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Natural Beauty

June 3, 2010

By Jennifer Chaky

I embarked on an adventure with a group of people who gathered in Rahway, NJ to walk—yes, walk—to New York City. This walk was organized by the East Coast Greenway, an organization that is developing a trail system, spanning nearly 3,000 miles between Canada and Key West, Florida, linking all the major cities of the eastern seaboard.

The goal of the East Coast Greenway is for the entire trail to be on paths, completely separated from the road, but currently only about 20% of the route is on local, traffic-free, firm-surfaced trails that are safe for all abilities. So we had to improvise a bit and navigate through neighborhoods and traverse precarious highway intersections, exit ramps, and bridges to link up to the traffic-free parts that wound their way through beautiful parks and along waterways.

I met up with the walkers halfway through their journey, at Newark Penn Station, and joined them for the remaining 25 miles to New York Penn Station. The irony of heading into New York City, a place people generally get away from to go on a weekend hike, was not lost on me. But the truth is, there is much wildlife to be appreciated—even under the Route 1 & 9 highway overpass.

It was a testimony of nature’s endurance and longing for survival to see birds’ nests, waterfowl, turtles, and edible wildflowers amidst the 60-mph traffic that rushes by and the litter-strewn rivers and roadsides that are anything but dead. It was a rare glimpse of areas that I had only previously driven past and it gave me hope—hope in our planet’s resilience, and hope that more and more people can share this up-close-and-personal view of our world so they will appreciate and protect it.

So I encourage anyone to checkout the East Coast Greenway and the Liberty Water Gap Trail (another great resource for trails in NJ) websites and plan a day sans vehicle and see where your feet can take you. The journey is sure to go beyond mere physical miles to be a heart-lifting reconnection with the world right outside our car doors.

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