Tuesday, June 13, 2017
Welcome to the land of Rip Van Winkle; that's what the sign says. This is that land. You may remember the story of the man who went to sleep and woke up 100 years later. This is the land that claims to have spawned the legend created by Washington Irving, and the locals are very proud of that . There is a statue of Rip Van Winkle not far from the bridge of Rip Van Winkle in the center of historic downtown Catskill, New York. But where do the legends stop and the real world take over? Right about at that bridge. It's an impressive sucker. Between the beautiful steel structure and the open connecting part of the bridge, it's just a few feet shy of a mile long. It's more than 150 feet over the water too. It's a beautiful old steel bridge built in the 1930's as part of the work program during the depression. Eventually, it became a toll bridge as have all the New York Bridges crossing the Hudson River. You can always go west, but it will cost you to come back east. The Rip Van Winkle Bridge costs $1.50 to cross.
The best part about this bridge? Along one side is a sidewalk, so you can walk this bridge and enjoy all the amazing views that it provides. There are some interesting signs along the way, and I agree that life is worth living. There are also suicide prevention phones along the way just in case you are not of good mind to be walking on a high bridge over the Hudson River. Most Hudson River bridges have suicide buttons and phones, just in case.
The Hudson River Valley is loaded with beautiful sights. One of the best things about walking any bridge is the view. The Rip Van Winkle is a great old bridge on Route 23 in Catskill, New York. It's a passageway to the Catskill Mountains and the resorts there for skiing and festivals. There are a thousand things to do in the Catskills. The bridge is just the beginning. Walking a bridge is something that I've always enjoyed. The views are something that you just can't get any other way. From the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, one of the things that you can see is the Olana Mansion. That's where we are headed next.
Olana Mansion was the home of Frederic Church and his wife. Church was a premiere landscape artist of the mid 1800's and founded a style that is still used today in landscape paintings. His work became so well known that other artists started to follow his lead. The movement became known as the Hudson River School and the artists were its members.
Church is an artist that is still studied today, and unlike a lot of artists, he was famous during his lifetime. He was fascinated with light and perspective. He loved Niagara Falls, South America and the Andes, and the Middle East. His works were enormous and cannot be kept in the house. The small copies of his paintings that you see in the house are called studies of the originals. Most of them were painted by Church. Today there is a modern collection at any given time intertwined with Church's work in the upstairs of the mansion. Other than that, the house remains virtually the same as when Church lived in it during his life. It is one of the best preserved historic residences in the world.
When you first see the mansion, you know that the Church's loved the Middle East. The building was largely designed by Church himself and the designs remind me of Morocco everywhere I look. The arches, the painting, the windows and everything are Moroccan in likeness and Middle Eastern as a secondary style. It's one of the most unusual mansions adorning the Hudson River Valley.
One of the main reasons that this mansion was built in this location was for the view. Church loved this view of the river. He loved it so much that he and his wife bought land down the hill and built a small house on it in 1860. Today it's called the Cozy Cottage. Once the property was available at the top of the hill in 1870 he bought it and started work on the mansion that we see today. I've always believed that the view is important anywhere you go. I think that Church agreed, and the views are amazing.
For years, the Church's called this home The Farm. They finally settled on calling it Olana. Olana was similar to a term the Persians used for treasures storehouse. A place to store your treasures. And store them he did. Church was an avid collector and traveler. Everywhere he went, he brought home treasures and kept everything he ever acquired pretty much. The house is filled with all kinds of things. There are some things that look like they were found in a tomb, there's weapons, china, tapestries, statues and all kinds of things. Not to mention, the house itself was a treasure; hand painted on the outside and inside and carved stairways and other things. The house is beautiful. The paintings are beautiful. It's an amazing place.
My favorite part about Olana, however, was the view from the porch. You can see for miles. You can see the modern art on the grounds. You can see up and down the Hudson River. You can see the Catskills. You also get a great look at the Rip Van Winkle Bridge.
So, my journey ends here for now. Olana Mansion in Hudson, New York. Rip Van Winkle Bridge between Hudson and Catskill, New York. You can't beat the views. You can't beat the art. You can't beat the history. I will visit here again, as I have visited many times before. But you can't find a nicer way to spend the afternoon than walking a great old bridge and looking at a great old mansion with a view that's to die for. Enjoy!
It all started for me a couple of years ago. I started to go to a little town close by and rent canoes to take out with my at that time young son. I used to live in a canoe when I was a kid. Not literally, but every summer, me and my friends would continually take off in our parents' canoes and go up and down our local river. We camped out like Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn, and we probably got into more trouble than we should have. But, the long and the short of it was this. It was a great way to get away from it all and it was fun.
As an adult I tend to revert to some of my old ways that were part of my childhood, but at this point in life I enjoy them for different reasons. After a bout with breast cancer which has obviously caused a little cash flow issue as anything will these days with the state that health care is in, I find that I am not traveling far right now. I am the type of person that needs to get away from it all on a regular basis, and since surgery and cancer, I need it even more. Knowing that about myself, just after Christmas I went and bought my little Pelican kayak. This thing is barely seven feet long and weighs only 26 pounds, so I can handle it. It allows me to get away and with the variety that my travel bug requires. I can do all of this and have some serene time, good exercise and a great view; all not far from home.
The little gem you see above is Burr Pond State Park and it's right in my town. This place is a beautiful wooded mountain lake with smooth water, a beach, hiking trails, and a waterfall. It's beautiful and it was a lot of fun kayaking there. Spending an hour on the water can make you feel calm and happy. It's not travel per se, but it is an alternative during the lean times.
Also right in my town is Stillwater Pond. This is another beautiful place to get away from it all. It's right along a main thoroughfare and It's still peaceful and beautiful. You can't beat it. Especially in Connecticut there are a ton of lakes that have state boat launches on them. With a kayak, all you have to do is get your gear which should include water shoes, life jacket, paddle, and I recommend a waterproof pouch. I use my waterproof pouch to put my iPod in so I can listen to music and take pictures on the water. Kayaks are extremely portable, so you can take them to a variety of places for a little gas money. It's a great bargain travel idea.
This one is Highland Lake and it's a huge residential area in the next town over from me. One of the things that I do to have the most fun kayaking is to check out new and interesting venues for my new hobby. In my case, our state Department of Environmental Protection has a map of all the state boat ramps right on their website. You will find that most state DEEP websites have a list or a map or something. This way you can find new and interesting places around you.
Irregardless of how you enjoy your time on the water--I of course take photos and videos while listening to music--it's a great way to get away from it all. Keep in mind, I have chosen lake and still water kayaking. I have a little kayak. There are different kinds of kayaks for rivers, ocean and such. Make sure you buy the kind of kayak that affords you the experience that you are looking for. All things considered, once the bills are paid I will hit the road more. For now, I love my kayak! Whether it's Dog Pond, West Hill Pond, Lake Waramaug, or wherever, it's a lot of fun. Enjoy!