We learned to travel through the forest canopy ala Tarzan (sans vines) by climbing atop young saplings and swinging side to side, gaining enough movement to grab a neighboring tree and cross over. We crossed swamps, jumping from one tufted outcropping to another. We fell from trees and into swamps too.
We found snakes under hot rocks - we learned that they loved to bask in the heat of the summer sun. We found newts, tadpoles, turtles and salamanders. We marveled at nature's iridescence in the damsel fly. We believed in the dangers of a dragon fly sewing your eyes shut, as well as other myths, not knowing they were myths at all.
My summer days were filled with exploring, from sun up to sundown, until my mother's call brought me back from the wild. More correctly, I should say explorin', because that is precisely what we called it - the lack of a "g" conferring a certain sense of casual authority of the experienced adventurer. "Explorin'" was always the answer to the daily "Whataya want to do?"
Later, I read the wonderful tales of African adventure by Jean Pierre Hallet - Congo Kitabu and Animal Kitabu. Although my native habitat was not Africa and no real treasures were ever found, it mattered not in the least.
We made primitive toys and weapons. With crudely fashioned bows that rarely worked, we stalked the woods like Robin Hood. We made kites that would not fly from salvaged fabric and twigs. A string, stick and small hook was enough to spend a day fishing lost items from below the steps of a basement hatchway. We rolled down hills in reclaimed appliance boxes. There was no particular agenda or mission when explorin' - just the joy of looking. And we loved the woods best of all.
These days, although I have yet to travel to the Amazon or Congo, I find New York City serves as a fine place for any Jungle Lover with a hankerin' for explorin'. There are plenty of woods, beaches, alleys, rivers, lakes, bays, wildlife and backroads.
On Saturday, armed with that childhood spirit of explorin' and on the recommendation of a coworker, I set out to explore a most bizarre place, the result of a strange twist in New York City history. Tomorrow, I will show you what I found on the other side of those dunes in Part 2 of Explorin'...