As captivating as the Catskill Mountains are, a visit to the area would not be complete without a day spent exploring the lowlands of the Hudson River Valley. After a couple of days on rocky trails – and a couple of blisters – my friends and I were ready for a change of pace. A relaxed, easy pace. What would we find along the Hudson River? We weren’t quite sure.
We weren’t sure where to go, either. How about a lighthouse? Yes, there are lighthouses along the Hudson River. We picked one, and drove east and south, to Saugerties Light.
The lighthouse lies at the tip of a point that guards the entrance to Saugerties harbor along Esopus Creek. You may remember Esopus Creek from our first stop at the Catskill Visitor Center. From Phoenicia and Mt. Tremper in the heart of the Catskills, it flows southeast into Ashokan Reservoir and from there, northeast to empty into the Hudson River.
Saugerties Light sits on a circular artificial island connected to the peninsula by a short causeway. The first light on this site was built in 1835; this building dates to 1869. It has not been in continuous use, but was renovated and put back into service in 1990. It’s small, but mighty. The house itself is used as a bed and breakfast.
Across another short bridge was another small artificial island. Two mulberry trees shaded a small garden and a deck with benches. Sitting on the benches sure looked relaxing – if it weren’t for the covering of berries. We enjoyed the view without reclining. We enjoyed the mulberries as well, rather than cursing at them on the soles of our shoes.
Don wanted to go to the town of Catskill for lunch. He had a specific establishment in mind – the Rip Van Winkle Brewing Company.
So north along the river we went. We beat the lunch crowd and had the restaurant mostly to ourselves. It was really neat, with good food. I had my third burger of the trip, and shared garlic knots with Robb.
We all bought Rip Van Winkle Brewing Company T-shirts, and Don and I got beer glasses. These were the only souvenirs of my Catskill Mountains trip!
The Rip Van Winkle Bridge spans the Hudson River at Catskill. I thought we should drive over it, so we did. It’s a long bridge, with a 3-mile pedestrian walkway. I would have liked to walk some of that, or at least pull over to get some photos. Didn’t happen.
In a vain attempt to introduce my friends to a little culture, I talked them into going to Olana, the estate of Hudson River School painter Frederic Church. Well, mostly because the mansion looked neat.
It’s Victorian, with lots of Persian décor elements. Don would term it “ugly” because he thinks all buildings should be stylistically pure, and a mix of Victorian and Persian isn’t up to his standards.
I liked it, though.
The Hudson River School was a 19th century American art movement that was centered on the Hudson River Valley, Catskills and Adirondacks.
Realistic and detailed landscapes, often of romanticized wilderness, were the hallmarks of Hudson River School art.
Frederic Edwin Church was a student of Thomas Cole, the founder of the movement.
In 1870, Church built the mansion at Olana on a hilltop above the Hudson. It’s now open to the public as an historic site.
On the way home from the Hudson Valley, we stopped at something billed as the “Five State Overlook.” We’d passed it a couple of days before, as a storm was bearing down. The view from the car looked dramatic. Now, we had time to stop.
The view was expansive, but hazy, and less impressive than it had been with the storm clouds. Mostly lowlands, with a couple of low mountains to the left. We argued over which states were the five we could see, and where they were. An interpretive sign would really help here! (Click for a larger image)
Then we got in an argument over where North was. Things were starting to get testy at the end of a long day… Time for home, and a nap. Later Robb and I went for a great walk down a local dirt road. In the evening – as I did every evening – I sat out on the back deck, armed with my bat detector, looking and listening for bats. I saw a few over the course of the week, and recorded more. Including two endangered species, Indiana and little brown bats.
We’d get better views of the Hudson River valley – like the vista at the start of this post – on our adventures the next day.