Touring NYC on foot – The Big Apple pt. 1

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Wall Street

I-95 S at the BronxNew York City was not on our planned route heading south, because we had both been there before.  But in this lifestyle we realize that we need to see everything we can while we’re here, and plans can change quickly.  So we decided to tackle the challenging trip to the Big Apple, and yes, it was an unpleasant drive on I-95 S from Connecticut, passing through the Bronx in New York to the New Jersey turnpike. But we made it with the only damage being to our nerves.

Liberty Harbor RV Park

Not an RV park, just a big parking lot!

The only RV park with easy access to NYC is Liberty Harbor RV Park (Steve’s review is here), across the Hudson River in Jersey City.  For $80 a night you get a space in a parking lot with just water and electrical hookups. They are the only game in town, as they are within easy access of Manhattan by ferry or train.  And they know it!

Rosana and I

The two girls back together after 37 years!

Reconnecting with my long lost friend, Rosana – whom I had not seen for 37 years – was a great reason to stop by NYC.  She and her hubby Angelo gave us a wonderful personalized tour around town, and that’s always the best way to experience  a big city.

The highlight of our wanderings was visiting the 9/11 Memorial.  Access is free, but a donation is requested when you get your timestamped pass, which is recommended because of how busy it gets.  The Memorial is surrounded by ongoing construction on several World Trade Center structures, which is amazing to see in itself.  We went on a Saturday, and a large crowd was already forming as the gate opened at 10AM. A security screening was required prior to entry, and we noticed lots of cameras and a large police presence.

Names on the 9/11 memorial

May their souls rest in peace.

The memorial consists of two huge pools set in the footprints of where the original Twin Towers once stood.  The names of the victims are inscribed in bronze parapets around the pools, at the approximate location of each victim when the building collapsed.  Thirty foot waterfalls cascade into the reflecting pool at the bottom.
Thirty-foot waterfalls,9/11 memorial

Thirty foot waterfalls at the reflecting pools

Water in the reflecting pools then falls into a center void intended to convey a spirit of quiet reflection of loss.  The simplistic design of the north and south pools at the Memorial will provide a focal point for the thoughts of people for generations to come.
South Pool, 9/11 memorial

The South Pool

The new One World Trade Center is scheduled to be completed in early 2014, and it dominates the nearby skyline.  It is almost complete at 104 floors, and is topped by a spire that reaches the symbolic height of 1,776 feet – a number commemorating the year of America’s independence.

One World Trade Center

One World Trade Center

The rebuilding continues, and we observed solemnity and respect among the hundreds of visitors.

9/11 memorial

Pausing to pay homage and respect.

Our friends took us all around town, and for those of you who have visited or lived there, you know that getting around means taking the subway and walking on the streets and avenues.  We learned that In New York City, an avenue block is 1/4 mile long and runs from east to west, while a street block is 1/16 of a mile long and runs from north to south.  Believe me, we did LOTS of walking on this day!

Walking down Wall Street, I caught a glimpse of Trinity Church.  It was positioned very nicely between other tall buildings.

Trinity Church, Manhattan

Trinity Church

In its yard is a two-ton bronze sculpture installed as a reminder of a large sycamore tree. The tree was uprooted on September 11, 2001 from St Paul’s Chapel several blocks away and found lying in the yard of Trinity Church. It had fallen in such a way that none of the historic tombstones around it were disturbed and none of the wreckage reached the Chapel.

Trinity Root Sculpture, Trinity Church

Trinity Root Sculpture

When we arrived at the American Museum of Natural History, I recognized immediately that these were the actual exhibits behind the characters featured in the movie “Night at the Museum”!  The David H. Koch Dinosaur collection alone occupied a large area on the fourth floor. This museum is huge and amazing, and it requires at least a full day (and maybe more) to explore.  A must-see if you’re in NYC.

As you may have guessed, the Rockefeller Center is a tourist destination and we were there milling around with hundreds of other folks.

A visit to NYC wouldn’t be complete without being in Times Square at night!  Our friends made sure we saw it during the day and then again all lit up.

Lastly, they took us across to Brooklyn where we were able to see the amazing Manhattan skyline from yet another vantage point.  Awesome!

Manhattan skyline at night

Manhattan Skyline and Brooklyn bridge at night, viewed from Brooklyn.

