Burger Hill Park offers great “prospects”

In 18th-century (and early 19th-century) England the word “prospect” was often used to mean “view,” and people enjoyed going out walking and hiking to find nice prospects. They would ascend high hills to enjoy the prospect; apparently, this is how one accessed the best view–oops, I mean prospect–of the university town of Oxford. Poets often waxed eloquent in praise of prospects (the well-known phrase “Distance lends enchantment” comes from one of these poems).

Those searching for an interesting “prospect” in the Hudson Valley might well consider a trip to Burger Hill Park near Rhinebeck. Burger Hill offers stunning views of the Hudson Valley and Catskills and of the surrounding, bucolic farmland, and is especially attractive during the foliage season, as you’ll see from my photos. I understand that it’s a great place for sledding during the winter, and during the spring and summer birdwatchers have plenty of opportunities for their favorite activity. In fact I noticed several nesting boxes built at various places and wondered what species they attract–possibly meadowlarks?

Burger Hill has an interesting history. In the early 18th century a man named Burkhardt, a Palatine German who settled in this region, became a tenant farmer of Henry Beekman (maybe you’re familiar with the fine Beekman Arms restaurant in Rhinebeck), who acquired the land in 1679. Ownership eventually passed to the original tenant’s descendants, whose name over the years evolved to Burger. The property passed on to a series of different owners until it was sold to Scenic Hudson in 1997. Currently it is managed by the Winnakee Land Trust.

To enjoy the views you need to climb the 550-foot-high hill. There are three ways to do so, two gradual ascents (of which the one to the right is the more scenic) and one direct, unrelentingly steep path, which I don’t recommend unless you are quite certain you’re in the best of shape. You’ll find benches here and there and, at the top, stones into which are carved the shapes and names of the mountains visible on the opposite side of the river to help you identify them.

Burger Hill is reached by driving south from Route 199. The turn-off, which is on the right, isn’t too far after the junction with Route 9G which leads into Rhinebeck. After you’ve scaled the hill and enjoyed the view, you might want to treat yourself to something at one of the nice cafes in town.

These and other photos of the Hudson Valley, Catskills, and my other favorite places can be viewed and purchased on my website.

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Lively Arts Scene on the Mountaintop

On a recent Sunday afternoon I drove up to the Mountaintop region of Greene County—the villages along Route 23A—to check out what was happening, especially since some interesting art events were available. My first stop: XTreme Barns and Beyond, an exhibition of photographs by Richard Schepper at the Kaaterskill Fine Arts Gallery in Hunter. Be prepared to be surprised; intrigued; to wish the photographer were there so you could ask, “But how … ? Why … ?” Whatever — you will definitely not be bored. A gifted photographer of nature scenes both stunning and serene, Richard Schepper pushes the envelope when it comes to walking (or blurring) the lines between photography and painting. Don’t miss his show; it closes October 28.  Kudos to the gallery and director Carolyn Bennett for hosting this challenging exhibition.

My next “art” destination was Catskill and Thomas Cole’s House, but first I stopped in Tannersville to enjoy the colorful buildings on Route 23A. Tannersville is the mountaintop place for restaurants. This picture shows Susan Kleinfelder’s Rip van Winkle “Breast Cancer Awareness” statue outside the Tannersville General Store, one of many artistic renditions of ol’ Rip in  “Rip Lives 2012,” the third annual such event sponsored by local Mountaintop businesses.

The Thomas Cole Historic Site was holding its annual open house, always a good time to enjoy free admission to Cole’s house and studio (including the special exhibition of the year) and a variety of entertainment and other activities for all ages.  I interviewed Thomas Cole himself (a.k.a. Catskill Mayor Vincent Seeley), who was gratified to see such an enthusiastic turnout and amazed to learn that he had such a thing as a Website. The 2012 special exhibition features landscape paintings by 19th-century artist Louis Rémy Mignot. Mignot produced a variety of masterpieces in his tragically short life; having just seen Richard Schepper’s daring exhibit in which several of the photos looked more like paintings (Braque came to mind), I was now face to face with a painting—Mignot’s  View Across the Valley of Pierstown —that could well have been mistaken for a photograph. Art is amazing. And here are some photos from the event: