We literally raced up to catch the peak fall foliage colors in the dramatic, spectacular setting of New York’s Adirondack Mountains.
There are so many different hiking trails, we wanted to make the best choices for a one-day adventure. Researching potential hikes, I found The Adirondack Experience, which lists hikes in categories, one of which is “best summit views” and excellent descriptions (also alltrails.com gives precise maps, elevations). That wasn’t enough for me to pin down, so I called Adirondack Experience, to get the low-down on the trails to high peaks. They also offer a fall foliage report, as does New York State (www.iloveny.com).
We set up an itinerary that would allow us to do two hikes to summits affording 360-degree views, in one sensational day:
Chimney Mountain: The extraordinary appeal here are the geologic formations at the top, a maze of caves and crevices, after an invigorating mile-long climb (entirely uphill), before you get to the true summit, a smoothed, mostly flat boulder, reached via a quarter-mile long herd path. “Chimney Mountain has unique features due to a large proportion of soft, sedimentary Grenville layers that have made passageways, cliffs, boulders, and caves. View the large geologic depression that was formed when the Western Rift separated from the Eastern Rift.” The hike, three-miles round trip (in/out), is a 870-foot ascent to 2721-foot elevation. Plan on 3 hours (bring water, face mask, and take into account that it gets dark in the woods before the sunset). (Big Brook Road, Indian Lake, NY, 12842, 518-548-3076, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.adirondackexperience.com/hiking/chimney-mountain).
We came down and had ourselves a picnic lunch before setting out for our afternoon hike, about 30 minutes further drive, at Castle Rock, above Blue Mountain Lake. By the time we arrived, the drizzle which started just as we got back into the car turned into an actual rain when we were on the trail. But no matter, we were determined to forge on. This trail is a 3.2 mile long loop with a steady rise, but more gradual than Chimney Mountain – that is, until the last one-tenth mile that involves a scramble up over and between boulders, made more challenging (and therefore satisfying), by the slippery leaves (young kids would have no problem). But so worth it (and really satisfying to have accomplished it)! The rock formations here at the top are absolutely fabulous. Amazingly, just as we got to the summit – another relatively flat boulder – the rain turned to drizzle and then stopped altogether, allowing the sun to poke through, making the wet rock surface glisten. The views of Blue Mountain Lake, with its several tiny islands, and Blue Mountain, with other mountain peaks in the near and far distance, are stunning.
The summit is about at the half-way mark of the loop. At about the 1.5 mile mark, there is a sign that directs you to the summit, only a little disconcerting to realize you have another half-mile to go. It’s 1.8 miles up on the less steep part of the trail, 1.4 miles on the other side, which goes past fabulous rock formations. (So glad we opted to do the full loop, instead of returning on the 1.8 mile side to avoid a steeper descent, but it actually wasn’t bad at all, even with the slippery leaves. I’ve cultivated a technique of hanging on to trees and branches to swing down, or climb down, or sit down and dangle my feet, and I really value my hiking poles.)
This is one of the most popular hikes in the area, so people are advised to get here early to get parking at the trailhead (Maple Lodge Road, Blue Mountain Lake). Also, on all of these hikes, wear a face mask and respect social-distancing when people are passing.
Since the Adirondacks are about a five-hour drive from the downstate metro area, people are flocking to Lake George and the surrounding area for accommodations which has maintained very strong occupancy. There are also any number of cabins, lodges, Airbnb’s to choose from, many with exquisite views along one of the many, many scenic lakes. At the trailhead to Chimney Mountain, in fact, there are rustic cabins.
High Peaks Resort in the heart of Lake Placid offers three different lodging experiences overlooking Mirror Lake and the Adirondack Mountains: The Resort, a traditional hotel with 105 guest rooms and suites (newly renovated earlier this year); the modern retro-vibe Lake House with 44 guest rooms; and the private and serene Waterfront Collection with 28 guest rooms including 10 suites on the shores of Mirror Lake. Take a break from studying or work with a dip in the indoor or outdoor pool, paddling Mirror Lake, hiking, biking, golfing. Dogs are welcome, with special canine-friendly treats and amenities. Save up to 30 percent with the Best Dates, Best Rates package, with rates from $125 per night (www.highpeaksresort.com).
The ambitious New York Empire State Trail is taking shape, linking and connecting and improving existing trails for a 750-mile network that will enable bikers, hikers, recreational users go from New York City to the Canadian border, and from Buffalo to Albany. And it seems like it is on track for completion by the end of the year, when it would become the longest multi-use state trail in the nation.
We headed out to one of the trails, Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, newly incorporated in the Empire State Trail, with signage and improvements (new trestles, bridges, widened paths, improved drainage), from New Paltz, which itself is a hub for some marvelous multi-use trails that collectively form the Hudson Valley Greenway Trail (www.ny.gov/empire-state-trail/routes-empire-state-trail).
It was pure delight. The linear trail through forests, beside and over creeks, passed dramatic rock formations, is 22 miles long (so 44 miles, out and back). Because of time limitations (and the fact the trail has some closures north of the Rosendale Trestle, midweek, for improvements that are expected to be completed in October, check the site), we only went seven miles north of the parking lot at Sojourner Truth Park in New Paltz, but can’t wait to return to do the rest, another 7 miles north to Kingston, and 7 miles south to Gardiner. The northern half of the trail, from New Paltz to Kingston, has been incorporated into the Empire State Trail, with new signs and improvements.
Shortly after the Wallkill Valley branch of the New York Railroad closed in the 1980s, the Wallkill Valley Land Trust purchased the12-mile stretch of the corridor between New Paltz, south to Gardiner, leading to the opening of the first stretch of trail in 1993. Today, the trail stretches a total of 24 miles and runs along its namesake river from Gardiner to Kingston. In 2009, the northern section was purchased, extending the linear park 11.5 miles north from Rosendale through Ulster to Kingston, incorporating the dramatic Rosendale trestle, a 940-foot bridge across the Rondout Creek that provides one of the most thrilling parts of the ride. This portion of the trail, from New Paltz to Kingston, has been designated as part of the statewide Empire State Trail, which, when complete next year, will stretch 750 miles, running from New York City to Canada and from Albany to Buffalo. (info at Wallkillvalleylt.org, 845-255-2761).
The sights are marvelous, and the trail very pleasant.
We find our way from the New York Thruway to the Sojourner Truth Park along the river (where you can rent kayaks), park the car and set off, north.
We soon come to a repurposed train station, now the Rail Trail Cafe, right on the trail.
About a mile north of the village, the trail crosses the Wallkill River on the Springtown Truss Bridge, featured in the movie “A Quiet Place” with magnificent views.
The trail passes besides orchards, organic farms, lakes, streams and the Wallkill River.
In Rosendale, the most memorable feature of the trail can be found, the Rosendale Trestle. This 940-foot-long continuous truss bridge carries the trail 150-feet high over the Readout Creek, and spans both route 213 and the former Delaware and Hudson Canal.
We ride a little further north beyond the Rosendale Trestle, and come to the Binnewater Historic District where local quarries produced Rosendale cement. (I subsequently learn The Rosendale Cement Works near Limewater employed 5,000 workers and produced 4,000,000 barrels of cement a year at the peak of its activity at the turn of the century. Rosendale cement was used in the Brooklyn Bridge, the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, the U.S. Treasury Building, as well as in many other structures around the country. The decline of the cementworks in this area is what accounts for the rail line being abandoned, and subsequently repurposed for the recreational trail. You can still see mines used to extract the cement,)
Here, though, we see magnificent rock formations – what looks like a cave from which it feels as if air conditioning were flowing and we sit on a boulder to have a snack before turning back.
