“No planes!” we vowed this past summer when Rick and I planned a fall getaway. An exhausting, frustrating three-day ordeal in June to return to Philadelphia from Lisbon instead of the originally scheduled 12 hours (it all happened in Montreal and Air Canada was the culprit) discouraged us from using that transportation mode for this trip.
Instead, we subscribed to the “See America First” slogan and planned a six-night road trip to a nearby region neither of us ever explored: New York’s Hudson River Valley and Western Massachusetts’ Berkshire Mountains. The lure of fall leaf-peeping inspired this decision.
The Valley holds substantial riches. Majestic rolling landscapes form the banks of the river. quaint towns and villages charm travelers. Stately mansions of the nineteenth and early twentieth century’s rich and famous industrialists and a former U.S. president dot the river’s east side. Historic formal and contemporary gardens exemplify horticultural excellence. Public and private collections of historic and contemporary art surprise and excite visitors.
The Berkshires hold their own with crowd-pleasing and provocative art institutions. The star power here, though, rests with the deciduous forests that claim fall’s spotlight as nature’s splendid electric light show of color.
We Hit the Fall Foliage Peak
According to all the online charts and articles, October’s second week was the money shot for leaf-peeping. We fretted a bit that the hot, dry summer and warm fall would delay the peak for peeping. Indeed, the Hudson Valley still displayed disappointing shades of fading green, with early yellows and some reds showing. We learned that the Hudson River moderates regional temperatures, slowing down the color change. Never mind, sort of, because the region is jam-packed with fascinating sights and experiences. When we crossed the New York/Massachusetts border later in the week and climbed into the Berkshires, chillier weather heralded spectacular kaleidoscopic scenes of mountain sides carpeted with every leaf color imaginable, like cotton balls dyed by a rainbow. “Awwwwwww!” Mother Nature showed off.
Leaf-peeping prompted this trip, but the six days were jam-packed with fascinating experiences that would warrant a visit to the region any time of the year. We enjoyed mostly good weather and escaped indoors to visit captivating art venues when rain filled one day. We failed to plan ahead carefully, as we discovered right before we left that many venues close at least one, sometimes, two days a week––Tuesday and/or Wednesday are popular “dark” days. Yet, we filled those two days with rewarding activities, sometimes driving further to visit open venues or window-shopping in quaint towns like Rhinebeck, Cold Spring, and Hudson, and enjoying leisurely lunches. Three Bed & Breakfast inns, two nights each, served our sleeping needs; gratefully we reserved those stays a few weeks ahead, since many others were fully booked.
The Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, as the government dubbed New York’s region in 1996, and Massachusetts’ Berkshire Mountains proved to be an excellent journey to get “out of Dodge” for a week.
Starting with the Mohawk Trail, this is the first of a series of photo blog posts featuring the trip’s highlight experiences, presented over the next few weeks. Please refer to each location’s respective websites for hours, admission costs, and advanced reservations.