High Line – The Park in the Sky in New York

Written by Ellen Evers
(A Runner-up entry in the Off the Beaten Track Writing Competition.)

Bit of an oxymoron – ‘New York’ and ‘Off the Beaten Track’ wouldn’t you think? Nowhere in The Big Apple could you expect such a thing, but you’d be surprised.

High Line
High Line, an elevated linear park in Manhattan

As senior travellers we decided that we’d do a trip to New York while we were still fit and able… and by goodness you certainly need to be. Like many in our age group we had visited New York twenty five years or so before and wanted to see what had changed.

It’s as full on as it ever was; noisy, exciting and exhausting. We were prepared for that (just). Green open spaces as we remembered, Central Park and Bryant Park for example were teeming with visitors in the perfect May weather. Crossing the street, avoiding the manic cyclists and hordes of traffic light ignorers we did pine a little for a breathing space in all the frantic movement that is the city. And we found it.

Greenery in abundance
Greenery in abundance

The High Line, also known as High Line Park is the new kid on the block. It’s a 1.45 mile long New York City linear park built in Manhattan on an elevated section of a disused New York central railway. Stretching between Gansevoort Street to West 34th Street between 10th and 12th Avenues it’s an amazing and completely new experience of the city and absolutely free. However, you can pay $30 per person and have a two hour guided tour which is an option although self-guiding somehow was in keep with the experience and we welcomed the solitude.

High Line Art

The wonderful surprise is the greenery and plant life that grows in abundance inspired by the landscape that grew on the disused tracks. The Chelsea Thicket is two blocks long at West 21st and West 22nd streets where the pathway winds through a miniature forest of dense shrubs and trees. There are many places to stop and enjoy the fabulous views of the city. Where the High Line crosses 10th Avenue some beams have been removed to create an amphitheatre with views up 10th Avenue to the North and the Statue of Liberty to the South, and of course the Hudson River (more of the river later.)

High Line artwork
New artwork each year

Access is easy with eleven entrances five accessible with lifts. The 34th street entrance has wheelchair access. The trail is pebble- dashed with concrete walkways – much easier than the streets of Manhattan and perfect for any level of mobility.

Between 14th and 15th streets the tracks run through the second floor of the Chelsea Market Building with a side track and pedestrian bridge but the whole route is a delight of unexpected architecture and art work.

There are many new artworks and murals each year as part of High Line Art. When we visited in 2016 ‘The River That Flows Both Ways’ was a series of hundreds of purple and grey coloured glass panes, 700 digital pictures of the Hudson River integrated into the window bays of the former Nabisco Factory loading dock. Amazing.

A sleepwalker in tight white pants
‘Sleepwalker’ in tight white pants

Where else could you see a sleepwalker in tight white pants? The model of ‘The Sleepwalker’ was so lifelike it gave us quite a turn. We took a discrete photo from behind feeling rather like voyeurs! We saw intriguing details of city life that can only be seen high up that change with the time of day and the seasons. Restrooms are plentiful and there is a shop on 30th. Places to eat are varied and easy to access.

A slight disappointment is that the park is linear but there was compensation as we came to the end at 11th Avenue we stood on top of the stairs for a final panoramic view of this iconic city.

Open throughout the year
Open throughout the year

We walked down to view the mighty Hudson and take the easy promenade back into the bustle of the city. This route again was tranquil with the occasional runner and ubiquitous dog walkers. There are facilities on this route which are welcome. You would hardly believe you were in any city let alone the one that never sleeps! A pleasant stroll brought us with many others to contemplate Ground Zero.

If you too want to escape from the hustle of Times Square to the Park in the Sky it’s open daily from 7am, closing in the winter at 7pm, in the autumn and spring at 10pm and in the summer at 11pm. Try it at different times of the day if you can but the best for us was early. After all, with jet lag we were awake at 4am.

POSTED 14th OCTOBER 2017 by STEVE HANSON on behalf of ELLEN EVERS. The 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th photographs were supplied by the author after the competition had been judged.