April 6, 2012

Walks in Central Park: Find Azalea Pond, and Meet This Duck

This recommended self-guided walk, an adventure resplendent in the pastels of the season, is more like a quest. The task: Wander into The Ramble in Central Park, the woody area north of The Lake, and locate Azalea Pond. It's not necessarily easy. While The Ramble generally poses challenges for navigation, the pond itself is relatively small. Finding it requires a reliance on intuition and the recognition of the sound of gurgling waters, but additional visual clues are just now emerging, namely the blossoming of pink azaleas on the south side of the pond.

Once there, meet this duck. He seems friendly and curious, the sort of creature that serves as an all-knowing guide in a mythical tale.   

From a Spring Walk in Central Park
"What nice feet you have!"
A most curious duck at Azalea Pond in The Ramble


The initial motivation for this particular walk was to check out the status of the azaleas at the pond, to see if the bushes had advanced into an early blooming stage in this unusually warm early season. Azalea blossoms come and go so quickly, it's important to keep watch. Down south, at the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Georgia, for example, many of the famous azaleas along the course have already finished blooming. Here in the city, azaleas typically peak a few weeks later during the first week in May. 

The suggested way to Azalea Pond, noted on the map that follows the post, encompasses well-known landmarks of Central Park. The walk begins just north of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and winds past the Obelisk (Cleopatra's Needle) and near the Great Lawn, freshly mowed for the first time this season.

From a Spring Walk in Central Park
The walk begins on a path just north of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
on the east side of Central Park.

From a Spring Walk in Central Park
Light green new leaves and blooming trees in Central Park
From a Spring Walk in Central Park
Robins search for worms under the newly-mowed grass of the Great Lawn.
To the south, Belvedere Castle comes into view across Turtle Pond. Around and behind the Delacorte Theatre, rustic fences mark the way into the Shakespeare Garden, particularly abundant in flowering bulbs.

From a Spring Walk in Central Park
Turtle Pond and Belvedere Castle

From a Spring Walk in Central Park
In the Shakespeare Garden

At the southeast corner of West Drive and the 79th Street Transverse, look for the signs marking the path to the Ramble. This is just one way to get there, by the way. One path then gives way to multiple and increasingly bucolic trails, each posing an option for further exploration. Somewhere in here is Azalea Pond. You have to find it.

From a Spring Walk in Central Park
The way to The Ramble

From a Spring Walk in Central Park
Azalea Pond. The Ramble. Central Park.

Here we go. Azalea blooms are beginning to open!

From a Spring Walk in Central Park
The azaleas on the south side of the pond are just beginning.

And here he is, your new best friend. The duck at Azalea Pond is ready to answer your questions.

From a Spring Walk in Central Park
"What is your quest?"
  

This quest is accomplished. The azaleas are ready to bloom, and a new friendship is made. Congratulations!

From here, we just have a few more meandering trails to the busier and more formal areas of the park, including the Loeb Boathouse, Bethesda Terrace, and The Mall. Sheep Meadow, with its great green lawn and open views of the city, provides a good ending for the walk. 

From a Spring Walk in Central Park
at the water's edge. The Lake, Central Park.
  
From a Spring Walk in Central Park
The Mall, Central Park.

From a Spring Walk in Central Park
Sheep Meadow.
Hello, New York City.

You may find it difficult not to turn around. The sound of quacking tends to linger, and the soft patter of little webbed feet.

From a Spring Walk in Central Park
Spring in the Sheep Meadow

A happy holiday weekend to all.


  
View The Way to Azalea Pond in a larger map 

For more on the history of The Ramble, read this post from May 2010.

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from Thursday, April 5, 2012. See all 24 pictures from the walk in this slideshow on Flickr WOTBA.

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