How I Accidentally Hiked to 1200 Feet in the Hudson Valley

If you read my last post, you know that I believe that accidental experiences often end up being the most memorable and worthwhile. Well yesterday, just a few days after writing that post, I ended up on another accidental adventure. How’s that for irony?

“Wanna go hiking tomorrow? I heard there’s a place in Cold Spring with some ruins?”

Let me start off by saying that while I have hiked, I in no way consider myself a hiker. If I did, I’d like to think I would have done more research than Googling “Ruins in Cold Spring” before responding to a friends invite with “Sure, why not.”

We began our trip with a two hour drive to Fishkill, NY, expecting nothing but a semi-leisurely hike to explore the Cornish estate. Being that we had parked at Little Stony Point, we thought we’d take a little pregame hike along the Hudson River, if for nothing but the views.

Aside from the clouds, we had perfect mid-70s weather, and honestly I could have spent more time than we did just relaxing around Stony Point. But we had come here with the goal of exploring the Cornish Estate and we were determined to complete it. Little did we know that we would not only complete that goal, but surpass it entirely.

We crossed the street and made our way over to the starting point, a sign with two directions: “Cornish Trail (Blue), Washburn Trail (White). Awesome, so we just have to follow the little blue markers. Easy enough, right?

Our hike began just as we expected. Primarily flat terrain, easy-going, with some photographic sites along the way.

Considering I did little to no research on this hike, it should come to no surprise that I didn’t exactly object when my hiking partners suggested taking short, off-trail detours, one of which included hopping rocks across a stream. You may be thinking, “Ah, okay. Now I see how you got yourself into an unplanned predicament.” Well, you’d be wrong. Despite our off-trailing, we still managed to find our way back onto our planned, blue-marked trail. And soon enough we had stumbled upon the Cornish Estate!

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The Cornish Estate, otherwise known as Northgate, was once owned by Edward Cornish and his wife Selina. In 1938, Edward tragically died at his desk at work, followed by his wife two weeks later. The estate then fell into the care of the Cornish’s nephew Joel until 1956 when a fire destroyed most of the mansion. By the 1960’s the estate became part of the Hudson Highlands State Park, but by then a majority of the estate had begone to deteriorate and nature had begun reclaiming pieces of it. This includes the destroyed mansion, the greenhouse, and other assorted buildings. After a half hour of walking passed the mansion, we were still passing smaller structures that were a part of the original estate, including the Cornish dairy.

The ruins of the barn, tower, and that of a wagon were still visible. The large lot of land behind the barn, which was most likely used for livestock or crops is also still completely visible, adding an odd transition considering it’s the only area of it’s kind on the entire trail. Oh yeah, there’s also a super creepy well that’s way too reminiscent of that from The Ring films.

The fact that the structures aren’t really that ancient made exploring them that much more eery. Above some fireplaces and are certain spots of flooring, there still remains tiles in mostly perfect condition.

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Once we passed the dairy the hike slowly began to increase in incline and difficulty. Paved paths and cement roads slowly turned into rocks and mud puddles, still we followed the markers as we had not yet had enough. At some point we came to a fork in the road. One way would lead us back to the beginning of our route, thus ending our hike for the day. The other would, or so we thought based on our interpretation of the maps we had gotten, take us close to Lake Surprise. If you faced that direction you also had a far view of one of the mountain summits. It was at this time that I made the joke, “While we’re going in that direction, let’s just head to the summit.” And so we continued in that direction.

However, it was soon apparent that our casual hike was becoming a bit more like an semi-climb. Though we obviously weren’t mountain climbing vertical slopes, the incline we were coming across was pretty close and soon we were using large rocks and branches in order to continue. This was definitely not the type of hiking any one of us had done before.

Using what little juice I had left on my phone, I was hoping my GPS signal could give us a little clue as to where we were. From the looks of it, we were nowhere near the end of the loop where we assumed we had been traveling. We were beginning to get tired and honestly, a bit stressed. While we still were able to follow marker’s letting us know we were indeed on a path, we had no idea the level of the path that we were currently on. But we did know it was a league out of anything we had ever done. Taking a minute to compose ourselves, we figured that we had made it too far to turn around. Going back seemed almost as tiring as finishing. Even though we had no idea exactly when we would finish.

It seemed as though every few feet we went got steeper, and I could already tell my legs would be killing me tomorrow, though my ankles were already starting to feel like jello.

I wasn’t able to get much footage of our steep hikes as I was wanted to have both hands free, but this is a good representation of some of the areas we had to get passed.

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We were drained and part of me felt like sitting down and giving up, but suddenly we heard “Guys, come see this!” from our friend who had gotten ahead of us. And there it was.

