Monthly Archives: October 2017


On our last field trip of the class, we headed to Beacon, NY, where we visited a magazine publisher, The Valley Table, and then went out to explore the town.

A warm afternoon at the Beacon train station


Beacon is a small city in the Hudson Valley – just 90 minutes away from New York City by train (Metro-North). Beacon is a popular day-trip destination amongst the city crowd – situated across the riverbank from Newburgh, similarly laying just south of I-84 corridor. With a bustling and attractive main street, a factory turned contemporary art museum in the form of Dia:Beacon, a thriving arts community, and the nearby Mt. Beacon, there is certainly a lot to do in this Dutchess county community. Perhaps one of the most glaring examples of a blossoming “arts” community in the Hudson Valley – it is hard to miss the influence that the processes of gentrification has made its mark a distinctive mark on the city’s urban landscape.


Our first stop in Beacon was the office of a regional food magazine known as The Valley Table. Situated on the second floor of a historic building – just above a popular restaurant specializing in cheese and sandwiches , we were greeted by Janet Crawshaw, the publisher, who introduced us to the rest of the magazine’s small team.

The magazine staff had set up a small space for us to sit and chat, and be presented to. Best of all, they treated us to some delicious doughnuts, apples, and cider – and gave each of us (except Ray) a bag of Irving Farm coffee beans. Janet gave us some interesting background information about the magazine and a primer on the Hudson Valley’s culinary scene and its growth since Janet’s direct intervention in it.

The Valley Table had been established in 1998 by Janet and her husband, with the aim of celebrating the Hudson Valley’s culinary history, traditions, and contemporary state of culinary arts in the regon. In her own words, she wanted to bring together the various regions of the Hudson Valley and highlight the region’s distinct identity through its unique food culture and geography. By highlighting the quality of food and local produce in the region, the magazine supported local agriculture and businesses – encouraging a form of sustainable urban, agricultural consumption – for instance, she talked about how the revival of the hard cider industry and growing interest in the many breweries and distilleries in the Hudson Valley has supported the region’s farms and orchards, thus preserving its unique place character, its historical commodities and its landscape.


After leaving the offices of The Valley Table, we headed down main street, heading westward towards the river, in search of of nothing in particular, but that which caught the eye. To our great fortune, a few blocks west of our first stop we walked slightly north on Chestnut, and found ourselves outside of the Hudson distillery by the name of Denning’s Point Distillery, founded in 2014. This structure is part venue, distillery, and according to the head distiller – also a farm. Those of age and present were able to get a little taste of the flavours offered at the site, and all of us got a quick run down of the basics and background of distilling, the distiller, and the historical forces that came to define the properties that constitute what Whiskey is and means. The head distiller was quite a friendly person, full of knowledge into the intricacies and the sociotechnical systems that enable the modern distillery.


Walking down Beacon’s Main Street was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The city in general was very walkable, with tree-lined streets and interesting shops, businesses and restaurants to pop into. The streets were not very broad, and about similar in comparison to the rest of the Hudson Valley’s small towns and cities. Similarities in zoning are also common to the rest of the valley. Main street is lined with all types of businesses, and those that appear to arise where there are what shall be for this instance deemed “the bohemian”- such as the classic olive oil store, artisan goods, galleries and curated antiques, boutiques and bars. One of our classmates pointed out a glass blowing shop, and we also spotted an eyelash extension studio. I particularly liked the Beacon Creamery, an ice cream shop with a cute bear mascot.

We then crossed Wolcott Ave, which divides what appears to divide the town from the uphill/downhill. We crossed Wolcott, accidentally crossed the police station, and found ourselves walking to the other main street. Nearby, there appeared to be an erection and construction of a relatively large structure. As we walked onto the riverbanks of Hudson, we noticed that there started to be an abrupt change in zoning along this lower Main street. Another brewery, and an auto repair shop were overlooking a residential area that descended into the Beacon train station beside the Hudson. Along the way to the train station, we walked past a residential area, which also felt rather wealthy.


Perhaps a result of its proximity to New York City and its reputation as an “artsy” town, Beacon represents a larger, more visible trend of gentrification in the Hudson Valley. On the one hand, it makes for a vibrant, bustling community and city with curiosities of its own – on the other hand, rents and property prices have risen as a result, no doubt pushing out the area’s lower-income residents. We passed by realtor while exploring the town, and one of the nearby houses being sold had a hefty price tag of $450,000. As was the case with New Paltz and to a lesser extent, the rest of the cities we visited, there was the phenomena of second-home buyers from the city driving prices up, along with restaurants and businesses and entrepeneurs entering these towns in waves of inhabitation and investment– particularly the Dia:Beacon catering to these hip, wealthy visitors from the city or out-of-town.

That being said, I think the city has done a good job preserving its own unique small-town character and reviving its main street such that all its residents benefit from a highly-walkable public space – which is a desirable form of urban fabric in itself, and an amenity in such an aesthetically gifted sector of the Hudson Valley.


Rhinebeck Farmer’s Market

Sunday morning, overcast and uncharacteristically warm for a mid October day. Single lane highways enclosed by trees every shade from red to yellow brought me to the quaint but busy town of Rhinebeck, just 30 minutes north on Route 9 from Poughkeepsie. The sidewalks bustled with pedestrians carrying bags overflowing with fresh produce. By some small miracle a parking space emerged on the street adjacent to the day’s main attraction, The Rhinebeck Farmer’s Market.

Tucked away in a lot between an old brick building and colonial homes, the market contained roughly 25 vendors, their tents forming a U-shape at the back of the lot. As you enter, the aroma of baked goods and the sounds of folk music and meat cooking flood your senses. Artisanal cutting boards, specialty cheese, and oh-so-many apples are the first things to attract your gaze as you walk through the crowded space. Organic produce overwhelms the space with fruits and vegetables splayed out on every other table taunt your taste buds and will power.


With each bakery or farm stand I passed, a certain presence or rather “vibe” began take shape. After talking with a few of the vendors and observing others shop the market, this vibe became as clear and bright as the peppers in the picture above. This was no ordinary farmers market, providing locals with necessary food to sustain their families, but a place of leisure, craftsmanship, and community. After buying a 3 dollar apple and an 8 dollar quiche about the same size as the apple, I got the feeling this market attracted a certain demographic of people. Looking around whilst enjoying my investments, I noticed maybe one or two people near my age but the rest where either young families or people anywhere from 45 to 70. Although hard to tell by appearance alone, there was a slight distinction between those I perceived to be locals and those I saw as tourists. Split almost evenly, these groups constituted the bulk of the customer base while the majority of the vendors appeared to me much younger, late twenties to mid thirties. I spoke to a vendor of hard cider and distilled liquors, below, who told me many of his customers where either from the city or neighboring towns with a few consistent local buyers. A popular destination no doubt and a destination for those seeking the finer side of the renowned and plentiful Hudson Valley.

Overall, the market was wholly a showcase of the fine goods from regions around the Hudson Valley, centering in Rhinebeck which has become a hub for such amenities. Coffee shops, rustic yet clean restaurants, and boutiques contributed to both the attraction and warrant of Rhinebeck as the location for the farmer’s market. The essence of the bounty of the Hudson Valley, maybe a slogan for the market, maybe not.

Regardless of who was buying what from where, I felt very comfortable amidst these Sunday market goers. Each vendor I spoke with was personable, very generous with their sampling, and outwardly happy to be entertaining my interest in their products. Those I passed in the narrow channel between tents were pleasant, busy wrangling their children, or like me, simply enjoying the space and the vibe it emanated.

Also here’s me enjoying a box of strawberries I bought while leaving.



On Tuesday, 10 October 2017, I went to Hudson, NY while in its namesake…the Hudson Valley. This double Hudson inspired my blog post title, but didn’t exactly inspire my will to go.

I actually went to this town because we were supposed to go a couple of weeks ago as a class, but ran out of time to actually get out of the van to explore it. So I took it upon myself to hop on a train from the city and pass by Poughkeepsie to Hudson. The train ride to the town was pleasant, but it was a little weird that I didn’t get off at my usual train station. However, the bright oranges and red of the leaves changing colors on this new scenic route made it worth it!

Once I got into town, I noticed that it was largely silent. I came in around late-afternoon time, just because I thought it would be post-school and pre-dinner AKA the perfect time to see what people do outside of their societal obligations. However, it was just quiet. There were faint shouts from run-down town houses and the occasional car trudging up a hill, but I actually stood in the middle of the street to take a picture of the seemingly-dead Hudson.

This leisure wouldn’t have bothered me so much if I weren’t traveling the entire day — I really had to find a restroom! But the majority of the main street once you get off of the train was residential buildings. This lack of public space (and my bladder) intrigued me to go down even further to see what Hudson had to offer. As I explored, there were many old and historic buildings lined up, but newer models of cars next to them. I couldn’t help but wonder about the socioeconomic status of those living here.

Continuing down the street, I realized that the most noise that I was hearing was the slow drive of cars passing in-progress renovated houses. I even wrote in caps on my phone: “SO MUCH RENOVATION”. There was construction everywhere. I realized that the primary construction was interior renovation. The outsides were being refurbished, but left to their otherwise notable and antique features. I also realized that it may have been quiet because as I peered into shop windows, I noticed that everything closed at 4pm.

The fact that everything was already done for the day made sense as to why there was no noise, but I thought it was crazy that nothing was open on a Tuesday afternoon! What about high-school aged kids who need after-school jobs? What about people searching for a quick bite to eat before supper? The lack of noise also started to get to me because the noise pollution was largely nonexistent, so things such as sodcasting (the act of publicly playing otherwise private music) was extremely obvious to me. I got to hear a crazy rendition of 80s music, recognizable only because we listen to the Woodstock station so much in the van.

Continuing further along the main street, gentrification started to make it’s mark. Storefronts became more niche, more expensive, more aesthetically pleasing. I started to see crazy murals as well as oddly painted buildings. There were, perhaps historical, buildings that had a significance to the townsfolk. For example, I saw an opera house that I really wanted to explore (I even jaywalked for it) just to find out that it closed at 5pm…a whole 10 minutes from when I managed to get there. It was a little frustrating to know that I couldn’t go inside any stores that truly and genuinely intrigued me, but it made for a good adventure.

Because it was gentrified, I was starting to hit the points of town where I was actually seeing people. Not everyone was approachable, but I had to make do. The majority of the townsfolk were 50/60 y/o white couples with some Generation Y white people sprinkled in the mix. Just before I was about to suck my teeth and start framing some questions beginning with “So I’m in this class…”, I stumbled upon a familiar store.

I somehow found a Woodstock General Supply Store in Hudson, NY!

This was the same chain store as one I had ventured in with Sofia and Sarah on the Woodstock field trip. I had asked the lone worker (who was closer in age and seemed like he resented the fact that he was one of the two stores that was open until 8pm (like a normal store)) about the town. He told me that Hudson was more of a weekend getaway for city folk who look to venture outside of the concrete jungle. However, as I had probably noticed, Hudson was extremely slow during the week. He suggested that I check out the book shop across the store, if I wanted to see something more lively.

I didn’t really get pictures, but it was a rather revolutionary and radical book store that a bunch of Bard students tend to pick up some of their books. They had required texts next to a cute children’s books that seem just as required in this day and age, seen here:

Amongst the books was a bar, where many Generation X people were having a drink and loudly laughing about who-knows-what. In the back of the store, there was a large selection of overpriced art supplies. I know that prismacolors are expensive, but I also knew that what they were offering was because it was one of the only close resources for people like students so the store knew they could get away with adding a buck to the price tag. By advertising this, the books, and the bar…the profit really does add up!

I continued wandering around Main Street. At this point, my phone was at 5% and there was nowhere to even catch my breath. Everything was closing. The only things open were gas stations and bars, but because the gas stations were so put off from Main st. and I’m not yet 21, I was stuck milling about. While I still had battery, I wandered off of Main with the intention to find a tattoo parlor. Although I didn’t get #es291 tattooed on my wrist, I did manage to find a really interesting building.

Ivy and fall-touched leaves snaked up the brick walls of this otherwise abandoned space and I couldn’t have been more simultaneously intrigued and afraid. As I approached the building, I noticed that on the columns were torn and worn photographs of historical and revolutionary figures. As I approached the doors (but not too closely), I noticed that vintage and just really old newspaper articles reprinted from the 1800s were plastered over the barred windows of the doors. When I backed up in attempt to discover what purpose the building served (and to not be the next host of any spirits), the only thing that the grand property read was Community Tennis.

Color me surprised because I had thought that the building had to do with the theatre community. It was clear to me that it wasn’t in use anymore, but the newspaper articles were largely theatre-related. It turns out, the property was bought by someone in hopes of building a community center from an abandoned movie-theater-turned-tennis-complex. There is a NY Times article on it here as well as a slideshow including pictures that I couldn’t have possibly taken here. The article was written almost ten years ago and as much as I would hate to say it, but I believe those dreams, like the lot, were abandoned.





















As soon as I took the last picture, my phone died. I took that as an omen and scurried back to Main st. and beelined for the train station before it got dark. I couldn’t find any restaurants to test out in Hudson (that weren’t crazy expensive), so I hung out in the train station for about an hour and a half. It was nice, but I don’t think I’ll be back. I may have left some of the undead waiting.




Dutchess County Rail Trail!! – John Ammondson

For my independent field trip I took a bike ride on the Dutchess County Rail Trail. Rail trails are popular public spaces across the country and across the world that take old or abandoned railway lines and turn them into multi-use paths for walking, bicycling and more. Since railway lines are for the most part mostly flat paths that have already been established through what might be heavily developed areas in the present moment, converting them to paved or packed-earth paths results in easy-to-use and accessible trails. The Dutchess County Rail Trail replaced Conrail’s Maybrook Line, extending from the former Hopewell Junction train depot to the Poughkeepsie entrance to the Walkway Over the Hudson (and extending the length of the trail into the town of Lloyd in Ulster County). It was built in 5 phases beginning in July 2007, culminating in the final link to the Walkway in 2013, and stretches for a total of 13 miles. I began my bike ride at Vassar, making my way over to the Overocker Road Trailhead through campus and across Route 55. Crossing the big roads was slightly stressful, but turning onto the trail brought a relative degree of serenity. I decided to head south towards Hopewell Junction, and thus began my journey.

The trailhead I entered at was definitely accessible, with a decent-size parking lot right by a main road. In general, I felt as though almost all sections I rode on were pretty accessible to residents of the area. Given that the path used to be a train track itself, there weren’t a ton of easy connections to mass transit, but the Walkway Over the Hudson was likely the most accessible entrance point for someone coming from out of town without a car (more on the Walkway later). One big plus for the Rail Trail and its accessibility is that it’s free to use, and you don’t even have to register or check in with anyone: you just hop on and start going. This was definitely reflected in the makeup of people using the trail, which was very diverse as far as I could tell. There were high-intensity bikers with full cycling outfits and expensive bikes next to people walking their dogs or just going for an afternoon jog; I saw one man with roller blades, a hockey stick, and a street hockey puck who was presumably training for the colder months. The ride was really beautiful; even though it wasn’t “peak” leaf season the leaves had definitely started to turn, and those trees that hadn’t were still lovely themselves.

One thing that definitely stood out to me was the variety of different environments and aesthetic backdrops that the trail takes you through. One minute you could be biking through a shady forest or past a scenic pond, and the next you could be biking over a bustling highway or past a lot full of rusting cars. All of this simply added to the trail’s charm, and it was honestly a lot of fun to ride through so many different spots. The rail trail definitely has an interesting relationship to the Dutchess economy. It’s a non-profit venture that is primarily for leisure and recreation, mostly void of overt commercial activity. However, the trail is definitely an attraction for both Dutchess County residents and outside visitors, presumably driving some additional economic activity to the area. After reaching the super-cute Hopewell Junction depot with its old train cars, I turned around and retraced my steps up past Overocker trailhead and to the Walkway Over the Hudson, soaking in the sights for a second time.

The rail trail is uniquely and, I think, beneficially situated in the Dutchess County landscape. Like most train lines, it’s mostly hidden from public view, but it is its own scenic destination and allows for quick travel through the county and its various environs in a singular way. The connection to the Walkway Over the Hudson is another definite benefit, as the Walkway is a really cool place to visit in and of itself. The views speak for themselves, but it’s also interesting to note how the entire feel of the trail changes as soon as one hits the Walkway. Especially on weekend days, the trail is immediately far more crowded, and bikes are required to slow down (for good reason). The makeup of users also changes, with a lot more casual walkers and joggers (many of whom likely traveled by car or train directly to the Walkway with no intention of using the rest of the trail). I crossed the river and traveled to the end of the Trail in Lloyd before turning around and heading back to campus. All in all, it was a wonderful bike ride that allowed me to see a lot of new places and experience Dutchess County in a novel way, all while getting some exercise!

(the blog won’t let me put any more photos on, but here’s a link to a folder with some pictures from the ride!)



Sarah and Zahra and everyone else go to New Paltz!

On this Friday, we went to New Paltz, a historic town and home to SUNY New Paltz. We were escorted by sociologist and deputy mayor of New Paltz, KT Tobin. New Paltz felt like a small college town trying to enter the small city game. KT talked extensively about the developing plans within New Paltz and the importance of setting up sustainable methods of transportation as New Paltz continues to grow.

We started at the Village hall, just down the street from the school. As we made our way across town, we came across many SUNY New Paltz students. They were hipster college students, but they had a wider range of style than Vassar students. We also couldn’t help but notice the vast difference in how the town of New Paltz and its students interact vs. how Vassar students interact with Poughkeepsie. The town was clearly geared to the SUNY student and students were clearly proud to spend time there. There were tons of boutiques and hiking stores as well as small restaurants.

This trendy vibe coincided with historical buildings and sights which demonstrated the presence of an older population alongside the young college student.

Our primary stop was an empty lot about a half mile from where we started. This may not sound like much, but Tobin was so excited by it. She talked extensively about the plans the town had to build a 4 story net-zero building there. While Tobin and many others were excited about the project, she also described the reaction of many long-term residents who believed that this presence of modern architecture would disrupt the otherwise historic feel that New Paltz holds. This seems symbolic of a common conflict between the contrasting citizens of the city.

We took the historic Wallkill rail trail back to where we started. The rail trail is a 22-mile long trail that runs through the Hudson Valley. Although things are modernizing and building around it, the trail remains intact and a popular tourist attraction. This demonstrates yet another collision of modern demand and preserving historic locations. One could argue this is the perfect point at which tourism can bloom- where people can be treated to the beauty of years past while enjoying all of the amenities expected in the modern world. 

Next on the agenda, we went to Mohonk Preserve a giant chunk of land publicly maintained but originally privately owned. It is home to many outdoor activities but what we prioritized was the rock scramble. The rock scramble was a large mountain of boulders that one could climb to access a beautiful view of the entire Hudson Valley. While Zahra ambitiously aimed for the top, Sarah took one look and decided to explore the surrounding area instead. Here are some fun pix:



As you can see, the view was incredible but so was the entire preserve. One could have easily spent an entire day just exploring the vast expanse of nature at Mohonk. New Paltz was a fun and versatile area with lots to do for all sorts of people with all sorts of interests! We can’t wait to visit again! See ya next time, #es291!


Zahra and Sarah


Sarah’s trip to Zoe’s Ice Cream Barn!

For my field trip I went to Zoe’s Ice Cream Barn in Lagrangeville, NY- about fifteen minutes from Vassar. I drove over with my friend Nina. When we first pulled up, I was a little disappointed- not because it was ugly or anything. This might sound dumb but I was low-key hoping based off the title that I was going to get to meet the very cows who’s ice cream I will be consuming… but apparently I hadn’t done my research yet.

A little background about Zoe’s Ice Cream Barn: It advertises “From cow to cone in three days” which is exactly how it sounds. They get milk delivered daily from local dairy farms and from the milk they make not only their own ice cream but ice cream cake(the superior of all cakes) and whipped cream. Naturally, upon hearing this, being a self-proclaimed ice cream connoisseur, I had to check the place out.

So, there I was in the gravel lot behind a barn, right next door to another store, Kelly’s Steaks and Spirits( was there a reason these two businesses are next to each other? I wondered. Same cows?),


Surrounding Zoe’s Ice Cream barn’s exterior is a variety of fun kid-friendly entertainment, a “two- headed pig pen”, a tractor you could take pictures on as well as wooden stocks. on top of that they had plenty of picnic tables and bales of hay to give it a true farm feel. This is clearly a very photo friendly location and boy was I glad to oblige.

The inside continues playing up the farm theme. It was clearly very cultivated to fit the barn vibe. Each wooden table had cow-themed fun facts and the register aisle was lined with large milk cartons and twine. They were clearly appealing to the Hudson valley tourist. Their walls are lined with Hudson valley products- maple syrup, milk, mugs, other stuffs- all marketing the Hudson valley.

When we walked in there was only one uniformed girl in the front working. It functioned like your average ice cream shop. We waited in line behind what seemed like a dad and his two daughters clad in soccer-practice gear. Based on my own rec-league sports experiences growing up, I assume I was witnessing the classic on-our-way-home-from-practice treat. This struck me as especially interesting because despite Zoe’s barn theme and marketing clearly established for tourists, the family ahead of me would imply that it serves as a common spot for locals to get their ice cream as well. They even had buy 10 get 1 free stamp cards. And yes, of course I grabbed one.

I ordered the coconut almond vanilla sundae with hot fudge sauce, house-made whipped cream and the beloved cherry on top. The ice cream was oh, so creamy. Wow. Good stuff- nay, great stuff. Also reasonably priced. In fact all the goods were very fairly priced if not on the slightly higher side for typical ice cream. But you’re paying for freshness so I justify it. Even the ice cream cakes were reasonably priced even though  I cant imagine there are tons of ice cream cakes being sold in the area. The waitress was receptive and helpful and eager to offer suggestions, realizing that the somewhat extensive list of unique flavors and toppings can be overwhelming.

After getting my ice cream and loving every bite, the whipped cream being my favorite part- I ran around the grounds for a little and relived my childhood.

Let me tell ya, if I was 7-15 years younger, this would be the place I would want every single one of my birthdays.

Who am I kidding I’m about to turn 20 and coming back to this establishment is a must on my birthday to-do list.

So, even though I didn’t get to shake the hoof of the cow that made this all possible, it was a 10/10 experience. Zoe’s ice cream barn is not only a must for people visiting the area to get a (literal) taste of the freshness the Hudson valley can provide, but with fair prices and unbeatable freshness (did I mention cow oto cone in three days) it should be a regular in every local’s routine.



A Trip to Trevor Zoo with Animals to View!



As we turned onto Millbrook School Lane and drove through beautiful farm land, stables, and an enormous wetland, I got the sense that Trevor Zoo would be unlike any zoo I have previously visited. I mean, it is owned by a private boarding school…how can it really be normal?

That said, it was easy to tell, as Professor Nevarez has mentioned, that the town of Millbrook is full of old money and lots of it. Millbrook Boarding School cares for students through 9-12 grade and not only are they the sole school in the country who owns and is involved with their own zoo with more than 180 animals, but they also own 800 acres of land including the protected wetland I passed on the way up (as seen in the first above picture). Parents from all over the world send their kids to attend this novel school to get a unique education and from what I could tell, that is exactly what they were getting. I can confidently say that I have not met another student whose daily life included getting up 30 minutes before class to clean and feed a lemur. Have you?

