Monday, July 01, 2013

Tourists in our own town

Little Red Lighthouse under Great Gray Bridge
(Plenty of photos below)

Yesterday, returning from visiting a friend in the Bronx, we found ourselves in the uptown Port Authority terminal at the George Washington Bridge, and were about to enter the subway when yours truly had a crazy idea:  "We're practically on top of the George Washington Bridge--let's go look for the Little Red Lighthouse."

American readers with children may well remember the children's book The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge.  In it, the lighthouse feels small and unneeded after the George Washington Bridge is constructed quite literally almost directly overhead, but the bridge assures the lighthouse that its own lights are for "the ships of the air," while the lighthouse, small though it is, is still the guardian of the boats on the river.  This book made the lighthouse so famous that, when the Coast Guard made plans to demolish it, there was a nationwide protest.  So the lighthouse still stands, to this day.

Red tower, gray tower

Unfortunately, the Little Red Lighthouse is probably one of the worst-marked landmarks in the entire City of New York.  Stupidly, I didn't ask anyone how to find it.  It took us about 15 minutes of wandering around Washington Heights to find a sign saying "Little Red Lighthouse," and--our rotten luck--that sign led to an apparently-abandoned, poorly-maintained and isolated path with so few people on it that I told my husband that, if I'd been by myself, I would have turned around and gone back.  It took us about another 15 minutes of a less-than-pleasant walk to see people with strollers, and perhaps another 15 minutes and a few detours to find the entrance to the totally-unmarked path where they'd been walking.  Finally, we found the path,

En route down the path

leading through delightful, albeit noisy, parkland--hey, what do expect from a park that's built directly under a bridge?--

Traffic on the Hudson River, shot enroute

right down to the edge of the Hudson River and right up to the lighthouse.  Out came our smartphones.  (Eventually, I'll figure out how to upload photos from my smartphone and post one of them here.  July 4, 2013 update:  Uploaded photos and posted a few of them here.  Americans can consider this an Independence Day present.  Hope I can still remember how to do this in the future.  :)  )

Punster shoots Lighthouse

The park actually extends beyond the lighthouse--I'm not sure whether it's considered part of Riverside Park--but we'd spend quite enough time getting lost and, after resting our weary feet for a few minutes, went directly back up the path to Riverside Drive.

Shooting ducks--the humane way--from the path

Framed flora

Stone bridge over the path and under, um, not sure what

For those within commuting distance of Manhattan, here are the travel directions, now that we've figured them out the hard way:
  • Take the A train to 181st Street.  (The #1 to 181st Street will do, in a pinch, but it stops farther east, so the walk will be several blocks longer.)
  • Walk west on 181st Street until you reach Riverside Drive.
  • Turn right on Riverside Drive and walk a block or two to the pedestrian overpass/footbridge that'll take you over the highway (Henry Hudson Parkway?).  Turn left and walk over the overpass.
  • The overpass leads directly onto the path that'll take you down to the Hudson and the lighthouse.  (Keep your eyes open for bicycles, as this is a shared path.)  Enjoy!
Warning:  Washington Heights is called "heights" for a reason--I've heard that it stands at the highest elevation level of the entire island of Manhattan.  The walk back up from the Hudson is not for the weak of legs--my guess is that we walked up the equivalent of roughly six stories, if not more, to get back up to Riverside Drive.

Riverside Drive from near the top of the path,
including view of pedestrian overpass.
This is just the end of the walk up, folks.
Note:  The cars you see are on the Henry Hudson Parkway--
Riverside  Drive is up where the white fence and the apartment buildings are.

It's a good thing that the path doesn't go straight up.

For a previous tour or two, see New Yorkers touring New York.


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