6 Annual Events You Need to Check out in the Hudson Valley

A relatively short drive from New York City, Minnewaska Lodge is a holistic retreat surrounded by 25,000 acres of preserved wilderness, including the Shawangunk Mountains, the Mohonk Preserve, and Minnewaska State Park. Guests can hike these areas and enjoy free weekend activities or venture past these boundaries to take in the beauty of the Hudson Valley and explore its many attractions. Depending on the time of their stay, Minnewaska Lodge visitors can also check out one of the following annual festivals.

Hudson Valley Wine & Food Festival

Launched in 2001, the Hudson Valley Wine & Food Festival takes place at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck, New York, and highlights some of the best wines, craft beers, ciders, and food in the region. InStyle magazine named it one of the “18 Best Wine Festivals across America” in 2017. The event is typically held in September.

In addition to tasting the diverse selection of food and drink, festival attendees can also interact with winemakers, join wine seminars, and watch cooking demonstrations led by award-winning chefs. Some of the chefs that have hosted these sessions in the past have been featured on TV programs like Hell’s Kitchen, Chopped, and Iron Chef. There’re also dozens of on-site market vendors.

Woodstock Film Festival

Held annually in the fall in Woodstock, New York, the Woodstock Film Festival celebrates independent cinema and provides mentoring and educational programming to aspiring filmmakers and artists. It hosts events such as the Summer Youth Film Lab, a Screenwriting Seminar, and the Virtual Masterclass Series.

The multi-day film festival, meanwhile, has been taking place every year for more than two decades and has featured well-known films such as The Imitation Game, Lars and the Real Girl, Up in the Air, and Peace, Love & Misunderstanding. It has also shown documentaries including Man on Wire, Ray Charles America, and God Loves Uganda. Keanu Reeves, Woody Harrelson, Paul Rudd, Natalie Portman, and Darren Aronofsky are among the notable filmmakers and actors who have attended the festival.

Hudson Valley Garlic Festival

The Hudson Valley Garlic Festival is another popular food festival in the region that is, as the name suggests, heavily focused on dishes involving garlic. Held every year at Cantine Field in Saugerties, New York, the event was created in 1989 by Pat Reppert of Shale Hill Farm and Herb Gardens as a promotional event for her business.

The Kiwanis Club of Saugerties has hosted the event since 1992. More than 5,000 people attended the event in 1992 and attendance has since grown steadily. More than 53,000 people attended the two-day Hudson Valley Garlic Festival in 2007.

In addition to highlighting dozens of regional food vendors, the event features chefs and garlic farmers who host lectures on topics of their expertise. There’s also live music as well as games and attractions for children.

Sunflower Extravaganza Festival at Kelder’s Farm

The fourth annual Sunflower Extravaganza Festival at Kelder’s Farm took place in August 2021 and featured thousands of sunflowers varying in size and color. Attendees can walk through the field at Kelder’s Farm in Kerhonkson and revel in the beauty of the sunflowers or take Instagram-worthy snapshots to show their friends. Other attractions include the world’s largest garden gnome, combine slides, mini-golf, and a petting farm. Guests can also pay to pick their own sunflowers or fruits and vegetables.

Hudson Valley Hot Air Balloon Festival

The 30th annual Hudson Valley Hot Air Balloon Festival is slated for September 3-5, 2021, at Tymor Park in Union Vale. The annual event is much more than just a hot air balloon festival, however. There are fireworks at the end of each night as well as live music, helicopter rides, family activities, and food trucks. The 2020 event took place in July at Dutchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck.

Rosendale International Pickle Festival

The Rosendale International Pickle Festival started in 1997 as a Japanese dinner party and has since become an annual event that attracts more than 5,000 people. Rosendale town historian and garden center owner Bill Brooks and his wife, Cathy, host the dinner party as a gesture to their friend Eri Yamaguchi, who sought to recreate the traditional tsukemono (pickled vegetables and fruits that sometimes include seaweed and other seafood) of her native country of Japan. Popular tsukemono variations include shiozuke (salt), nukazuke (rice bran), shoyuzuke (soy sauce), and misozuke (miso).

Today, the festival features more than 100 vendors who sell pickle products and other food as well as crafts, clothes, and jewelry. There’s also the popular Pickle Triathlon, which includes a pickle toss, pickle juice drinking contest, and pickle eating contest. The highlight, however, is the home pickling contest, which features the following categories: Dill Pickles, Dilly Beans, Pickled Fruit, Sweet Pickles, Pickled Vegetables, Pickled Root Vegetables, and Best of Show. The 24th annual Rosendale International Pickle Festival is scheduled for November 21, 2021.

The Benefits of Short-Term Goals and 3 That Can Help Change Your Life

It can be frustrating and even monotonous to go through life directionless and without defined goals. Setting long-term personal and career goals are important to give yourself a sense of purpose and something to which you can aspire.

However, not every goal needs to be so ambitious. Setting and achieving more attainable short-term goals can give you the confidence you need to attack long-term aspirations and improve your life measurably. Below are some of the benefits of setting short-term goals, as well as specific examples.

Helps Maintain Focus

It can be easy to get sidetracked and lose focus when pursuing a long-term goal. The path isn’t always direct; rather, it may involve unexpected detours and might take much longer than anticipated. Setting a clearly defined short-term goal that can be completed within a reasonable time frame allows you to focus on measurable actions that can be taken to achieve that goal. This goal can even be a task or obstacle you need to overcome to ultimately achieve a greater objective.