But back to the zoo! Before visiting, I read that one of the school and zoo’s mission statements included environmental awareness and sustainability as one of their core elements in their curriculum and lifestyle. As I located the parking lot, I could see that this was true for they had permeable pavement (as seen in the last picture). Permeable pavement reduces the amount of storm runoff and allows water to be absorbed by the soil and filtered through the groundwater system instead of carrying road and city toxins to local lakes and rivers. This improved infrastructure was fascinating to me because although I’ve heard of permeable pavement before in my classes, I had never seen it in action and I hope Vassar will someday invest in something like this #DatSustainablePavementThough. As I left the parking lot, there was a short wooded trail leading to the zoo entrance and from there, I crossed a bridge overlooking a small pond with herons, ducks, and other birds lazing around (middle picture). What I did not expect, however, was that on the other side of the bridge where there was a waterfall, I could see two otters rolling around and chasing each other in the waves below! After slightly freaking out about the otters for 5 minutes, I moved on to the rest of the zoo starting with the education center.




The education center (first picture) included a lot of information about the zoo itself and some of their featured animals such as the red panda, red wolves, owls, black and white lemurs, and ring tailed lemurs. They also kept a few small geckos and snakes in the education center for people to look at, but most of the animals were found elsewhere. I think one of my favorite things about this zoo was that it didn’t really look like a zoo. The second above picture is one of the trails within the zoo leading to different animals. As you can see, there are dirt paths, lots of open space, and greenery for the animals to enjoy instead of grey concrete and garish food stands that usually line the streets of other zoos. Another important thing to note about this zoo was that it was not half as crowded and loud as other tourist attractions. There were definitely other visitors, but I would say maybe 7 other families instead of 150. Lastly, one of my favorite aspects of the Trevor Zoo was that as a part of keeping the animals instincts and lessons learned in the wild, I found out that the zookeepers and staff provide enrichment for each of the animals. These enrichment activities include hiding food for the animals to find and retrieve, giving them a box or other structure to explore and maneuver around and many more challenges. There are staff members and students working daily to come up with new enrichment activities to keep the animals sharp and prepared to be reintroduced into the wild.



Pics 6, 7, & 8

Overall, I have to say that it was a very interesting and eye-opening trip. Zoo’s are a controversial subject for me because although I am a huge advocate for animal and habitat conservation and protection, seeing them in small, often bare enclosures in most zoos is not moral or helpful to their cause. Those zoos, whose main purpose is to gain profit from the animals, I want shut down or heavily modified so there is more than enough space and enrichment for the animals to enjoy until they can be released back into the wild permitted humans don’t destroy what’s left of it. However, in this day in time, whether it is a controversial subject or not, zoos are becoming more and more important players in the conservation movement and keeping genetic diversity as strong as possible with dwindling animal populations in the wild and in captivity. By working together with other zoos around the world, they’re able to sustain what genetic diversity is left and release animals back into the wild when they can, habitat permitted. Altogether, I have to say that Trevor Zoo’s sense of place is clear in that their main purpose and mission is to protect and treat the animals well; not gain profit from them. I hope that with time, more zoos will follow in their footsteps and become less of a tourist attraction and more of a conservation center. That said, Trevor Zoo is not perfect (if the world and the people in it were, we wouldn’t need zoos in the first place), but I hope that they will continue to put the animals needs and conservation first and continue to improve so people can learn more about our remarkable creatures and move forward in protecting them. As a final note, please enjoy these cute pictures I got of the amazing Red Panda, White and Black Lemur, Emu Bird, and Wallaby.


DuBois Farm: A Country Theme Park

On a sunny mid-September day, my father and I took a short drive across the Hudson to DuBois Farm. We found it tucked away in a small, wealthy-looking suburban neighborhood just outside of Poughkeepsie. One thing was immediately apparent as we pulled up to the farm: It. Is. Huge. The parking lot was a giant field that reminded me of the makeshift parking lots used at county fairs in New Hampshire, which is where I’m from. After being directed to a parking spot by a lanky, bored high-schooler, my dad and I headed for the main entrance of the farm. We walked along a neat dirt path lined by a pristine white picket fence.


To our left as we entered were little red wagons that you could rent for a couple bucks to use to carry anything you picked or bought. I even saw some people using them to wheel around their kids! Right after the wagon station was a huge pumpkin patch. Small children darted in and out between the spots of orange as parents loaded up their wagons with soon-to-be Jack-o-Lanterns. We walked past the pumpkin patch (I definitely had no room for a Jack-o-Lantern in my tiny dorm room!) and headed up the hill to the main farmhouse.