Notes about the trail say that were we able to continue biking north, we would come to great views of Third Lake, Fourth Lake, and Fifth Lake before passing under Interstate 87 alongside Hickory Bush Road. The northernmost stretch of the trail runs through a scenic forested area before reaching its terminus at a parking area off of New York State Route 32 just south of Kingston. However, the City of Kingston and Ulster County are exploring options for extending the trail into the city. Meanwhile, the Empire State Trail is adding roadway enhancements to run the trail along roadways into the city, where it can connect with other projects currently underway, including the Kingston Point Rail Trail and the Ulster County Midtown Linear Park which runs out towards the O&W Rail Trail.
Riding back, we come to the Café in the Woods, set up for musical performances, where you can purchase food from what looks like a gypsy caravan, and an outdoor kitchen with a wood-burning stove.
Here is where we see Happy Trails Bike Rental (917-443-3600; call in advance) set up right on the trail, (you should call in advance to make sure he’s around). (There are a couple of bike rental shops in the area).
It’s late afternoon by the time we ride back south to the Sojourner Truth Park, but if we had time, we would have wanted to complete the trail the further 7 miles to Gardiner.
The southern end of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail is at Denniston Road in the Ulster County town of Gardiner. True to the corridor’s original use as a rail line, the trail is generally flat. However, especially at this southern end, the trail is unpaved and best suited in the summer for hikers or for bicycles with wider tires. (www.traillink.com/trail-itinerary/wallkill-valley-rail-trail)
New Paltz Hub for Trails
New Paltz has become a regional hub for trails, with the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail running as the spine through the village. To the east, carrying the Empire State Trail up from New York City, is the Hudson Valley Rail Trail(which I have done in the past and found fantastic). This trail connects with the Walkway Over The Hudson’s western end in Highland – which has become one of New York State’s most popular attractions – and as a part of the Empire State Trail’s investment, was recently extended from its previous terminus in the town of Lloyd all the way through to New Paltz where it connects with the Wallkill. Running west from New Paltz, a newly opened River-to-Ridge Trail amidst the magnificent scenery of the Shawangunk Mountains.
Developed and managed by the Open Space Institute, the trail is a scenic and recreational off-road loop. It meanders through farm fields and over gently rolling hills, connecting New Paltz directly to the Shawangunk Ridge and 90 miles of recreational carriage roads and trails at the Mohonk Preserve and the Minnewaska State Park Preserve (https://parks.ny.gov/parks/127); the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail; and the Empire State Trail.
There’s a bike rental set-up right by the parking lot on Springtown Road. Just up from the parking lot, on Springtown Road, we found you can visit Coppersea Distilling, where you can go for whiskey tasting, which turns out to be a stone’s throw from where we had biked the Wallkill Valley trail (239 Springtown Road, New Paltz, 845-444-1044, coppersea.com).
We also go for cider tasting, fruit picking, and have pizza, prepared in a wood-burning stove, enjoyed at an outdoor table (with strict COVID-19 protocols), rounding out a sensational day.
Empire State Trail
About 400 miles of the Empire State Trail network had already existed – the absolutely fantastic Erie Canalway, 326 miles from Buffalo to Albany (which we have done on the annual 8-day, 400-mile Parks & Trails NY Cycle the Erie supported biking/camping trip, ptny.org), during which you see unfurled before you 400-years of American history. Improvements to connect the Canalway have also been made.
Most notable is the work done to connect the trails on the north-south routes, from New York City (where you can ride the fabulous Hudson River Park), all the way up to Canada. This involved some 60 different construction projects, all engaging local stakeholders.
The Hudson River Valley Greenway segments start in New York City and run north to the Capital District:
LOWER HUDSON VALLEY
Hudson River Park
On-Road connection from Upper Manhattan to Van Cortlandt Park
South County Trailway
North County Trailway
Beacon Rail Trail
Dutchess Rail Trail
Walkway Over the Hudson
UPPER HUDSON VALLEY
Hudson Valley Rail Trail
Wallkill Valley Rail Trail
Kingston Point Rail Trail and Promenade
On-Road North of Kingston to the City of Hudson
Albany-Hudson Electric Trail (AHET Trail)
Corning Preserve Trail
Mohawk Hudson Bike Hike Trail
Champlain Valley Trail
The Empire State Trail within the Champlain Valley goes from the Capital District to Whitehall, Wherever feasible, it is off-road along Champlain Canal towpaths. The 120- mile section from Whitehall to the Canada border at Rouses Point is on-road route primarily intended for bicyclists.
Champlain Canalway Trail
On-Road from Mechanicville to Stillwater
Path through Hudson Crossing Park
On-Road to Fort Edward
Champlain Canalway Trail
On-Road from Fort Ann to Plattsburgh
Terry Gordon Bike Path
Saranac River Trail
On-Road from Plattsburgh to Rouses Point / Canadian Border
Erie Canalway Trail
The Empire State Trail within the Erie Canalway include proposed new trail sections and link Buffalo to the Capital District.
WESTERN ERIE CANALWAY TRAIL
On-Road connection in Lyons
Shared Use Path from Lyons to Clyde
On-Road connection in Clyde
Shared Use Path from Clyde over Erie Canal
On-Road connection to Savannah
Savannah shared use path
On-Road connection to Port Byron trailhead
Honeywell Trail to Loop the Lake Trail
On-Road Water Street Connection in Syracuse
EASTERN ERIE CANALWAY TRAIL
Old Erie Canal State Park
Utica – Schuyler
Ft. Herkimer Church – Lock 18
Lock 18 – Little Falls
Schuyler – Ilion
Ilion – Mohawk
Rotterdam Junction Connection
More information from Parks & Trails NY (ptny.org). (Next Cycle the Erie scheduled July 11-18, 2021).
by Karen Rubin Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
This fall, you can enjoy your favorite corn mazes, pick-your-own-fruit and vegetable activities, hayrides and haunted houses, plus farmers’ markets and craft beverage trails in New York State, albeit under special health protocols for low-risk outdoor outdoor arts and entertainment. You can also visit the state’s farmers’ markets and craft beverage trails, which have remained open under New York’s NY Forward guidance, supporting agriculture and tourism in the state.
Sleepy Hollow’s Iconic 16th Annual Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze Comes to Long Island for the First Time
The extraordinarily popular Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze event that takes place each extended Halloween season at historic Hudson Valley is coming to Long Island for the first time, as Nassau County’s Old Bethpage Village Restoration (OBVR) hosts the iconic fall event in conjunction with the original Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze® Hudson Valley, kicking off this week, running for a record 53 select evenings from September 18 through November 21. The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze® Long Island will run for 23 nights from October 2 through November 1. Both locations feature outdoor self-guided, touch-free walk-through experiences through the wooded pathways, orchards, and gardens of historic sites. A small team of local artists hand-carved more than 7,000 Jack O’Lanterns and elaborate pumpkin sculptures at each site. Nassau’s location will feature pumpkin sculptures that celebrate icons of Long Island culture – from the Apollo Lunar Module to the Montauk Lighthouse to the windmills of the East End.
