East Irvington Bushwhacking

We returned today for Wacky Wednesday to one of our favorite local spots–the East Irvington Nature Preserve. Jane & Walt Daniels, in their incredible book Walkable Westchester, list the preserve under their section of “tiny treasures,” and that is indeed what it is.

The preserve is split into two areas for walking, a wide dirt road that leads straight uphill from the initial access trail to a water tower and the Wecquaesgeek Trail that abuts the road in a semi-circle. Hiking along the dirt road you can enter the Wecquaesgeek Trail early on and exit it back at the road near the water tower. You can also hike up to the water tower and take the Wecquaesgeek back down, which is what we did.

The kids spent a lot of time today bushwhacking off trail. It seems to me that more and more of that is starting to happen, especially among the kids who have been joining us for a while. Our earlier hikes were spent covering more ground with the actual hiking, but now it seems there is a lot more off-trail exploration happening. Today, a couple of fallen trees were one of the big draws, and the kids spent a bit of time climbing and balancing on the trunks and branches. What fun to climb a tree that is horizontal! You get to explore limbs and areas of the tree that would be completely inaccessible if it were in its traditional upright posture. Other draws were, of course, the huge boulders bordering the trail in the woods, stick collecting, dirt drawing, mud digging and general rumpus.

The kids love the destination of the water tower and the mystery that surrounds it like the chain-link fence that is actually there. I love to listen to their speculations. Can people get in? Do they climb it? Is that what that ladder is for? What if they fell in when they got to the top? Is there a door? How do they get the water out? Is there water inside? How do they get over the fence? The questions go round and round.

I use the lure of the Wecquaesgeek Trail to lure them away from the water tower. Several kids run along ahead while being reminded that they need to be in the sight-line of their grown ups, and hit the trail pointing at the faded brown blaze-markers they see affixed to trees. They feel confident following the blazed trails. There is a mountain to climb, a large, icy puddle to explore, stumps to sit upon, sticks to break and whack and wield.

We’re losing light and we need to move the group up on the “mountain” back down to the trail and along toward our cars and homework and dinner. As the kids load in, shedding boots, clicking seat belts, one mom calls out to me quoting her son, “That was the funnest Kids Unplugged yet!” Cool.

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