Stunts Procrastination

You might have trouble getting motivated or knowing where to start if your goal is to lose 50 pounds. Chances are, you’ll have to exercise regularly and maintain improved eating habits over a sustained period of time. This could take years, and it will be difficult to see progress on a daily basis, which can be discouraging. You may even find it to be such a daunting task that you don’t know where to begin.

Setting smaller, more attainable goals that contribute to your ultimate goal will not only lessen the possibility of procrastination, but also increase your confidence going forward. For instance, you might instead aim to run three days per week on the treadmill and eat plant-based dinners twice a week. These are much more attainable than dropping a significant amount of weight, but they also contribute to that bigger goal.

Gain Insightful Feedback

Setting short-term goals aligned with larger aspirations can also give you insightful feedback in regard to your progress and the changes you need to make. Consider the example above. If you exercised more and ate healthier meals for a week and lost your target of two pounds, you’ll be inclined to continue on that path for another week to see the results. If the exercise and diet changes haven’t made a difference, that’s still useful information. It might indicate that you need to cut back on certain foods or increase the amount of time you exercise to achieve your target weight.

Similarly, you might find that running on the treadmill or working out at the gym isn’t for you. Riding a bike or hiking might be more enjoyable, which is perfectly fine considering spending time in nature is associated with various physical and mental health benefits.

Goal: Start a Daily Journal

Not all short-term goals have to be aligned with ambitious life-altering aspirations. The following are personal goals that can be implemented into a daily or monthly routine to enhance your productivity and establish good habits for long-term success.

Keeping a daily journal is a relatively easy goal to accomplish and one that can not only be cathartic, but help present solutions for particular problems. Aim to fill at least one page with your thoughts and feelings that day or write about ideas that might support your larger aspirations.

“When you give yourself frequent permission to explore the ‘adjacent possible’ with no restrictions on where it leads, you increase the likelihood of a creative breakthrough in all areas of your life and work,” notes author Todd Henry in his contribution to the book Manage Your Day-to-Day.

Goal: Learn Something New Every Day

Learning something new every day is a great way to inspire creativity and open yourself up to new possibilities. Trying to do so can also serve as a motivator to break from what might be an otherwise monotonous day-to-day routine. Moreover, it helps train your brain to be able to comprehend new information more quickly and helps stave off cognitive decline.

You don’t have to spend much time on this short-term goal, either. It can be as simple as reading a chapter in a history book, visiting a museum, attending an educational presentation, or just reading up on specific topics online.

Goal: Drop One Bad Habit Every Month

Bad habits are impediments to achieving your ultimate goal. While it isn’t realistic to drop all your bad habits simultaneously in pursuit of your dreams, it is possible to eliminate one or two a month with persistence and dedication. Write down all the things you do that you believe are time-consuming with little to no benefit, or those that don’t make you happy. Consider which habits you can drop to make yourself more productive and happier. Some might be harder to quit than others, but removing these barriers will give you more time to focus on the bigger picture. For example, if you feel like you spend too much time mindlessly scrolling on your phone, try to limit your screen time per day or consider setting it aside after a certain time of day.

4 Reasons to Make a Summer Escape to Minnewaska Lodge

New York City is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, and for good reason. The city boasts a variety of great shopping and dining establishments in addition to world-famous museums and iconic attractions such as the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and Central Park. Its whirlwind of activity and crowded streets, however, might not be for everyone.

Area tourists seeking a more tranquil and relaxing vacation can find solitude not too far outside of the Big Apple. Minnewaska Lodge, in particular, offers a peaceful and holistic experience just 90 minutes from New York City. Below are four reasons to vacation at Minnewaska Lodge this summer.

1. Accommodations

Surrounded by 25,000 acres of preserved wilderness near the Shawangunk Mountains, Minnewaska Lodge is a perfect getaway for outdoor enthusiasts and appreciators of nature. The lodge offers world-class hospitality and luxurious on-site accommodations.

Minnewaska Lodge has 26 unique rooms, some of which have private balconies offering picturesque mountain views, while others have cathedral ceilings. While many guests prefer to set aside their devices in favor of savoring the natural elements, the lodge’s rooms have cable TV and complimentary Wi-Fi for those looking to stay connected with current events or keep up with their work.

Minnewaska Lodge also has indoor and outdoor spaces where guests can congregate. Its Great Room features a Vermont Castings stove near which guests can keep warm while sitting on one of the many comfortable chairs. The room’s deck presents a great view of the Shawangunk Mountains. Outdoors, guests can sit around fire pits and relax in Adirondack chairs.

2. Complimentary Weekend Activities

Promising a “restorative escape” from day-to-day life, Minnewaska Lodge not only is perfectly situated to offer various self-guided outdoor experiences, but also organizes complimentary weekend activities for its guests. Events are ongoing from 8 a.m. until 9:15 p.m.

In summer 2021, guests can participate in outdoor slow flow vinyasa, meditation, and breath yoga classes on Saturday and Sunday mornings starting at 8. This is followed by a half-hour orientation session, through which staff members recommend local activities in addition to nearby hiking trails. Guided hiking tours are offered in the afternoon, inviting guests to learn about the area’s ecology and history. Outdoor evening yoga and fireside stories close out the planned activities for each weekend day.

Programs and classes are led by Erik Phillips-Nania, who serves as Minnewaska Lodge’s director of programming and activities. A former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees attorney, Mr. Phillips-Nania is an environmentalist with experience in ancient yoga practices. In addition to leading the lodge’s weekend activities, he organizes customized small group activities, including hiking and rock climbing.

