Robert Frost, a poet of who composed in rhyme and metered rhythm, once remarked of the Civil War-era poet, Walt Whitman, “I’d rather play tennis without a net than write in free verse.”
Whitman, who was free of limits and imaginary lines, might reply, “I’d rather play tennis without a net — or a racquet.” Poets’ Walk is Whitman’s playground: No swings for children, no tables for picnics, no tennis court, but ample opportunity to be afoot and lighthearted strolling the long, brown path through field and forest.
Poets Walk Park, while a brief ramble of less than three miles of trail, offers many benches and two gazebos for contemplation and meditation. Originally a farm and then estate of the 1800s, most of Poets Walk Park is still pasture.
This open landscape, partitioned into rustic rooms with stands of trees, rock walls and curvaceous paths that keep secret what lies beyond the next knoll, begins as a pastoral walk, then opens up to high-bank views of the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains that dominate the horizon.
“Every change of season, every change of weather, indeed, every hour of the day, produces some change in the magical hues and shapes of these mountains,” writes Washington Irving of the Catskill Mountains in the opening verses of Rip Van Winkle, “they will gather a hood of gray vapors about their summits, which, in the last rays of the setting sun, will glow and light up like a crown of glory.” This same glorious view from these grounds experienced by Washington Irving awaits our exploration.
Atop in the tower cabin, while just a height of 450 feet, because of its proximity to the Hudson River and being above the tree canopy, is the most grand view in Dutchess County. A mesh of trails meanders through the woods for those wanting a few more miles of hiking. A paucity of parking assures solitude for those sauntering further.
For a repast, just north of Poets’ Walk is Bard College, whose cafeteria offers nutritious, organic, farm-fresh food. Just south, at the intersection with Route 199, is a substantial fruit and vegetable stand.
Maps of Poets’ Walk and all the Scenic Hudson parks are available at ScenicHudson.org. Information on Ferncliff Forest is available at FerncliffForest.org. These parks coupled with lunch make for an ideal day trip.
Skip Doyle is founder of Esopus Heritage, which serves to preserve and promote the nature and historic places in the town of Esopus. As a volunteer for the Adirondack Mountain Club, the Appalachian Mountain Club, and other nature preservation organizations, his outdoor offerings can be found at MidHudsonADK.org, AMC-NY.org and SkipNewYork@Yahoo.com