Rediscovering the Hudson Valley
The Hudson Valley is a fairly well-known area just north of New York City. When New Yorkers think of a beautiful autumnal scene, they’re probably picturing the Hudson Valley with its picturesque orange and red leaves and apple picking on small farms. It’s a designated National Heritage Area with a booming farm-to-table restaurant scene, the outstanding Culinary Institute of America, and dozens of small towns with burgeoning cultural scenes littered throughout. There is even a famous resort, Mohonk Mountain House, with imagery that’s been used in tv shows like Amazon Prime’s Upload, in the middle of Mohonk Mountain Preserve overlooking forests and lakes. It’s a stunning region, with hiking, good restaurants, and small towns with local businesses to support. What more could you want?
I didn’t want much to do with it when I was growing up in the Hudson Valley. I took a fairly stereotypical stance that I would get out and move to NYC. Eventually I moved to Brooklyn to get a master’s at New York University (NYU). After I finished that Master’s, I stayed in the city for another 5 years. I love NYC, even when I hate it, as most New Yorkers tend to. In some ways, NYC is like that semi-toxic relationship that you can’t seem to get out of, and often, you don’t even want to get out of it. Even as I type this, I miss it. I left NYC this past summer and moved to my parent’s home in the Hudson Valley. In fact, I lost all of my income, let my lease expire, and left Brooklyn for upstate New York.
I love NYC, even when I hate it, as most New Yorkers tend to.
When I moved into my parents’ house, I wasn’t a very happy person. I would find small things to be frustrated over. I don’t like to drive. I don’t want to participate in family dinners. Delivery from the Thai place on Grand Street was out of the question. I couldn’t walk to my local café, get a cold brew and a breakfast burrito, and walk to Domino Park to start the day. All I could see were the reasons I hated my hometown and all of the reasons I loved NYC. Almost six months later, I still miss NYC and the life I had prior to the pandemic, but I’ve also slowly and steadily fallen in love with this area.
It certainly wasn’t an abrupt fall. It took time, forcing myself to get out of the house, and some help from friends who love this area. I found trails that I walk every day: local rail trails, the Walkway Above the Hudson, the newly established Empire State Trail that now links NYC to Canada, the River to Ridge pathway. Some of these paths are paved and I can walk or bike the different sections at my leisure.
For the first time ever, I visited a state park with views of the Hudson River that I had never heard of, that is practically at my doorstep: Franny Reese State Park. I ate outdoors or got take-out from cafes and restaurants, and shopped at small businesses in Newburgh, New Paltz, Kingston, and Beacon. For only the second time in my adult life, I even ventured just west of the Hudson Valley to the renowned Catskill Mountains to climb three mountain peaks in one day.
There is still a pandemic going on, even when we wish there wasn’t.
I’m going to be living with my parents in the Hudson Valley for a bit longer. There is still a pandemic going on, even when we wish there wasn’t. I have plans to buy an annual pass to Minnewaska State Park Preserve in 2021 and hike every hike there, from Bonticou Crag to Peters Kill. I will visit Hudson, as well as other small towns on the east side of the Hudson River, and support small businesses in the spring.
Recently, I started using an Empire State Trail Brewery Passport, found on the New York State Brewers Association New York Craft Beer App, that highlights craft breweries along the trail route. I plan on visiting as many as possible in 2021 and supporting the booming craft brewery scene in the state. The Hudson Valley has been adapting as best as possible to the ever-changing pandemic landscape, and there are hundreds of ways to support the businesses in the area as we (hopefully) come out of the pandemic.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been devastating. It’s killed so many, destroyed lives, livelihoods, and industries in ways that we won’t fully grasp for a long time. Personally, it took so much from me this year. I have family members and friends who were sick. One family member was so sick, I woke up with a pit of anxiety in my stomach for weeks thinking that she might die. It’s been hard to find beacons of light and hope amidst this year. Learning to balance the sadness and anxiety brought on by the pandemic and the rage and anger that many of us needed to find within ourselves this year to combat social and political change needs to be balanced with moments of joy.
I hope everybody is finding these moments in their lives because that’s one of the only good things to come out of 2020; the reminder that sometimes we just need to find happiness exactly where we are.
When I left NYC, I couldn’t see the next time I would find one of those joyful moments. I’ve found them here in the Hudson Valley. When I take my nieces on walks or I buy a latte from a small café in New Paltz. Discovering how amazing this area is and how many things there are to do and see has been enlightening. I hope everybody is finding these moments in their lives because that’s one of the only good things to come out of 2020; the reminder that sometimes we just need to find happiness exactly where we are.
Photo credits for Rediscovering the Hudson Valley by Leah Wersebe.