Chestnut Ridge, 9 of 19

What do ballerinas and hikers have in common? Give up? They both put wool in the toe of their shoes. It’s obvious why dancers who use point shoes need a little cushion between their big toes and the hard material of the shoe that supports their weight. If you’ve never tried them, believe me, that little piece of wool is the reason ballerinas can dance on their toes. But what about hikers? As you trudge downhill, your feet are thrust forward into the toe of your shoe or boot, so a cushion of wool makes the descent much more comfortable.

I was reminded of this connection as Dan and Dora and I were about halfway down a very long and steep hill. And Dora was so excited about running downhill, that I had to hold her back to prevent my landing on my nose. It was almost as challenging as plodding up the many hills that led to the ridge. I should have known that when the name of the park has Ridge in it, it’s going to mean climbing. Thank Goodness for Dora’s drive, because I’m not sure I would have made it up those hills without her pull. She’s a little tank.

The reward at the top was well worth the effort. In one picture Dan took, we were standing on a boardwalk where the hillside went steeply up on one side and terrifyingly down on the other side. Dan discovered an inch worm measuring a railing on the board walk, so he had to take a picture of it. And of course, I had to sing him one of my favorite songs from the musical, Hans Christian Anderson, called Inchworm. It’s about an inchworm that is so busy measuring the Marigold that he doesn’t notice “how beautiful they are.” Who knows how this lonely little inchworm got out on the middle of a boardwalk. Maybe it got a ride on somebody’s shoe. Anyway, after looking it up on the internet, Dan saw that it was just a caterpillar. It was still cute.

Dan took a photo of a sign that describes the ambiance of this beautiful park this way.

“The ridge might even be said to have a soul, at least a place that is always beautiful, from which beauty radiates. There is a little grove of sugar maples on the upper west slope just below the spring wildflower covered mound. The maples are young, no more than 60 years old, but some thing about the place makes them seem venerable . . . A quiet emerald light plays on the slope in summer, and in autumn the crisp sunbeams that stream through the golden canopy make the Grove sparkle like cloisonne. In winter the trees stand as gracefully against the snow as in those leafless woods through which knights hunt wild boar in medieval book of hours . . . Other tree species will move in as the maples grow older . . . The trees will die, the slope will be leveled by erosion, and the ridge will start all over again as a sandbank on some distant shore.” Wish I had written that, but I’m glad David Rains Wallace did. He lived and worked on the property for 2 years. .

After a brief rest at the bottom of that steep hill I mentioned, we agreed to go around a second time. At the top, Dora took me right out to the overlook, because she thought I wanted to go there again. That’s how dogs think. I’m glad we did, because Dan’s photo showed the tree tops on the hill below—proof of how hard we worked that day.

Mary Hiland

Author of

The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living: a Daughter’s Memoir


Insight Out: One Blind Woman’s View of Her Life

Available at


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