Just an hour away from New York City lies the wild Hudson Valley

2020-10-25 | Since 1 Month

A few months ago, my fiancé and I took a look at our honeymoon fund — returned to us after all our flights and hotels for a once-in-a-lifetime tour round southeast Asia were cancelled in the wake of the pandemic — and wondered if we should do something with it.

Most of it, we knew, we should keep in savings: jobs are insecure, New York is expensive, and we didn’t  know when we might want or need to fly transatlantically to see our families in a possible emergency, never mind what medical costs we could potentially rack up if either of us contracted the virus.

Almost all of it now remains squirreled away for a rainy day (well, the bit we didn’t use for the patches of rain we’ve already encountered).

But a couple of weeks ago, when the infection rate in New York state looked particularly low, we decided that we may as well treat ourselves to a much cheaper and more conservative week away.

That’s the reason why I’m writing this from a polished Scandinavian desk overlooking a lake and a forest rather than from my kitchen table-cum-bedside nook in my Brooklyn studio apartment.

Upstate New York is a beautiful and highly underrated place. Tourists come to New York City and often pass by the rest of the surprisingly large state, but the island of Manhattan is a tiny slice of a much bigger area.

Here in the Hudson Valley, wild deer and turkeys strut around outside our isolated Airbnb cabin, and bears wander along the section of the Appalachian Trail down the road that we plan to hike tomorrow.

Yes, bears.

Such hazards are unfamiliar to both of us: I grew up in Newcastle, UK, and the scariest thing I ever encountered outdoors was the Geordie dress code in sub-zero temperatures, while E grew up in London, where his only childhood tale about wildlife concerns a crack dealer in Brixton and some wily squirrels who accidentally became addicts.

Transport us 100 miles outside the city and we become the equivalent of that scene in “Withnail and I” when Withnail screams at a farmer, “Help us! We’ve gone on holiday by mistake! We’re not from London!”

It seems that rural dwellers’ impressions of city folk are the same wherever you go, by the way.

When I logged into the Hudson Valley Reddit group to ask people’s advice about what we should wear on hiking trails in the autumn, there was a lot of dark muttering about “virus-carrying urbanites.”

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When I confessed that I didn’t know when the bow hunting season ends and the shooting season begins (very important for anyone who doesn’t want to get shot by an eager hunter while meandering though an idyllic forest), I was referred to as a “typical Brooklyn stereotype.”

At least I know that I’m a real New Yorker now — so long as I stay within the boundary of the five boroughs.

And some of the Redditors were friendly enough to give me genuine advice and not to immediately write me off as a biohazard.

Luckily, we’re staying in a remote enough place that I doubt the more perturbed country people will ever get a glimpse of us.

The weather is cooler, the air is clearer, and the night skies are incredible. Round our cabin alone stretches 25 acres, modest by the standards of the town, where many are surrounded by 100 or more.

We’ve taken a dip in the freezing cold lake outside our door, which is full of bass, and we’ve even picked our own herbs for dinner from the abundant garden around us (with the blessing of our host, who lives in a house nearby, of course).

Because NYC remains in lockdown with no offices open, we can spend our days working from the cabin and our nights barbecuing fish and veggies in the last of the warm weather.

I love this side of New York. The countryside is truly wild because the country is so damn huge, and that’s something we’re not entirely used to, where everything tends to be much tamer.

Out here, where big predators wander along isolated trails and greenery stretches out as far as the eye can see, you understand the American obsession with cowboys and rodeos.

But the price you pay, of course, is the high-vis jacket you wear everywhere to make sure no one hits you with their gun.



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