We chatted for a while with some extremely friendly staff at the cider house. They took the time to answer our questions, and if they didn’t know the answer, they called over someone who did. After the cider house, we grabbed some bags and meandered through the apple orchard, picking a few apples for the road. Friendly little signs were sprinkled throughout the orchard, with cute messages like “apples go in your bag or in your belly!” It was clear to both me and my dad that Dubois Farm has put a lot of care into making the overall the atmosphere of the farm  incredibly welcoming and inviting.


I was fascinated by all that I saw at the Dubois Farm. Having worked on a small pick-your-own farm in New Hampshire (Poverty Lane Orchards) for most of my young adult life, I found that being able to compare and contrast the two different farms gave me a unique angle to the whole experience.  It was very clear to me that the Poverty Lane and the DuBois Farms differed immensely. For starters, the appearance of the DuBois Farm could not be more different from the appearance of my farm back home. Everything at the DuBois Farm was freshly painted and newly renovated, whereas at Poverty Lane, the main farmhouse is practically caving in on itself. That is not to say Poverty Lane is not financially successful (it definitely is!), but rather that they have different priorities. After my visit to DuBois Farm I got the sense that one of their main objectives is to sell the country to city folk. From the country music played over loud speakers to the picturesque and polished farm stand, there was definitely a lot of work put into making selling a certain image. Poverty Lane doesn’t need to sell the country image, because, well, everyone in New Hampshire already knows what the country is like.

Overall my dad and I had a both a fun and an interesting visit to DuBois Farm. We picked some great apples and talked to some wonderful people. I couldn’t shake the feeling, however, that there was something inauthentic about the whole place. This is obviously just my perspective, but at the end of the day it felt like the farm lost some charm by being so big, polished, and commercial.


Hudson Valley Vegfest

On September 23 and 24 Poughkeepsie held the Hudson Valley Vegfest in the local Gold Gym Center. I attended the event on the first day which was a Saturday. It was about a ten minute drive from Vassar making it a highly accessible location for all the vegans at Vassar. An entrance fee of ten dollars was collected at the door but as a member of the Vassar Animal Rights Coalition (VARC) my admission was covered.


The festival brought an eclectic group of all ages to its doors. There was a great mix of families, students, and elderly people present. I even recognized some familiar faces of both students and professors from Vassar. There were approximately a hundred people at the convention at any one time. This festival was completely vegan, making the crowd primarily vegan. This Vegfest was oriented around vendors, activist groups, and nonprofits that were all looking to further the mission of increasing veganism for a multitude of reasons. It also worked to publicize some opportunities in the Hudson Valley and around the world that are not widely known. The booths ranged from [FoMu] which many people there credited with having the best vegan coconut milk icecream they have ever tasted to an animal rights group that is working towards banning horse races in the United States. There were also shirts, pins, and other merchandise for sale to advertise the vegan lifestyle and the reasons that people would make this lifestyle change.

Walking through the entire festival took approximately two hours. At this point I had tried a large number of taste testers from almost all of the food vendors. I had finally decided which booths I wanted to commit to. I decided to try the beet burger from the vendor called The Beet Box. When I was buying my burger I was intrigued to hear that the people running this stand were living in Texas and had made the trek to Poughkeepsie just for the Hudson Valley Vegfest. Even more astonishing, during the winter they are stationed in parts of Southeast Asia. The burger was amazing. It was definitely in the top three veggie burgers I have ever had. My second stop was [FoMu]. I couldn’t pass the opportunity to try what had been called the best coconut milk ice cream people had ever tasted. It tasted just like ice cream without the guilt of contributing to the carbon footprint that milk has.

The Vegfest was a zero-waste function meaning that they separated their waste into trash, compost and recycle. The goal of this was to make the event as environmentally friendly as possible.

The vegan-inspired information was endless. In addition to the booths, there was also a stage where vegan activists went up and talked. The first speakers of the day were a vegan bodybuilding team. This group attends competitions and makes it a point to work on demystifying the myth that veganism is for weak individuals. The bodybuilders showed off their muscles by lifting weights right on stage. The star of the show was Vegan Evan: a five year old who chose to go vegan for the sake of the animals. He presented himself as a representative for a group called Animal Hero Kids and performed two raps in support of veganism. The crowd went wild as they saw such a young supporter for the cause of veganism.

Overall the Vegfest was a great success. It helped inform the Hudson Valley community on opportunities in the area and around the world. It also influenced people to get involved in the local area. A sense of community was built and there is no longer a belief that there are no vegans in the Hudson Valley.


Hiking at Sam’s Point (Minnewaska)

My friend told me about this trip she took to Sam’s Point over the summer and when I heard about the (a) amazing views (b) ice caves and (c) huge waterfall, I was immediately sold. Fast forward to this weekend, I set off for Sam’s Point (part of Minnewaska state park) with two friends. It took a little over an hour to get there by car.