Bringing the event to Nassau County is part of County Executive Laura Curran’s efforts to expand on the variety of extraordinary, cultural and memorable activities available to residents close to home – making the County a spectacular place to live, work, and play. OBVR provides a perfect 19th century backdrop for this magical and spooky event where attendees can safely socially distance across the property’s 209 acres. Advance purchase tickets are required; prices start at $32/adult, $24/child, purchase online (https://pumpkinblaze.org/blaze-long-island.html). (Old Bethpage Village Restoration, 1303 Round Swamp Rd., Old Bethpage, NY 11804)
To see the original, come to Van Cortlandt Manor. Meander through an 18th-century landscape and discover a breathtaking display of more than 7,000 illuminated jack o’ lanterns—all designed and hand-carved on site by HHV’s team of artisans. New for 2020, a fire truck—making a special rescue—and witches stirring up a spell. Tour the Museum of Pumpkin Art, where classic paintings get the gourd treatment, see who let the (pumpkin) dogs out, listen for the Headless Horseman—and watch out for swooping jack o’lantern bats. See the Pumpkin Carousel twirl and the Pumpkin Windmill whirl and step inside the Pumpkin Planetarium for a star show like you’ve never seen. Hold a torch for the 25-foot-tall jack o’lantern Statue of Liberty and get personal with Instagrammable signs of the zodiac. Social distancing and masks required at all times (no food and beverage on site and no outside food or drinks permitted). Tickets must be purchased in advance. (Van Cortlandt Manor, 525 S Riverside, Croton-on-Hudson, NY 10520, https://hudsonvalley.org/events/blaze/).
Historic Hudson Valley is also re-creating its famous “Legend” event for these times. Sunnyside celebrates its connection to Washington Irving’s classic tale, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, at this family friendly daytime event. Home of the ‘Legend’ includes a literary-themed scavenger hunt and a Legend-themed exhibit on the grounds of Washington Irving’s estate. Weekends through Nov. 6-8; tickets $12/adults, $10/seniors and children 3-17. (Sunnyside, West Sunnyside Lane, off Route 9 in Tarrytown, https://hudsonvalley.org/events/home-of-the-legend/).
Buy tickets online at www.hudsonvalley.org or by calling 914-366-6900 ($2 per ticket surcharge for phone orders).
Hudson Valley Bountiful With Farmers Markets, Pick-Your-Own, Biking, Hiking
Hudson Valley is full of farmers markets, pick-your-own, and tastings that show off New York State’s bounty.
After biking the River to Ridge trail in New Paltz, just off a Springtown Road, filled with apple and pumpkin farms and stands, just a few minutes away from the trailhead (and actually located right off the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail), we found Coppersea Distilling, with beautifully laid out bar stands for tasting their wonderful whiskeys and brandies, made with “heritage” methods, and locally source (within 25 miles) all the ingredients. They even use New York State wood for their barrels (which actually shape the taste). They floor-malt grains, ferment in wood tanks, distill in direct-fired copper pot stills to crate spirits with “provenance.” (It’s fascinating to hear James explain these processes.) They also have resurrected a 250-year old process for “green whiskey” – the significant difference in method and taste is that the grain is still alive and has chlorophyll, which gives the whiskey a kind of green-tea flavor. (Coppersea, 239 Springtown Road, New Paltz 12561, coppersea.com, 845-444-1044).
“New York State’s amazing outdoor attractions and recreational opportunities are a boon for families and communities during the fall season each year, and we want New Yorkers to be able to enjoy this time with their family responsibly and safely,” Governor Cuomo said. “The new guidance will ensure that these businesses can open to the public, allowing families to enjoy their favorite fall activities while providing a boost for our farming communities and local economies.”
“As one of the nation’s top agricultural states, New York traditionally comes together in the fall to celebrate the harvest—from apples to grapes to pumpkins,” State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said. “This year, while things may not look exactly the same on your favorite farm, I am happy to say we can still celebrate agriculture’s bounty and the many family-friendly activities that go with it. With this new guidance, we hope New Yorkers will be able to enjoy some of the best of New York agriculture in a safe and socially distanced manner.”
The protocols include reduced capacity, face coverings, social distancing between individuals and parties, and frequently touched surfaces, such as handrails, cleaned and sanitized between rides. (See https://agriculture.ny.gov/coronavirus).
Autumn in The Adirondacks
Autumn is always a fabulous time to visit the Adirondacks in upstate NY, but in a year when fresh air and wide open spaces are what we are all craving, the region’s natural landscape is especially nurturing. Travelers will find endless opportunities for adventure, exploration and relaxation, from hiking the High Peaks to scenic drives along the Whiteface Memorial Highway to fireside dining on outdoor patios.
The Adirondack Fall Foliage Meter provides up-to-the-minute fall foliage reports on where the leaves are prettiest and most colorful. In Lake Placid, the new Skyride, an 8-person state-of-the-art gondola, takes guests from the Olympic Jumping Complex’s base lodge to the 90-meter and 120-meter ski jump towers, where a new glass-enclosed elevator brings them to the top to enjoy the panoramic vista of the Adirondack High Peaks (and to experience what the jumpers see as they start to accelerate towards the end of the ramp!). The new Sky Flyer zipline also offers unparalleled views of Lake Placid and the High Peaks. (https://lakeplacidolympicsites.com/todo/skyride/)
For a COVID getaway, which we just did over Labor Day, enjoy fall foliage colors and no quarantining required (if you live in the Northeast) in New York State’s Adirondacks State Park.
While in North Creek (Gore Mt ski area), visit and/or take a class with artist-in-residence glassblower extraordinaire, Greg Tomb — last day for classes this season is September 23, 2020.
In cooperation with North Creek’s Tannery Pond Center, Tomb has made hundreds of colorful, glass-blown pumpkins that will be sold at the “Glass Pumpkin Patch” weekend, September 25-27, 2020, from 10am – 6pm daily. Each pumpkin has been hand-blown by Tomb, giving them their unique and distinctive sizes and designs (starting price of $35). A sizable percentage of all sales goes towards the arts and operations of North Creek’s Tannery Pond Center, North Creek, NY. For more info, visit https://tannerypondcenter.org/event/fundraiser-glass-pumpkin-patch/). — Laurie Millman and Martin Rubin/Travel Features Syndicate
SLEEPY HOLLOW, NY — Halloween in Sleepy Hollow Country is legendary, and this year, introduces new events including The Unsilent Picture. Historic Hudson Valley’s fall events, the largest in the tri-state area kick off Friday, Sept. 28, take place on selected evenings through Saturday, Nov. 24, and are expected to draw more than 250,000 visitors,
The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze®, the Hudson Valley’s biggest all-ages fall extravaganza, will run for a record 45 select evenings from late September through Thanksgiving weekend. The walk-through experience lights up the wooded pathways, orchards, and gardens of historic Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., where a small team of artists hand-carve more than 7,000 jacks and elaborate pumpkin sculptures. Visitors will see Blaze favorites, such as a giant spider web and the mammoth sea serpent. New additions include a medieval castle guarded by a flock of jack o’lantern owls, a functioning windmill, and a full set of Instagrammable zodiac signs all made of jack o’lanterns. (Van Cortlandt Manor is at 525 South Riverside Avenue, just off Route 9 in Croton-on-Hudson.)
Horseman’s Hollow takes Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” to its most terrifying extremes. Visitors walk a haunted trail where creatures lurk in the shadows, ready to strike fear into the hearts of those brave enough to venture into the darkness. Professional actors, award-winning feature-film makeup artists, and state-of-the-art special effects make the Horseman’s Hollow experience all too real. This 16-night haunted attraction at Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., is recommended for ages 10 and up.
