Tag Archives: Hudson Valley

Woodstock Peace Festival

Woodstock, New York is a small town with a rich history. In 1903, Byrdcliffe Art Colony came to Woodstock, and from that point on art and music became an integral part of the community’s culture. Famous artists and musicians were created from Woodstock, and countless others moved to the town in pursuit of a place that shared their values and people with whom they could create. What has place the town in an international dialogue is the the 1969 Woodstock festival, with artists like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, and many more performing and joining the crowd in celebrating the music. However, the festival did not actually take place in Woodstock, though that was the initial desired location.

Jimi Hendrix performing at Woodstock Festival

Jimi Hendrix was the last act to perform at the iconic Woodstock Festival in 1969, courtesy of all-that-is-interesting.com

Since the counter-culture revolution that was Woodstock Festival, the town has continued to nurture the values of creativity, community and peace. On September 21, the International Day of Peace, the town began its first ever Woodstock Peace Festival. The opening ceremony took place on that Monday, at Bearsville Theater, followed by a project, making flags for peace, on Saturday. Sunday was the main festival, where the Bearsville Theater displayed the flags and hosted, yoga, meditation, peace talks and community discussions, as well as a picnic and musical acts, including the local Simi Stone.

Woodstock Peace Festival Poster

Woodstock Peace Festival Poster

The stated mission of the festival on its event page was to create “a joyful, holistic, community gathering to celebrate and amplify the message of peace.” No entry fee was required to enjoy the activities and performances, but a donation was suggested for the benefit of the Woodstock Peace Center, the launch of which the festival was celebrating. The Peace Center will blossom into “an international peace education program for the community’s next generation.”

Mural at Bearsville

Mural at Bearsville, courtesy of the Woodstock Peace Festival website




Only a 7-10 minute drive from the center of town, the Bearsville Complex feels like its own small village. The buildings on site emanate the warmth of a home with their rustic architecture. On the day of the festival, the theater welcomed people of all ages to watch the performances. The fire pit between the restaurants and theater had gathered people looking to sit and talk, and though the fire was not lit that afternoon, there was a different kind of light they shared between them. The complex itself sits alongside a shallow, bubbling creek, which hums along with the insects. We stepped inside the theater to catch the last two musicians of the day, Amy McTear and Simi Stone. Though there were not over 50 chairs, each was filled, and people were standing along the sides of the auditorium, softly singing along with the men and women on stage, who were dressed in white, aglow in the orange backlight.  And though the performances ended only an hour later, concluding the actual festival, the celebration was not over.

Weekends in Woodstock are normally busy, tourists visit the town’s center for shopping and dining and weekend residents from New York City walk about running errands or  just to enjoy the small town life. But amidst the movement of crowds, the Woodstock drum circle has just sat down in the center of the square. Men and women of many ages, who have grown up in the community, sit together, and play their different instruments, in a coordinated effort. Visitors are welcome to watch, and dance along, but it is clear that this performance is for the players, something they have been raised with or taught and now are passing along to the next generation. It is a rite unique to the Woodstock community, and its strength is that it has persisted through so many generations, decades and realities.


For more information on the past Woodstock Peace Festival, and the Woodstock Peace Center, visit the project’s website here.


Ferncliff Forest

Located in Rhinebeck, NY, Ferncliff Forest is a 200-acre nature preserve that offers the opportunity for a brief walk in the woods culminating in a view of the entire region from atop a fire tower. The preserve offers hiking and camping for all ages, and leashed dogs and horses are allowed on the trails.

View from Ferncliff's fire tower.

View from Ferncliff’s fire tower.


Ferncliff Forest is currently owned by the Rhinebeck Rotary, but prior to that it was owned by members of the Astor family. The Astor family was prominent in business and politics in the 19th and 20th century, and thus became social icons of America’s affluent class during that time. Ferncliff Forest was created by William Backhouse Astor purchasing several small farms in the area in 1853. From that point on, subsequent family members continued to purchase nearby properties to create what would become a 2,800 acre plot by 1940. During this time, the land served as the site of farming colonies and other agricultural purposes. When John Jacob Astor died in the Titanic disaster in 1912, the Ferncliff property as well as all of Astor’s wealth, was inherited by his eighteen year old son Vincent Astor. Upon Vincent’s death in 1959, ownership of the property passed to his wife Brooke Russell Astor. She then donated the 200 acre plot to the Rhinebeck Rotary. The nature preserve as it can be seen today was established by Homer Staley, the forest’s first park ranger, in 1964. The history of the forest is intriguing in itself, but it also benefits visitors. Since the land was donated to the Rhinebeck Rotary, a private organization, the trails have been made open to the public, free of charge.

