Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Awesome Autumn Hike: Sleepy Hollow and Rockfeller State Park Preserve


I went on a fantastic 13-mile hike this past Sunday with Shorewalkers through Sleepy Hollow and Rockefeller State Park Preserve.

The foliage looked like it was at its peak; the weather was mild, with the day starting off a little drizzly, then gray and finally sunny in the afternoon. It was brilliant.

The hike started at the Philipse Manor train station on the Hudson Line of the Metro North Railroad; it's about an hour north of New York City's Grand Central Station by train. First we walked a few blocks through Sleepy Hollow, a quiet suburb with lovely homes half-buried in autumn colors.


And we passed through the historic Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, a fitting visit for a hike less than a week before Halloween.



There are a number of well-known people buried at the cemetery. Andrew Carnegie, the famed steel industrialist and philanthropist, and Samuel Gompers, the famed labor union leader, lie not far from each other. Elizabeth Arden and Walter Chrysler are other famous businesspeople buried there. And it's also the burial site of Washington Irving, who wrote the "Legend of Sleepy Hollow," where schoolteacher Ichabod Crane encounters the headless horseman.



Before reaching Rockefeller State Park Preserve, we crossed into property still owned by the Rockefeller family and open to hikers. It included broad fields, like this one, not far from Kykuit (the grand Rockefeller home in the area).


Then we plunged into the woods on the preserve.



With a stop at the visitors' center.


Then came Swan Lake.


We hiked on old Rockefeller Estate carriage roads, shared with joggers and people on horseback. (Tear your eyes away from the foliage from time to time to watch out for ankle-deep piles of horse dung.)


We made a detour out of the preserve to farmland, where cows lick and nuzzle each other, and graze among brilliant trees.



For about a half hour, we stopped for lunch at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture.



I'd brought lunch with me, but was also tempted by the Maple Hill Creamery vanilla Greek yogurt at the Blue Hill café. It was delicious (and, at the time of this writing, it's kosher).


There's a lovely courtyard where you can eat or chill out, and a farm store with jars of flowers by its door.



One the way out, we stopped in the greenhouses and passed pens and enclosures with pigs, sheep and pre-Thanksgiving turkeys.


Then it was back to the woods of Rockefeller State Park Preserve and its Swan Lake.



On the return route to Sleepy Hollow, the hike leader offered an optional detour up Eagle Hill, which roughly half the group (myself included) took. From the top, one can reportedly see the Rockefeller estate of Kykuit, but aside from one person who might have seen something, none of us in the group spotted it. Still, the views of the tree tops and glimpses of the Hudson River were brilliant.


For a while, I hung on to a leaf souvenir from the path on the hill.


The colors were rich in the afternoon light.


We cut back across the cemetery to the streets of Sleepy Hollow, where some of the homes are wrapped up in autumn.


And we waited for the train at the Philipse Manor station with breezes off the Hudson River.


"It was, as I have said, a fine autumnal day; the sky was clear and serene, and nature wore that rich and golden livery which we always associate with the idea of abundance. The forests had put on their sober brown and yellow, while some trees of the tenderer kind had been nipped by the frosts into brilliant dyes of orange, purple, and scarlet." - Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow