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If you’ve been following along with us for some time, you probably are thinking that the Lake doesn’t fit the concept of a getaway quite like the Ramble, North Woods or Cedar Hill. It’s not off-the-beaten-path, in fact, it’s arguably one of the more well-known and popular destinations in Central Park. When people think of the Lake, their minds usually go towards the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain that borders the water on the south end. Or perhaps maybe it’s the Boathouse to the east, who help facilitate canoes floating on the Lake all summer long. And if that’s where your mind went, then your assessment would be correct. Millions of tourists visit Central Park every year to visit these iconic locations, creating lots of noise and at times, chaotic energy that is anything but peaceful. But as our team went on a search for contemplative green spaces in the city, we were delighted by the discovery of largely hidden areas surrounding the Lake. These lesser-known gems have become some of our favorite places for contemplation and reflection in the entire city. We’re not going to keep you waiting though. Let’s reveal what we found and why these getaways provide vital lifelines of natural serenity.

WAGNER COVE

As you travel west across the border of the Lake, there’s a little hidden nook next to the Cherry Hill Fountain, named Wagner Cove. Unless you’re looking for it, you’ll probably miss it. The dirt pathway that leads down to Wagner Cove is unassuming and you can’t really make out anything from the top of Cherry Hill. But on the off-chance a wanderer makes their way down to Wagner Cove, they’ll be left pleasantly surprised, in the most magical of ways. With a small gazebo-like shelter, Wagner Cove borders a hidden inlet that feels secluded from the rest of The Lake. While the summer and spring seasons at Wagner Cove are nothing to shrug at, the fall is quite magical. As the leaves start to turn, the autumn colors start reflecting off the little alcove on The Lake. To the right of the rustic shelter, it’s also incredibly soothing to simply sit on the log under the oak tree and glimmer under the sun. In terms of accessibility, getting to Wagner Cove couldn’t be easier. It’s a few steps off the West 72nd Street entrance of Central Park and the B-C lines are right across the street. So whether you’re walking in from the Upper West Side or traveling up from Chelsea, find joy in the fact that Wagner Cove is right at your fingertips.

LOCATION

HERNSHED ROCKS

Okay, full disclosure. This next location might just be our most favorite spot in the entire city. Set across from the Ramble, the Hernshed Rocks are a large group of rock outcrops that make for a contemplative paradise. With the Lake directly in front of you and the towering city views in the periphery, the views are simply magnificent. The first time we came across the Hernshed Rocks, our first thought was, how do we get over there? Like Wagner Cove, it’s not immediately obvious as to how to access them. Starting from the street, the best way to access the Hernshed Rocks is via 72nd Street and 77th Street on Central Park West. As you walk alongside West Drive, the Hernshed Rocks sit adjacent to 75th Street. The winding trails will take you to the Ladies Pavilion, which is easily observed on a map. The rocks sit right behind the Pavilion. We’ve recommended this with other getaways, but regular and easy access to the Hernshed Rocks is worth investing into your own e-bike or electric scooter. If you don’t live directly next to the B-C train or you live on the Upper East Side, this gives you the opportunity to make frequent visits to the Hernshed Rocks. Mornings, weekdays and summer evenings are the best times to visit the rocks. Conversely, the most heavily trafficked times are during the day on Spring, Fall and Summer weekends. At times, it can get crowded enough that it becomes too noisy to maintain contemplative vibes. Keep this in mind as you start developing a regular routine of visiting the Hernshed Rocks.