Also at Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow is The Unsilent Picture, a brand-new event for 2018. The immersive theater experience features an original black and white film starring Tony Award-winning actor Bill Irwin, accompanied by live music and a Foley artist. The movie, which was commissioned by Historic Hudson Valley and shot on location in buildings at Van Cortlandt Manor, is the center of this 16-night experience. It is recommended for ages 10 and up and contains scenes of drinking alcohol, smoking and snuff tobacco use, implied violence, and mature themes. (Philipsburg Manor is at 381 North Broadway (Route 9) in Sleepy Hollow.)
There are more opportunities to be captivated by Irving’s ‘Legend’ than ever before. Master storytellers Jonathan Kruk and Jim Keyes, accompanied by live organ music, bring to life The Legend of Sleepy Hollow during 45-minute afternoon and evening performances at Sleepy Hollow’s circa-1685 Old Dutch Church. Irving’s ‘Legend’ runs for 16 select dates in October and is recommended for ages 10 and up. The circa-1685 stone church is across the street from Philipsburg Manor, where visitors will park. Weekend afternoon performances are by Jim Keyes and weekday and weekend evening performances are by Jonathan Kruk.
Home of the ‘Legend’ is a daytime, all-ages experience at Washington Irving’s Sunnyside homestead in Tarrytown, N.Y. Visitors can tour the author’s home, embark on a literary-themed scavenger hunt, see a shadow puppet performance, and take part in historic games and Halloween-themed art activities. (Sunnyside is on West Sunnyside Lane, off Route 9 in Tarrytown.)
All events are held rain or shine. Proceeds support Historic Hudson Valley, the Tarrytown-based private, non-profit educational organization that owns and operates the historic sites that host these events.
These events have limited capacity and sell out. All admissions are by advance purchase timed ticket.
Blaze dates are Sept. 28-30; Oct. 4-31; and Nov. 1-4, 7-11, 15-17, 23-24. Online tickets are $22 for adults ($27 on Fridays and Saturdays), $16 for children 3-17 ($20 on Fridays and Saturdays), and free for children under 3 and Historic Hudson Valley members.
Horseman’s Hollow dates are Oct. 5-7, 12-14, 19-21, 25-31. Online tickets are $20 ($25 on Saturdays). Fast Track, a $15 per ticket upgrade, lets visitors skip the line in their time slot. Historic Hudson Valley members receive a $5 per ticket discount.
The Unsilent Picture dates are Oct. 5-7, 12-14, 19-21, 25-31. Online tickets are $18. Historic Hudson Valley members receive a $5 per ticket discount.
Irving’s ‘Legend’ dates are Oct. 5-7, 12-14, 19-21, 25-31. Seating is very limited and there are three performances on weekday evenings and six performances on weekends. Online tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for children under 18. Historic Hudson Valley members receive a $5 per ticket discount.
Home of the ‘Legend’ dates are Sept. 29-30; Oct. 1, 6-7, 13-14, 20-21, 27-28. Online tickets are $16 for adults, $12 for seniors, $8 for children 3-17, and free for those under 3 and Historic Hudson Valley members.
Buy tickets online at www.hudsonvalley.org or by calling 914-366-6900 ($2 per ticket surcharge for phone orders and for tickets purchased onsite, if available).
Haunted Happenings in Salem
Probably the epicenter of Halloween is Salem and to accommodate all the people who want to experience its annual Haunted Happenings festival (more than 500,000 come from around the world for the festival), the entire month of October is devoted to it. Events include a Grand Parade, the Haunted Biz Baz Street Fair, Family Film Nights on Salem Common, costume balls, ghost tours, haunted houses, live music, and chilling theatrical presentations.
Classic experiences include:
Cry Innocent: The People vs. Bridget Bishop, Old Town Hall, 32 Derby Square, daily thru October. The year is 1692. Bridget Bishop has been accused of witchcraft and you are on the Puritan jury. Hear the historical testimonies, cross-examine the witnesses and decide the verdict. Is Bridget Bishop capable of witchcraft? The outdoor arrest scene begins approximately 15 minutes before show time.
Spirits of the Gables: Get swept into Hawthorne’s tale of guilt, greed and revenge as the characters from The House of the Seven Gables (1851), come to life and recount their stories while you walk through the very house that inspired Hawthorne’s timeless novel.
Legacy of the Hanging Judge takes visitors back through Nathaniel Hawthorne’s birth home to the events of the infamous Salem Witch Trials, through the eyes of the author, whose own ancestor, Judge John Hathorne had a hand to play in the tragic events of 1692. The 35-minute performances begin every 10 minutes in The Nathaniel Hawthorne birth house. Combination tickets available. Reservations highly recommended.
House of the Seven Gables: Discover 330 years of Salem’s history as you experience the museum and collection of historic buildings. Built in 1668, this is the oldest surviving 17th century wooden mansion in New England. The House of the Seven Gables inspired author Nathaniel Hawthorne to write his legendary novel of the same name. (House Of Seven Gables, 115 Derby St. 978-744-0991)
The Witch House, home of Judge Jonathan Corwin, is the only structure still standing in Salem with direct ties to the Witchcraft Trials of 1692. Corwin was called upon to investigate the claims of diabolical activity when a surge of witchcraft accusations arose. He served on the court which ultimately sent nineteen to the gallows. 310 1/2 Essex St. (978) 744-8815
Witch Dungeon Museum. Experience the acclaimed performance of a Witch trial adapted from the 1692 historical transcripts. Most chilling is that it is real. 16 Lynde St. (978) 741-3570.
Enhance your paranormal experience with a stay at the Hawthorne Hotel, one of Historic Hotels of America’s most haunted member hotels. Built in 1925, in the city notorious for the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, the hotel has ghost stories of its own, mostly attributed to the sea captains who were returning to their gathering place. In particular, rooms 621 and 325 have had reports of lights turning off and on and a general uneasy feeling throughout the rooms (www.hawthornehotel.com).
National Ghost Hunt Day at Lord Baltimore Hotel
Baltimore, Md.– Over the years, guests and staff of the historic Lord Baltimore Hotel, built in 1928, have reported sightings and supernatural activity. On September 29, 2018, the hotel, along with R.E.A.P. Investigations and Spirit Flows Studios, will kick off the Halloween season by taking part in the world’s largest ghost hunt as part of National Ghost Hunt Day.
Activities include three different supernatural settings including an intuitive development class with Spirit Flow’s Amanda Jackiewicz at 5 p.m., which will teach participants how to strengthen their intuition and heighten their awareness and conscientiousness. Following the workshop, Jackiewicz will conduct a limited amount of individual medium sessions from 6-7:30 p.m.
During these sessions, guests will work one-on-one with Jackiewicz to communicate with loved ones in the afterlife. For the final portion of the supernatural event, attendees will participate in a ghost hunt with the R.E.A.P. Investigation team led by Bill Reap beginning at 8 p.m. R.E.A.P. Investigations will hunt for ghostly activities throughout four areas of the hotel, including the Calvert Ballroom and the 19th floor, which are said to have heightened supernatural activities. At 10 p.m., the Lord Baltimore Hotel will join a live feed with more than 100 other locations as each conduct a ghost hunt at the same time.
