Skip Vassar midterm talk, go for soothing nature walk

Courtesy of Talya Phelps

If you’ve already run through the gorgeous hiking locations recommended in our last issue, fear not: We have three more suggestions from Vassar Outing Club Co-President Charles Hooghkirk ’19, plus a fourth recommendation from the author, each an ideal location for leisure and leaf-peeping.

1. Bash Bish Falls

If impending midterms are getting you down, make tracks to Bash Bish. Sometimes all you need to feel refreshed is a peaceful moment perched on a rock, watching a waterfall crash endlessly down into a clear blue pool and feeling its gentle spray. Don’t worry if you’re physically burnt out, too; this hike is less than two miles round-trip. If you begin your journey at the parking lot on the New York side, which
is off NY-344, you will enjoy a leisurely, fairly flat walk to the Falls, clocking in at one and a half miles both ways. If you choose to continue
down the road a mile to the parking lot off Falls Road on the Massachusetts side, your trek will be steeper but shorter (one mile round trip), and you will be offered the chance to take a quick detour up to a scenic view of Bash Bish Gorge. Exercise caution as you descend the staircase to the Falls and choose your viewing spot, as the rocks can be slippery, and then settle in for a picnic, a snooze and a break from reality in this magical spot (Hike the Hudson Vallet, “Bash Bish Falls”).

 2. Dutchess Rail Trail

Calling all bikers who are tired of riding the route from Main to the Deece:  It’s time to branch out, and the 13-mile Rail Trail is the perfect place to do so. This lengthy trail–which runs along what was once the Maybrook Rail corridor through Poughkeepsie, LaGrange, Wappinger and East Fishkill –is ideal for either biking or hiking. In fact, it was named Best Hiking Trail in the Hudson Valley by Hudson Valley magazine in 2015 (DutchessNY.gov, “Williams R. Steinhaus Dutchess Rail Trail”). At its northern end, the trail shares a parking lot with Walkway Over the Hudson, which is also well worth a visit, espe- cially if your dorm room is in a decrepit state, and you need somewhere pretty to take your parents. From here, the trail heads east, passing a golf course and Morgan Lake Park; turning south, it continues through Arlington and La- Grange via a mix of new bridges and converted railroad trestles and tunnels. Finally, the trail ends just past Hopewell Depot, where you can stop in to soak up some local railroad history and info about the trail you’ve just completed. Given the Rail Trail’s length and flat terrain, the ways you can utilize it are limited only by your imagination: Perhaps now is the time to dig out your rollerblades and give them a whirl (TrailLink, “William R. Steinhaus Dutchess Rail Trail Facts”).

3. Breakneck Ridge 

Hike this one while you can! The Breakneck Ridge trail, a rock scramble offering incredible views of the Valley, is scheduled to close at the beginning of 2018 for a full year of restorations and improvements. Starting in January, efforts will begin to repair the existing four-mile trail as well as to build a half-mile walking path from the nearby train platform and create new parking areas to accommodate the hike’s sky-high popularity (Lohud, “Breakneck Ridge hiking trail to close for restoration,” 09.21.17). As you follow the White Trail up the hill, the first overlook offers a view of Storm King Mountain, Pollepel Island, Bannerman’s Castle and the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge. After a steep climb totaling a mile in length, you will at last reach the summit. From here, you can enjoy the more leisurely loop descent by following the White Trail to a left on the Red Trail, also known as the “Breakneck Bypass.” You can then turn left again onto the Yellow Trail and head back to your car, exhausted but hopefully exhilarated, via Route 9D (Hike the Hudson Vallet, “Breakneck Ridge”).

4. Poet’s Walk

Named for Washington Irving and other literary greats who reportedly hiked its grounds, Poets’ Walk was fashioned into its current iteration in the mid-1800s by German landscape architect Hans Jacob Ethers (Scenic Hudson, “Poets’ Walk Park). The two-mile stroll, located in Red Hook, offers views of the Catskills and the Kingston-Rhinecliff bridge without the challenge of a steep mountain hike. The initial gravel trail passes an ornate gazebo before looping along the river and through the woods, studded with bridges, benches and cedar pavilions (Hike the Hudson Vallet, “Poets’ Walk”). Given that the park is secluded from civilization by 780 surrounding acres of protected land, it’s no surprise that Irving reportedly had the idea for “Rip Van Winkle” there (Scenic Hudson). Don’t delay–head to this peaceful spot today, and wait for inspiration for your overdue essay to strike.

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