Strangers in the Woods

This past weekend, I met three strangers at a Dunkin’ Donuts, got in the car with them, and drove up to Bear Mountain. When I told people what I was planning to do they thought  I was crazy, and most certainly would end up involuntarily donating some of my vital organs to the black market.

Just when I was starting to get fed up with this asphalt paradise I live in, I found a group on the website Why Leave Astoria that was for people in my neighborhood who want to take day excursions to the many hiking trails outside of Manhattan. Some friends thought it was sketchy, but then I had to remind them that I met my husband on a dating site, so I’m willing to take a chance on strangers from the world wide web.

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The popolopen creek.

We hiked the Popolopen trail on Bear Mountain. It was steep and super muddy from all the rain, but absolutely gorgeous. I can’t believe it’s only an hour drive from the city – it felt like a different world.

A 360 degree view of the Hudson Valley.

Honestly, I was surprised at how well we all got along. Lynne, our fearless leader, researched the trail, and was well prepared. The other two woman had been on hikes with her before, and we met up with her friend when we got to the trail. There was none of the awkward small talk of getting to know strangers because we already had so much in common: a love of nature, living in the same neighborhood, and a willingness to try new things.

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Third time I’ve used the timer on my camera. I’m glad it didn’t fall down the side of the mountain.

I had been planning to do a hike for a while now, but I wasn’t in the mood to rent a car and balance my friends’ busy schedule to find one weekend four month from now where everyone’s available. This trip was so easy, and had the unexpected benefit of introducing me to awesome people in my neighborhood.

I’m taking away two lessons from this hike:

  1. Don’t reinvent the wheel. There is a group on the internet that is planning to do whatever you want to do. Don’t wait around trying to plan it yourself, join a group and start doing it!  If you don’t have a neighborhood based website to find other people than I suggest browsing MeetUp for groups, and How About We which is more of a dating site but is based on doing activities together.
  2. In this day in age, we seem to focus on the worst of humanity. We hear one terrible story about a stranger murdering someone and then every stranger seems capable of murder. These sensationalized stories are so rare that they overshadow the best of humanity. You are more likely to be hit by a falling tree branch than be attacked by a serial killer. Don’t let fear control your life.

That said, please also use common sense. I don’t want to be the reason why any of you loose an organ 😛


  1. Thanks for MeetUp, Tracy. I hadn’t heard of it until now, and there are several groups right near here. Potential new friends on the horizon….


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