With the leaves rustling and crumbling beneath my feet and the smell of fallen leaves floating through the Dutchess County air, I was quickly reminded that it was fall, despite the 80 degree weather. On my trip to the Dutchess County Rail Trail I was surprised, awed and comforted by many aspects of this trail.
I was first surprised at the accessibility of the trail. It seems as though the one goal the county had in mind when building the trail was making sure that it was attainable by every resident of every city and town. There are parking lots and entrances at nearly every city it passes through, with distinct directions on their website. The trail was even elongated recently just so that people will be able to stay on their bikes when they want to finish their ride on the Walkway Over the Hudson.
The path was filled with residents, some who I talked to. Mary, from Arlington, said that she loves going on runs in the mornings, before anyone gets on the trail, so that she could enjoy the brisk air and the trees all by herself.
This path, designed specifically for a leisurely stroll or calming bike ride, was somewhat disappointing to a non-resident. Although the trees surrounding the trail were beautiful, especially in the beginnings of fall, it was unexciting. There wasn’t a goal at the end of the trail, it wasn’t at all difficult, and the scenery was uninteresting after walking on the trail for ten minutes. Thus, you can say a girl who thoroughly enjoys a challenging trail, or one that loves to sit at the top of a mountain and watch the sunset, was pretty bored after 15 minutes of walking.
On the other hand, it was wonderful to talk to a few residents and regular users of this trail. John, a man in his mid-sixties finds himself using the Rail Trail as a way to relieve a lot of stress and get away from his lovely, but nagging wife. And he seems to not be alone. Residents use this trail as a getaway from reality, from their lives. The trees encompass you completely, so much that you are excluded from the outside world. You are able to walk on this trail and stare at nothing but trees, engulfed in the world of mother nature and your own thoughts. Who would not want the ability to just escape for a few hours at a destination just a few minutes away from your home.
As a Vassar student, one without knowledge of the area, without a car and who doesn’t leave campus too often, it was inaccessible and difficult to get to and fairly uninteresting. Yet, it was a great getaway. I did not think of classes resuming next week, missing my family or about writing this paper. I simply walked down a simple path, surrounded by trees and my simple thoughts. Looking back, it was one of the most relaxing experiences I’ve had on a trail and the only time I was surrounded by locals who were enjoying the benefits of the Hudson Valley.