The Hike

The trail is well-marked and the walk itself is not very strenuous; it is the fire tower that poses the biggest challenge (especially if you are afraid of heights). The tower can hold around 6 people comfortably, and offers a fantastic panoramic view of the Hudson Valley. There is hardly any climbing on the walk, so it can be puzzling to think that it will somehow end in a spectacular panoramic view, but once you see how tall the firetower is, it all makes sense. Climbing the stairs to the top of the tower certainly gets your blood pumping, but it is manageable for people of all ages.


Hello from halfway up the tower!

Fortunately for our class, we took this trip to Ferncliff Forest at the height of the fall foliage period. The walk was full of wonderful views of trees with leaves of different shades of red, orange, and yellow. There are several ponds along the trails, all of which served as excellent reflecting pools of the brightly colored trees behind them. One of the ponds is currently under construction. A sign informed us that the forest has received a grant to turn the current gravel and weeds into a meadow, which would be a welcome change for both visitors and wildlife. As of October 1st, Ferncliff Forest still needs $12,000 in order to finish the project, and anyone can donate to this worthy cause on Ferncliff Forest’s website.


Reflections of fall.

Although 200 acres may seem small for a nature preserve, Ferncliff Forest is teeming with wildlife. While walking on the trails, we spotted several frogs, along with an astonishing amount of salamanders. This close proximity to nature as well as the stunning views and relaxing hike is especially appealing to city folk who crave interaction with nature but may not have had many opportunities to experience it.


A salamander friend!


After the hike, our class spent some time in nearby downtown Rhinebeck. This is highly recommended, as the hike is short enough that it won’t consume most of the day, but long enough that afterwards you will feel that you earned some more relaxing downtime, such as getting a coffee, grabbing a knick knack at the 5 and Dime, and walking around Rhinebeck’s beautiful downtown.

The class relaxes with some coffee at Bread Alone Bakery in Rhinebeck.

The class relaxes with some coffee at Bread Alone Bakery in Rhinebeck.

Click here for more information on visiting Ferncliff Forest!


Independent Field Trip to Mount Beacon Park

About a 45 minute drive south of Poughkeepsie, Dutchess Country’s city of Beacon, New York has a beautiful backdrop: Beacon Mountain, known locally as Mount Beacon. Mount Beacon is the highest peak of the Hudson Highlands mountain range, overlooking the Hudson River and the Hudson Valley. It has northern and southern summits at an elevation of 1,531 feet and 1,610 feet above sea level, respectively (x).

One crisp Sunday morning in mid-September, some friends and I piled into my car and arrived at our destination around 11AM. The parking lot was already pretty full, demonstrating the popularity of this destination, but luckily we found free spots. Make sure you get there relatively early if you don’t want to be parked along the road.

The hike up North Beacon begins with a long metal staircase that really gets your lactic acid flowing before you even make it to the real trail. The first stretch of the hike is a bit steep and you’ll be doing some clambering over rocks and boulders, but it is totally manageable for most people. We saw a wide range of people handle it just fine, from college kids and seasoned hikers to small children and older folk. This part of the trail ascends along the Mount Beacon Incline Railway, built in 1902, which was the first electrified incline and at one point the world’s steepest incline. It was one of the Hudson Valley’s prime tourist attractions, ridden by over 3.5 million visitors during its 75 year span of operation, until it was destroyed by a fire in 1983. Mount Beacon Park is maintained in cooperation with the Mount Beacon Incline Railway Restoration Society, which is working to restore it. You can read more about the history of the incline railway in this 2011 New York Times article.

When you reach the first summit, you find the ruins of the incline’s powerhouse and a scenic overlook to the Hudson River and the city below. The mountain and the city were named for the signal fires lit on top of the mountain during the Revolutionary War that served as beacons to warn of British troop movements, and word on the street is that there is a monument at the site of the original signal fire erected by the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1901.


ruins of the incline powerhouse


view from the first overlook

It would be about a 2.4 mile (1.5 hours) round trip journey to the overlook, but our hike was far from over! It was onwards and upwards. The trail gets a bit less steep after this point (well, mostly at least) which was helpful after we took the wrong fork in the trail. But eventually we made it all the way to our destination: Mount Beacon fire tower! This brought it up 4.4 miles (3 hours) round trip.


Mount Beacon fire tower

We stopped to eat a snack and take in the breathtaking 360-degree views of the Hudson Valley. When we were there everything was still green, but I am looking forward to going back now that the trees are beginning to change colors. If you happen to be afraid of heights, you can see pretty much the same view without going up the extra 500 feet of the fire tower… but you already hiked all the way there, so you might as well, right? At least that was the philosophy that managed to take me to the top! Apparently this fire tower was renovated in June 2013 to include stairs (very nice and sturdy stairs, in fact!) for which I am eternally grateful.


it was rather windy up there!

Atop the fire tower, you could basically see everything: the Catskills and the Beacon Reservoir (the city’s main water source) to the northwest, the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge and the Gunks to the west, the Hudson Highlands to the south, and — on a clear day like the one we were lucky enough to be there on — you can even see New York City in the distance. There was no way to capture that on camera, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.


City of Beacon


Beacon Reservoir




taking in the view

For more information: Scenic Hudson – Mount Beacon.

By Natalie DiCenzo


ENST 291Goes To Woodstock

We met Lori Majewski at Bearsville Theatre. Lori is a freelance writer and has co-written a book with Jonathan Bernstein titled Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s.

Lori is one of the many people who have spent their lives in the New York metropolitan area but have decided to purchase a getaway home in the Hudson Valley. While she loves the hustle and bustle of New York City and all it has to offer for her career and social life, she savors her peaceful weekends in Woodstock, New York. The tranquility, she says, is something that still surprises her. To wake up and not hear police sirens or people shouting is a luxury for city dwellers like Lori who are accustomed to a more hectic lifestyle. “They say your most creative moments are when you first wake up,” Lori tells us. Her ideal morning consists of waking up, enjoying the scenery, and writing. She warned us, “Don’t use your cell phone!” when we first get out of bed.

For Lori, Woodstock has truly become her home. After a few years of living here, she says that she feels like a local. She participates in community events, meets new people, and keeps a finger on the pulse of Woodstock’s art and music scene. One of her favorite aspects of Woodstock is the affordable concerts. At Woodstock, she says, one can expect to hear quality music without breaking the bank. That allows for her to explore more, and find new artists. During our conversation, Lori reflects on her adolescent music taste and admits that she was once quite snooty about different genres. But now she is at a different stage in her life – one in which she can enjoy the folksiness of Woodstock and get away from New York City and its distractions.


Lori Majewski speaking to our class outside the historic Bearsville Theater

Our class began to stumble along to a grassy lawn boarded by stream. The water was clear and cool and immediately diverted all attention away from the theatre. There we began to climb about and wander what we would later learn was a small priced of the Sawkill. Our next insight into Woodstock, Joshua Colow found us there, climbing and fiddling it the stream bed. He grew up by the Sawkill and the town of Woodstock during its beginnings as a haven for music and creativity. Colow went to a local cooperative school in the area after living on a small farm his parents had renovated into an art studio. The home was by the Sawkill and after his introductions, he lead us on a hike up the road to an old mill who used to function under the pressure of the stream. His home and the mill have turned into second homes and airbnb destinations in support of the growing tourist industry of Woodstock. But back to the creative aspect of Woodstock…

A portion of the Sawkill that runs by Colow’s childhood home


The old Sawkill mill

The old Sawkill mill

“Yeah the migration of artists to Woodstock has been going on since the early 20th century,” Colow told us (remarking on the general cultural atmosphere of the area), “it grew up as an art community before any industry came to town.” The influence of artistic and creative minds is hard to miss in this town. Whether it’s the numerous not-so-subtle allusions to the Woodstock Music Festival on the flyers stapled to every lamppost and corkboard or the multitude of galleries lining the streets, the influence of Woodstock’s artistic heritage is hard to miss. Maybe it’s the rolling hills, verdant open fields, and crystalline streams that attract artists like a magnet, it certainly couldn’t be prettier around here. Colow mentioned the Byrdcliffe Art Colony while conversing with our class, and although we never visited there on our field trip, I just had to look it up. The first sentence of its mission statement pretty much fit perfectly with what I expected: “The Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild provides a vibrant center for excellence in the arts and crafts in the beautiful and unique rural community of Woodstock, New York, while preserving the historic and natural environment of one of the earliest utopian art colonies in America”(http://www.woodstockguild.org/about-byrdcliffe/). So, to all you artists of the world, if you’re looking for a new muse, I highly suggest Woodstock, New York.