It was truly great seeing and reconnecting with Rosana again after so many years. Many thanks to her and Angelo, our gracious and patient hosts for giving us a fantastic tour of NYC – and for the wonderful lunch in Chinatown.   You are the best!

Angelo and Rosana

Angelo and Rosana

Next up:  High Rises and Many Bridges – The Big Apple pt. 2

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Rock Concert! – Chiricahua National Monument

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We saw a video describing Chiricahua National Monument at the Kartchner Caverns visitor’s center, and it piqued our interest.  We had not previously heard about “The Land of Standing up Rocks” as referred to by the local Chiricahua Apaches, and the “Wonderland of Rocks” by later pioneers.  After seeing it, we simply call it the “Gorgeous giant rock concert.”  We opted to stay in Arizona a couple extra days to check it out and moved Betsy over to Willcox, a little closer and still on our way.

Chiricahua (pronounced CHEER-IH-COW-AH) National Monument, established in 1924, is described as a sky island – an isolated mountain range rising above a surrounding grassland sea.  The unusual rock formations here were caused by a massive volcanic eruption some 27 million years ago by the nearby Turkey Creek caldera, which covered the land with white-hot ash.  As the ash cooled, it fused into dark volcanic rock known today as rhyolite.  The continual natural erosion via water and wind has sculpted these rocks and split them into tall columns, pinnacles  and unlikely balancing rocks.  We have seen many rock formations in our travels (like the ones at Alabama Hills in Lone Pine, California), but here in the Chiricahua Mountains the outcroppings are something to behold!

The eight mile scenic trip along Bonita Canyon Drive made a fairly steep ascent through oak, cypress and pine forest until we arrived at Massai Point, where the road terminates and several hiking trails begin.  Along the way there are pull outs where we could stop to view and photograph some amazing formations, such as the Organ Pipe Formation, Sea Captain and China Boy.

Organ Pipe Formation

Organ Pipe Formation

Hiking is the best option for getting up close and personal with the extensive outcrops of the eroded volcanic pinnacles.  We thought about taking the Heart of Rocks Loop, where a group of impressive and  unusual rock formations can be viewed.  But due to recent snow and the trail being classified as strenuous, the park ranger did not recommend it at this time.  Instead, we settled on the Echo Canyon Trail, and tackled the  3.3 circuit which begins at Massai Point at 6780′ elevation.

Echo Canyon Loop Trailhead

~Echo Canyon Loop Trailhead at Massai Point

The Echo Canyon Trail is the second most popular path in Chiricahua National Monument.  It follows a rocky ridge past many huge eroded boulders, balanced rocks and at this time held a lot of snow and ice!  The trail was slick and slippery, and it took us about 3 hours to complete the loop.  But it was well worth it!  We walked amongst the grottoes and balanced rocks, which is actually a bit unsettling, as you realize these massive boulders over your head could come down and smash you like a bug if there was even a small earthquake.

At one point we passed through a narrow, sheer-walled passage called Wall Street.

Wall Street

Wall Street

Then the path descended to the forested floor of a sheltered valley called Echo Park, which was at this time covered with snow and very beautiful.

Echo Park

Continuing on the trail we rounded a corner to a grand viewpoint high above two deep ravines, and on to a junction with the Hailstone and Upper Rhyolite Canyon trails.  On this north-facing side of the trail the snow had melted so we picked up our pace, walking along the base of the pinnacles lining the Rhyolite Canyon.

Upper Rhyolite

Along this trail we stopped and admired the many eroded boulders that are seemingly ready to fall.  The lichen-covered columns and pinnacles were colored green and/or orange.

There are 17 miles of hiking trails that intersect in the park, but the best option for an all day hike is known as the Big Loop, a 9.5 mile trip to all areas of the various formations.  The Chiricahua mountains was worth our change of plans, what a fantastic place!

Chiricahua National Monument

One final look at the Rocks in Concert!

We discovered while in Willcox that there are a few vineyards that grow and bottle yummy wines, and they are seriously good!  Two have tasting rooms in town – Keeling Schaefer and Coronado Vineyards.  We missed the wineries at Patagonia, so went tasting here and were surprised by the quality of these southwestern wines.  It was a fitting end to our Arizona wanderings.

Farewell, Arizona, until next time!