When we arrive at the trail entrance/visitor center, the park rangers tell us that the parking lot is full. “You’ll have to turn back around. There’s another parking lot in Minnewaska,” they say. Upon consulting the GPS, we realize that the parking lot they’re referring to is almost an hour away, so: bad idea. We decide to park illegally in the small town we just passed by in an empty space behind the post office. While walking back down the road towards the trail entrance, we’re stopped by a couple of other cars who got turned around as well and were wondering where we parked. One of the cars had come all the way from California on their college fall break. We had to walk for about 20 minutes back to the trail entrance, but it was a nice day and the houses were beautiful. The shortage of parking space probably attests to the popularity and high-usage of Sam’s Point as an outdoor recreation site, but also may serve as an interesting way for park authorities to cap the number of people going in (so as to prevent over-usage and damage to the area.)

The visitor center was pretty crowded, which explained the parking lot situation. We take the trail from the entrance that takes us straight up to Sam’s Point itself. After about half an hour of climbing, we reach the rocky cliff platform (i.e. Sam’s point), with a 360 degree view of the surrounding landscape. It was a clear sunny day, so we could see miles and miles out into the Hudson valley, with the distant Catskills on the horizon. You could make your way right up to the very edge of the cliff and look down into the dizzying depths. According to a website I’d read before the trip, folklore has it that a guy (Sam?) had jumped off this cliff after being chased by some Native Americans and he apparently survived. I highly doubt that’s true. 

There weren’t that many people, but the profile of those who’d made it up to the top weren’t exactly “hardcore” hikers: in the time we spent up there admiring the view, we were joined by families with young kids, older folks, and tourists in their fancy clothes. Some people were picnicking out on the flat rock and the atmosphere was in general very chill and family-friendly. It was interesting to see how such a famous hiking spot (almost as famous as Breakneck, apparently), was (unlike Breakneck) accessible to such a wide range of visitors. Makes sense, because it wasn’t too hard a climb up to Sam’s Point, and the trail was paved at the main area surrounding Sam’s Point. I feel like I usually have to work much harder for a view like that.

After Sam’s Point, we turned off on a trail to the Ice Caves. The first was small, but we decided to climb over a couple of boulders and explore the narrow path at the back with the help of our phone torchlights, but eventually the path got too narrow to squeeze through. The second cave was bigger, with a wooden platform and stairs down to the bottom. We didn’t see any ice, possibly because it was late summer/early fall, but apparently at other points in the year, there are ice formations in the cave. But it was still a really interesting experience- entering the cave felt like entering a fridge; the temperatures inside were so much colder than they were outside.

 After the ice caves, we followed a third trail that led to the Verkeerderkill waterfall. Up till this point, there had been a constant trickle of visitors, and we were never alone – but along this trail we were mostly alone. Just the sound of crunching leaves beneath our feet, the smell of pine cones and fresh earth, the open sky and sun on skin. The trail was much longer than the other two we’d taken, and I found myself slipping almost into a trance-like state, just putting one foot in front of the other, conscious thoughts melting away into quiet contentment. I love hiking because I love feeling this way- enveloped by the world around me and completely immersed in the moment.

The fact that this trail took us through varying scenic landscapes also added to the enchantment of the hike: it was like passing through three different worlds – the first part was an open plateau with reddish shrubbery with some short burnt tree skeletons, which gave way to a meandering path around small wooded groves and finally, to tall, pleasant forest-land. According to people we met along the way, the park had recently been ravaged by a wildfire (and had been closed till mid this year), so we were lucky), which explained the short burnt tree skeletons.

My favorite segment of the trail was the open plateau, which was unlike anything I’d seen in America: it was unobstructed by trees and at a pretty high altitude, so walking through it meant constant amazing views of the distant mountain ranges and cliffs and valleys. The landscape actually really reminded me of hiking in Australia. 

Finally we reached some small wading pools, where kids and dogs were splashing around. There was a group of Korean tourists there too, and a couple who’d found a shady spot under some trees. A little bit further up the path there was a rocky outcrop much like Sam’s Point, with a view of Verkeerderkill falls. We sat there, ate sandwiches we packed from the Deece, admired the waterfall, and rested before heading back the way we came. 

All in all, the hike took us from about 11 till 5, with lunch in between and a 1 hour walk to and from the small town to the trail entrance. It was an amazing trip, and one that was so close to Vassar and the surrounding towns of the Hudson Valley region. With its accessibility, moderate difficulty (the only one that was rather long was the Verkeerderkill trail) and interesting scenic features, Sam’s Point is probably one of the crown jewels of the Minnewaska state park and a prized outdoor recreation amenity to be enjoyed by all sorts of people from New York, the rest of America, and even other parts of the world.