Perhaps participants will get a glimpse of Lord Baltimore’s resident ghost: a little girl, wearing a long, cream-colored dress and black, shiny shoes, running by the open doorway, bouncing a red ball before her. There have been many times when guests have asked, “Little girl, are you lost?” and the hallway has been completely empty.
Event proceeds will be donated to Back on my Feet, an organization that helps to combat homelessness through the power of running and community support.
Held on the last Saturday of each September, National Ghost Hunt Day serves to enthusiastically commence the start of each new Halloween season. Its noble intention is to globally observe the most haunted properties in the world while recognizing the novice, curious, experts and professionals that investigate paranormal activity in these iconic locations! For more information, visit http://nationalghosthuntingday.com.
The Lord Baltimore Hotel is in the heart of downtown Baltimore, within walking distance of many local attractions. Originally built in 1928, the hotel was purchased in 2013 and completely renovated by Rubell Hotels. A member of Historic Hotels of America (historichotels.org), the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Lord Baltimore is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (20 W. Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD, 21201 www.lordbaltimorehotel.com).
But what may be the most haunted of Historic Hotels of America members is 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa, in Eureka Springs Arkansas: “Guests who check out but never leave” at the 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa include Michael, the Irish stonemason who helped build the hotel in 1885; Theodora, a patient of Baker’s Cancer Curing Hospital in the late 1930s; and “the lady in the Victorian nightgown”, who likes to stand at the foot of the bed in Room 3500 and stare at guests while they sleep. These are only three of the dozens upon dozens of spirits that guests and visitors have reported encountering in this historic hotel in the Ozark Mountains.
This mountaintop spa resort, which has also become known as “America’s Most Haunted Hotel,” has been featured on popular shows like Ghost Hunter’s and Bio Channel’s My Ghost Story offers nightly tours that gain exclusive access to some of the most famous ghost sighting locations (recommended for 8 years and up; families with younger children should join the earliest tour.) And on October, 31, you can join a Halloween Séance.
Also in Eureka Springs, the 1905 Basin Park Hotel, which features a mysterious underground cave, offers a 90-minute Spirits of the Basin “ghost adventour” that combines a ghost tour with the adventure of paranormal investigation. It starts with a guided ghost hunt (in period costume) of the most haunted spaces and ends with a chilling ghost story told by candlelight and a sample of the bootleg liquor (http://www.spiritsofthebasin.com/)
Oktoberfest Weekend Celebrations Return to Hunter Mountain
Temperatures in the northeast have begun to trend cooler, and as the leaves begin to change, Hunter Mountain is hosting its long tradition of Oktoberfest celebrations.
Voted among the top 10 Best Oktoberfests in the Nation by USA Today, Hunter Mountain’s Oktoberfest weekends celebrate the arrival of autumn with authentic traditional German-American festivities, food and culture with a variety of entertainment options during all four free weekends. Oktoberfest weekends also occur in conjunction with specialty events alongside plentiful food and craft beverages, live music, artistic vendors, lawn games, our Scenic Skyride and much more.
The Colors in the Catskills: Off-Road Edition is a new arrival for our second weekend of Oktoberfest (Sept. 29 & 30) and allows guests to explore Hunter Mountain’s vast trail network in the midst of fall foliage season. Lead by knowledgeable and experienced guides from Northeast Off-Road Adventures, guests can register their 4X4 vehicles to participate in off-road tours of Hunter Mountain. Additionally, drivers and passengers alike will be able to purchase exclusive camping packages that grant them access to camping right on the Mountain.
The Das Laufwerk Eurocar Rally and 18-time Grammy award winner Jimmy Sturr return to Hunter Mountain for the third weekend of Oktoberfest (Oct. 6 & 7) to rock the stage and showcase some of best European cars our guests have to offer. The Das Laufwerk Eurocar Rally is open to guests and completely free to attend! All European car models are welcome and will have access to exclusive parking in a reserved lot located close to the Hunter Mountain base lodge. Guests attending this weekend of Oktoberfest will have a chance to see the finest in German engineering including Audis, Volkswagens, Porsches and much more.
The final weekend of Oktoberfest (Oct. 13 and 14) will celebrate wineries from around New York State with our Wine Tasting on the Mountain event. This year’s wine tasting event will host wineries from Long Island to the Finger Lakes. Similarly to our Ciders in the Catskills event, guests will be able to purchase VIP tasting packages which provide them with a voucher for 20 wine tastings, a commemorative wine glass and t-shirt as well as admission for one to our Scenic Skyride.
Admission to Oktoberfest is free and gates open each weekend at 11 am – 6:15 pm Saturdays and from 11 am– 5:15 pm Sundays. All four Oktoberfest weekends are held indoors and outdoors, rain or shine.
Located in the heart of the Great Northern Catskills, Hunter Mountain is a four-season resort. Throughout the spring, summer and fall, Hunter Mountain offers a variety of outdoor activities, weddings, group retreats, festivals and concerts while surrounded by magnificent views of the Catskill Mountains. The 3,200’ summit of Hunter Mountain provides panoramic views of the surrounding landscape and is accessible from May – October via the Scenic Skyride. An easy 2 ½ hour ride North of New York City, Hunter Mountain can be a day trip or overnight getaway for sightseeing, relaxation, hiking, fly fishing, zip lining and much more.
Hunter Mountain abuts the Catskills Preserve with spectacular hiking. Follow the Hudson River School Art Trail (my favorite trails are in the North-South Campground and Kaaterskill Falls).
The I LOVE NEW YORK weekly foliage report – a detailed map charting fall color progress, vantage points for viewing spectacular foliage, suggested autumn getaways and weekly event listings – is available at www.iloveny.com/foliage or by calling 800/CALL-NYS (800/225-5697).
My three-day fall getaway in the Great Northern Catskills exploring the Hudson River School Art Trail starts before I even arrive at the historic Fairlawn Inn, in Hunter, NY. Taking advantage of the time of day and beautiful weather, I stop at the parking lot on 23A for the trailhead to Kaaterskill Falls, where you get an amazing view of Kaaterskill Clove (HRSAT Site #4). You gaze out over the gorge where mountain peaks seem to thread together and compare the scene today to the way it is depicted by Hudson River School artist Asher B. Durand’s 1866 painting. The trees are just beginning to turn colors (the peak is usually around Columbus Day weekend), but I swear that the same tree, already crimson, is the same red tree in the painting, also depicting an early fall scene.
It’s a short walk along 23A (watch out for cars on the winding narrow road) to the trailhead for one of my favorite hikes, Kaaterskill Falls (HRSAT Site #5), a stunning scene that looks remarkably just as depicted in an 1835 painting by Thomas Cole, known as the father of the Hudson River School. “It is the voice of the landscape for it strikes its own chords, and rocks and mountains re-echo in rich unison,” Cole (who was also a poet and essayist) wrote.
The Kaaterskill Falls were a favorite subject of many of the Hudson River School painters and for me, is the quintessential combination of stunning scenery plus the physical pleasure of the hike – half-mile up to the base of the double-falls, then another half-mile to the top.
The two-tiered Kaaterskill Falls, 175 and 85 feet, is the highest in New York State and was described by James Fenimore Cooper in “The Pioneers” which Thomas Cole, a friend of Cooper’s illustrated.
The waterfalls, usually rushing, are just a trickle after a long dryspell, but the hike is still absolutely fantastic – just enough challenge (I love my walking sticks) – and means you can get much closer than you might if the falls were fuller.
