An Unplanned Hike in Upstate New York

Lost in the Woods: an Unplanned Hike in Upstate New York

This year, since I’ve just graduated and entered what people affectionately call “the Real World”, I was able to take my first business travel! I know, I know… “business” and “travel” put together don’t exactly sound glamorous, but to me it means one thing: I got to see a new place on someone else’s dime, and that’s always a win in my book!

Specifically, I got to head to a company-owned hotel/learning center in upstate New York for two days of orientation. I was hoping, since I was flying in and out of LaGuardia, that I’d be able to sneak in a few hours of tourism in New York City while I was there (maybe take a nice stroll through Central Park, for example), but, alas, it was not to be. The closest I got to a Big Apple experience was a few glimpses of the Manhattan skyline during the cab rides to and from the orientation center. Ah, well. I have hope for future business travels, as I’ve heard that it’s better when you can arrange flights and such yourself. And of course, I’m sure I’ll get back to NYC someday…

I <3 NY painted on a wall of LaGuardia
I <3 NY painted on a wall of LaGuardia

I was surprised, however, by how gorgeous Upstate New York is. Just a few minutes outside of the city you’re treated to views of lush, fern-laden forests, charming Tudor houses and old stone-built bridges. The campus of the orientation center was really cool too, and not what I expected. The hotel was both lodge-like and dorm-like… one wall of my room was made up of the classic 70’s stone-and-mortar and there was a rec room on each floor, complete with pool and ping pong tables. We all ate in the dining hall for three meals a day, and the food was fantastic. Every meal was a buffet with soup and salad bar, main courses, a plethora of deserts, and sometimes a personalization option like made-to-order stir fry or omelettes. It was definitely one of the better parts of the trip. Between the hotel rooms, the setting and the dining hall though, I had a few flashbacks to summer camp as a kid!

After class the second afternoon, and confirming with the front desk guy that the shuttle did not go into the nearby town (and therefore exploration opportunities were limited) I decided to go for a walk. If I couldn’t go into town or into New York City, at least I could check out the local area. The campus was so pretty and they’d given us a little business card-sized map with our room keys, so… why not?

I walked northward in pursuit of a company sign to take a picture with, and as I went I noticed some kind of a trail through the woods below the path that I was walking on. I reached the trailhead and saw a sign indicating that it was a running trail, so I was sold and set out down the path.

The forest was lovely… very green since it was springtime and there were birds singing and ferns covering the ground. There was also a little stream trickling through it. I enjoyed taking pictures and just being out in nature for a little while. The first part of the walk was quite enjoyable, but a little ways in I was getting uncomfortable: a blazer and ballet flats are not the best exploring clothes after all.

Then, things got worse. The trail met up with a road and just… ended. At this point I’d been hiking/wandering for around 30 minutes, so heading back up the trail I’d come down didn’t seem like the best option to get back for dinner. I knew the road would lead back to the orientation center, but I had no idea which way to take so… I just picked one.

I realized I’d chosen poorly only after another 15 minutes of walking in the wrong direction, when I reached the highway and the company sign that had greeted us at the entrance. Oops…

I headed back up the road and reached the turtle crossing sign, which was my marker for where the trail I’d been on met the road. I considered heading back up the trail, but decided since it would be getting dark soon (and also the ballet flats were really getting uncomfortable) that I should stick to the road. Around this time I also remembered that I had cell service/data and could look at a map! I was so used to not having that kind of a thing when I traveled that I’d nearly forgotten about it. After turning on Map My Hike and Google Maps I realized that neither would help much, since the campus wasn’t really mapped out, but it did seem like I was now going the right way to get back.

The road eventually met up with another trail, and I peered through the trees… I thought I could see the building near where the trail had started up ahead, so I decided to go for it. Shortly after getting on the trail, I found a cool area with a bench and the ruins of a cabin (basically just the fireplace and chimney still standing) which was pretty cool to see. I eventually successfully made it back to the path where I’d first seen the trailhead, and then onto the dining hall. I got in just a few minutes before dark, too!

On the bright side, before my little adventure I hadn’t been hungry, but afterward I was ready to eat a hearty meal in the dining hall, and I even had a story to tell my dinner companions!

I had a great time at the orientation… I learned a lot about my new company and met some great new people. But I also learned that although you should always dress for adventure and check your maps before setting off, off-the-beaten-path really is the best place to be!

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