Several times a month, we drive to the Poughkeepsie Metro North train station from our home in northern Ulster County. Our drive usually involves taking the Thruway, since it’s the quickest way to get to New Paltz, where we then hop on Route 299, head toward Highland, and then cross the Mid-Hudson Bridge to our final destination. Sometimes, however, we don’t feel like taking the quickest way. Sometimes, we feel like taking the scenic route. When we start feeling itchy to see some trees and interesting houses, we will forgo the Thruway and instead, continue on Route 9W headed north, which passes through the town of Esopus along the Hudson River.
Although Esopus, which is comprised of a number of hamlets including West Park and Ulster Park, is just outside of the city of Kingston, the whole area gives off a feeling that you’re far away from anything busy and heavily-populated. Perhaps it’s because of the forests. Perhaps it’s the existence of places like the Holy Cross Monastery and the Marist Brothers retreat house that makes one think of the word “cloistered”. Living cloistered among the trees and close to the Hudson River doesn’t sound like such a bad thing, after all. In fact, if you’ve never taken the time to explore places like Ulster Park, West Park, and Esopus, you might have missed the nice properties near the waterfront, or the Esopus Meadow Preserve, which offers visitors views of the Esopus Lighthouse, or the Black Creek Preserve, one of our favorite short hikes in Ulster County. Or the El Paso Winery. Or the Red Maple Vineyard (a great spot for a wedding, by the way). Or, around Halloween, the Headless Horseman.
The next time you’re zooming south to the train station, take the scenic route. Skip the Thruway and opt for a lazy drive along Route 9W through West Park, Esopus, and Ulster Park. Stop for a hike at Black Creek or a stroll along the Esopus Meadows. Save your toll money for more worthwhile endeavors.