We had a monumental weekend. We spent Saturday in Cold Spring, New York, just an hour or so up the Metro North, riding rails that hugged the Hudson shoreline as the mountains emerged around us. The town itself was pretty and quaint. We walked from the train station a few blocks along Main Street, past an outfitters', a few cafes, an ice cream place, a couple of restaurants, and a B&B or two. People come to Cold Spring to hike Hudson Highlands State Park or kayak along the river; people also seem to bring their kids here. I particularly noticed how many families were toting babies of a different ethnicity, like we had stumbled into "Take Your Internationally-Adopted Kid to Cold Spring" Weekend without realizing it.
After getting situated at our place, the Pig Hill Inn, with its creaky, wide floorboards and charming European hostess, we set out for a sturdy two-hour hike in the Park. We had to walk along Fair Street to reach the trailhead, past a stately Catholic Church with American and Vatican flags fluttering and a Little League game enjoyed by a handful of relaxed parents sitting in folding chairs in the shade. We did a nice two-hour loop along several well-marked trails: Washburn (white blaze) to Undercliff (yellow) to Brook (red) to Cornish (blue), beginning with a steep ascent past an old quarry and gradually circling back down, almost to river level, past the ruins of the Cornish estate gaping at us through the trees and grass.
The views, once we reached them, were incredible. This is a different New York, this is Washington Irving country; a country where apples are grown and headless horsemen ride and where something strangely exotic yet elemental, something Dutch, still thrives. From the rocky heights we could take in an expansive view of the broadly sweeping river and the town laid out below. We could see the baseball field far down. The curves of the river looked swollen and rich, a fertile crescent. We could see the buildings of West Point and the foamy trails of boats as they chugged upriver. We were in New York, and we were in something greater.
That night we had dinner at a B&B by the river, sitting on the porch eating filet mignon as bored local kids rode bikes by the water. Back in the room, L fell asleep at 9:30 in her cute dinner dress and I sat in the chair, reading Tobias Wolff stories and the current Atlantic. In the morning, after breakfast, we got back on the train and chugged back home to the city, leaving behind the mountains and the clear watery air to dive back underground, where what you see beyond the windows of your train is not a mountainside dressed in old lively trees, but an inky blackness that reminds you of nothing so much as an absence of anything. Yet somehow it felt like enough.