LOCATION

SILENCE & SOLITUDE

In the end, while the Lake is a very popular destination for tourists, the Hernshed Rocks and Wagner Cove remain hidden gems. As with all of our getaways, we’ve chosen to feature them here because they are off-the-beaten-path and give you a contemplative reprieve from the energetic nature of the city. As you consider visiting them, they provide serene backdrops to start developing a lifestyle of reflection and contemplation. Why do this? Science has shown that getting at least two hours each week in green spaces is essential to our well-being. A report from Yale University revealed, “the studies point in one direction: Nature is not only nice to have, but it’s a have-to-have for physical health and cognitive function.” Long before these discoveries were made, we see Jesus adopting these rhythms in ancient Israel, often retreating into the wilderness. In what would later be called silence and solitude, what happened in the wilderness became the fuel for him to go back out and engage with the culture around him. You could argue that this has never been more relevant than in the times we’re currently living in. When we’re out in nature and captivated by its beauty, it often produces a wonder and heightened awareness of the world around us. How could such a beautiful place exist? That wonder can lead to an awareness of the One who created all the transcendent beauty that surrounds us. And here’s the transformative part — we can allow that awareness to drive us into connection with God. For Jesus, this is what getting away was all about. Being out in nature was about who he connected with whilst he was out there. When we encounter God in these environments of refreshment, we are able to acquire the strength and perspective we need to go back out into the world. We need this to love other people well. To create the change we long to see. To become the truest and best version of ourselves. These rhythms are essential for our well-being. As we see from the science, they are built into the very fabric of our existence. We benefit spiritually, mentally and physically from these environments of refreshment. For much of human history, these were our natural habitats. You could argue that the construction of modern city life is unnatural in this sense, as the constant busyness and distraction prevents us from getting perspective and moments of reflection. So especially living in New York City, modeling this “in-and-out lifestyle” will help us thrive amidst the weariness of 24/7 connectedness and hustle culture. We’ll leave you with a few practical tips before you wander into the Lake, which include:

1) Pick a time

Scheduling time to get away is essential. The hectic nature of life in New York City increases the need for intentionality. So consider when it's practical to visit the Hernshed Rocks or Wagner Cove. Is it before work in the morning? Is it midday during lunch?

2) Start small & build

When it comes to developing contemplative rhythms, success simply equals to showing up. Nothing more. If you’re making the effort to get away regularly, you’ve already hit the goal. But remember, habits are formed by starting small. Rather than saying we’re going to visit the Hernshed Rocks or Wagner Cove for 90 minutes every morning, try retreating for 30 minutes at least 2-3 times a week. If you get in a rhythm doing that, maybe increase that to an hour for 2-3 times a week. And so forth.

3) Put your phone on silent

We’ve said this with every feature we've done, but having your smartphone on would be counterproductive for the purposes we’re trying to accomplish here. You may use it initially to get to these locations, but once you arrive, consider putting your phone on silent to get the most out of your time. Resist the urge to pull it out and over time, build up your tolerance.

4) Consider your wiring

While each of the spots we've featured near the Lake are stationery, there is no “right” way to do this. If you like to be active, consider engaging your body and walking by the nearby Ramble for a short stroll. Take in all the sights and sounds.

5) Bring a blanket

If you’re not a fan of sitting on bare rock, consider bringing a blanket to the Hernshed Rocks to make things extra comfortable.

6) Bring a journal

To jot down your thoughts is to start learning to be present with yourself. Take a temperature check daily. How are you feeling? Why do you think you’re feeling that way? That said, fight against the urge to stuff away your thoughts by actively processing them through this form of feeling prayer. Write it down. Name the emotions coming up - envy, greed, sadness, grief, etc. Like Jesus, our emotions are a place to meet with God.

7) Contemplate scripture

This ancient practice, called Lectio Divina, involves picking a small passage to meditate on. Even if you haven’t read scripture in ages, this could be as small as a Psalm, a Proverb or the words of Jesus in the gospels. Let’s say a verse comes up about humility or loving your neighbor, we then pray for a greater understanding of how to model that in our lives. See what comes to mind. You can pick up a copy of the new Passion Translation here.

8) Practice gratitude

Gratitude is hard for us. Sometimes it feels like we suffer from chronic short-term memory loss, only able to see what we don't have or how our circumstances are less than ideal. And while there might be truth in that, this perspective causes us to miss the precious things of life that are sitting right in front of us each and every day. Take some time to write down prayers of gratitude, even for the smallest of things.

9) Be silent

At the right time of the day, the Hernshed Rocks and Wagner Cove are the perfect environments to simply be silent. If you find yourself considering a silent retreat, lean into it. Embrace the sounds around you. The birds. The breeze. And start becoming more aware of yourself.

However you decide to spend your time, there is an invitation to start today. The Lake is only a walk away, waiting to give you a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the city.

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