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Walking in Woodstock

For anyone looking for an escape from New York, or a place to drop out for a few days, Woodstock, New York would be a good choice. While the musical festival associated with the town’s name took place decades ago and some sixty miles away, the small mountain town, located in Catskill Park about 100 miles north of the city, is blessed with tall trees and a gentle spirit. Rolling streams, many of them suitable for swimming, cascade through the area.   

View of the Village Green. Woodstock, NY.

Of course, you will still find peace, love, music, and all matter of tie-dye in Woodstock. Many of the shops along the town’s main road, Tinker Street, sell merchandise associated with the famous 1969 festival. Merchants this year are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, as Woodstock once played its part as an East Coast version of Height-Ashbury. Woodstock is also commemorating the centennial of the New York State passage of the Suffrage Amendment in 1917. The town was home to many women who campaigned for equal rights, including Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

Woodstock is blessed with tall trees.

In the 19th century, Woodstock was an industrial town of sawmills and tanneries, but the depletion of the forests and degradation of the streams eventually gave way to a tourist trade promoting the bountiful natural features of the area. Nature has come back. There’s gentleness in Woodstock, largely due to this setting, but also to the presence of the KTB Tibetan Buddhist Monastery, a large temple that offers meditation classes and tours, near the base of Overlook Mountain. You can tell a lot about a town by overheard conversations, and when I was there, I heard a lot about swimming and artwork and karma and dharma.

View of Overlook Mountain in the distance.

For four days and three nights this summer, Woodstock worked its magic on me. While it rained part of the time (and what is Woodstock without a little rain?), the moody weather heightened my enjoyment of walking in the woods and stepping into the streams with my pants rolled up. I stayed at the Woodstock Inn on the Millstream, just off Tannery Brook Road, with a soothing stream just feet away from my hotel door, and an easy walk to the center of town.

By the stream. Woodstock Inn at the Millstream.

Woodstock has long been a center for the arts. The historic art colony of Byrdcliffe is there, along with several art galleries, the Woodstock Artists Association & Museum (WAAM), the Center for Photography at Woodstock, and pottery studios. A walk in the Woodstock Artists Cemetery reveals the importance of the place for many artists, including Milton Avery and Philip Guston. The Woodstock Cemetery across the street is the final resting place for musicians Rick Danto and Levon Helm of The Band.

The Woodstock Guitar Sculpture exhibition benefits the Family of Woodstock's Crisis Hotline.

The spirit of The Band lives on at Levon Helm Studios, a performing arts venue with often sold-out concerts at The Barn located a little ways from the town center. In town, music fans can trace the footsteps of Woodstock’s famous music residents. Bob Dylan was here, famously wrecking his motorcycle on the edge of town on a July day in 1966, and later recording what would become “The Basement Tapes” (released 1975) with The Band at their rented home, “Big Pink,” in nearby Saugerties.

Woodstock residents gathering at a market.

The town has several good eateries, including the Garden Cafe (vegetarian) and Shindig (updated comfort food) near the Village Green. The Station Bar & Curio, a relatively new drinking hole on Tinker Street housed in an old train depot, is a cozy and convivial spot for chatting with locals.

The Trailways bus drops passengers off at the Village Green in Woodstock.

It’s easy to get to Woodstock from New York, even without a car. The Trailways bus leaves a few times a day from Port Authority for a pleasant ride up the west side of the Hudson to Kingston and then over to Woodstock. After thirty or forty minutes into the ride north, the imagery of the city fades into forests and higher elevations. One of the stops is the charming and outdoorsy college town of New Paltz, close to the Shawangunk Mountains. Arriving in Woodstock, the bus drops off passengers at the Village Green in the heart of town.


Additional Resources:

Trailways of New York
Levon Helm Studios
Woodstock Chamber of Commerce & Arts

Woodstock, NY. Set your soul free.

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from July 11-14, 2017.

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