Upstate or Downstate?

A Rockland County resident switches her perspective.

I was always amused when co-workers in my New York City office would refer to where I lived as “Upstate New York.”

I live in West Nyack in lower Rockland County, as far downstate as you can get; it’s almost New Jersey!

To me, “Upstate” is north...way north…where the mini-malls became mountains, the swimming pools became lakes, and the jake braking trucks on Route 59 became chirping birds, cricking crickets, and all you could hear is…wait, what was that? Peace and quiet.

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But as with anything in life, it’s all relative. And after working in New York City for 16 years, it made sense why they thought what they did: The city is a daily assault on every single one of your senses. It’s crowded, it’s crazy, and the fast-paced chaos you encounter every day makes you sometimes want to run screaming from its grasp.    

Yes, it was exciting to be there, but as my bus home would leave the Lincoln Tunnel and wander back north each day, the weight of the city would slowly lift, and peace would set back in. So, yes, I got it. To them, Rockland County was the epitome of upstate and what it offered.

And as I thought about it from their perspective, it made all the sense in the world. Although Rockland is a relatively short distance from the city, it offers what many of us who live here often drive hours north to enjoy.

Take the quiet hiking trails in Harriman State Park. A day spent there plunges you into a love affair with nature at its best. A walk or bike ride around Rockland Lake clears your head, and stopping to take a rest and sit on the rocks overlooking the Hudson River offers a much-needed dose of serenity. Riding through Seven Lakes Drive rivals some of the nicest roads upstate and beyond. A day spent at Bear Mountain hiking, biking, then sitting by the water for a bit is the best antidote for a day in the city. Who needs the Bronx Zoo when you have one right there at Bear Mountain? And when you choose a spot for lunch or dinner or a drink on the water, whether it be Nyack or Piermont or Haverstraw or any of the other lovely, quaint river towns, it’s just hard to believe that you are a little over 20 miles from that madness known as Manhattan.

Plus, Rockland offers so many other fun options, like fishing, boating, horseback riding, historic tours, golf, and tennis; there are street fairs, festivals, and craft shows to enjoy; and why spend a small fortune and hours getting to a Yankee game when you’ve got the Rockland Boulders to root for!

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And then there’s fall…and the most beautiful foliage to be seen without driving hours to see it. And winter! When you can put on your ice skates, or skis, or hop on a sled to test a long list of mountains, skating rinks, and resorts.

Seeing a familiar place through a different set of eyes often gives a different perspective.

Hmmm…I think my co-workers were onto something…maybe my downstate is more upstate that I thought.

Ruth Vella is a Jersey girl who loves New York City, but is extremely happy to call the Hudson Valley home.

We’d love to publish your essays (maximum 550 words) about life in the Hudson Valley. Please email them to:

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Subject line: The Final Word. All submissions become the property of Hudson Valley magazine. If published, they may be edited for clarity and space.

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