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Beacon, Cold Spring, and Garrison: Mountain Time

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Dogwood in Beacon - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Dogwood in Beacon

Let me tell you a story about a newspaper. One which, amazingly in this day and age, has a happy ending.

For over 100 years the Village of Cold Spring had a town newspaper that delivered the important goings on: notable passings, village board meetings, pictures of apple-cheeked children holding up freshly caught fish of unusual size. The paper was good and the people were happy.

Then one day in 2008 Roger Ailes, then chief of Fox News (now a disgraced sexual predator), moved to town and bought the local newspaper, the Putnam County News and Recorder. The locals scratched their heads and shrugged their shoulders. What harm could he do?

Richard Serra's "Torqued Ellipses" installation at Dia:Beacon - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Richard Serra's "Torqued Ellipses" installation at Dia:Beacon

The harm came swiftly and with staggering intensity. Suddenly the paper was publishing partisan editorials, quoting Ayn Rand, and recapping the day's events with a particularly one-sided and vindictive point of view. The locals were outraged. So they got together, rented an office across the street, and started putting out their own damn newspaper. To date, that paper, now known has the Highlands Current, has won 20 awards from the New York Press Association and covers not just the Village of Cold Spring and the sprawling estates of Garrison, but now the City of Beacon as well.

I'm telling this story not to draw attention to the Current which, full disclosure, I write for, even though I came onboard long after the fireworks. But because the saga illustrates two important truths about life here in the Hudson Highlands.

BEAHIVE co-working space in Beacon (paintings by Amy Rowan and Ryan Cronin) - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • BEAHIVE co-working space in Beacon (paintings by Amy Rowan and Ryan Cronin)

The first is that Beacon, Cold Spring, and Garrison are linked by, and defined by, the landscape of the Hudson Highlands more so than any lines on a map. Technically, Beacon shouldn't be lumped in with Cold Spring and Garrison because it's not in the same county. Breakneck Ridge, the most popular hiking trail east of the Mississippi according to Trails.com, serves as the dividing line between Dutchess County to the north and Putnam to the south. But the mountains don't care about the border, and neither do the locals. We're defined by swimming in the Hudson at Little Stony Point (PCBs and other pollutants be damned); hiking and riding ATVs up Mount Beacon (theoretically the latter is illegal, but if a law is never enforced, is it even a law?); and first kisses by the tree atop Sugarloaf Mountain (if you've been there, you know which tree I mean). We are blown down by the same winds, enshrouded by the same spring fog, navigate our canoes and kayaks through the treacherous stretch of the Hudson from West Point to mysterious Bannerman's Island (known to the first European sailors plying these waters as World's End and Martyr's Reach.) Now we enjoy these views while serenely eating ice cream on the porch at Moo Moo's Creamery or polishing off a pizza at the Riverview Restaurant.

Dan Flavin's "Untitled (to you, Heiner, with admiration and affection)," 1973, at Dia:Beacon. - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Dan Flavin's "Untitled (to you, Heiner, with admiration and affection)," 1973, at Dia:Beacon.

The second truth is that we do not wait for someone else to come and fix our problems. We fix them ourselves. This is where the American environmental movement was born, when Con Ed tried to hollow out Storm King Mountain for a power plant and the locals raised hell for 17 years until the plan died. When a crazy old man who lived up in the mountains thought the Hudson was too dirty, he decided to build a couple of old-fashioned boats to save it. That crazy old man was the folk icon Pete Seeger, and those boats were the Clearwater and the Woody Guthrie. Both are still sailing (the Woody is in the final stages of an extensive renovation) both are still run by the environmental organization Clearwater and the Beacon Sloop Club, respectively. Both of those organizations are still based in Beacon, and both would be delighted to have you join as members.

Cold Spring and Beacon have ridden out their share of hardscrabble times and rebounded. When the West Point Foundry, most famous for producing cannons and other munitions during the Civil War, closed in 1911, Cold Spring's population crashed. Today the foundry is a gorgeous new park, and it's hard to imagine the village any bigger than it is now when you walk up its perfectly proportioned Main Street. Venerable standbys like Hudson Hil's Cafe and Cathryn's Tuscan Grill are still going strong. The wave of recent bespoke shops like the outdoors store Old Souls, groceries and provisions provider Cold Spring General Store, and the beauty products maker and day spa Cold Spring Apothecary have settled into a nice groove. And if you head up a couple of blocks past Route 9D, you'll find Juanita's Kitchen. Serving some of the greatest Mexican food in the Hudson Valley, it remains the village's best-kept secret. (Until now. Whoops.)

Mark Pisanelli tending bar at Denning's Point Distillery - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Mark Pisanelli tending bar at Denning's Point Distillery

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