We hadn’t even considered attempting to make it to the summit and yet we had accidentally. For fifteen minutes we sat there taking in the view, resting our legs, and repeating over and over that “this made it all worth it.” We would’ve stayed longer but by then it was already around 6:00 PM and we knew we had to at least make it down the steep areas before sundown. As our luck would have it, getting down proved to be a bit more difficult than we had anticipated. It took going in the wrong direction twice and getting separated from and finding one person of our group, but eventually we re-found the blue markers that were leading us in a downwards direction. The descent took way less time than the way up but it was still quite a hike. Thankfully, we made it back to flat lands just as the sun finally set. Despite having seen the ruins earlier in the day, passing the dairy, then the mansion ruins, and eventually the greenhouse that we had missed originally with nothing but a flashlight definitely gave us the chills.

It took some time but by 8:30 PM we were back at Little Stony Point and hurrying into the car. What was supposed to be a 5 mile, relaxed hike ended up being maybe a 10 mile hike to 1200 feet which took us about six hours.

My legs are still sore and my body is still trying to process the usage of muscles that I swear I have never used before. And yet, I wouldn’t go back and change the adventure that we had. I’m very grateful to have been with two friends who are fun and laid back, but most importantly, able to remain calm and collected even in times of stress. Even when we felt like giving up at time, we were cracking jokes the whole way up..and down.

If I learned anything from this hike, it would be this:

  1. RESEARCH YOUR HIKES. Know the path you are taking and make sure you know the level of the trek you are taking on. Though we made it down safely, navigating the steep areas after sundown could’ve been ridiculously dangerous. Also make sure you are prepared with adequate equipment. While we had flashlights, adequate water, and protein bars to make our trip a little easier, my running sneakers were so not made for this type of trip.
  2. You are most likely capable of so much more than you think you are. If I had been told the type of hike we were taking on beforehand, I honestly might’ve passed; I would’ve blamed my asthma, or my lack of experience, or my nerves. And while I’m sure this hike is nothing serious to some, for me it was completely out of my comfort zone. Before yesterday I had hiked, but those hikes were generally long distance with mild incline. And now I can say I conquered 1200 feet of steep hiking without preparation. Not gonna lie, it feels pretty awesome.

So, I guess I have to leave this post off the same way I left my last.

The unplanned adventures definitely make for the best stories.

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The Struggle of Being a Type-A Traveler

Of all the terms I could use describe myself, one would definitely be “compulsive planner.” I’m talking a making lists for the heck of making lists, Excel is my best friend, let’s replan something we’ve already planned, compulsive planner. And just in case you’re curious, yes, all of my DVDs and spices are in alphabetical order.

I have never really acknowledged my mild obsession with planning, something I have definitely inherited from my mother, until two summers ago when planning a family trip to Disney World. I guess going out of your way to schedule “time to relax” into your vacations plans may be a sign that you need to chill. I do blame a big part of this on being born and raised in New York. You start to realize as you get older, that everyone who has lived here their whole lives, is on edge a majority of the time. We walk fast, talk fast, and want things done in the exact order in which we want things done. Clearly that’s transferred over into my trip planning.

At this point I can research, price, and plan a complete itinerary almost as quickly as I can figure out an alternative commute home when the MTA is having train malfunctions again. Though, I wouldn’t say this is necessarily a bad thing all of the time. Because of this I have been able to make the most out of shorter trips, as well as help others plan their own adventures as an operations coordinator at Map to Magic Vacations.

But despite everything I have done so far, the most memorable moments always end up being those that were unplanned and unscheduled. And I have come to realize that it’s the accidental moments that you stumble upon, or rather the unpredictable moments that stumble upon you that are what truly make an experience.

I can’t remember exactly how long it took us to make it to the summit of the Eiffel Tower.

But I do remember strolling the Île de la Cité while eating Mango sorbet, before sitting in front of Notre Dame for a half hour. It was four days in and the sight of Notre Dame is what finally made me process that I was currently in a beautiful city I had dreamed of visiting since I was a seven. I packed so much into that week, but it was the last two days that I spent just walking and just being in Paris that always stick out in my mind.

I can’t remember the names of any of the paintings I saw at the Museum of Impressionisms during a day trip to Giverny.

But I do remember the names and stories of every amazing person I met during that tour, a recent divorcee who decided the change she needed was four months traveling France, a masseuse who traveled the world taking various meditation courses and had just come to Paris from Rome, a couple who once a year picked a piece of paper out of a hat which decided where there next adventure would be, a writer who had been living in Paris for a year and would soon be off again to somewhere new; and I remember laughing until our stomach’s hurt when I popped a bottle of cider, drenching everyone during our picnic along the Seine.