3. Shawangunk Mountains

A continuation of Blue Mountain and Kittatinny Mountain in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, respectively, the Shawangunk Mountain range is a breathtaking natural wonder with miles of white cliffs, deep oak forests, and clear mountaintop lakes, among other awe-inspiring scenery. Carved by boulder-laden glaciers more than 10,000 years ago, its quartzose rock markings are more pronounced here than those on bedrock surfaces in the Catskills and Hudson Highlands.

The Shawangunk Mountain range, affectionately referred to as the “Gunks,” is made up of the following six parks and preserves: Minnewaska State Park Preserve, Mohonk Mountain House, Mohonk Preserve, Huckleberry Ridge State Forest, Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, and Sam’s Point Preserve. Combined, these areas offer more than 760 miles of trails maintained by member groups and New York-New Jersey Trail Conference volunteers. The Gunks offer various challenging trails for veteran hikers in addition to gentle carriage roads presenting scenic views for less experienced hikers.

The area is also a great place for rock climbing, particularly at Mohonk Preserve, which offers more than 800 climbing routes with varying degrees of difficulty.

4. Hudson Valley Attractions

Those looking to venture a little further outside of the Minnewaska Lodge grounds don’t have to travel too far, as the lodge is centrally located in the Hudson Valley, which is rich in cultural and outdoor recreational attractions. Spanning 10 different counties, Hudson Valley features a number of popular and quirky river towns, mountain ranges, lakes, and historic sites.

The Hudson State Historic Park is a must-visit attraction. While there, make sure to traverse the 1.28-mile Walkway Over the Hudson, a steel cantilever bridge that connects Highland with Poughkeepsie. It was once the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge. Signage along the bridge provides details about its history.

For additional history lessons, visitors should check out the New York State Museum in Albany. This 100,000-square-foot cultural institution has more than 15 million scientific specimens and popular ongoing exhibits such as Birds of New York and Black Capital: Harlem in the 20s.

Some of the other iconic and historic attractions in the area include the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, the Motorcyclepedia Museum, and the New York State Capitol. Traveling the Shawangunk Wine Trail is also a great way to spend a day.

Why You Absolutely Need to Plan a Vacation at One of These 5 Farms

When you think about a vacation it often involves relaxing poolside or experiencing different cultures and unique attractions in a foreign country. And, while either of those activities can serve as a fun escape from the day-to-day grind, there’s a growing trend in the travel industry for more meaningful and purposeful vacations. Consequently, agrotourism is one of the industry’s fastest-growing sectors.

Put simply, agrotourism refers to vacationing at a farm and, oftentimes, helping with the harvest. It allows travelers the opportunity to connect with nature and experience first-hand what it’s like living on a farm. Annie Willis explained the appeal of agrotourism to National Geographic for a 2019 feature.

“We’ve done Italian holidays that don’t involve anything more testing than sightseeing or lying by a pool, and felt it was time for something different, which was also educational,” Willis said of her and her husband’s prior vacations. “We love Italy, and wanted to connect with the people and landscape on a more profound level than simply as tourists. We’ll have lunch with the family daily, so we can practice our Italian, and helping with the harvest feels like a positive thing to do.”

Agrotourism is big in Europe, but it is becoming increasingly popular in the United States. Below are five of the most vacation-friendly farms in the country.

1. The Jungle Farmhouse (Hawaii)

Located in Pahoa, Hawaii, The Jungle Farmhouse combines a typical farm stay with an island vacation experience. Guests stay in cottages in the Hawaiian jungle that accommodate up to eight people and include modern conveniences such as satellite TV and Wi-Fi. However, they can also engage in a variety of farming activities.

This includes eating fresh, organic eggs from the farm’s hens as well as plucking bananas, pineapple, avocados, and papaya from its trees. The farm also has baby goats and miniature pigs, while the 2.5-acre plot of land in the Hawaiian jungle is home to a variety of native birds and exotic plants.

Those looking to explore surrounding areas can visit the Historic Pahoa Village, which is about a mile from The Jungle Farmhouse. Known for its wooden sidewalks and eclectic shops, the village also includes attractions such as farmers’ markets, galleries, and a public swimming pool. The Jungle Farmhouse is also close to Kehena Black Sand Beach and a 45-minute drive from Volcanoes National Park.

2. Wildwood Farm B&B (Washington)

Those who love horses and horseback riding, in particular, will enjoy their stay at Wildwood Farm Bed & Breakfast on Whidbey Island in Washington State. The 80-acre farm, 90 miles north of Seattle, has bred thoroughbred horses for more than 50 years and offers horseback riding lessons.

It has two indoor areas and an outdoor arena for riding in addition to a saddlery and tack store. In addition, Whidbey Island offers peaceful escapes in nature with an abundance of green fields and forests. Hiking and canoeing are popular activities on the island.

3. Zion Mountain Ranch (Utah)

Stargazing is a popular activity at Zion Mountain Ranch, located 6,000 feet high up in Utah’s canyon country. Stars shine bright here in the clear night skies, but that’s far from the only reason to visit the ranch, which borders Zion National Park and is also in close proximity to Bryce National Park. The ranch itself is known for its roaming herd of buffalo and horses. The site also features a small organic farm with various vegetable plots, hens and chickens, and an orchard.