You make it to the base of the double-falls. Last time I hiked the trail, there were barriers and warnings not to go higher because it was so steep and dangerous (people have died!), but since then, there are staircases so you can hike to the very top. (There is also access to the top from other trails and nearby Laurel House Road parking lot above).
I climb up and take a cut-off to the bottom of the high falls where there is a pool of water. Though it is already autumn on the calendar, it is as hot as a summer’s day – record heat in fact, close to 90 degrees – and people are in the shallow pool. The ledges are beautiful and you get a wonderful view back down the valley.
Another half-mile climb (another new staircase gets you up the steepest part) brings me to a winding forest trail that wraps around the hilltop to the very top of the falls. I cross a bridge over what would usually be rushing water. You can look back to the steep drop of the falls, back to the valley – just as Thomas Cole and the artists would have seen it. There is a viewing platform which looks back at the falls, bookended by trees just beginning to turn into their kaleidoscope of fall colors (the peak is traditionally around Columbus Day).
There is a small trail through the woods to the very top of the falls. Signs admonish hikers that climbing the ledges beside Kaaterskill Falls is extremely dangerous, and has resulted in numerous injuries and deaths. But the falls are not flowing when I come, so I get to walk on the ledges, giving me really nervous view straight down and beyond, to the Valley and letting me look at the carved initials and graffiti from the 1920s and 30s, some even from the 1800s. You feel a sense of kindred spirit with those who have passed through and passed on. You feel the height and the proximity to the drop off, and it makes your heart flutter.
Later, you will recognize the view in Thomas Cole’s paintings and imagine how he must have stood in this precise place where you are standing.
It is a half-mile to the base, and another half- mile to the top of the falls, for a total of 2 miles roundtrip. There are some scrambles and it is uphill almost all the way (walking sticks are really recommended), and is thoroughly fantastic.
I’ve taken my time, really savoring the views and the scenes and the smells, and the couple of miles hiking have taken about 2 1/2 hours.
(The parking lot is just west of the trailhead and across 23A, so you park and walk back along the road, being very careful. Haines Falls NY 12436, 518-589-5058, 800-456-2267).
I set out along 23A toward Hunter and the Fairlawn Inn.
Hudson River School Art Trail Hikes in North-South Campground
For my second day, after an amazing breakfast at the Fairlawn Inn, I head to North-South Campground, where there are several of the Hudson River School of Art Trail hikes (as well as many other hiking trails) – the lake itself depicted in paintings such as Thomas Cole’s “Lake with Dead Trees,” 1825, (HRSAT Site #6).
I take the longer and wonderfully more challenging (only moderately strenuous) hike which brings you to such spots as Artist’s Rock, Sunset Rock and Newman’s Ledge (you can continue to North Point). Other hikes bring you to Boulder Rock, the Catskill Mountain House (HRSAT Trail Site #8) and Laurel House sites.
The hike to Sunset Rock (HRSAT Trail Site #7) begins along the well-marked blue trail (you cut off to the yellow trail to Sunset Rock) that mostly wraps around the ledges, with the amazing views that so enthralled the artists of the Hudson River Valley. Close to the beginning is a fairly interesting scramble, then the trail winds through the woods along side fabulous rock formations before coming out again to the ledges. You reach Artists Rock at about .4 miles. Continuing on, you look for the yellow trail marker to Sunset Rock.
I continue on to Newman’s Point but overshoot and head up some challenging scrambles before turning back (the trail to North Point continues for another mile). I am delighted with myself to have gone what I estimate was an extra .4.
Back at the North-South Lake (it’s taken me about three hours taking my time), people are swimming in the ridiculously unseasonably hot (near 90) weather.
I look for a relatively easy trail and find just a short distance away, Mary’s Glen trail to Ashley’s Falls (alas, the falls are all but completely dried up when I come). This is an ideal trail for families with small children who want to avoid hiking near open ledges. You go through a lovely wooded glen alongside a beaver meadow and stream to a deeply forested cascade, Ashley’s Falls. This day, though, there is no cascade. (just .6 mile roundtrip).
Mary’s Glen trail can also be the entrance to a difficult hike, to North Point, a distance of 3.2 miles with 840 feet ascent. It is a mostly moderate climb but has some short, steep scrambles over rock, but you come to large open slabs and expansive vistas at North Point, a 3,000 ft. elevation with some of the most distant views.)
On my last visit, I did a wonderful hike to the site of the Catskill Mountain House (HRSAT Site #8), one of the earliest tourist hotels. The majestic hotel, which was opened in 1823 and accommodated 400 guests a night (Presidents Arthur and Grant were among those who stayed here), burned down in 1963 but the view that attracted visitors still remains as one of the most magnificent panoramas in the region, and can be compared to Frederic Church’s “Above the Clouds at Sunrise” (1849).
It is fun to see the initials carved into the stone ledges from more than a century ago. The Mountain House began drawing thousands of guests each season from all over the country as well as from abroad, who came not just for the cooler, healthier climate but for what had already become one of the most renowned natural panoramas in the young nation: the valley 1,600 feet below, stretching east to the Taconic Mountains and the Berkshires, with the silvery thread of the Hudson visible for 60 miles from north to south. On a clear day, you can see five states – Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York. The hike is just a half-mile with only an 80-foot ascent.
There is a $10/car day use fee for the NYS DEC’s North-South Lake Campground from early May through late October, however the fee is waived for NYS residents 62 years or older midweek. The campground is open for camping from May through October; 518-589-5058 or call DEC Regional Office year-round at 518-357-2234, More information at www.greatnortherncatskills.com/outdoors/north-south-lake-campground.
Those who prefer driving to experience fall foliage will find two National Scenic Byways in the Great Northern Catskills: a 21-mile route that descends from high country peaks to Durham Valley farmland., affording views that stretch across the Hudson River Valley to summits in four New England states. Then take an excursion along Mountain Clove, a byway that meanders through ravines, historic districts, and waterfalls. In fact, one of the best foliage views in New York State, Innkeeper Chuck Tomajko notes, is just 2 miles from his Fairlawn Inn door, at the intersection of Rte 214 and 23A – which looks toward Bear Creek and some half-dozen mountains that form layers.
An Arts-Meets-Nature Driving/Exploration Route: The Kaaterskill Clove Experience provides a new self-guided discovery tour through the history of American art, and the primeval landscape that inspired it. Tailored, easy-to-follow itineraries provide a roadmap for families, adventure seekers and leisure travelers to experience the Kaaterskill Clove at your own pace, while enjoying everything that Greene County has to offer, from farm stands to charming cafes. (www.greatnortherncatskills.com/kaaterskill-clove)
Antiquing. The villages of Catskill and Tannersville are known for their antique shops. Actually the best antiquing of all turns out to be across the street from the Fairlawn Inn in Hunter: the Antique Mall, housed in what used to be the Masonic Center, is owned by innkeeper Chuck Tomajko. Among the treasures: two chairs that had been owned by Elizabeth Abell, the woman who introduced Mary Todd to Abraham Lincoln. Another chair dates from the mid 18th century, made in Philadelphia, could well have been used by Washington, Jefferson or any of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
The Bronck House Museum, where you see how eight generations of a family occupied this same house for more than 350 years. (Greene County Historical Society, 90 County Route 42, Coxsackie, NY 12051, 518-731-6490, gchistory.org/bronckmuseum.html).
The charming town of Hudson with its galleries, antique shops, and restaurants.
Hunter Mountain is a four-season resort most famous for skiing, but offers a score of festivals and activities in fall, including weekend scenic skyrides (www.huntermtn.com).
The I LOVE NEW YORK weekly foliage report – a detailed map charting fall color progress, vantage points for viewing spectacular foliage, suggested autumn getaways and weekly event listings – is available at www.iloveny.com/foliage or by calling 800/CALL-NYS (800/225-5697).
Two hundred years ago, Thomas Cole, the father of the Hudson River School art movement, sailed up the Hudson River to the Catskills and was smitten by the landscape, by the natural world, by the respite from the bustle of New York City. And so convenient to reach, even then, coming by the new steamships which was the “thing to do”. He railed against the influx of “progress” even then, and the ravage of the axe that was already decimating the lush forest. It is remarkable that we have Cole and his student, Frederick Edwin Church who built his magnificent Olana on a hilltop with a view over this magnificent Hudson Valley, to thank for its preservation. The Catskills are magnificent any time of the year, but in fall, there is an explosion of color. And like an explosion, it is fleeting.
Less than three hours drive to Hunter, NY, from Long Island, is the Fairlawn Inn, a magnificent bed-and-breakfast inn with an incredible story to tell. It will be my hub to explore the Hudson River School Art Trail that offers some of my favorite hikes in the world. They trace the footsteps of the artists and you can see the very same scenes they painted.
On my way to the inn, I have already visited two of the sites on the trail – relished the view from Kaaterskill Clove, marveling how it still looks much as it did in Thomas Cole’s “The Clove, Catskills” (1827), and Asher B. Durand’s “Kindred Spirits” (1849) -even the tree just turning red for fall foliage seems the same as the scene in the painting – which you see from the parking lot for the hike up Kaaterskill Falls, then continuing on to take this stunning hike to the heights of the double falls. They are along Route 23A, the scenic byway you take from the Thruway to get to Fairlawn Inn, in Hunter, less than a dozen miles further.
During my all-too brief three-day getaway to the Catskills/Hudson River Valley, I spend two days hiking trails associated with the Hudson River School Art Trail in the Catskills State Park, just beginning to show their fall colors and imagining how the artists walked these trails before me, and one day re-discovering two historic jewels: Olana, Frederick Edwin Church’s exquisite mansion home and estate that has become one of New York State’s most visited historic houses (for good reason), and the Thomas Cole House Museum, devoted to the artist known as the “Father of the Hudson River School” which has been restored since my last visit with new ways of experiencing the museum that really give you a sense of the man.
The Fairlawn Inn is ideally situated, and so charming and comfortable, you immediately feel whatever city stress or physical exhaustion dissipate as soon as you cross the threshold – all of this the artistry and craftsmanship of the gracious host, Innkeeper Chuck Tomajko, who has anticipated everything to make his guests feel absolutely at home – even providing refrigerated drinks, ready snacks and fruit, a coffee maker and a refrigerator for guests to help themselves.
It is about 5:30 pm when I arrive at the Inn, bathed in the golden light of the late afternoon. Set beside Hunter Mountain (the entrance to the popular ski resort is less than a half-mile away) and with views of the Catskill State Park from its wrap-around porch, the bed-and-breakfast inn is in a Victorian jewel originally built in 1840 and expanded in 1904 as the summer home of a wealthy Jewish philanthropist and real estate developer, Harry Fischel.
Innkeeper Chuck Tomajko, with 40 years in the fast-food industry, bought the bed-and-breakfast in 2002, and remodeled, redecorated, refitted, and refurnished with stunning antiques and period pieces and other amenities, exposed the gorgeous oak and maple floors and woodwork (hemlock, which was typical of the area because it was a byproduct of the tanning process the area was known for), created the stunning landscaping, added a patio, fire pit and waterfall, all with an eco-friendly eye.
Chuck claims to have the only historic home in North America that has earned a 4-key rating (on a 5-key scale) from Green Key Global, a Canada-based eco-tourism organization and was named Good Earthkeeper for 2013 and #1 Inn in New York for 2010 by New York State Hospitality & Tourism Association.
Indeed, it is quite remarkable for a 113-year old house to get that distinction– Chuck has used composting, solar tubes that bring in natural light to otherwise dark hallways,low-flow shower (yet still wonderful pressure); LED lighting throughout; the outdoor lanterns are solar-powered (from Ikea, no less; he has a plan to use them for Christmas lights).
Walking around the inn, there are wonderful sitting areas outfitted with books, a parlor with a bar with snacks and a refrigerator with drinks as well as coffee maker to help yourself; a pool table in another parlor; a living-room area; outside a gorgeous, lushly landscaped patio with waterfall, solar-powered lanterns, a fire-pit.
I love to see Chuck’s clever innovations – how he made a wine rack out of crown moldings and planter hooks; a fire pit out of a coal bin; how he turns “shabby chic” into beautiful pieces of furniture.
There are 5 rooms upstairs of the main house, each one differently configured and scrumptiously decorated, several with fireplaces. The Glenwood Room has a two-person Jacuzzi and a fireplace. Several rooms are “outside”, along a lovely porch with charming sitting areas, in that extension to the home that originally housed the Jewish scholars and served as an ice house. My room, the Spring Valley, was originally a mikvah (a ritual bath for a bride).
The rooms are each uniquely themed and decorated in period furniture (several have clawfoot bathtubs), but with modern amenities (private bathroom in each, free Wifi) and eco-friendly features like solar-tubes which bring in natural light. Several have gas-operated fireplaces; at least one has a two-person Jacuzzi bath.
The Fairlawn Inn, a Gold Eco-Rated Lodging and 2015 Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence winner. is gorgeous, comfortable, wonderfully situated, excellent amenities, but the best asset is Chuck, himself, who is more than a gracious host.
Bed-and-breakfast inns really reflect the character of their structure and the personality of the innkeeper. The Fairlawn Inn is an expression of Chuck’s phenomenal sense of hospitality and his prodigious artistic talents – the interior design and decorative arts, antiquing, painting, landscaping, and culinary arts. He loves to cook.
Many bed-and-breakfast hosts love to show off their breakfast creations but Chuck goes beyond: he offers his guests a selection of four different made-to-order omelettes (I enjoy his feta cheese, spinach, kale and arugula omelette) plus a special item like pancakes (selection of fillings), fresh fruit and muffins (pumpkin spice), freshly brewed coffee, served in a gorgeous dining room (just the right size – not too big, not too small), with glorious sunlight flooding in from the windows.
Before we leave the table, he comes out with a bottle of water and snacks to take on our hikes.
Everything is so caring, so thoughtfully arranged, so meticulous – there is even a night light in bathroom and hooks. Little things that matter. There is a remote control for the fireplace which Chuck has decorated himself with antique tiles.
The porch has a delightful sitting area of wicker lounge chairs – even a blanket nearby – as well as tables if you should want to eat al fresco.
I am truly intrigued by Fischel’s story which Chuck relates as he gives me a tour of the inn and ask who built the house and why it is so enormous, with a huge two-story extension. Chuck explains that Fischel would house Jewish students in the summer; my room, Spring Valley, actually was a mikvah (a room used for a ritual bath for a bride).
