Growing up in Southern California, I never really witnessed a true autumn, like the ones you see advertised in nature magazines and TV shows. Two weeks ago, my friend Lilli and I drove upstate to the Poughkeepsie area, and I was stunned at the gorgeous gold and red carpeted landscape. That night, I told Andrew we had to go away. Thus, an adventure was born.
I had heard from others that renting a car in New York City was a nightmare. Prices were twice as high than if you rented from, say, White Plains instead. I lucked out, and found a good deal at Enterprise through Hotwire. For only$35/day, I was able to book a rental from the Bronx for the weekend of October 21st-23rd. After that major hurdle was surpassed, I started looking around for B-n-B's. Having never stayed in one, I figured this weekend away would be the perfect opportunity. Of course, we had to decide exactly where to go upstate first. Lilli had mentioned an orchard where you could go apple-picking in Salem, so I tried there. I was in luck! I found a B-n-B called the Bunker Hill Inn which had rooms available for a mere $53/night, including a large, home-cooked breakfast. I booked the rooms and then went in search of some friends to travel with. Unfortunately, no one was up for a weekend upstate (no idea why), and as some of them pointed out, we were going quite far upstate, almost to Vermont. I thought that couldn't be right; Lilli had said Salem was only a few hours from here. And then I realized my mistake. The apple orchard was located in New Salem, not Salem. The village of Salem, where I had booked the B-n-B, was located four hours upstate, on the border of Vermont and New York. Oops.
Not to be deterred, we decided this would be for the best, as we could see even more of New York, and possibly Vermont. And anyway, there were apple orchards near Salem, too, and much cheaper ones at that. So Friday began our lovely fall-ish adventure. I picked up our rental car, which coincidentally was a burnt orange color, making for great camouflage during the weekend.
After Andrew got out of school, we began the long journey to the little town of Salem, which was a bit difficult to find in the dark. There was only one street light in town, windy roads, and almost complete darkness at that time of night. It was a bit spooky, but when we arrived at the inn, we knew it was worth it. Our room was cozy and warm, and the owner, Laura, was very welcoming.
She let us choose what time we would have breakfast in the morning, and even asked for our preferences. There were handmade chocolates on the nightstand, and in the morning, we awoke to this view outside our window:
Breakfast was coffee, yogurt and fruit, and homemade waffles and crisp bacon served with fresh maple syrup from Laura's brother's sap house down the street. It was heavenly. Laura was also very helpful in giving advice about activities in the area, and she even gave us a map of the county, which was really helpful since, unlike our peers, neither of us have a smartphone. She suggested that the best place for hiking through fall foliage was across the border of Vermont.
We went to Merck Forest, where a helpful old lady gave us a map and sent us on our way to hike. It was so beautiful under the trees. We got a little lost, and a one hour hike easily turned into about three, but it was worth it. After our forest jaunt, we then went to Manchester for a late lunch, where we had the best butternut squash soup I've ever tasted. I'm going to try to replicate the recipe this week. The town of Manchester was very cute, and we spent some time walking around, browsing the shops, and buying more maple syrup than we had a right to. Finally, inclement weather forced us back into the car and across the border, where we stopped to buy some pumpkins on the side of the road.
It was nearing twilight at that point, so we figured we were up for some small-town Halloween fun. After debating between a haunted corn maze and a haunted court house, we opted for the closer, and cheaper court house. It was creepy fun!
The next morning was our last at the inn, and for breakfast we had scrambled eggs and sausage and french toast with maple cream. Then we went to the nearby Hicks Orchard for some apple picking. As the last day of the season, there were only five types of apples left: Yellow Delicious, Empire, Northern Spy, Macaun, and Red Delicious. For $15 a 1/2 bushel, we strolled among the orchard, sampling and depositing apples of different colors and sizes into a big bag. We probably picked about 100 apples. I'm excited to make them into pies, applesauce, and apple butter.
We also toured the cider brewery at the orchard and purchased a bottle of cider for Thanksgiving next month. We also ate some cider doughnuts before climbing back into the car and driving through more gorgeous scenery on our way back south, where we stopped at the town of Beacon to visit Andrew's cousin, Catherine, and her boyfriend, Brian. Beacon was very cute, and had tons of art galleries and restaurants.
Overall, our weekend upstate was an amazing experience, one I recommend everyone have if they come to New York. I don't think I've ever seen more beautiful scenery in the United States, and I say this after having grown up in the Lake Arrowhead mountains. I look forward to going back to Salem many times over the next three years.
Stop sign near Hicks Orchard, specifically for Nicole F.: