Fall Foliage in Upstate New York

One thing about living in New York City – sometimes you’ve gotta get the hell out of New York City. Like 54% of households in the Big Apple – and unlike most of America – we do not own a car. Most of the time, that’s fine – it’s an expense we don’t need in a city where we don’t need to drive. But when we do want to get out of town, our options are 1) Fly – pay more and get somewhere quickly; 2) Take a bus – pay far less to go not as far in more time; 3) Take the train – in other words, pay plane ticket prices to ride a bus on rails*; 4) Rent a car – pay for the car rental, insurance, and gas but have the freedom to go wherever you want.

(*I rip on Amtrak a lot, and with good reason: It sucks. I’m not against trains in theory, but as long as Amtrak continues to serve up Greyhound-like quality for United-like prices, it’ll get no love from me. And with the recent rise of affordable, better quality bus lines like Megabus, it’s become even less of a contest. I think if you’re traveling for four hours or fewer, take the bus. If it’s over four hours, you might as well fly anyway. Amtrak offers absolutely no incentive besides the bullshit romanticism of the train. Which by the way exists only in our collective imagination or on luxury sight-seeing lines, not on Amtrak.)

We went with 4), car, because a) It’s Fall, and we – just kidding, I’m not going to do any more lists. Suffice to say we needed the kind of freedom that only an automobile can bring, even if we had to return that automobile by 11 a.m. Monday morning. And so we set off, from Midwood, Brooklyn, to our South Brooklyn apartment, through the Battery Tunnel, up the Hudson Parkway, across the George Washington Bridge, through chain-store-riddled Paramus, New Jersey, then back into New York State and upriver. Our first stop was Poughkeepsie’s charming waterfront, where we had a late lunch of lobster macaroni and cheese at Amici’s, then strolled along the riverside.

Not long after that, we got off the interstate and took Highway 9 and its various offshoots almost all the way up to Albany. Our chain hotel (free breakfast!) was in Malta, just outside of scenic Saratoga Springs, a resort town known for the baths and spas that draw from its eponymous water source. (Apparently Franklin Roosevelt bathed here.) Lu and I stopped into town that Friday evening, and we quickly realized that although it was nice, it wasn’t the getaway we wanted. Saratoga Springs is like the Hamptons (for you New Yorkers) or Lake Geneva (if you’re from Wisconsin or Illinois): teeming with tourists and priced accordingly. That’s not a knock on the town – it looked like a fun time – but it didn’t match our mood. And although we’re both all for relaxation and spring water, we cast a skeptical eye on the supposedly restorative claims of the local sanitaria. All told we spent about an hour in Saratoga Springs – originally the basis for our excursion!

Instead, on Saturday we drove north, to North Creek, where a street fair was happening, and neighboring Gore Mountain, where there was a Harvest Festival in full swing.

After indulging in the restorative power of beer, brats, and apples, we did some milling about the arts and crafts tables. You know the type – winter gear, wooden ducks, oil paintings of squaws kissing wolves, etc. Then it was back into the car for a little more county highway scenery astride the Hudson River. I couldn’t resist dipping my feet in the water on this 80 degree October day, knowing full well the impending onslaught of winter’s wrath lay mere weeks ahead.

And then there was this bit of fall foilage foliage scenery, at Loon Lake.

Our camera battery died not long after that, so we didn’t get to take any photos of Bolton Landing, another enchanting little town on Lake George, where we had a fine dinner at a restaurant called Son of a Sailor.

On the drive back down, our sole stop (besides a rural Target, because retail shopping in New York City is akin to a trip into the heart of darkness) was at Cohoes Falls, a Mohawk River dropoff visible from a nearby overlook. According to the City of Cohoes’ website, “no visit to Cohoes is complete without taking in a view of the Cohoes Falls.” Actually, after seeing the town, I’m willing to bet that taking in a view of the falls is the only thing most visitors to Cohoes do. Nevertheless, nice waterfall.

Then it was back to the big city.

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