Mention to someone that you are from New York, USA, and immediately they picture images of tall skyscrapers, Broadway shows, and bustling Times Square. While it is true that New York City is a crowded, bustling concrete city ( there were 52 million visitors to New York in 2012) , there are some wonderful scenic and uncrowded places located outside the city.
One of my most memorable New York treks occurred over twenty five years ago when I was practically a newcomer to the Big Apple. I was hiking up a forested mountain trail a mere hour and half outside of the city, when I had the surprise of my life.
On top of the mountain, hidden from the view below, suddenly appeared a sparkling blue lake and a magnificent palace. For a minute I thought I was delirious from the summer heat, or had been astrally transported to a kingdom in some far off land. Several pinches later, I realized that I was not dreaming, and this scenic beauty was indeed real.
The Mohonk Mountain House was built on the cliffs around Lake Mohonk in 1869 by Quaker twin brothers Albert and Alfred Smiley. This Victorian castle currently boasts 269 rooms and is set on 1200 acres of scenic woodland.
Initially it only accommodated 40 guests who were mostly close friends of the two brothers at the time. But as its popularity grew, it was expanded during the period 1871 to 1910 to attract the well to do and the educated as a sanctuary and retreat from the noisy world. The Quaker brothers forbid the drinking of alcohol, card games, and dancing. Instead, for entertainment, they built a huge library for the guests, and provided lectures, nature walks on 85 trails, and a variety of plants and summer houses for added enjoyment.
I was allowed to walk on the grounds but was told that silence was required. The few people I saw were either whispering or not talking. Awed, I followed suit! I found a barn and stable with horses and carriages, and the blacksmith whispered to me that cars were not allowed. There was a parking lot hidden somewhere below, and visitors were transported by horse carriage up the rustic trail to the main house. The setting was reminiscent of the Victorian era, and guests were required to dress formally for breakfast and dinner in the large dining hall. No alcohol was served, but tea was served at a specific tea-time each day. I’m sure there were crumpets too, but did not dare to break my vow of silence and ask.
As I mentioned earlier, my visit was over 25 years ago, and I always planned to revisit but unfortunately, never did.
However, I did some recent research and found that Mohonk Mountain House still exists today, as beautiful as ever, and is now an upscale resort for the wealthy and pampered…spa included.
A stay at this historic palace will cost you around $600 a night, but it is well worth the experience if you can afford the price…and yes, there is now a fully stocked bar!
I plan to revisit Mohonk Mountain House this summer, but unfortunately not as a paying guest, although I would love to. However, if you are interested in a visit, here is a link to this scenic beauty.