Author Archives: Elena

About Elena

Vassar College Class of 2017

Shaupeneak Ridge

There is no doubt about it; Autumn is at our doorstep. And there is no place more beautiful in fall than the Hudson Valley. Half an hour from Vassar’s front gate is one of the most beautiful parks in Ulster county.


Shaupeneak Ridge is home to almost 9 miles of trails up and down and around a beautiful lake. A multitude of flora and fauna have claimed the ridge to their own. On my hike we encountered snakes, chipmunks, deer, frogs, fish, salamanders, squirrels, and birds, not to mention the occasional hiker and their dog. The leaves were a spectacular combination of fiery reds, burnt oranges, sunny yellows and vivid greens. I could not have wished for a more beautiful hike.


Shaupeneak Ridge is not a top tourist destination, but rather a park for the peaceful explorer. It is a little ways from any large city or other tourist destination, and it is off a small, almost hidden road (I almost missed the entrance) from 9W. Due to the large number of parks in the Hudson Valley, Shaupeneak Ridge may seem at first glance to be just another forest. But once I stepped foot onto the path in the bright sunlight and felt the soft wind on my skin, the land enchanted me. There was no one in sight and it was a perfect day. My friends, Miranda and Bernardo, had accompanied me to the park, and at 1:00 we started our hike. Little did we know that the path we chose was the hardest one in Shaupeneak. On our trek we met two families with dogs, an older trio out to take pictures, two young mountain bikers, and a middle-aged couple.


The view once we reached the summit (we climbed 900 vertical feet!) was breathtaking and well worth the hike. We could see all the way across the Hudson River and all the changing leaves. Turn a little, and we could make out the Catskills as well. It was really a perfect day for an expedition.

A little background on Shaupeneak Ridge: It’s not a profit based, nor economically providing place. It doesn’t bring in money, tourists, or stand out in any way. 790 acres of gorgeous mountainous terrain in the Marlboro Mountains. And that is what makes it so appealing to nature lovers.


The serene atmosphere is the main appeal to visitors and residents of the Hudson Valley alike. This park is solely for leisure and relaxation and even some hunting. It is by no means a high trafficked area, but it’s not barren either. It fits in perfectly with the surrounding mood and landscape of the Hudson Valley. It’s such a good example of the Hudson atmosphere that Scenic Hudson holds its annual Spring Sprint 5K Trail Race.

IMG_2089After hiking for two hours, the lake was a welcome sight. Besides holding incredible beauty, the lake was home to a myriad of little creatures. We spent another ten minutes just soaking up the sun, peace and view. All-in-all, I would definitely return to this preserve. Anyone who is up for a hike with splendid scenery should consider making the trip to Shaupeneak Ridge. If you would like to learn more, visit Scenic Hudson’s page on the park. Planning a visit? Check out Hike The Hudson Valley’s website for more detailed information on trails and weather.




Amenia at a Glance

Hello and welcome. My name is Elena Ruggieri-Smithies and I’m a freshman at Vassar College. I’m originally from Columbus, Ohio, but I’m glad to be in Poughkeepsie for the next four years of my education. Though Ohio is known for its soybeans, cows, and corn, Columbus is a metropolis that dwarfs Poughkeepsie in size and population. Living here has opened my eyes to the beauty and simplicity of living away from a big city. I can now truly appreciate a night sky full of stars and the fresh air and even the quaint town of Arlington.DSC_0063
For our first field trip in this class, we traveled to Amenia, a small and inconspicuous town just forty five minutes away from Vassar. The trip there was a colorful blur of greens and yellows and browns of the country side. When we reached the one, lonely light we took a left to reach the farmer’s market. Here we parked and disembarked and surveyed the few white tents that housed the vendors and their goods. I saw fresh produce, olive oil, baked goods, homemade soaps, spices, dairy products, clothing, and more.

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I tried some of the tomatoes, even though my instincts told me they weren’t ripe, and yet to my surprise they tasted of summer and warmth. The spices in the gold lipped jars smelled delicious and brought back memories of my mom’s Italian cooking. The vendors at every stand were kind and inviting. I spoke with the vendor for Ronnybrook Dairy Farms and purchased a drinkable yogurt only to instantly fall in love with the wonderful mango flavor. Later I tried peach and then strawberry. Another stand I stopped by sold fresh baked goods such as brownies, scones, cookies, pies, and so much more.


A cute diner sat on the corner of the main street intersection. The theater portion is said to open up later in the fall.


Across from the diner was the town bank, a shimmering fountain (above) and a memorial to those who lost their life in battle (below).