The noontime November sun was caressing Caldwell, NJ. There was a softness in the air and the 62F temperature was pretty much perfect for a long drive.
My friend Suparno told me to get ready to see the fall foliage at Bear Mountain State Park in New York State, 51 miles away. I was ecstatic.
We left Caldwell at 12.30pm with Suparno behind the wheel. Armed with an Olympus SLR, Malabika sat in the front, raring to take photos, her enthusiasm boundless. I took the back seat of the Acura TLX as Suparno turned the car stereo on with RD’s mesmerizing music.
Readers please note Heineken in an ad used RD’s timeless composition
It was Friday afternoon and people were already in weekend mood. During weekdays there would have been lesser number of cars on the roads around this time, but the Americans who long for Fridays fervently after a grueling work schedule at offices through the week, are already out.
As Suparno’s car hit Garden State Parkway, I was overawed by the spectacular colors of fall. Trees on either side of the road took on golden, amber and scarlet hues. The trees were green until the middle of October and then all of a sudden burst into a riot of colors. As far as my eyes traveled, I feasted on Nature’s majestic beauty and was enchanted by the stunning scenery.
I was reminded of Albert Camus’s famous line: “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”
We passed by Paterson (NJ), Paramus (NJ), and Ridgewood (NJ). After half an hour’s drive, we traveled past Nanuet and entered New York State. The road sign showed ‘Welcome to New York State’.
We were driving via Palisades Interstate Parkway Garden State North which provides a scenic 42-mile ride from the George Washington Bridge to the Bear Mountain Bridge.
We then drove down to the Hudson Valley which played a pivotal role in determining the outcome of the Revolutionary War. Here, Americans stymied British attempts in 1776-1783 to control the riverway and sever New England from the rest of the colonies. Here, patriots boycotted British teas and other goods, accepted the Declaration of Independence and created the state of New York.
The Hudson river was to our right and our car moved uphill toward the Bear Mountain state park. We took a break at the Visitor Center. I walked into the souvenir shop and browsed through some books depicting the history of the state parks in New York State.
After a brief halt, we left the place. Suparno gently stepped on the gas as the road was uphill. The fall foliage kept unfolding its myriad colors and I was enjoying its grandeur and brilliance against the crisp, blue sky.
Finally, we reached the park at 1.45pm. As I got off the car, small gusts of wind blew past me and soon it started drizzling. I ran for cover and hurried toward the Bear Mountain Inn. The drizzle, however, ended soon and we left the inn after having fresh, steaming pizzas and hot dogs.
Spread over 5205 acres, the park is located on the west side of the Hudson river in Rockland County, NY. It features a large playfield, shaded picnic groves, hiking, biking and cross-country ski trails and a lake.
We strolled toward the Hessian Lake which was named after the 250 Hessian soldiers who died there during the Revolutionary War in 1777.
Hessians were the 18th century German auxiliaries contracted for military service by the British government. They took their name from the German state of Hesse-Kassel. The British hired Hessian troops for combat duty in several eighteenth century conflicts, but they are most widely associated with the combat operations in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783).
We ambled down the paved path around the lake and saw seagulls swooping down on fishes and ducks merrily paddling on the lake.
This is the right place to enjoy one of the most spectacular panoramic views of the Hudson valley, if you can tackle a steep climb (4.5 miles and 1284 ft). You can also see the New York skyline in the distance from here.
This is a perfect weekend destination for those who need an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. You can also stay at the Bear Mountain Inn, overlooking the shores of Hessian Lake, which was built in 1915 with local stones and timber to make it a quintessential romantic Hudson Valley destination.
The sun was slowly disappearing on the horizon and the temperature dipping. As I was leaving, John Donne’s famous lines crossed my mind:
No Spring nor Summer Beauty hath such grace
As I have seen in one Autumnal face.
PHOTO: Malabika Chaudhuri