Author’s note: Maybe, as Liz suggested, “hiking” is too glorified a word. It’s probably more trekking, but, please – indulge me.
New York has some great hiking. The Appalachian Trail and the high peaks in the Adirondacks hold real appeal for folks who enjoy the great outdoors and beautiful vistas. While I appreciate the appeal of strenuous hikes with panoramic payoff, my mini vacation in the Hudson Valley was not designed for rugged backpacking or long wooded hikes. I wanted something more gentle and comfortable for my dog and I solo.
In the past, I’ve explored Mohonk Preserve and Minnewaska State Park, but I wouldn’t say I’m overly familiar with either. I don’t know which lake is which, but I do love the carriage trails and runs there organized by the Shawangunk Runners’ Club. The mountain laurel in the spring, and foliage in the fall, make for spectacular races and I missed running them this COVID year.
While I considered venturing up that way again, the thought of large summer crowds and the headache of crossing the busy town of New Paltz and driving up the mountain, discouraged me. Fortunately, there were options.
One morning, before the sun fully shrugged off the clouds, Jeter and I drove a couple of miles to trek across the Hudson River. If you’ve never been to the Walkway over the Hudson, I highly recommend it. I can’t imagine a season in which the view wouldn’t captivate an observer of the river, looking in any possible direction. It’s magnificent really.
A couple of tips – masks are required and adherence runs about 80%, I’d say. The bridge is wide enough to socially distance and I witnessed as employees sprayed the handrail the entire distance of the span in both directions. Know, too, that the bridge gets really, really hot in the direct sun. Be prepared with sunscreen, a hat and water. Booties are suggested for dogs on summer days and there are water spots for your pooch. The Poughkeepsie side looks to have some outdoor dining spots and takeaway options, if you need a nibble to get you back west. It can be crowded. I’d say earlier is always better and what a place to watch the sun rise!
Later in the week we visited Franny Reese State Park on a sticky morning. This small, essentially three trail park, was less than 10 minutes from my airbandb. I was the second car in the lot a little before 8:00 and Jeter and I covered most of the ground in less than two hours, and that was at a leisurely pace. We began with the yellow trail, taking it east past the impressive stone remains of a long ago resort. It was very cool from every angle, with stone walls and remarkably well built window frames still holding their shape decades later. There were also additional, smaller buildings scattered about, all in extreme states of decay, but beautifully so.
We continued until I was enticed by a sign promoting a scenic view. I mean, who doesn’t like a scenic view? We climbed a terraced path until we reached a genuine panoramic view of the Hudson and the bridges crossing it. It was lovely and I imagine on a more clear day, it would be even more impressive. After snapping pics, we returned to the yellow trail, taking it down slope until we got to the other possible entrance to the park, which is pretty much under a tunnel below the MidHudson Bridge.
I read a little bit about Franny Reese, a grande dame of the Hudson Valley,* as I prepared myself for the walk back up the hill. Eventually we cut to the left and took the longest loop available on the white trail, which promised more of those scenic views I so loved. This trail is the longest one in the park, yet, still sub 2 miles. There’s also a well marked shortcut, if you have the urge to abbreviate your walk.
The particular day I was there was well timed because there was a remarkable density of red raspberry patches with ripe fruit. Jeter and I relied upon the sustenance of those bushes since I had neglected to bring water or eat breakfast. The berries were terrific and so plentiful, that I considered using my mask to collect some to bring home. It was just a fleeting thought, people. I ate my fill instead.
Towards the end of the white loop, which I did in a southwest direction, the gnats and mosquitos were a bit intense, so be prepared – either with protection or to pick up your pace. Even with the random (but persistent) bug, this is a sweet, small State Park, ideal for hot sunny days due to the shade, and socially distancing because of the lightly occupied trails.