Chuck points to a thick biography of Fischel, written by his son-in-law, Rabbi Harry S. Goldstein. Fischel, I learn, was born in 1865 in a small, isolated town of Meretz, Lithuania, to poor but pious parents (his father was a cabinet maker). Yisroel Aaron Fischel (later known as Harry) became an architect and a builder by the age of 19. At 20, he emigrated to America virtually penniless (“he had 60 cents in his pocket” Chuck tells me) and earned his first million in real estate at a young age (he pioneered building tenements in the Lower East Side on irregular-shaped lots, becoming the first successful Jewish developer on the Lower East Side). But even when he was earning just $10 a week, so his biography reads, he sent money home to help support his parents. “Fischel was one of the leading pioneers in the growth of American Judaism, in general, and in American Jewish Orthodoxy, in particular, particularly in the dynamic precedent-setting first half of the 20th Century,” the Wikipedia biography notes.
Chuck notes that Fischel laid the cornerstone at Yeshiva University, built a high school for Jewish girls, and personally prevailed on President Taft to install a kosher kitchen at Ellis Island in 1911, so that Orthodox Jewish immigrants could have the opportunity to eat kosher food during a probation period (so they could be strong enough to pass the test to avoid deportation).
He also built the first modern Jewish theater in 1904 (exclusively for Yiddish productions).He was first Treasurer of the Central Committee for the Relief of Jews Suffering Through the War in 1914, a member of the Executive Committee of the Joint Distribution Committee in 1914; organizer of the Palestine Building Loan Association in 1921; built the home, office, yeshiva and synagogue for the Chief Rabbi of Palestine Abraham Isaac Kook at his own expense in 1923; established the Harry Fischel Institute for Talmudic Research in 1931 (which, after the creation of the country of Israel, trained, for many years, a large percentage of the judges who presided over the religious courts in the country); and established the Harry Fischel Foundation on January 4, 1932 (later renamed the Harry & Jane Fischel Foundation). He laid the cornerstone at Yeshiva University.
Fischel also built the first synagogue in Hunter, but it burnt down in 1914, so he built a new one across the street from his home – a charming Victorian from 1914 that is on the National Register of Historic Places and is still operating.
Fischel died in 1948, just before Israel became a nation.
The Fischel house remained in the family until 1993, when a couple bought what had become a decrepit structure and devoted 3 ½ years to restore and renovate it into a bed-and-breakfast, which opened in 1996.
Fischel’s great grandson, Aaron Reichel, has visited the inn twice, Chuck tells me.
It is interesting to see some of the relics of the past: built 1904 when electricity was considered “transitional” (they didn’t know if electricity would last), there are light fixtures that were made to accommodate both electricity and gas; fixtures pointed down (for electric) and up (for gas). Electricity was delivered but made gas on-site – capturing methane released from coal, but sometimes blew up.
The hemlock wood paneling that is so stunning especially in the dining room was actually a by-product of the tanning process that was the major industry in Tannersville and Prattsville.
The Fairlawn Inn is perfect for corporate retreat (with all the outdoor activities- from skiing to mountain biking that are so great for team-building); special interest groups, multi-generational getaways, destination wedding with expansive lawns for a tent (Chuck loves to cook and has accommodated weddings with up to 150 guests).
The inn is ideal for a hub-and-spoke itinerary for exploring and enjoying the amazing array of historic, heritage, cultural and outdoor attractions and Chuck offers lists of attractions walking distance and a short drive that fill out a three-day getaway but can also easily fill a longer itinerary. He also can put you on the path for antiquing, and the Hudson Valley Wine & Craft Beverage trail (TravelHudsonValley.com)
(And Chuck can steer you to every one, providing comprehensive lists, brochures, maps, print-outs, and his personal guidance and tips.)
Hiking is a huge activity and for my second day at the inn, I go to the North-South Lake Campground from which there are many trails as well as a fantastic lake (people are actually swimming with the record high temperature for a fall day), and set out for one of my favorite hikes that takes me to more of the Hudson River School artists’ favorite spots: North-South Lake (site #6 on the Hudson River School Art Trail), Artist’s Rock and Sunset Rock (site #7 on the HRSAT); another trail goes to where the Catskill Mountain House stood (trail site #8).
For my third day, Chuck gives me a tour of the Hunter Antique Mall, housed in what used to be the Masonic Lodge, which he also owns, which offers a literal treasure trove of fabulous finds, with fascinating documentation and excellent pricing. He points out a pre-Revolutionary chair made in Philadelphia that easily could have accommodated George Washington, and a pair of chairs signed on the bottom for Elizabeth Abell, a friend of Abraham Lincoln’s who introduced Mary Todd to him. (It turns out that chuck is an absolute expert on antiquing, and can steer you to auctions and a “junking” trail where you can find treasures at garage-sale prices). He offers his patrons clever ideas: like turning a stack of vintage luggage into a sidetable that also affords cramped apartment-dwellers storage; and how you can make a bird feeder out of gorgeous blue-and-white China cup and saucer; and decorates otherwise bland furniture with a waxy-press-on craft.
I then go on to the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill (#1 on the Hudson River School Art Trail, www.thomascole.org) with a sensational guided tour as well as featured exhibit in the New Studio (this year’s exhibit is “Sanford R. Gifford in the Catskills”); the house usually closes at the end of October but this year has an extended season of November weekends; and then on to Olana State Historic Site (#2 on the HRSAT), in Hudson NY, which closes for the season on Oct. 28 (www.olana.org).
I prefer hiking to experience fall foliage, but those who prefer driving will find several scenic byways: Greene County’s two National Scenic Byways include a 21-mile route that descends from high country peaks to Durham Valley farmland.; along the way, you will find views that stretch across the Hudson River Valley to summits in four neighboring New England states. Then take an excursion along Mountain Clove, a byway that meanders through ravines, historic districts, and waterfalls. In fact, one of the best foliage views in New York State, Chuck notes, is just 2 miles from the Fairlawn Inn door, at the intersection of Rte 214 and 23A – which looks toward Bear Creek and some half-dozen mountains that form layers.
An Arts-Meets-Nature Driving/Exploration Route: The Kaaterskill Clove Experience provides a new self-guided discovery tour through the history of American art, and the primeval landscape that inspired it. Tailored, easy-to-follow itineraries provide a roadmap for families, adventure seekers and leisure travelers to experience the Kaaterskill Clove at your own pace, while enjoying everything that Greene County has to offer, from farm stands to charming cafes.
Other attractions include:
Sky Walkway over the Hudson River alongside the Rip Van Winkle Bridge.
Antiquing (Tannersville and Catskill are the main villages, but Chuck can steer you to auctions and a “junking” trail where you can find treasures at garage-sale prices).
Bike (or walk) the 2.7-mile long Huckleberry Trail that follows the old Huckleberry Railroad track and is mostly under trees.
There is mountain biking and golf at Windham Mountain (another wonderful ski mountain just 8 miles up 23A).
Close by in Coxsackie is The Bronck House (in the same family for 400 years) and the quaint town of Hudson with its galleries, antiques, boutiques and restaurants, which is operated by the Greene County Historical Society (http://www.gchistory.org/).
The Fairlawn Inn is within 90 minutes of major attractions including Hyde Park (Franklin Roosevelt’s home and library), the Walk Over the Hudson, Hyde Park (FDR),Walk Over Hudson, Huguenot Village in New Paltz (a national historic site with costumed interpreters, www.huguenotstreet.org), Howe Caverns and Cooperstown (Baseball Hall of Fame). And it’s just 2 ½ hours from “the universe” of New York City.
The village of Hunter is accessible from Amtrak to Hudson, MTA to Poughkeepsie, where you can find Enterprise and other rental car agencies, car service and Uber.