onto neighbor Denny's driveway, and from there to the road... re-tied my hash boots and made for town. Just over 30 minutes to go.
I walked hard, and even ran for the last 200m or so, but made it with a couple minutes to spare (and as a reward, the sun came back out.) On the train the young man sitting behind me spent his whole ride giving Christmas-song writing advice to a friend over the phone, which was fascinating to listen to - I think they were both in the music business. We made it to Harlem with plenty of daylight, and I got to walk home down 125th. Of course, it was quite modern these days with big chain stores, fast food places, lots of different ethnicities mingling, and all the avenues named after civil-rights heroes, but it was still interesting to be in the same neighborhood where Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker roamed in my grandparents' time. In a few more minutes I was in Morningside Park, and then home.
When I looked up "Bedford Hills" on Wikipedia, I found a helpful disambiguation page that led me to two unexpected insights. First, that the prison I walked by was not some minor facility as I'd presumed, but a maximum-security women's prison - the only one in the state! Some very infamous criminals had been (and were) housed there. Second, that the town of Bedford, which Bedford Hills and the hashpoint are part of, is home to such people as Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Donald Trump, Martha Stewart, Ralph Lauren, Michael Douglas, and Chevy Chase. I wondered if any of those giant estates I'd passed were theirs. In any case, this hash clearly took me through the biggest socio-economic range of any I've ever done... from Harlem to a notorious prison to billionaire's road. A fitting introduction to New York, I'll say!
| OtherJack earned the Ambassador achievement
| OtherJack earned the Public transport geohash achievement
| OtherJack earned the Christmas achievement
Finally, an ambassador success on a day other than the 12th! I am relieved.