A Guide to Hudson Valley Towns: Beacon, Cold Spring, and Garrison | Cold Spring | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
click to enlarge A Guide to Hudson Valley Towns: Beacon, Cold Spring, and Garrison
John Garay
Gregg, Bryce, Robert, Ryan, Clayton and dogs Romulus and Domino in Cold Spring.

Learn about the rich history and culture of Beacon, Cold Spring, and Garrison. The Hudson Valley towns have plenty of food, coffee, arts, and entertainment to go around.

Last year, over 100,000 people climbed the steep, rocky scramble that separates Putnam and Dutchess counties, a trail that's been named the most popular hiking destination in North America. Some come for the spectacular views of the Hudson River atop the 1,260-foot summit, some because the trailhead is across the road from a Metro-North train stop, making the trail accessible for car-less hikers from New York City who have few other options for outdoor adventures. Some are drawn by the danger implied in the trail's name: Breakneck Ridge.

The name was not chosen lightly. Rescue crews make weekly appearances throughout the summer, and fatalities are not uncommon. The ridge's perilous reputation is not a recent development. An Algonquin elder once told me that Native Americans referred to it as Matumpseck, a word that loosely translates as "bad rocks to climb." People have been breaking their necks on that ridge for thousands of years.

And yet, after thousands of years, the ridge has had enough. Due to the ever-increasing high volume of hikers, the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference will be closing the trail at some point after 2018 to begin a series of stabilization projects, without which the trail will soon be damaged beyond repair and have to be closed forever.

Drastic but necessary measures that are being echoed up the road in the city of Beacon, which recently enacted a six-month ban on all new construction projects, for fear that the character and scale of the city was in danger of being destroyed.


click to enlarge A Guide to Hudson Valley Towns: Beacon, Cold Spring, and Garrison
John Garay
Jo-Anne Asuncion at Loopy Mango in Beacon

It wasn't long ago that the idea of Beacon becoming too revitalized would have seemed nuts. Since Dia:Beacon opened in 2003, the city has slowly been pulling itself out of its post-industrial slump. Even as national news outlets began taking notice of the remarkable cultural renaissance on the Hudson taking place just 60 miles north of Manhattan, much of Main Street remained boarded up. But with every passing year the pace of urban renewal on Main Street increased, with the 2013 relocation of the legendary music club The Towne Crier from Pawling to Beacon acting as the tipping point from "I wish there were more coffee shops in Beacon" to "Should we meet at the old old coffee shop (Bank Square), the new old coffee shop (Ella's Bellas), the old new coffee shop (Trax Espresso), or the new new coffee shop (Big Mouth Coffee Roasters)?"

You'll need all that caffeine to keep up with onslaught of new bars, breweries, and restaurants that have opened in Beacon since you've been here last, even if you were just here last week. And yet nobody demands a six-month moratorium on building projects because they think there's too many bakeries. They demand one because suddenly there's a four-story apartment building on Main Street that's taller than any of the other buildings in town, auto body shops are being ripped up to make way for more four-story buildings, and the city's trees are being ripped up left and right. For a city that prides itself of having been the home of late folk icon and O.G. environmental activist Pete Seeger, seeing entire hillsides denuded to make room for oversized buildings of questionable aesthetics in the time it takes to turn your compost pile can be demoralizing.

click to enlarge A Guide to Hudson Valley Towns: Beacon, Cold Spring, and Garrison
John Garay
Sergei Krasikov, Ray Roy, and Gabriel Pages shooting a film in Beacon

But Uncle Pete taught his neighbors a lot of lessons in the more than 60 years that he lived here, including how to make good trouble. When the footprint of the aforementioned new four-story building on the corner of Man and Eliza started jutting out several feet onto the sidewalk a few weeks into its construction, in violation of its original plans, local artist Ori Alon printed out every negative comment made about the project on Facebook and hung them on the fence surrounding the project—including several blank sheets and a marker so that people could leave additional comments right there. The building was moved back shortly thereafter.

As delightful as it is to see the out-of-town developers seeking to cash in on Beacon's status getting routinely dunked on by the citizenry, the most heartening thing about Beacon today is that much of its accelerated boom is still being driven by the locals who put in all the hard work behind the scenes to get the city where it is now. Trax Espresso was opened by the same lifelong Beacon couple who also own Bank Square Coffeehouse and Mountaintops Outfitters on the other end of the city's mile-long Main Street. Ama, the wood-fired pizza place that opened a few weeks ago, is brought to you by Amarcord, the Italian restaurant right across the street that for years, until the Roundhouse opened, had to carry the load of being the city's only upscale restaurant. Hudson Valley Brewery, which has fans lined around the block whenever they roll out a new release, was co-founded by one of the former managers of the late and lamented the Hop, while the Hop's former space is about to become the Melzingah Tap House, opened by the same couple that opened The Barking Frog on Route 52 before even Dia was here. Glazed Over Doughnuts, which opened a year ago and features more than 900 different doughnut combinations (not an exaggeration) wasn't opened by some hipsters-come-lately from Brooklyn, but by a couple that's been working in the Beacon city schools for almost 20 years.

click to enlarge A Guide to Hudson Valley Towns: Beacon, Cold Spring, and Garrison
John Garay
Justin, Kirsten, and Wiley at Moo Moo’s Creamery in Beacon

Even the city's new (and only) vegan restaurant, Vegetalien, has deep local roots. It's the latest of five eateries run by Beaconite Kamel Jamal, the other four being the Beacon Bread Company, Angelina's, Ziatün, and Tito Santana. All five are based around completely different cuisines, united only in their excellence.

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