A collection of Woodstock characters

A collection of Woodstock characters


ENST 291: Trip to Phillies Bridge Farm Project


Last Friday afternoon, we embarked on our second field trip exploring the scenic Hudson Valley to the Phillies Bridge Farm Project. Located just south of New Paltz, Phillies Bridge Farm is a nonprofit working farm located on 65 acres of land. It focuses primarily on producing vegetables, herbs, and flowers for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shareholders as well as continuing education programs that engage the community in hands-on learning about food and farming.


Anna Elbon, Farm Manager

Our visit was guided by Anna Elbon, the current manager at Phillies Bridge Farm. A Tennessee native, Anna was a environmental-studies-turned-agricultural-science major at McGill University in Montréal, Quebec, Canada, where she managed the student-run farm. During her studies, she was interested in the ecological sustainability aspect of farming.  Someday, she hopes to own her own farm.  After working on other farms in Quebec and New Hampshire, Anna came to the Hudson Valley to begin work at Phillies Bridge in January 2015.  This is her first year managing the farm, and  it is hard work as she is one of just three people on the farm staff, but she is doing a stellar job.  She is the only full-time salaried employee.  Two apprentices work with her (and a third is hired over the summer).  Other than that occasionally some dedicated volunteers come to help out when need for labor is high.  One of their most dedicated volunteers is a member of the board of directors.  Phillies Bridge has an entirely volunteer run board of directors to help manage and make decisions for the farm.

Phillies Bridge was one of the first CSA share farms in the Hudson Valley, dedicated to providing fresh, affordable, locally-grown produce to the community and allowing shareholders to develop a connection to the sources of their food. Currently about one-hundred CSA shareholders pick up an estimated $25 to $30 (the shares are sold on a sliding scale in order to increase accessibility) worth of produce each week from June through October and also have access to a “u-pick” garden and unlimited pick-your-own herb garden. A full share is enough produce to feed a family of four.  Optimally, the farm’s goal is to have 120 shareholders every season.  So, things are a little tight financially this year. However, the farm has been making up for that by selling some of their produce wholesale to local stores.  They tend to grow a lot of excess, as they cultivate a full five acres and the farm is able to successfully harvest 90 to 100% of what they plant.  While wholesale provides a good additional source of income, the farm is still trying to figure out if it is something that they want to further pursue and invest in.  Since they always have so much extra production, Anna is considering cutting back on the amount of land they grow on each season in order to cut down on labor.  Scaling back like this would allow them to concentrate more on growing their CSA.  She says that what they really need to focus on is more marketing for the CSA.  Right now people mainly hear of it through word of mouth, but if it were to be more heavily marketed a lot of interest and new participation would likely be generated.  Phillies Bridge is a much smaller operation than Fishkill Farms, which we visited last week.  For this reason, it is much harder for them to spend the time telling the historic and cultural story of the farm and engaging in the agritourism sector.  They have to spend a lot of their time managing the five acres and so it is difficult to put the time into selling the story of the farm as well as the physical products of it.  However, Phillies Bridge does have a rich history that many agritourists would find very appealing.  It dates back to the 18th century and used to be a dairy farm.  Now, it is an integral part of the local community.

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While the farm is not certified organic, they do follow organic and sustainable growing methods such as the use of cover crops and crop rotation. When necessary, they try to use organic insecticides and minimize spraying whenever possible.

Another wonderful thing about Phillies Bridge Farm Project is that it provides a portion of each season’s harvest to food-insecure households in Ulster County through their Farm-to-Families program.  Their non-profit status them allows them to apply for grants which enable them to donate CSA shares.

In addition to the CSA, Phillies Bridge has started selling produce at the farmers market at SUNY New Paltz.  While we were there, the two farm apprentices returned to the farm from their first day at the farmer’s market.

_DSC0322The other big component of Phillies Bridge are its many opportunities for education. This includes a summer camp, home school program, pre-school program, adult workshops, and field trips from tourists or groups of students like us. These visits provide the opportunity to learn how to seed, transplant, weed, cook, and see where food really comes from.  Below is a picture of the special garden dedicated entirely to education.  There are six staff members in the education department, outnumbering the staff that works on the farm.  The education program, in addition to the CSA, is another major way in which Phillies Bridge engages with the local community in a meaningful way.

