|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.
After 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.
Last Sunday, at 9:50 a.m., I boarded the bus, umbrella in hand, to begin my Farm Fresh Rail Tour of Dutchess County, specifically for the “Fall Harvest: Wine, Cheese, & Apple Picking Weekend.”
First Stop: Fishkill Farms!
Although the rain of the morning had subsided, the weather was not optimal for apple picking, so I decided to check out the shop and buy some apple cider donuts. As I sat down at a picnic table to eat a donut and admire the scenery, I found it easy to imagine why so many city folk would want to go on one of these rail tours. Here, at the orchards, the other travelers and I were able see the true vastness of the land with the mountains in the background. In a striking contrast from New York City, the world here encourages us to slow down and pick apples as we stroll through a path of trees. Or, in the shop, we are able to realize how much work goes into each item, whether it be apple butter, tomato sauce, pies, jams, squash, pumpkins, pears, or corn, and we are forced to slow down and admire the (perhaps not so) small things in life. The farm fresh tours make this easy for people in the city–just buy your combination train-and-bus ticket, hop on the train at the correct time and place, and allow yourself to be whisked off to a lower stress atmosphere with the beauty of the Hudson Valley.
Next stop: the village of Millbrook!
If there was one word that was overused in this six-week course, it was “quaint,” but that is the word I would use to describe this little town. Filled with antique shops and boutiques, the village reminded me of our trip to Hudson. I ventured into two, the Millbrook Antiques Mall and Red School House Antiques, the latter being open only on Thursdays through Sundays. The owners of both shops greeted me warmly when I arrived, perhaps hoping to make me feel that traditional small business friendliness. One of them asked me, “How long ago did the bus arrive?”, which told me that these tours must supply many of their customers. I asked another what he believed drew people from the city to this area. Speaking as a former resident of the city himself, he replied that people really love the beauty and open space of the Hudson Valley, and how the area is not too commercialized. He added that people come here from all over, and they always say, ‘there’s no other place like this.’
After getting tired of looking at expensive antique items, I decided it was time for a bite to eat. As I studied the various places to get food, I noticed their slogans, notably the Millbrook Diner: “Stop! It’s time to eat!” and Babette’s Kitchen: “simply good food.” The first phrase reminded me of what I had thought about at Fishkill Farms. Here was another place where visitors could slow down and take a moment for leisure. The slogan was a reminder of the importance of food and enjoying life.
The second phrase made me think of something else. Are these visitors trying to experience the authenticity of the area as they perceive it? Perhaps city visitors are also trying to capture the simplicity they believe the Hudson Valley life to have. Maybe they feel as if Fishkill Farms gives them an “October Harvest” experience, and Millbrook provides them with an opportunity to window shop and sit down for a relaxed meal at a “kitchen”. Both can give them tastes for what they perceive as the simple lifestyle and culture of the area.
Third stop: the Clinton Vineyards!
“It feels like we’re back in the Civil War era.” This was something I heard someone say as she and her friends wandered around the property of the Clinton Vineyards. Although she immediately retracted her statement with “not really,” I saw where she was coming from. When we take time to admire the beauty of the landscape, it seems as if we are not only trying to pause time, but to go back to the past, which we associate in many ways with more simplicity.
The rolling hills of the adjacent fields made me think about what the shop owner had said about visitors loving the Hudson Valley’s open space. While children ran around on the grassy fields, their parents tasted wine to experience yet another “authentic” aspect of the area’s culture.
And finally: Sprout Creek Farm!
One highlight of this part of the trip was the three hour old calf! I was not able to take a picture, but I got a chance to see some of the cows get milked. The process seemed similar to that of Saundra’s milking building. Metal pipes carried away the milk, and it looked as if there were similar conveyor belts to carry away waste.
Sprout Creek provided us with our last tastes of the Hudson Valley for the day. In addition to seeing the cows, we visited the goats and chickens and tasted various kinds of delicious cheese.
As a side note, I met a Vassar student at Sprout Creek who had just started working there!