I can’t remember the names of every church I visited in Nicaragua.

But I remember making tortillas from scratch with a family we just met, though within minutes treated us as if we had known them our whole lives; even insisting we each take a mango from the tree behind their house before we left.

I can’t remember the names of the museums we visited in Quebec.

But I remember the late night ride up, as we drove through a thick wall of snow without the help of streetlights, singing “na na na na, hey, hey, hey goodbye” by Steam until we made it through. #morbid. ft. actual three second clip of my life flashing before my eyes.

At the end of the day, it isn’t about what or how many things you were able to check off your bucket list or your schedule. It’s the memories, the little things, and the unexpected pleasures that make for the best stories.

Choosing Accommodations: Price, Location, Geography, & Quality

Booking accommodations for your travels can be the easiest, or the most challenging part of your planning process. From my own experience, this became significantly easier once I experienced and understood the different types of accommodations available.

Nowadays, as far as accommodations go, I am reasonably open to different types of experiences, from homestays, to hotels, to hostels. Some travelers are loyal to one category, some feel that 5-star luxury hotels are the only options, others refuse to stay anywhere that doesn’t feel 100% authentic to location in which they are staying, others will stay wherever they can find the best deal.

In the end, there is no right or wrong choice. Different travelers have different preferences, and this can be due to a variety of reasons. Personally, when it comes to my own trip planning, I make my decision based primarily on four items.

  1. Price.
  2. Location.
  3. Geography.
  4. Quality

Hospedaje La Libertad in Granada, Nicaragua

In terms of price, I always have a maximum that I am willing to spend per night. Depending on the trip, or if there is a specific place I am determined to stay, this maximum may be a bit higher. But even THAT maximum has a maximum. Generally speaking, I would rather spend more on day-to-day excursions or activities during my trip than on the place I am staying. In certain occasions, you may want have the urge to splurge on higher quality accommodations, for example, a beach vacation where you know 80% of your time will be spent at your resort. But on other trips, specifically ones where you will be spending the entirety of your days out and exploring, it may be best to realize that your accommodations are just where you will be getting some shut eye before another full day of adventures.


The view from a Parisian studio rental, a ten minute walk to the Louvre

When it comes to location, you’ll generally notice that accommodations in or closer to a city central or attraction hub will be priced higher than those 25 minutes to an hour away. This is another item that comes down to preference. For myself, I generally prefer to be in the middle of the action. Not only does it minimize travel time but it usually also minimizes travel costs.

Too often I hear from new travelers that they booked a cheap stay 45 minutes from where they planned to spend most of their time, only to later realize that they ended up spending even more going back and forth to their accommodations. I really stress playing with numbers and researching local transportation options before you book anything. On the other hand, choosing to stay further away from your focus point may give you the opportunity to check out a location you hadn’t originally planned to see. Last summer, during our trip to Ireland we spent part of our stay near the town of Tralee, a town you don’t typically see on many “must visit” lists. Preference is typically given to more popular locations such as Galway, Killarney, etc. But when we took the time to actually explore Tralee, we loved it! We still got the Irish city vibe you would get from the larger towns, minus the hoard of people! We even stumbled upon attractions that ended up making it onto our favorites list, for example, the Medieval Experience at the Kerry County Museum.

My next deciding factor is geography. By geography I mean that, based on where exactly in the world I am visiting, I may have preference on where I’d like to stay.  In Ireland, I knew I couldn’t leave without spending at least one night in a castle, but had also always dreamt of staying in a guesthouse above a pub. Both were different, and equally worth it. During my trip to Nicaragua, we spent the entire time in hostels. And while we passed a few nice looking Marriott’s complete with outstanding things like air conditioning, our stay wouldn’t have been the same had we gone the hotel route. Staying in a hostel added a little something extra to the experience, from being able to spend time getting to know the owners, to home-cooked meals everyday. It was authentic and perfect for that trip. While in Paris, I rented a studio off of Airbnb. Being greeted by the two kindest French women who spoke not a word of English, and being able to trek my way up flights of stairs after a long day of exploring and market shopping made me feel just like an authentic Parisian.


Dinner at the Knight’s bar at Clontarf Castle Hotel

Finally, quality plays a role in choosing an accommodation. While I don’t typically rely on ‘stars’ to determine the quality of location, I will scroll through reviews on Tripadvisor to see if other travelers had a good experience during their stay.

I get it, the amount of available accommodations can seem overwhelming especially when you’re visiting a place you aren’t too familiar with. Being able to narrow down your options helps tremendously and also helps you find out figure out what makes you comfortable and what will make your trip one to remember.

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