Anna led us around the Harvest Room, barns, greenhouse, and some of the fields used for vegetable production. Along the way we also got to meet some chicken and goat friends.  Some of the chickens were visiting from a micro-dairy down the road.  Phillies Bridge had kindly offered to host them for a while as the dairy had an owl problem.  Unfortunately some hawks had discovered the presence of the chickens at Phillies Bridge and so they were all taking shelter under their coop.  The goats at the farm are kept in a movable pen.  They are rotated around and act essentially as natural lawn mowers.  Additionally, they are pretty adorable, friendly, and surprisingly vocal.
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Whether you are an Ulster County local looking to learn more about and eat quality, sustainably-grown food or a native New Yorker searching for that nostalgia factor of the Hudson Valley, you will find what you are looking for at Phillies Bridge Farm Project.

By Natalie & Elise


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.




Beacon Farmers Market

IMG_2008On Sunday, October 13 I knew I needed to get from point A to point B, A being Vassar College and B being the Beacon Farmers Market.  There was only one way to do this, there are actually more ways to do this but for a broke car less college student like me there was only one way, the Metro North Rail. IMG_2007 I took a cab to the Poughkeepsie Station with my very nice roommate, Madison who agreed to accompany me on this independent field trip after begging her for what seemed a lifetime, 30 seconds.  Once at the Poughkeepsie Station, we purchased our $7 roundtrip tickets to the Beacon Station.  We boarded the train and waited a short 15 minutes to arrive at Beacon Station, during this time all I could think of was “Once I get there, how in the world am I going to get the farmer’s market?” and “the Hudson River is so beautiful!!!” considering that was the view from the window the whole train ride. As we got closer, I was able to pick out the blue canopies laid out of the river front across from the station, could it be the farmer’s market was right across from the station.  Sure enough we got off the train and Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo it was the Beacon Farmer’s Market.


IMG_2001IMG_2005This farmer’s market was nothing like the Amenia Farmer’s Market we first visited in our journey as students of “Field Experiences in the Hudson Valley” this market was full of vendors and crowds of people with recyclable bags in hand asked questions, sampled products, and purchased products to fill their refrigerators and pantries. A line of about twenty enthusiastic buyers waited in front of one of the blue canopies which was the source of smell of beef kabobs with the banner reading “Nana’s Middle Eastern Foods”.  I was unsuccessful as I tried to sneak a picture of these tasty looking and smelling kabobs.  Apart from Middle Eastern foods, vendors selling garlic, vegetables, ice cream, milk, spices, pastries, fresh baked breads, varieties of cheese, beef, pork, lamb, chicken, eggs, honey, maple syrup, homemade preserves and jams were lined along the river front selling their products to local Beacon residents and people arriving on the Metro North Train like me.


Once I finished going around the Beacon Farmer’s Market a couple of times I saw more canopies lined up on the river front a quarter mile away from where I was standing.  As I walked out of the Farmer’s market I read a poster saying “Pumpkin Festival Sun. Oct. 13” with an arrow pointing towards the the direction were the canopies were.  This Festival was full of  family’s enjoying the beautiful day while listening to live folk music and picking out pumpkins and other merchandised sold by local vendors.  This festival seemed like it was designed for IMG_1963the residents of Beacon. Students from the local elementary school sang a couple of songs I had never heard and art drawn by students from the local high school IMG_1952was also displayed. After an hour of walking around this community based festival I decided it was time to go back to Vassar.  As I walked back to Beacon Station I saw a sign signaling the way to Dia: Beacon, I walked for about 3 minutes to get to  Dia: Beacon. I knew I had no time to go in, but I will definitely visit Beacon again to explore Dia: Beacon and the city of Beacon.





Thoughts From Places: My Farm Fresh Rail Tour

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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As a side note, I met a Vassar student at Sprout Creek who had just started working there!



Opus 40

        IMG_1828After a flustering search for a ride to Rosendale’s Zombiefest, I had to concede the trip. But what could be better than people dressed up in corn syrup blood and ripped clothing? How would I ever redeem myself to my quirky professor? I was stressed. I went through the options for our field trips again, but nothing really stood out. I guessed that I could, maybe, if I had to, go to Opus 40 with my dad when he came for fall break.

Now, this might be a little bold, but I think that Opus 40 could have been better than the Zombiefest… but let me tell you more about what it it is. Opus 40 is an outdoor and “environmental” sculpture in Saugerties, about an hour away from campus (which made for excellent father and daughter bonding). It was built over 37 years by Harvey Fite, a professor at Bard (you win this one guys) who used leftover bluestone from the abandoned quarry.

We drove through areas saturated with corporations like Starbucks, wide open spaces, farms open for picking apples or pumpkins and a couple haunted houses ready for Halloween. Welcome back to America, dad.  

