This is a story about an interesting thing that happened to me in a boring place on a boring day.
This is a story with a happy ending.
It was the third day of Chanukah, a Sunday.
In the old days, it would have been our family’s one day off together, and we would have spent the morning discussing what to do, thinking about all the fun other, more organized families were probably having, worrying about where the boys would catch Minchah and ultimately ending up at the Museum of Natural History.
But this Chanukah, my kids were grown, married, at yeshivah, working, or studying.
It was only the two of us, me and my husband.
There was no fighting or crying or arguing or kvetching.
Oh wait, there actually was someone kvetching, but it was me.
“I can’t believe this. We’re going to stay home on Sunday Chanukah when everyone else is doing something?”
My husband would have been happy spending his Sunday learning in shul, but he took pity on me. I have a condition called FOMO. It evidently does not dissipate with age. It flares up on Chol Hamoed and Sunday Chanukah and is alleviated by going on trips or attending simchahs and staying until the cleaning crew arrives.
Husbands do not have this condition.
He agreed to accompany me somewhere close by for a few hours as long as he would be back in time for Minchah (see above). It was an unusually warm December day, 57 degrees, and we decided to try Ramapo Reservation, a popular hiking spot about 25 minutes away. We had gone there before, but the parking lot was always full and we could never get in.
We drove there again, but once again the parking lot was full and we could not get in.
This time, however, I was determined to do something, anything, and I did not want to go home. We had passed a sign down the road for Continental Soldiers Park. I googled it and found this hike description:
This easy, nearly level, one-mile loop hike circles Lake Henry, which is frequented by several species of waterfowl, including swans, geese, cormorants and egrets. The hike begins near a kiosk (with a map) in the northwest corner of the parking lot (in back of the recreational fields and grandstands). Follow a dirt road (covered with wood chips), which begins just north of the kiosk and leads towards the lake, and turn right to circle the lake in a counterclockwise direction. The trail bears left, briefly narrows to a footpath, and continues around the lake, well shaded by overhanging trees.
Then I scanned some of the 151 reviews.
Satyam Barbaria: Great, safe and clean place. Beautiful fall views.
Donna Holmqvist: Very picturesque scenery. Wide trail around lake. Tranquil.
Jim H.: Pretty and peaceful park with a short loop trail around Lake Henry. Trail can be damp and muddy at times.
Mark Ramirez: Love this place. Almost feel as if I shouldn’t share a review so it doesn’t get overrun. Lots of nature at the lake.
Jennifer Lanzalotto: It was all right.
And so on. Okay, it sounded good enough.
“Let’s go,” I said.
We drove further down the road and parked in the huge, nearly deserted lot of Continental Soldiers Park. We walked past a handful of cars near the playground and ball field and proceeded onto the path.
Jim H.’s review appeared to be the most accurate. My shoes sank deep into the muddy field that we crossed before we actually got to the lake. We saw no swans, geese, cormorants or egrets. The body of water was more like a dreary marsh overrun by weeds. Lakes near us in Rockland are so much more picturesque, not to mention five minutes from my home. It was a disappointment. We walked around the path, the lake on one side and thick woods on the other side.
“There’s nothing to see, and my feet are wet,” I sadly said. “This has to be the most boring place we have ever been to.”
“Well, except for that helicopter circling above us,” my husband noted.
I looked up.
There was indeed a helicopter right above us.
“Why in the world would a helicopter be here?” I asked.
“It looks like it’s searching for something,” my husband observed.
“Well, there’s nothing at Lake Henry to find. Someone probably got lost or broke his leg on one of the exciting hikes at Ramapo Reservation, and they’re trying to—”
Hold it. Wait. What was that?
There were two figures racing frantically towards us on the path. What on earth could they be running from?