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It was 6AM. My alarm was deafening me and I opened my eyes in surprise. Light was creeping into the tipi and I took in my surroundings for a moment before remembering where I was. A soft down duvet kept me warm, but when I stuck out my arm out to silence my phone the air was crisp and cold. Last night’s embers glowed in the wood burner and it smelt like smoke, sage and Palo Santo. The tarot cards we’d played at reading the night before still lay on the floor beside an empty bottle of wine. I got up, pulled on trousers and walking boots, and snuck outside.
We’d spent most of the previous day sitting in city traffic and now, standing in the woods in the tiny town of Bovina in upstate New York, I laughed out loud at the contrast. We’d arrived in the dark, but in the light of day I could see that the trees were bursting with colour, while birds sung in chorus among them. I breathed in the fresh air; it smelt like rain. Last night, beneath the stars, I’d showered outdoors after a long soak in the hot tub with my friend. It felt good to be out of town at last – I wasn’t ready to leave our Airbnb, aptly named Mystic Lodge.
Fortunately, our next stop was also good one. Hudson is becoming a popular weekend escape for Brooklynites with rustic hotels such as Wm. Farmer & Sons, offering homely luxury via scented candles, huge beds standing almost a foot off the ground and welcoming fireplaces. It didn’t disappoint, but we managed to tear ourselves away to visit a seven-acre corn maze, where we spent a happy hour getting lost like excited children before hitting a local Mexican joint for much more adult margaritas and fried avocados (a revelation).
We merrily swayed back to our room to nap in preparation for farm-to-table cooking at Swoon Kitchenbar, where we devoured plump steaks washed down with creamy Montepulciano. It was becoming obvious why the region attracts in-the-know urbanites looking to switch off.
Kaaterskill Falls in the Catskill Mountains was similarly magical. We strolled along old railway tracks watching playful chipmunks collect nuts and chase each other up and down, before reaching a clearing with waterfalls views and multi-coloured hills in the distance. Flame-red and burnt-orange leaves covered the landscape, while the base of the of the falls looked like a fairy grotto, complete with spongey moss and babbling water.
From here we drove to a remote cabin, the location of which had only been revealed the week before. The premise of Cabin in the Woods is to unplug – only being told that you’ll be no more than two hours from the city until shortly before your trip is the beginning of relinquishing control. Not being able to plan your stay in advance or have wifi when you arrive was both refreshing and frustrating. When we stopped to ask for directions (no signal means no sat nav), we were told that the region was going to get wifi “soon”. But the point of the trip was to go off grid, so we locked our phones away, instead grabbing ingredients for s’mores and heading outside to build a fire. Sitting quietly, I felt the heat of the flames against my face and a sense of calm.
The next day, we awoke to another incredible view. A large window next to me looked out at the trees, with swirling leaves and playful squirrels below. The cabins are decked out with everything you need, from hot shower to stove, coffee and food, so we used all of them before heading out for the final hike of our trip.
The sleepy town of Narrowsburg sits on the border of Pennsylvania and New York, with the mighty Delaware River running through it. We met Laura, founder of The Outside Institute – an organisation that helps people connect with the healing powers of nature – for a guided hike along the Tusten Mountain Trail. The sun streamed through trees and reflected off the water’s glassy surface as Laura told us about funghi, trees and leaves. Finally, we reached the mountain peak where, through a clearing in the treetops, we saw the land unfold before us. The huge, rushing river parted the woodland and was all you could see for miles. On parting, Laura suggested we join a gong bath at Chi Hive back in Narrowsburg that evening.
As I lay on a mat, bolster beneath my knees, blanket across me and my eyes closed, the sound of the gong was overwhelming. I hadn’t thought it would be so loud, nor did I anticipate the range of sounds it would produce. The instrument’s “vibrations” are meant to bring feelings to the surface and wash them away. I’m not sure that they did, but I definitely felt something. As I looked out at the Big Eddy (the deepest point of the Delaware River at 100ft down) I realised that the purpose of the gong bath somewhat mirrored that of our trip – and I reluctantly pondered the frenetic life that awaited me back at home.
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