We bought our tickets at $10 for adults, and $7 for students. We started talking with the man who sold them to us, who told us some really interesting things about the site. A lot of concerts used to happen around the sculpture, and still do—last year they had over 2,000 people for one event. Hurricane Sandy and Irene damaged one side of the sculpture, so now people can’t walk on it but they can see all the layers underneath, which is almost cooler. He then handed us a map and showed us where we could watch a six minute video about the site. The video was pretty informative and made the sculpture even more impressive by explaining the process and exhausting work that went into it.

IMG_2038After the viewing in a musty, wooden room, we walked around their gift store, which sells Opus 40 branded merchandise, candy and some beautiful art pricing up to $1,500. Walk around the barn and there’s a quarrymen’s museum with tools hung up in interesting formations. The museum is as beautiful as it is creepy—those tools are scary. It’s a whole experience there.

IMG_2015When we ventured out to the main attraction, it was almost zen with perfect weather, fall foliage and beautiful mountains as a backdrop. You kinda feel like an adventurer walking on the uneven and sometimes wobbly stones, and every different angle that you find is unique and absolutely breathtaking. You have to take a moment, find some privacy, and sit down. Go admire the multiple pools, equipped with fountains; sculptures scattered around the property, carved out of bluestone; and the nine ton monolith in the center.


Harvey Fite and his wife had their ashes spread over Opus 40, and I can see why. The place is majestic. Besides the almost meditative environment, Opus 40 provides an experience for visitors with a friendly and passionate staff, museum and gift shop—catering to all the people looking for a good getaway.IMG_1827For more info check out their website!


Why Barton Orchards Exemplifies All That Is Pleasant in The Hudson Valley


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A short, twenty minute, drive from Vassar College, Barton Orchards is set in a lovely rural area of Poughaug, New York. Cars pull up onto their grass to form a temporary parking lot for the unending line of visitors eager to explore this autumn staple.

Among the the masses were church groups, nuclear families, couples, and the general local populace. Although people seemed to be pouring in through the entrance way throughout the day, (in fact, the line only increased in length as the day progressed), I never felt crowded at any point.

There was so much space and so many different offerings that the crowd was very widely dispersed and frankly invisible most of the time. Admission was reasonable, just over ten dollars for access to all that the property has to offer or three dollars for general admission, making it a prime attraction for individuals and families on a budget.

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Although primarily a recreational hot spot, Barton Orchards also has a store filled with local food to support the local economy, produce grown on the orchard itself, and general goods. Nonetheless, the storefront is definitely secondary to the rest of the Barton Orchards; it most assists local businesses by bringing visitors to Hudson Valley itself, which is quite a venture in of itself.

They boast many vegetables and fruit that visitors can pick their own of, a petting zoo, a playground, a “mining” set for younger visitors, a bakery, a haunted house, a tractor-pulled hay ride, and a corn maze.

The corn maze is based off of New York City street artist Matt Siren’s work. The maze has various stations that teach wanderers about graffiti art.  For more information, check out this post by a Brooklyn Street Art Group, http://www.brooklynstreetart.com/theblog/2013/07/28/matt-sirens-ghost-girl-maze-poughquag-new-york/ .

The iconic Ghost Girl connects this Hudson Valley attraction with the city that provides the most tourism to such rural attractions. A very great decision by Barton Orchard owners indeed.

Extremely scenic in a small-town type of way, Barton Orchards embodies what so many visitors to the Hudson Valley picture. The petting zoo has adorable llamas, pigs, chickens, ponies and miniature ponies, a mule, and goats. Many of the animals run right up to the fences, eager to eat fro the palms of giggling children and stone-faced adults, who are apt to crack a smile as furry noses tickle their hands.

Cups of fresh brewed apple cider appear in and out of sight as the noon sun reminds guests

Barton Orchards 9how pleasing fall drinks are to the palate. Even the buzzing of a chainsaw from a man cutting lumber in to bears and eagles rings soothingly in the ear.

The local charm is only further accentuated by the large apple orchard and pumpkin patch. The gloriously sweet and crisp apples and large, bright pumpkins exemplify what it means to be a Hudson Valley Resident in the autumn. People typically picture such benefits of fall as being beautiful, cracked leaves on the sidewalk and day trips to pick-your-own farms, and Barton Orchards certainly delivers on that expectation.

Overall, a visit to Barton Orchards makes for a memorable day trip that speaks wonders of Hudson Valleys local atmosphere and charm.

To find out more, visit Barton Orchards’ website: http://www.bartonorchards.com