At the start of the foliage season we chose to head out from Eastern MA to the Harlem Valley Rail Trail, just over the Massachusetts line into New York state. This was a section of rail trail we had never explored before and we were eager to get out on our adaptive tandem bicycle before colder temperatures set in. The edges of ponds, and the slopes of the Taconic mountains were in various states of transformation from the green of summer to the flaming oranges, reds, and yellows of autumn.
Foliage season is so short–only two or three weeks in any one location, depending on whether rain and wind blows away these fragile bits of color that cling to their branches. New England is renowned for its foliage, but other places have spectacular foliage too. New England has the corner on the marketing of fall foliage, but no exclusive contract.
The trail itself is paved, in great condition, with mountain views on both our left and our right and some lovely stream crossings. We found the grade crossings of the trail to be easy to get across. Where there was more traffic, pedestrian lights provided a clear signal for cars to stop, allowing us to cross safely. Benches along the way offered places to rest when needed. A few remnants of the rail infrastructure on this corridor stood as silent reminders of the past.
It must have been turtle day when we visited. We counted at least five turtles as we traveled along the trail. Most were snappers of various sizes. We let them be, but hoped they would make it to the other side of the trail. On our return trip we spotted none of these reptiles, so presumably they reached the other side without mishap.
We were particularly impressed with the work involved taking the trail over large expanses of wetlands. Precast cement slabs made for a wide, solid trail surface while allowing the free flow of the water just below us. The creativity, care, and expense were evident in these sections. We felt so lucky to be able to enjoy the benefits of this investment in outdoor recreation and transportation.
Near the southern end of the trail we passed the Wassaic commuter rail station. The trip to NYC is a daunting three and a half hour commute to Grand Central Station. While traveling to NYC was not on our agenda, the number of cars parked at the station was a reminder of the challenge of obtaining housing for those who cpommute to New York City.
Across the street from the end of the trail in Amenia, New York, we encountered an impressive brick building. There we learned some history of Borden’s condensed milk. It was difficult to imagine what the historical marker described. The greenery, and quiet nature of the area offered few clues to its industrial milk production past. The historic plaque pointed to several buildings still standing and explained their function. I often try to picture the historic landscape and environment of areas we visit, structures such as stone walls or rock foundations. There we got a glimpse of what had been, but mostly we had to use our imaginations.
Our tandem bike carried us a total of forty miles round trip, the longest distance we have logged for a single ride on our biking adventures. More developed trail is north of Under Mountain Road, where we started, but forty miles was what we were up to on this visit. We will have to go back! Happy trails.
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a writer who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed, and Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. Her memoir, the backstory of Easy Walks, is My Liturgy of Easy Walks: Reclaiming hope in a world turned upside down.