INN ACROSS THE SEASONS
INN ACROSS THE SEASONS
Spring in the Hudson Valley offers a verdant mantle of new beginnings. Kills and waterfalls brim with abundant water, and ponds softly reflect greening meadows and pale blue skies punctuated by billowing white clouds. Spring in this place means rolling hills bedecked with apple-white and cherry-pink blossoms of the many species of apples, pears, cherries and other stone fruits and acres of farm fields criss-crossed with stakes and wire of vineyards showing off the first leaves of a promising new grape crop. A short meander down any orchard lane will reveal sun-yellow dandelions and wild mustard peeking through lush green grasses. Everywhere, in formal parks and cottage gardens, manifold varieties of tulips, in ever-changing hues, remind visitors that the Hudson Valley still retains echoes of its early Dutch heritage. Spring is the season to get out-of-doors and to strip away heavy winter garments. It is the season to explore the landscapes made famous by the Hudson River School of painters. Take a bicycle along winding country lanes — to be surprised by soft purple lilacs gone native at the property boundaries of long-abandoned homesteads, and to be cheered by the softly swinging heads of bright yellow daffodils standing tall against dry-laid walls. It is time to sign up for a rafting trip on a nearby tributary of the Hudson, to venture out along woodland trails amid the yellow-green mantle of budding trees, or to scramble along rock ledges in the Shawangunks to espy short-lived water courses and vibrantly green shades of a thousand ferns and mosses. Spring is the season to pick red-ripe strawberries in the Valley’s farms and orchards and to sip a locally produced fresh white wine on a sunny winery terrace. Spring is fresh, locally sourced culinary beginnings: creamy pastas adorned with fresh peas or asparagus, tender salad greens accompanied by young goat cheeses, roasted paschal lamb, and lightly sautéed fishes and seafood freshly caught in our rivers and nearby ocean estuaries.
In June, July, and August visitors to the Hudson Valley are rewarded with mother nature decked out in her summer finery of lush meadows, emerald green hardwood canopies, and sparkling blue waters. Orchards, vineyards, and fields now foreshadow in their great spurts of growth the promise of abundant harvests to come. Pungent herbs, brightly ripening tomatoes, green-striped zucchini, and shiny purple eggplants – a veritable cornucopia of field-picked vegetables for a summer ratatouille — beckon the senses, along with grillades of locally sourced meats and hand-crafted cheeses. Succulent stone fruits — cherries, apricots, and peaches – peek out amid dark green leaves and invite picking directly from the tree, if you secure a harvest basket and follow the growers’ directions to ripening orchards at u-pick operations. Summertime is the season of taking it easy in the deep shade of a mature maple tree and contemplating the view shed of the great river and its defining mountain ridges. It is a moment to re-imagine what the Dutch pioneers found so enticing here and so reminiscent of their native Netherlands in green-rimmed flat watercourses reflecting a bright blue summer sky of lazily drifting clouds. Summer in the Hudson Valley refreshes the lungs with sweetly scented aromas of rose gardens in bloom, wildflower-strewn meadows, and the musty odor of deep woodlands. It is a fine season to take a stroll on the Walkway Over the Hudson, meander down the shaded lane of an old patroon estate, rush to the deck of a ferry or tour boat catching the river breezes, or rest on sun-warmed rock ledges after a vigorous hike at Lake Minnewaska.
Long friends of the Hudson Valley consider autumn the region’s peak season. Days turn cooler, skies appear even bluer, and crisp breezes invigorate body and soul. By mid-October, the nearby mountain ranges turn vivid shades of orange, yellow and crimson, soon followed by nature’s fall palette brush stroking the river hills. Sap-descending maples, beeches, oaks, and hickories shimmer in the sunlight. It is time for a picnic in the meadows of Frederick Church’s Olana to witness the Catskills ablaze as the painters of the Hudson River School captured the region’s majesty one hundred and fifty years ago. Autumn is for hiking along the ridge crest of the Appalachian Trail to appreciate the purple, gold, and crimson understory of sassafras, sweet gum, and sumac and for motoring along the winding Seven Lakes Drive where turnouts display deep reflections of brilliantly hued hardwoods double echoed along the shoreline and in mirror-like still waters. Autumn is the season for the Valley’s roadside stands piled high with orange carving pumpkins, crimson-striped apples, browning shocks of Indian corn, and vivid yellow chrysanthemums. Before the visitor descends from bike or car, wafts of frying cinnamon-sugar cider donuts, oven-fresh baked apple pies, and steaming cups of hot mulled cider already assault the senses. The Hudson’s vineyards and orchards are abuzz with harvesting before the killing frosts of winter descend, and wineries, cider mills, and distilleries are pressing the juices of collected fruits that will overwinter in vats lending complexity and character to next season’s beverage offerings. It is the season to change the pace for a few days in a Hudson Valley country inn or bed and breakfast located in some quaint inland country village or river-hugging picture-book town. It is time to slow down and arrest the eyes on the details of white federal style houses, pastel-hued gothic cottages, and high-gabled Victorian townhouses somehow made more magical in the sharper relief of autumn sunlight now offset by brilliantly colored shade trees. Simply put, the Hudson Valley is the epitome of an Indian Summer respite.
At its best, winter in the Hudson Valley is a season of freshly fallen snow, ice-laced kills, frozen ponds, icicle-edged roofs, bright blue skies, sharply colored sunrises, and deeply shadowed late afternoons. Occasional frosts and blowing snow coat sharp-edged holly aglow with red berries, glistening white pine branches decked out with brown lacy pine cones, red-twigged dogwood emerging from snow banks, and white-barked sycamores punctuating winter blue skies. Winter, too, is a season for outdoor activities, well bundled up in cap and scarf and mittens, ready for snow-shoeing along a kill, cross-country skiing down orchard lanes, skating on a solidly iced pond, or walking along an old stone wall demarcating the boundaries of an ancient wood lot. Winter means warming up near a glowing fire with hot-mulled local cider, citrus-infused teas, steaming hot chocolate, shots of distilled local spirits, or glasses of deep red wine reflecting a flaming winter fire. It is a time to come inside to the Hudson Valley’s locally sourced restaurants brimming with oven-hot meals of winter vegetables plucked at the end of the harvest season, freshly baked breads and warm fruit pies, appetizer plates of cured meats and local cheeses and pickled relishes and nutmeats; hearty bowls of polentas and risottos, and mounded platters of roasted meats. Or it may be a moment of simple enjoyment rewarded by an aromatic wood-fired pizza and a hops-rich, locally crafted brew.