4. Los Poblanos (New Mexico)

An historic inn and organic farm in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Los Poblanos features 25 acres of greenery including lavender fields and lush formal gardens. Guests can expect a signature New Mexico vacation as the resort was designed in 1932 by architect John Gaw Meem, also known as the “Father of Santa Fe Style.” Its farm suites, some of which have private patios, are inspired by historic dairy buildings and boast clean and modern interiors.

Animals at the farm include peacocks, alpacas, and Churro sheep, while guests can enjoy field-to-fork dining from the award-winning kitchen staff at the on-site Campo restaurant. Other amenities include the Hacienda Spa, Farm Foods Market, and fitness rooms. Guests can also take self-guided tours of local trails on one of the cruiser bicycles available for rent.

5. Blackberry Farm (Tennessee)

Those looking for a more luxurious farm stay vacation should consider Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee. The 4,200-acre estate offers a range of activities including cooking demos, gardening workshops, and tasting tours. Yet, visitors seeking a more authentic agrotourism experience can also take part in various farming activities on its grounds.

An ideal destination for foodies, the farm has on-site chefs, a master gardener, cheesemaker, forager, butcher, and sommelier, among other artisans. Everything harvested at the farm is incorporated into its delicious dishes, while sumac and sour cherries, among other items, are used at the brewery to create award-winning spirits.

4 Reasons to Make a Summer Escape to Minnewaska Lodge

New York City is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, and for good reason. The city boasts a variety of great shopping and dining establishments in addition to world-famous museums and iconic attractions such as the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and Central Park. Its whirlwind of activity and crowded streets, however, might not be for everyone.

Area tourists seeking a more tranquil and relaxing vacation can find solitude not too far outside of the Big Apple. Minnewaska Lodge, in particular, offers a peaceful and holistic experience just 90 minutes from New York City. Below are four reasons to vacation at Minnewaska Lodge this summer.

1. Accommodations

Surrounded by 25,000 acres of preserved wilderness near the Shawangunk Mountains, Minnewaska Lodge is a perfect getaway for outdoor enthusiasts and appreciators of nature. The lodge offers world-class hospitality and luxurious on-site accommodations.

Minnewaska Lodge has 26 unique rooms, some of which have private balconies offering picturesque mountain views, while others have cathedral ceilings. While many guests prefer to set aside their devices in favor of savoring the natural elements, the lodge’s rooms have cable TV and complimentary Wi-Fi for those looking to stay connected with current events or keep up with their work.

Minnewaska Lodge also has indoor and outdoor spaces where guests can congregate. Its Great Room features a Vermont Castings stove near which guests can keep warm while sitting on one of the many comfortable chairs. The room’s deck presents a great view of the Shawangunk Mountains. Outdoors, guests can sit around fire pits and relax in Adirondack chairs.

2. Complimentary Weekend Activities

Promising a “restorative escape” from day-to-day life, Minnewaska Lodge not only is perfectly situated to offer various self-guided outdoor experiences, but also organizes complimentary weekend activities for its guests. Events are ongoing from 8 a.m. until 9:15 p.m.

In summer 2021, guests can participate in outdoor slow flow vinyasa, meditation, and breath yoga classes on Saturday and Sunday mornings starting at 8. This is followed by a half-hour orientation session, through which staff members recommend local activities in addition to nearby hiking trails. Guided hiking tours are offered in the afternoon, inviting guests to learn about the area’s ecology and history. Outdoor evening yoga and fireside stories close out the planned activities for each weekend day.

Programs and classes are led by Erik Phillips-Nania, who serves as Minnewaska Lodge’s director of programming and activities. A former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees attorney, Mr. Phillips-Nania is an environmentalist with experience in ancient yoga practices. In addition to leading the lodge’s weekend activities, he organizes customized small group activities, including hiking and rock climbing.

3. Shawangunk Mountains

A continuation of Blue Mountain and Kittatinny Mountain in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, respectively, the Shawangunk Mountain range is a breathtaking natural wonder with miles of white cliffs, deep oak forests, and clear mountaintop lakes, among other awe-inspiring scenery. Carved by boulder-laden glaciers more than 10,000 years ago, its quartzose rock markings are more pronounced here than those on bedrock surfaces in the Catskills and Hudson Highlands.

The Shawangunk Mountain range, affectionately referred to as the “Gunks,” is made up of the following six parks and preserves: Minnewaska State Park Preserve, Mohonk Mountain House, Mohonk Preserve, Huckleberry Ridge State Forest, Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, and Sam’s Point Preserve. Combined, these areas offer more than 760 miles of trails maintained by member groups and New York-New Jersey Trail Conference volunteers. The Gunks offer various challenging trails for veteran hikers in addition to gentle carriage roads presenting scenic views for less experienced hikers.

The area is also a great place for rock climbing, particularly at Mohonk Preserve, which offers more than 800 climbing routes with varying degrees of difficulty.

4. Hudson Valley Attractions

Those looking to venture a little further outside of the Minnewaska Lodge grounds don’t have to travel too far, as the lodge is centrally located in the Hudson Valley, which is rich in cultural and outdoor recreational attractions. Spanning 10 different counties, Hudson Valley features a number of popular and quirky river towns, mountain ranges, lakes, and historic sites.

The Hudson State Historic Park is a must-visit attraction. While there, make sure to traverse the 1.28-mile Walkway Over the Hudson, a steel cantilever bridge that connects Highland with Poughkeepsie. It was once the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge. Signage along the bridge provides details about its history.

For additional history lessons, visitors should check out the New York State Museum in Albany. This 100,000-square-foot cultural institution has more than 15 million scientific specimens and popular ongoing exhibits such as Birds of New York and Black Capital: Harlem in the 20s.

Some of the other iconic and historic attractions in the area include the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, the Motorcyclepedia Museum, and the New York State Capitol. Traveling the Shawangunk Wine Trail is also a great way to spend a day.

Why You Absolutely Need to Plan a Vacation at One of These 5 Farms

The Jungle Farmhouse vacation rental is located in the heart of the Puna  District on the east side of Hawai'i Island and just … | Pahoa, Farm stay,  Dream vacations

When you think about a vacation it often involves relaxing poolside or experiencing different cultures and unique attractions in a foreign country. And, while either of those activities can serve as a fun escape from the day-to-day grind, there’s a growing trend in the travel industry for more meaningful and purposeful vacations. Consequently, agrotourism is one of the industry’s fastest-growing sectors.

Put simply, agrotourism refers to vacationing at a farm and, oftentimes, helping with the harvest. It allows travelers the opportunity to connect with nature and experience first-hand what it’s like living on a farm. Annie Willis explained the appeal of agrotourism to National Geographic for a 2019 feature.

“We’ve done Italian holidays that don’t involve anything more testing than sightseeing or lying by a pool, and felt it was time for something different, which was also educational,” Willis said of her and her husband’s prior vacations. “We love Italy, and wanted to connect with the people and landscape on a more profound level than simply as tourists. We’ll have lunch with the family daily, so we can practice our Italian, and helping with the harvest feels like a positive thing to do.”

Agrotourism is big in Europe, but it is becoming increasingly popular in the United States. Below are five of the most vacation-friendly farms in the country.

1. The Jungle Farmhouse (Hawaii)

Located in Pahoa, Hawaii, The Jungle Farmhouse combines a typical farm stay with an island vacation experience. Guests stay in cottages in the Hawaiian jungle that accommodate up to eight people and include modern conveniences such as satellite TV and Wi-Fi. However, they can also engage in a variety of farming activities.

This includes eating fresh, organic eggs from the farm’s hens as well as plucking bananas, pineapple, avocados, and papaya from its trees. The farm also has baby goats and miniature pigs, while the 2.5-acre plot of land in the Hawaiian jungle is home to a variety of native birds and exotic plants.

Those looking to explore surrounding areas can visit the Historic Pahoa Village, which is about a mile from The Jungle Farmhouse. Known for its wooden sidewalks and eclectic shops, the village also includes attractions such as farmers’ markets, galleries, and a public swimming pool. The Jungle Farmhouse is also close to Kehena Black Sand Beach and a 45-minute drive from Volcanoes National Park.

2. Wildwood Farm B&B (Washington)

Those who love horses and horseback riding, in particular, will enjoy their stay at Wildwood Farm Bed & Breakfast on Whidbey Island in Washington State. The 80-acre farm, 90 miles north of Seattle, has bred thoroughbred horses for more than 50 years and offers horseback riding lessons.

It has two indoor areas and an outdoor arena for riding in addition to a saddlery and tack store. In addition, Whidbey Island offers peaceful escapes in nature with an abundance of green fields and forests. Hiking and canoeing are popular activities on the island.

3. Zion Mountain Ranch (Utah)

Stargazing is a popular activity at Zion Mountain Ranch, located 6,000 feet high up in Utah’s canyon country. Stars shine bright here in the clear night skies, but that’s far from the only reason to visit the ranch, which borders Zion National Park and is also in close proximity to Bryce National Park. The ranch itself is known for its roaming herd of buffalo and horses. The site also features a small organic farm with various vegetable plots, hens and chickens, and an orchard.

4. Los Poblanos (New Mexico)

An historic inn and organic farm in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Los Poblanos features 25 acres of greenery including lavender fields and lush formal gardens. Guests can expect a signature New Mexico vacation as the resort was designed in 1932 by architect John Gaw Meem, also known as the “Father of Santa Fe Style.” Its farm suites, some of which have private patios, are inspired by historic dairy buildings and boast clean and modern interiors.

Animals at the farm include peacocks, alpacas, and Churro sheep, while guests can enjoy field-to-fork dining from the award-winning kitchen staff at the on-site Campo restaurant. Other amenities include the Hacienda Spa, Farm Foods Market, and fitness rooms. Guests can also take self-guided tours of local trails on one of the cruiser bicycles available for rent.

5. Blackberry Farm (Tennessee)

Those looking for a more luxurious farm stay vacation should consider Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee. The 4,200-acre estate offers a range of activities including cooking demos, gardening workshops, and tasting tours. Yet, visitors seeking a more authentic agrotourism experience can also take part in various farming activities on its grounds.

An ideal destination for foodies, the farm has on-site chefs, a master gardener, cheesemaker, forager, butcher, and sommelier, among other artisans. Everything harvested at the farm is incorporated into its delicious dishes, while sumac and sour cherries, among other items, are used at the brewery to create award-winning spirits.

The 6 Best Places to Hike in the Hudson Valley

New York City is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world and is home to more than 18 million people. A 2014 study carried out by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene found that roughly one in five New Yorkers were disturbed by loud noises at home. A similar study two years before discovered average outdoor noise levels at several locations in the city exceeded federal public health guidelines.

Fortunately, NYC residents and tourists alike can find peaceful refuge in the nearby Hudson Valley, which is about a 45-minute drive from downtown Manhattan. The region extends from Westchester County to Albany and is home to 18 state parks, dozens of hiking trails, and gorgeous natural scenery. Below are six of the best and most beautiful hikes in the Hudson Valley.

Mills Mansion at Staatsburgh State Historic Site

Those looking to walk along the shore of the Hudson River should make their way to Mills Mansion at Staatsburgh State Historic Site. The trail leading to Mills Mansion, an elegant country home owned by Ogden Mills and his wife, Ruth, during the turn of the 20th century, extends to Norrie State Park and opens up to the shore of the Hudson River. The trail is also relatively quiet and peaceful as this is one of the few spots in the Hudson Valley where train tracks veer inland. The mansion, restored to its early 20th century appearance, houses decorative arts and original furniture from the period. It also has a gift shop.

“This is a prime spot to come in the winter, when you can listen to the ice floes cracking into each other,” notes Hike the Hudson Valley founder Mike Todd. “The park offers a huge, wide lawn in front of the beautiful mansion, along with views across the river to the Esopus Meadows lighthouse and the Catskills beyond. It’s a special place.”

Storm King Mountain

Todd, who has authored more than 80 comprehensive trail guides for the Hudson Valley, calls Storm King Mountain one of the best hikes in the region. This popular spot is best hiked during weekdays or early in the morning on weekends as its parking area can fill up quickly. The trail leading to the mountain is steep and somewhat challenging—the mountain itself is more than 1,300 feet above sea level—but offers picturesque views at various points. The summit of the mountain, directly across from Breakneck Ridge, presents a panoramic view of the Hudson River.

As if the natural scenery isn’t enough, the mountain is also the site of the Storm King Art Center. This 500-acre outdoor museum is filled with modern and contemporary art, including large-scale sculptures as well as drawings and photographs.

Black Mountain Loop

Those looking for a more relaxing and less strenuous hike should consider Black Mountain Loop, which intersects Harriman and Bear Mountain State Parks. The 8-mile trail has several historic sites, including “Burnt House,” the William Brien Memorial Shelter, and a small segment of the Spanish Mine.

Russian Bear Trailhead

Harriman State Park is also home to another beautiful Hudson Valley hike. The Russian Bear Trailhead is a 6.5-mile loop of moderate difficulty that starts near Seven Lakes Drive and offers views of the NYC skyline from Ramapo Torne. The Russian Bear is a boulder that once hung along the edge of a cliff before falling to the trail below.

The Appalachian Trail

Hiking the Appalachian Trail in its entirety is a massive undertaking. The trail is nearly 2,200 miles and can take as many as seven months to complete for through-hikers. Hiking small portions of the trail is a more sensible approach for those with limited time and, fortunately, there are several different access points. Todd suggests locations such as Depot Hill, Anthony’s Nose, Lion’s Head, and Nuclear Lake.

Located in Pawling, New York, and accessible via State Route 55, the Nuclear Lake Trail is a 4.3-mile loop of moderate difficulty with little elevation change. Visitors can take in scenic views of Nuclear Lake, which was named for the nuclear experiments that scientists once conducted in facility (no longer standing) along the lakeshore. Anthony’s Nose, meanwhile, is a 2.6-mile up-and-back trail to one of the loveliest overlooks in the entire Hudson Valley.

Labyrinth and Skytop Road Loop

Suitable for hikers of all levels, the Labyrinth Trail and Skytop Road Loop offers scenic views of Mohonk Lake and the Mohonk Mountain House. The nearly 5-mile hike, located in Minnewaska State Park, is perfect for those looking for a peaceful escape in the woods. Those looking for more of a challenge can traverse the Lemon Squeeze via the Labyrinth Trail. This involves maneuvering over, under, and between a series of massive boulders and rock crevices to reach a clifftop that overlooks the Catskill Mountains. Hikers can still reach Sky Top via an unpaved road near Lemon Squeeze to take in panoramic views of Mohonk Lake as well.

Policy and Actions in 4 Key Areas Recommended by GlobalABC

Created at the 21st Conference of Parties in 2015 to address record buildings-related CO2 emissions worldwide, the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (GlobalABC) is composed of more than 150 national and local governments, businesses, inter-governmental organizations, and think tanks. These partners work together to advocate for and develop initiatives designed to achieve a zero-emission buildings and construction sector.

In its GlobalABC Roadmap for Buildings and Construction 2020-2050 report, the collaborative network lays out a range of policy, technology, and finance actions that can be taken in eight key areas to achieve net-zero CO2 emissions. The following is a look at some of these suggestions in four of the eight areas.

1. Urban Planning

The way buildings are governed is dictated by urban planning policies. Thus, these policies need to not only consider but prioritize sustainability in alignment with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 11.

“Urban form is an important determinant of urban energy demand, which encompasses the overall physical characteristics of the built environment, such as shape, size, density and configuration; the street network; and public spaces,” according to the 110-page report. “Likewise, at the building scale, compactness, height, orientation and mutual shading have a great influence on energy demand in buildings and local renewable energy potential.”

More specifically, GlobalABC recommends policymakers adhere to integrated systemic urban planning policies with cohesion between local and national governments. There should also be an emphasis on cities experiencing relatively rapid population growth. Urban planning should also consider green space, transit-oriented design, and location efficiency in addition to the establishment of net-zero carbon building codes.

GlobalABC notes that only some cities have urban heat island (UHI) mitigation strategies. The organization’s goal is to ensure all cities have UHI strategies, with UHI increment lowered by 75 percent in most urban areas by 2050. This can be achieved by reducing the number of impermeable surface areas, expanding wetlands, and increasing the installation of cool or green roofs.

2. New Buildings

Regarding the construction of new buildings, GlobalABC recommends the following vital actions: developing a roadmap strategy, implementing mandatory building codes, strengthening existing building codes, and prioritizing passive design to lessen energy expenditure from cooling systems. By 2050, the alliance hopes that all countries and jurisdictions will have implemented near-zero carbon emissions building codes, with most new buildings in compliance with strengthened codes.

GlobalABC also anticipates mandatory labeling for buildings and increased use of comprehensive passports for newly constructed buildings. These passports will comprise relevant information about specific buildings, including the types of materials used in construction, renovations, and energy use. Labeling, meanwhile, should include performance parameters such as the reflectance of surface finishes and the thermal transmittance of building materials.

Ideally, prioritized technologies in new building design and construction will include triple-glazed thermal and low-SHGC windows, light-colored or reflective surfaces, and external shading. In addition to environmental benefits, sustainable new buildings place less strain on energy systems, reduce building operation costs, and support inhabitants’ physical and mental well-being.

3. Existing Buildings

Sustainability should also be addressed in existing buildings. According to GlobalABC, this can be achieved via an increase in annual renovation rates to exceed 4 percent by 2050 and further commitment to deep energy renovations. Specifically, countries with developed economies should strive to implement renovations that reduce existing buildings’ energy consumption by 50 percent.

One key policy-related action governments can take is to create more incentives for buildings to be retrofitted to maximize their energy performance. This can be supported by financial vehicles including grants and rebates, green bonds, dedicated credit lines, energy performance/energy service contracts, and preferential tax actions on sustainable products and services. Building refurbishments, meanwhile, should involve the installation of energy-efficient windows, insulation, and external shading. Architects, engineers, and other building professionals should also be better trained in cost-effective retrofits.

4. Materials

Steel and cement are among the building components that generate a relatively high level of CO2 emissions through extraction, manufacturing, and construction. In fact, these processes represent roughly 4 percent and 7 percent, respectively, of global emissions. While it is much harder to decarbonize the production of steel and cement compared to other aspects of building construction, there are still actions that can be taken to achieve net-zero embodied carbon for most new buildings by 2050. However, all stakeholders on the value chain must make this a priority.

One effective global strategy would involve the establishment of targets for material energy as well as the promotion of low-carbon building materials such as clinker substitutes for cement and timber for steel. However, increased use of timber must be balanced by sustainable harvesting to reduce potential challenges associated with an increase in demand for wood. The use of these materials should also be incentivized. By 2050, GlobalABC anticipates universal adoption of material-efficient designs and low-carbon material alternatives in addition to the use of 3D printing, building information modeling, and prefabrication.

6 Things You Need to Know About Minnewaska State Park Preserve

New York City is the most populous city in North America and among the largest urban locales in the world. The New York Metropolitan Area has a population of more than 18 million and is home to international business headquarters, financial markets, museums, performance venues, and some of the world’s most prominent skyscrapers. Despite this, residents of or visitors to New York City don’t have to venture too far outside the Big Apple to explore nature.

Located only a 90-minute drive from New York City is the 23,000-acre Minnewaska State Park Preserve in Ulster County. Below is an in-depth look at the park and its attractions.

Located on the Shawangunk Mountain Ridge

Among the standout natural features of Minnewaska State Park Preserve is its rugged and rocky terrain, as well as its abundance of waterfalls and the sheer cliffs that frame picturesque views of surrounding hardwood forests. The park is located on the Shawangunk Mountain Ridge, which extends higher than 2,000 feet above sea level and features several access points from Port Jervis to Kingston, west of the Hudson River. Minnewaska State Park Preserve is one of several state parks and forests along the ridge.

The Shawangunk Mountain Ridge itself is composed of sedimentary conglomerate and sandstone and was formed by erosion of the Appalachian Mountains over a period of several million years. In the late 19th century, the “Gunks,” as they are affectionately known, served as a retreat for the wealthy with luxurious clifftop hotels such as Cliff House and Wildmere hotels and the Mohonk Mountain House, the latter of which is still in operation.

50 Miles of Trails and Carriageways

A popular destination for hikers, Minnewaska State Park Preserve boasts more than 50 miles of footpaths with dozens of trails cutting through dense forests and along cliff edges. Popular trails include the nearly 11-mile Upper Awosting, Lake Awosting and Castle Point Loop; 2-mile Lake Minnewaska Loop Trail; and 6.9-mile Gertrude’s Nose Trail. The latter is the most popular trail in the park with more than 2,000 reviews and a five-star rating on AllTrails.com. Described as a moderate difficulty hike, this multi-terrain trail has an elevation gain of 346 meters.

The park isn’t only a hiker’s paradise. It also has 35 miles of carriage roads for horseback riding. These trails and carriage roads can be used for cross-country skiing in the winter.

Other Recreational Activities

In addition to hiking, horseback riding, and skiing, the park offers recreational activities such as scuba-diving, boating, rock-climbing, and bouldering. The Peter’s Kill climbing area, located one mile east of the park’s main entrance, is the only area in the park designated for rock climbing. Cliffs in this area are about 70 feet high with heavily forested bases that provide shade which makes climbing them relatively comfortable. Climbers require a day or season pass and capacity at the cliffs is limited to 100 climbers and 30 boulderers per day.

Sam’s Point

At the highest section of the Gunks and most southerly part of the park is Sam’s Point Preserve. A nature lover’s dream, this 5,000-acre area boasts rare high-altitude pitch pine barrens, Lake Maratanza, accessible ice cave crevices, and the 187-foot Verkeerderkill Falls. Much of this can be seen along the Sam’s Point and Verkeerderkill Falls Trail, which runs along cliff tops and offers views of the Hudson Valley, Rondout Valley, and High Point Monument in New Jersey.

Bird Conservation Area

Minnewaska State Park Preserve is a designated Bird Conservation Area (BCA), meaning it is a migratory concentration and bird research site with diverse and at-risk species. Because of its unfragmented forest, the park provides refuge for a wide range of forest-dwelling bird species, including the Canada Warbler, Gray Catbird, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Indigo Bunting, and Black-throated Blue Warbler. Endangered Peregrine falcons also nest along the cliff face of the Gunks. In fact, the Gunks are among the most critical areas for biodiversity conservation in the northeastern US and have been designated by the Nature Conservancy as one of the “Last Great Places.”

Samuel F. Pryor III Shawangunk Gateway Campground

Those looking to stay in the Minnewaska State Park Preserve for an extended period of time can book spots at the Samuel F. Pryor III Shawangunk Gateway Campground, which is open, weather permitting, from mid-May to mid-November. Offering a minimalist camping experience, the tent-only campground offers 50 designated sites: 24 for drive-in and 26 for walkers. Each site can accommodate four people and two tents. The campground also includes restroom facilities as well as a pavilion and cooking area. It’s a five-minute drive from the main entrances and managed by a partnership of the Mohonk Preserve and American Alpine Club.

Featured Image courtesy karlnorling | Flickr

6 Reasons Why You Need to Spend More Time Connecting with Nature

Spending time in nature has been associated with a range of physical and mental health benefits and has become even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic. International travel is down considerably, and more people are exploring their own and neighboring communities. In examining data from the trail-specific navigation app AllTrails, RunRepeat found that the number of hikes logged on the app in 2020 was up 171.36 percent from the year prior—4.71 million compared to 1.74 million.

The following are six reasons why you should continue to prioritize immersing yourself in nature.

1. It Supports Mental Health

Simply living near a green space can have a positive effect on your mental well-being. Hiking in forests or participating in eco-immersive tourism, then, can be especially beneficial. Researchers of a 2009 study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health examined the medical records of more than 345,000 residents of the Netherlands. They found that those who lived within 1 kilometer of a wooded area or nature park had fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety than those who lived further away from dedicated green space. Moreover, these symptoms were more commonly found among individuals living in urban environments.

Other studies have linked nature to happiness. In May 2013 more than 10,000 Canadians took part in the David Suzuki Foundation’s 30×30 Nature Challenge. Participants were prompted to spend 30 minutes in nature for 30 consecutive days. Not only did participants report being happier, but they also felt more productive at work, had fewer sleep disturbances, and were more energetic.

2. It Boosts Immunity

Additional studies have supported the notion that spending time in natural surroundings, whether it’s forests or parks, helps strengthen the immune system. Researchers have suggested that one of the primary reasons for this is phytoncides, the airborne chemicals plants produce to protect themselves from insects and to keep from rotting.

Forest bathing, or “shinrin-yoku,” is a popular therapeutic practice in Japan. To confirm the immune-boosting benefits of this practice, researchers split individuals into two groups and had them each walk for several hours in wooded and urban areas on two different days. Members of both groups showed lower concentrations of cortisol and had lower blood pressure and pulse rate on the day in which they walked in the forest.

3. It Inspires Creativity

Research has also explored the effect spending time in nature has on creativity. As part of a 2012 study, 120 people split into two groups were given creativity tests. The first group of 60 people took the test before embarking on a hike, while the second group was administered the test after a four-day hike. The group that had already been hiking scored 50 percent higher than the other group. This wasn’t surprising to lead researcher Ruth Ann Atchley, who pointed to the many distractions of modern life as an impediment to creativity.

4. It Promotes Weight Loss

Being outside on its own doesn’t directly impact weight, but hiking in forests on trails with significant climbs in elevation can help burn calories quicker and more efficiently. One study found that spending time at higher altitudes not only lowers appetite but can speed up metabolism. It can also be easier and more enjoyable to exercise in nature as opposed to walking or running on a treadmill or in urban areas.

5. It Improves Short-Term Memory

Being in nature enhances cognitive function, particularly short-term memory. A study conducted at the University of Michigan involved two groups of students that were prompted to take a brief memory test before and after walking in different settings. The group that walked around an arboretum scored 20 percent better on the test than they did before the walk, whereas the other group walked down a city street and didn’t show consistent improvements from the first test.

6. It’s a Meditative Experience

In his book Sky Above, Earth Below: Spiritual Practice in Nature, well-known spiritual teacher and meditation master John P. Milton spoke about the high-tech distractions, environmental toxins, and noise pollution in the modern world that attack our sensibilities. He argues that being immersed in nature is a spiritual and even meditative practice that promotes connectivity with the natural world.

“When we leave these tensions for a while to cultivate our natural wholeness in the wild, we are renewed with the fresh vitality and spirit of Nature,” he wrote. “New pathways open for living in harmony with our communities and the Earth. We discover deep inspiration to help transform our lifestyles and our culture toward harmony and balance.”

Milton isn’t just theorizing about nature’s meditative effect. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University used portable electroencephalograms to measure the brain waves of 12 healthy young adults after they walked 1.5 miles through three different areas: a shopping district, a green space, and a busy commercial district. Analysis indicated lower engagement and arousal and a higher degree of meditation among participants when they moved into the green space.