Artistic Overnights in Saugerties, NY

I have a longwinded post about travel and what we seek to find when we leave our homes, but it’s not done yet. I apologize for the lack of posts while I’ve been putting it together. However, I’ve continued to have adventures, so here’s a short recap on our recent weekend in the Catskills – and how you can spend the night in a historic lighthouse AND a work of art in one trip!

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If you’ve read some of my posts before, you know I really like the Saugerties Lighthouse. I first discovered it in an email roundup of the world’s most unique hotels, and although it took me nearly a year to sneak into a last-minute cancellation, I have now made three overnight trips. The peace I feel when walking along the trail to the Lighthouse is enough reason alone to bring me back, but the views – regardless of season – and the warm hospitality of Anna, Patrick, and Cricket really make it worth returning. Last time we went (in November) I had been going through some very difficult emotional events and our weekend at the Lighthouse was the first time in weeks I felt happiness. I’ll write about that another day, but believe me when I say the peacefulness of simply being out on the Hudson can really refresh you, even in the darkest of times. At that point we booked our return trip for May – last weekend.

It was raining hard when we left New Jersey and we ended up pulling into the parking area about ten minutes before the tide was supposed to come back in. Patrick called while we were walking along the trail to ensure we were still planning to check in, and I appreciated him looking out for us. With rain boots and umbrellas we bumbled in the front door and were met by Patrick to check in. Up to the East Room we went to drop our bags, and then back out to get food.

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This time, we didn’t climb the tower to watch the sunset due to the rain and heavy fog – which finally showed me why there’s a lighthouse in the first place – but instead went to the Dutch Ale House for a drink. They had the rare Founder’s Kentucky Barrel Stout on tap which definitely helped us to unwind from the week. Then it was off to  Miss Lucy’s on Partition Street for dinner. We had checked it out for the first time in November and loved the food – local, healthy, hearty. Just what we needed after a long, rainy drive.

While wrapping up our delicious dessert – which is pretty much a requirement if you’re there – we were informed another table bought us a round of drinks. We figured somebody probably thought we looked like we were celebrating a special occasion…until I turned around and saw my former boss – who now lives in Baltimore – with his wife a few tables away. I knew they’d been in the Catskills for their first anniversary last year, but we had no clue we were both going to be in the area, and neither of us live in New York now. Small world!

Travis and  I finished dinner and headed back to the Lighthouse after letting our friends know how to find it. (It’s very easy to find – put “Saugerties Lighthouse” into Waze and it’ll take you right to the parking area. There are also signs all over town. The only reason we let them know was because it was dark and rainy).

We accidentally left the Lighthouse key in my car at first so Travis waited on the porch for me to run back and grab it. I didn’t use my headlamp and instead let the misty moon guide me until I heard rustling on the trail. I flicked on my lamp just in time to see Anna, Patrick, and Cricket approaching.

“I’m so sorry for blinding you!”

“It’s okay. Are you good?” Always calm, Anna made sure I was okay before they continued on their walk home. I grabbed the keys and walked back in the darkness, explaining why I was out there once we were indoors.

“When we saw it was you, we thought, ‘oh, she gets it.’ You really don’t need a light here. And you’ve been here often enough…you know the way,” Anna smiled as I took off my muddy shoes. At the Lighthouse Travis and I got our jackets and a bottle of wine and went out to the porch area to once again enjoy the refreshing stillness that is increasingly difficult to find in today’s fast-paced life.  Our friends met us outside and we enjoyed quiet conversation, catching up on the last year until it was time to sleep and for them to return to their hotel.

Morning followed with delicious French toast prepared by Patrick, Travis and I booked a room for next year, and then it was off to hike at Overlook Mountain. Weather for the afternoon was supposed to be decent but the evening called for thunderstorms and even hail…so we weren’t planning to camp as usual. Patrick let us know to be careful with parking because the lot fills up on the weekends – and it was packed. We waited about 20 minutes for a spot to open up before hitting the trail. The plan was up to the Overlook ruins and then down to Echo Lake – about 10 miles in total. The weather held and the views – including the storm clouds – were beautiful. Next time we’ll likely look into camping at Echo Lake, but we’d want to arrive early – there were many people at the designated camping spots around the lake by the time we got there in the early afternoon. We’ve noticed in the last year especially these outdoor areas where we find peace and quiet are slowly becoming busier and busier…and thus our choice of destination is also becoming less well-known to ensure we still get the respite we seek.

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Since we knew we wouldn’t be camping we had called Opus 40 on the drive up to the Lighthouse to see if we could spend our second night in Saugerties with them. We’d visited last fall on the recommendation of friends who had recently been in the area, and – just as with the Lighthouse – appreciated the stillness and beauty of the environmental sculpture during the troubled times. I’d received an email with an inside tip that they now offered a room in the house Fite built himself on Air B&B. Although Tad and Pat were out of town, they warmly welcomed us, thanks to the caretaker staying for the weekend who would be our host. It was getting dark when we arrived after dinner at Joshua’s in Woodstock (great Mediterranean food and tasty drinks that were perfect after a day of hiking) and all we really wanted was a shower and a bed. Our host greeted us, gave us a tour of the perfectly-rustic area of the house we would have for the night, and left us to wash off and relax. The shower was hot, the bed was soft, and the kitty outside our door was friendly as we sat on the steps and stared at the stones in the moonlight.

I’ve been awoken by rats digging through my bags in the middle of the night before, and I thought I knew what scratching and squeaking like in the night meant when it happened at Opus 40…but to my surprise, the scratching and squeaking were not coming from the floor below us but the window above the bed. I scared the mated pair of cardinals nearly as much as they scared me when I sat up straight and whipped my head to face the source of the sound in the predawn moments. Snuggling back into bed to sleep for more hours I kept thinking how funny the birds were, trying to fly through the window, but instead scrambling on the ledge when their beaks met glass.

When we finally awoke from our hike-induced sleep Travis pulled back the blinds to reveal a perfectly beautiful morning and the centerpiece of Harvey Fite’s environmental sculpture just outside our sliding glass door. I also saw the cardinal pair sitting in the tree right outside our window, occasionally flying back to the window ledge to try again to fly through. We took our time getting the car packed and our host gave us a small tour of the rest of the house too – a very unusual treat indeed. It was quite a privilege to see the sculptures Fite created inside the house he built while hearing stories about his life. After our little tour we wandered the grounds a bit and then headed out to get breakfast before beginning our drive home.

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If you’d like to experience a unique and artistic getaway,  you may need to be patient: the Lighthouse books up often over a year in advance, but you can occasionally catch a last-minute cancellation if you sign up for their email list (which is how I got in). Opus 40 had considerably more availability but has only one room compared with the Lighthouse – and I would wager this best-kept hidden hospitality secret won’t stay that way for long. Those in search of an insider peek of an artist’s world will definitely want to stay here.

Saugerties Lighthouse: (845) 247-0656, www.saugertieslighthouse.com Free to visit the trail and porch area from dawn until dusk year-round, room rates from $225

Opus 40: 845-246-3400, www.opus40.org $10 adults, $7 students, $3 for ages 6-12, 6 and under free. Open seasonally from Memorial Day through October, Thursday through Sunday and holiday Mondays 11am-5pm. Call to schedule an off-season visit or request special event information. Room rates from $200 – book on Air B&B

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