The Great Saunter: an appropriate name for the thirty-two mile walk around New York City held on the first Saturday in May. Started 29 years ago by Shorewalkers.org it takes participants right around the island of Manhattan, mostly on riverside pathways, with a few minor detours for those places where the paths have yet to reach. It’s not a race, or even a charity fundraiser, just a chance to see Manhattan from its shore, at a steady pace with around 1500 other like-minded participants.
Last year I took part for the first time. The walk starts from the Fraunces Tavern down near Bowling Green, goes up the west side past Battery Park City and onto the Hudson Greenway.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to do the whole 32 miles (about twelve hours of walking) but given there is no pressure to walk the whole route, I decided to start at 42nd Street on the West side and walk via the north back to 42nd Street on the East, basically a huge loop of just under 21 miles. It was definitely the longest walk I had ever done and one of the most enjoyable. By the end I was suitably exhausted and my feet were sore, but already contemplating whether I could walk further next time.
Unfortunately the atrocious weather this winter meant that walking activities were severely curtailed so plans to build up my walking fitness in time for the Saunter were foiled, so once again I decided to start from 42nd Street. This year, however, I did have my daughter for company. It was a glorious day to start: blue skies and sunny but not too hot.
Along the way there are plenty of random sculptures to look at.
The walk continues through Riverbank State Park and Fort Washington Park to the George Washington Bridge which, considering how drab it appears when crossing it by car, somehow looks quite pretty from afar. It towers over the Little Red Lighthouse which stands on a small point of land which supports the base of the eastern pier of the bridge.
Beyond the bridge is Fort Tryon Park. This Grecian Temple stands on its eastern ridge. Overlooking the Hudson River, it was built as a destination for pleasure drivers on the old Riverside Drive. Now on the side of a major road, it's only walkers who can stop to admire the view.
A stroll through Inwood Hill Park leads to the northern tip of Manhattan (yes, believe it or not this scenic view is taken from the northern tip of the city) where the walk then cuts through the streets of Inwood across to the east side.
Walking south on the Harlem River Path provides some interesting sights, such as this boathouse built out on a dock in the Harlem River and the Tower part of High Bridge which was built as a conduit to bring the city water from the Croton Aqueduct.
And nature was kind enough to herald Spring with some glorious color.
But by mid-afternoon the day had turned cloudy and by the time we got to 42nd Street on the East side it looked like rain. I was tempted to stop, but my daughter suggested that we should at least try to walk a little further than I had last year, even if only a few blocks. That sounded sensible to me so we continued on…
...and on… until we saw this welcoming sight - the Brooklyn Bridge, the last of the many Manhattan bridges that we had to pass en route.
...and on, until, six miles later, we arrived at Fraunces Tavern and the finish.
Over 26 miles in all - certainly a record one day walk for me. Next year, who knows, maybe I'll do all 32 miles!