The Hudson Valley, above all other places in this country, combines historic and romantic interest with the beauties of nature. It is one hundred and fifty miles crowded with the splendors of mountain and forest and river, and replete with incident and legend. To quote George William Curtis: "Its morning and evening reaches are like the lakes of a dream." Everyone who visits New York comes or goes, if possible, by the river route. Few know much of anything, however, about the Old Post Road, that one-time artery of travel and trade, whose dust has been stirred by the moccasin of the Indian and the boot of the soldier; whose echoes are the crack of the stage driver's whip and the whistle of the startled deer; whose bordering hills were named for the wild boar and the wild cat, and along whose edges are still scattered the interesting relics of a past that the passenger by steamer or rail can never know.
Take it in May or June when all nature is fresh and green, with fleecy clouds above, and below a bank of wild azalea or an apple orchard in bloom. Or try it in the Fall when the woods are as gay as the painted butterfly. Each season holds out its own attractions.
Few places can equal the Hudson Valley for the Autumn panorama. The brilliant colors of the deciduous foliage intermingled with the dark of the evergreens rise from the blue of the river to the blue of heaven with every variety of tree and shrub to lend a hand in the illumination. It is red gold and yellow gold, purple and fine linen, and all manner of precious stones when the sun puts a crown of glory on some great tulip or sparkles in the gorgeous maple leaves. The colors are so splendid that even Turner, in all his glory, could not equal one of these.
There is no office at which to buy a ticket for this Post Road route. It is Shanks' mare, with an independence and freedom that no other mode of travel knows. To be sure, one can also take it on horseback, by bicycle or automobile, according to fancy and finances, and, provided he does not exceed the speed limit, it matters little how he goes. The speed limit naturally differs with the individual. The writer thinks that three miles an hour is fast enough—a pace that enables one to keep his eyes on the picture and does not necessitate a continuous inspection of the road.
Naturally the weather plays its part in such an open air journey, and this is particularly the case if the trip be made on foot. It is the loss of the landscape, blotted out by the mist, rather than the physical discomfort of being caught in a rain squall, that counts. In fact, if one is protected by a light rubber cape, and will take the storm philosophically with a mind to enjoy it and rise superior to the drip on his knees, there is huge satisfaction in being alone with the patter of the rain. But the loss of the landscape is serious in such country as the Post Road deals with. An instance of this comes vividly to mind in connection with the Wiccopee Pass and the plain south of Fishkill. As I first saw it of a perfect June evening, it was as delicately beautiful as a bit of silver filigree, but another time, in September, the mist hung low on the mountains. It was either raining, or had just stopped, or was about to begin again, and it had been doing that or worse all day and the day before, and that which had been a delight in June was now a matter of so many miles to be disposed of as quickly as possible. There is a local expression in these parts, applied to certain phases of the weather: "As black as a black hat", which one can better appreciate after he has seen the scowl with which an Autumn storm can sweep down these mountains. Good May or June weather and the soft delight of Indian Summer are equally enjoyable, but avoid the Ides of March, or, in other words, the days of the equinoctial.
The amount of baggage is best decided after one has tramped it a bit. At first the tendency is to take the various little luxuries that are so necessary at home, but after they have been pulling at the shoulders all day long and the unaccustomed strain has developed possibilities in the way of aches undreamed of before, the conviction is gradually forced on the wayfarer that every ounce counts, and next time many of the "necessities" are left behind....