I’ve been manic the past few weeks–with the new job and all–and I’ve been feeling very blue and in need of alone time. There’s a whole lot of improvement to be made in order for me to go back to feeling like myself again, and a trip to Saugerties, New York, which took two years in the making and finally planned two months ago, made me realize that maybe I don’t have to be always miserable.
The Saugerties Lighthouse is on the National Register of Historic Structures and one of the few lighthouses in the country that accepts guests overnight. I read about it a couple of years ago after visiting several lighthouses along the coast of Maine marked on a tourist map, but it was completely booked when I first called to inquire. An article entitled “Just Beneath the Surface” published earlier this year in The New York Times Magazine included a beautiful, almost poetic photograph of the lighthouse, and reminded me to call again. The only open night was a Thursday, so I booked it.
Fast-forward to a cold November evening and I found myself in a Zip Car driving in the rain past Beacon and Poughkeepsie to get to the lighthouse. It’s about 100 miles outside the city. In the town of Saugerties, you park your car just outside the U.S. Coast Guard Station. From there, a half-mile walk in the dark will take you to the beacon of light on Esopus Creek. (I did it, thanks to my extra bright iPhone light!) High tide was a couple of hours before my arrived, so the trail was still squishy and damp. In fact, the lighthouse keeper, Patrick, suggests check-in times to guests using a tide chart.
The trek was cold and serene, so as soon as Patrick let me in the lighthouse, I immediately felt warm and comfortable. He gave me a quick tour of the kitchen and the living room before I settled in the West bedroom. An extensive renovation was started in 1986, but its 19th-century feel is intact. Photographs of the lighthouse taken over the years decorate the walls. An old-school fireplace, music player, refrigerator, stove and radio only added to the lighthouse’s overall appeal. It was only 6:30pm, but it looked like it was past 10pm outside.
Dinner was at Miss Lucy’s Kitchen on Partition Street where duck spring rolls, cream of mushroom soup, pumpkin risotto and pork chops from Smoke House of the Catskills were shared. The staff was proud of its use of local ingredients and the food tasted like they were prepared with care. The simple pumpkin risotto was made with tender kale leaves and the pork chops with grilled zucchini. A wonderful dessert of pear and ginger crisp was topped with homemade vanilla bean ice cream.
Back in the lighthouse, a bottle of wine was enjoyed in front of the old-school fireplace. The phonograph was cranked up to play some music and the logs in the guest book was read. As I slept in the bedroom, the light above flickered, and I was reminded of how important lighthouses were back during the days of nautical travel. The Kingston-Rhinecliff bridge ahead shimmered in the dark. The next morning, after sharing Patrick’s breakfast of pancakes, eggs and sausages with another couple staying in the lighthouse, I climbed the tower to see the lantern. The sky was clear and the view was unobstructed–leaves were still the color of autumn. An extra room stores all the lighthouse’s artifacts and a 25-minute DVD taught me all I needed to know about its history. It’s admirable how people get together to save a building. I was humbled to stay for one night and wish to be back again.
A more recent Times article will not make it any easier to spend a night in the Saugerties Lighthouse. At the time of this writing, 2008 is almost booked. I reserved the only remaining Sunday night for April 2008 on the spot to guarantee a return trip. Patrick has started to accept 2009 reservations.
To wrap up the early weekend, a quick hike to Pecoy Notch was in order. There was light snow on my way up. The hike was so peaceful. I hopped on rocks and tree branches to avoid muds and puddles. Slates of rocks were stacked on top of one another to form “chairs” at the end of the trail. The view was still exhilarating from 2,900 feet even though most of the foliage was gone.
A necessary stop at the Smoke House of the Catskills was made to pick up some delicious salamis and sausages. I made a roast beef sandwich lunch using the spiky horseradish I picked up from the store. A taste of their head cheese only whet my appetite for more wine that night.
I’ve done a few of these convenient trips outside the city this year and I’m liking New York state even more after each journey.