By Maureen Cross
Sunday, September 17, 2023:
I have just returned from a glorious swim in the Hudson River. I feel energized and buoyant. The water was so warm and there is something about salty water that feels cleansing and invigorating. The bottom was a muddy silt that felt like a Russian mud bath in a spa.
Why would I pursue this seemingly strange and unusual activity? It was a beautiful summer day on the Upper West Side on Sunday, who wouldn’t want to take a short bike ride to their local “swimming hole”? I love the water and I love swimming. Riverside Park and the bike path are an incredible UWS resource; I walk my dogs there almost daily. (One of my dogs prefers Central Park so we go there too.)
Let me say I don’t see myself as a radical, uninformed risk-taker. I have a very conservative lifestyle. I don’t drink or smoke. I am in bed most nights at 8:00. I am a “normal” New Yorker. I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art yesterday and MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) this morning. I took a great painting class on 72nd Street at The Paint Place Saturday night and I brought my compost to the 77th Street Farmers Market this a.m. and shopped at Zabar’s this afternoon.
I am a good swimmer, active and in shape, but not a super athlete. I am super picky about what I put in my body. I don’t go to McDonald’s or Starbucks, and I avoid nail salons because I’m sensitive to smells. I think that is one of the many reasons I am drawn to the Hudson, other than the fact that she is strong and beautiful. I have joined several local pools and there are limited times, lots of restrictions, and so much chlorine. It’s terrible for my skin and hair. The Hudson is free, and nobody was in “my lane.”
People walking on the bike path are surprised when they see me, but I have a thick skin. I love doing it. It is one of the endless pleasures I get from living on the Upper West Side. I first got the idea from watching the annual Triathlon, seeing hundreds of people swim 1500 kilometers along the bike path, surviving it quite well, and going on to bike 40k and run a 10k. Another great UWS event. Most importantly, the river is cleaner than it has been in decades. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., with the Riverkeepers and other great organizations, have done an incredible job cleaning her up. But still the stigma continues that she is dirty and unusable. I hope I can encourage a few people to give it a try.
Today I biked down the bike path along the river to the landing at the big Department of Public Works warehouse on 60th. There is a boat launch ramp. It’s kind of slippery but I just “scooch down on my butt” the last few feet. It’s very shallow and I only stay in about 15 minutes, but it makes my day. There was no wind and some wake from passing boats but nothing too strong. I have huskies who love to swim, and they have found many entry points. Perhaps you’ll find your own.
Maureen Cross had another kind of adventure that was immortalized in the Rag in one of our most popular stories ever, published at the height of the pandemic: Upper West Sider Who Broke Her (Rent-Stabilized!) Lease to Flee to Vermont Finds Rural Bliss Didn’t Last.
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