Updated: Sep 4, 2019
Summer is beating down on us and in the midst of Farmer’s Markets and CSA deliveries, a weekend away from the norm, full of pastoral farmland, is everything we need to reset. The Hudson Valley is full of sunny strings of small towns and villages, and going south on Route 209 you run into Stone Ridge, Accord, and Kerhonkson. These tucked-away hamlets border the Minnewaska State Preserve to the south and are laid down on the shores of the Rondout Creek. It’s a serene piece of the Valley, and the farmland on either side of 209 makes every restaurant farm-to-table and you only have to follow the signs to the next great brewery.
Staying over Friday night, we wanted to find a place that isn’t just your average bed-and-breakfast. There were some amazing choices, but the mission of the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary was truly inspiring. Tucked in between Stone Ridge and Accord, the farm is laid out along the dirt-packed Rescue Road. You drive in and the sounds of the Rondout Creek and happily mooing cows greet you as you make your way through to the Gray Barn, the Farm’s on-site accommodations. Belying its name, the Gray Barn is an ultra-modern, darkly painted, chic two-story building tucked into the working animal farm. It’s beautiful and totally unexpected. The dogwood trees out front (planted by Earth Designs Cooperative, a worker-owned business in the Hudson Valley) attracted all kinds of birds and beetles. In the evening, the fireflies loved to light up the base of the trunk, flying up and around all the trees
around the Barn.
Inside the Barn, the white walls, high ceilings, and beautiful decorations put us at ease immediately. Any tension left over from the drive was released in a slow exhale as we unpacked for the weekend. We were given a few hours to unwind, and after a short rest, we changed into muck clothes - eager to experience and learn about the Sanctuary and the animals that live there
Woodstock Animal Sanctuary
The mission of the Woodstock Sanctuary is to rescue farmed animals commonly
used for food and products, such as cows, goats, and chickens, and give them a home where they can live with dignity and in safety. The Sanctuary has pens all around the farm where they allow you to interact with these happy, beautiful creatures in an environment free from fear and exploitation. Each animal has a story, sometimes heartbreaking, but always with a happy ending. The staff is made up of lovely, impassioned folk who strive to educate and inform the visitors who come to the Farm. The farm is free to visit, so you see families, couples, and groups of friends all exploring and learning about animal rights and the history of the Sanctuary.
Wallkill Rail Trail
The next morning we knew that we wanted to take a walk along the
Wallkill Valley Rail Trail; a long, meandering path that is frequented by bikers and pedestrians alike. Before we set out, we needed a hearty meal. We popped into the Egg’s Nest in High Falls, a sun-filled and artsy all-meals joint that serves as a nexus for the community. It’s absolutely adorable and the Huevos Rancheros are worth the trip.Afterward it was a quick five-minute drive to the Rail Trail.
The trail is well-kept and easy to access from the various country roads that criss-cross it. Easy to follow, you simply turn around to get back to wherever you parked, or you can catch a cheap cab in New Paltz to return you to your vehicle, enjoying the Shawangunk Ridge views as you return.
Not wanting a full meal, but up for a snack, we stopped by Helena’s Specialty
Foods, a family-owned Eastern European restaurant Kerhonkson. This off-the-beaten- path business has been around for nearly 25 years, and the kind of flavors that come along with such an authentic experience is not to be missed. The specialty here? Pierogies! From traditional savory to contemporary sweet (the seasonal strawberry pierogies demand to be eaten!), it’s no wonder that Helena’s has been in business since 1995.
Just down the road from Helena’s is the Westwind Orchard. This is a traditional cidery with a modern twist, inviting new contemporary flavors into their drinks, such as raspberry and apricots. The farmstand and the farm store were open, and the selection of locally grown and sourced products was a sight! I grabbed some jams and local herbs, and then made my way to the crown of the Orchard; the tasting room.
When you get to the Orchard, don’t let the rustic charm fool you- the tasting room menu is exceptional food on any level. The pizza is fresh, the pasta is made on-site, and the menu changes with the season. Farm-to-Orchard-to-Table is the only way to eat at Westwind, and the homemade mozzarella was so absolutely incredible I was
tempted to take an appetizer home.
Sunday we knew it was going to be hard to top the incredible dining experience of Saturday, but we started strong with breakfast at Hash, a small mom and pop joint focusing on sustainable, organic food in Stone Ridge. I felt daring, so I ordered the Curry Tofu Hash, and I was not disappointed. A deep spice, bright tomatoes, and locally
foraged mushrooms all made the dish an exceptional start to the day.
Caffeinated and well-fed, we headed directly south, aiming to get in a few sights before the end of the day. Going into Minnewaska State Park via the northern entrance was so easy, and even in the summer, a parking space is easy to find. I recently hurt my ankle, so hardcore hiking is out for me, but many of the paths to beautiful scenic
overlooks in this area of the park are well-paved and easily accessible. Getting down to Peterskill Falls from this part of the preserve is an easy walk. The view of the falls is magical, and you can spend a few minutes or an hour by the watering hole, watching the water rush down the creek.
The last stop on our delicious weekend journey was Arrowood Farms, which
advertises “Beer from the ground up.” You can literally smell the hops as you walk into the Taproom. The beer here is fresh, bright, and exceptionally well-crafted, and the brew is slowly but surely taking over the Hudson Valley, appearing in bars in New Paltz and Kingston with more regularity. We were lucky enough to catch the Lekker 209 food truck and I grabbed a delicious salad, topped with pickled veg and parm. We were able to walk around the farm, beers in hand, taking in the beautiful meadow and eye-height sunflowers.
All in all, an incredible and remarkably tasty experience wandering around an up-
and-coming area. The commitment to sustainability is wide-spread, and each place
along Route 209 has its own mission and purpose. There’s a lot of heart in this stretch
of the Hudson Valley, and I can’t wait to come back for the winter menus.
As always please leave your comments and tips for this area below
Never Stop Exploring