The Bear Mountain Inn looms large in the life of my family. Half a century ago, after marrying in New York City, my parents spent the weekend relaxing at the beautiful old stone lodge. While it was certainly not the most exotic honeymoon spot, it was convenient — and something about the setting reminded my mother of her beloved Switzerland, where she had lived for seven years before moving to the U.S. When I was a child, we took frequent day trips to Bear Mountain from our Westchester home. There were Mother’s Day brunches at the inn, visits to the zoo, picnics and play time on the great lawn, and paddle-boating on Hessian Lake. No matter what the day’s agenda contained, at some point we always ended up back in the sitting room of the inn. Here, we’d marvel at the giant stone fireplace and settle in for some prime people-watching before climbing back into the car for the hour-long trip home.
As a young adult, I continued to visit Bear Mountain. I’d spend a day there hiking with friends, or, when I lived in Manhattan in my 20s, I’d visit my mother for the weekend, and we’d sometimes hop in the car and head to the park. We always walked around Hessian Lake, sometimes with our dog Muffin, talking about all sorts of things, both serious and silly. Fall was our favorite time of year to visit. If you don’t know why, then you have never been there in September or October — it is simply glorious. Somewhere I have a beautiful photo of my mom in front of the lake, surrounded by a cascade of orange and red leaves.
The inn closed its doors for a major renovation in 2005, and my mother passed away several years later. So, when my sister and I heard that the inn had (finally) reopened, we were anxious to visit. When we first entered the newly remodeled lobby, I asked someone at the front desk whether the fireplace, “you know, the giant one” was still there, and was relieved to find out that it was; it’s now part of the grand dining room. We had a fabulous visit. We talked about our mother and our childhoods, ran around Hessian Lake (my sister did it twice; I only managed once), and then hiked up the mountain. I had forgotten what a strenuous hike it is, at least during the initial ascent where were trudged up a seemingly endless series of stone steps (I later learned there are close to 700 of them). The cicadas were out in full force, and we marveled at how loud they were in certain spots; we also examined a few of them up close.
Besides the stunning views from the mountain’s summit, one of my favorite parts of the hike was chatting with hikers who are attempting to walk the entire Appalachian Trail. We bumped into a few of these hearty souls on our way up, and usually the conversation would get going when I’d gasp, “How much farther to the top?” One man, who I’m guessing was in his mid-60s, laughed and told us we still had a while to go. But then he added: “But it’s worth it, really. You won’t believe the views. I think they are some of the best views on the whole trail. Who knew New York could be so beautiful?”
Well, of course, we knew — and we were glad to be back. Our Fall Getaways coverage starts here. But the entire issue is jam-packed with fabulous ways to enjoy this beautiful time of year in this beautiful part of the world. I hope you get to make some fabulous family memories of your own.
Enjoy the fall.
Olivia J. Abel
Editor In Chief