Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Walkway Over the Hudson and the Empire State Trail

Pedaling the 1.25 mile Walkway Over the Hudson, a former train trestle spanning the Hudson River.

Inspired by the Empire State Trail system, I keyed in on the Walkway Over the Hudson portion and it's proximity to New Palz and FDR's Hyde Park Mansion, all sites I had wanted to visit. 

Interestingly, this Empire State Trail signboard represents the trails I explored by bike.

Initially, I intended to arrive by Amtrak, but the lengthy ride and train transfer in Albany, NY meant I'd miss an entire day of cycling on both ends of the journey. In addition, I planned to camp, but lack of central campgrounds and September's waning daylight upended that idea. I wisely drove the 4.5 hour travel time and stayed at a conveniently located hotel in Highland, NY for 3 nights so I'd feel safe and ideally pedal everywhere!

The first sighting of the Empire State Trail sign on the Hudson Valley Rail Trail.

The motel was located on a busy highway, but with Google Maps, I discovered two back roads, North Road and Upper Grand Road, that easily connected directly from the motel to the Hudson Valley Rail Trail (a segment of the Empire State Trail). The route served me well for the remainder of my stay.

The first afternoon, I headed for the Walkway Over the Hudson. Oh my, what a spectacular spot! Very wide, very straight, very high. It would be a great place to view peak foliage.

The span is managed by the New York State park system and is the longest pedestrian walkway in the world. Both ends are linked to paved rail trail - halleluiah! - with entrances providing picnic tables, bath rooms, water fountain, and wonderful educational signs. Each end has access for parking, so walkers - I saw runners too - can easily experience the Walkway. It's free to enter and the park closes at 7 pm.

Because of it's straightness, rising slightly in the middle, I never had a view of it's structure. One would need to see it from a different angle - something I never did!

The afternoon lighting on the rounded landscape reminded me of the Hudson River School style of paintings - another attraction of the region.

Late afternoon I reversed direction and took the Hudson River Greenway into New Paltz and picked up groceries before heading back to the motel. Ms. Peugeot is tucked nicely into a corner, while I eat dinner and watch a movie on my tablet - much more comfortable than camping!

Coordinated attire, even lipstick, ha ha.

Heading back over the Walkway on the second day - twist my arm! - I exited the trail to head north a few miles to visit and the tour the FDR Mansion in Hyde Park.

Franklin and Annie.

I enjoy history, and after seeing Hyde Park on Hudson movie with my father years ago, we both wanted to visit Hyde Park. My father never got to see the mansion, but I did for both of us.

Franklin bequeathed his estate, which included extensive grounds, to the National Park Service. After touring the interior, what struck me the most was how the park service preserved everything - they estimate 97% is authentic. Well worth a visit if you find yourself in the region.

Crossing Dibble Road, the only snaky portion of the Dutchess Trail.

After returning back to the Dutchess Rail Trail, the eastern trail extension from the Walkway Over the Hudson, heading through Poughkeepsie and beyond, I was feeling pretty good and high 70's temperatures for late September encouraged me to continue.  

Interesting signage.

At 12 miles, Hopewell Junction was my target and turnaround point. Heading south from there, the Empire State Trail continues for another 100 miles (I think) ending at Battery Park in New York City, nearly all of it on rail trail. I met a father and son who live in the city and were heading to Albany. 

The station house and depot are well preserved!

I zipped back for several miles before restocking at a nearby grocery store, then having a second trailside lunch. By now, I felt like a seasoned bike traveler, consuming more than normal.

A jar of salsa works wonders on dinner sandwiches, with chips, and on breakfast tacos.

With a refrigerator in my motel room, dinner and breakfasts were grand affairs, not comfortable eating at restaurants quite yet, which suited me just fine. The skimpy motel breakfast, packaged sweets, were best for on the road snacks. I love a hearty egg-laced hot breakfast. My son had left behind a tiny waffle maker (in red) which cooked eggs perfectly! Add leftover coldcuts, avocado, and reheat with tortillas - yummy! I'm resourceful, to say the least - check out my plate, an egg carton top!

Interesting bridge on the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail: elevated siding that had benches and potted plants plus angled floorboards.

A cold front with heavy rain moved through on the third morning. By noon, I was bored so I set off in light rain, knowing the weather would eventually clear to sunny skies. I pedaled west on the Hudson River Greenway, skirting downtown New Paltz, to where it intersected with the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail - another extension of the overall Empire State Trail.  

After an exhilarating ride high on a trestle, I retraced my steps to pedal along a reasonably busy, winding, paved road then turned south on the quieter Mohonk Road. The more I ride rail trails the more I dislike sharing roads with cars. 

An interesting building at the base of Lenape carriage road.

I decided to continue climbing on a very narrow, winding road that would crest the Mohonk Ridge in the Preserve, then hopefully descend a carriage road towards New Paltz. The road steepened considerably and I barely kept a pace, but realized I couldn't walk without a shoulder and traffic rounding the curves. My 1X gearing commuter bike did fine though, my flatlander legs tolerated the climb and eventually I crested the ridge and coasted into the guard station at the access road to the Mohonk Mountain House. As expected, I came unprepared, and unwilling to pay the $35 daily fee to see the spectacular resort and grounds (not on my agenda, but I was so close), but the guard kindly let me freely descend the Lenape carriage road.

The sun was shining by then and I smiled as I descended further into open fields, connected with the local River to Ridge Trail through open meadows, skirting farm fields, along a river to arrive on a pedestrian bridge smack in the middle of downtown New Paltz!

River to Ridge Trail

From the River to Ridge Trail looking back on the ridgeline that I had crossed.

River to Ridge Trail looking towards New Paltz.
I took a spin down historic Huguenot Street, full of interesting old stone structures then decided to brave the main street to get a flavor of New Paltz. As one resident described their community, "It's a little hippy trippy eclectic mix" which seemed appropriate. The Wallkill Valley Trail heading south also look interesting, but alas, so many rail trails, so little time! After 35+ miles, I briefly considered one last 6 mile diversion to the Walkway Over the Hudson for one last hurrah, but I was tired, satisfied I had had already completed an interesting route.

Rougher gravel on the  Delaware and Hudson rail trail, but doable.

The next morning I started heading home and stopped to relieve driving legs in southern Vermont on the Delaware and Hudson rail trail segment from Castleton to Poultney.

I'd always been curious, but figured the trail wasn't a destination in itself. The trail is little used, so much so, that I had a standoff with a deer before it eventually lunged off trail.

However, the brilliant sunshine and crisp fall day lent magic...

Two 9-10 mile Vermont segments are open to the public, but the middle portion in New York remains unrenovated.

And there were glimpses of farm fields and nearby slate quarries.

Poultney Slate Quarry.

Before returning to Castleton, I easily spotted Analog Cycles from the trail intersection in Poultney, so I had a chat, a look around and purchased a larger sized snack bag - my way of supporting their business for their thoughtful email correspondence last spring.

I got home just before dark.

1 comment:

  1. What a fun trip. I like these... staying at one location and going exploring in different directions over the stay.


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