A Creepy Afternoon Alone in an Abandoned Hospital- Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital

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I LOVE creepy and scary places. I love horror movies, suspense thrillers, anything that has a dark undertone to it. And since I travel a lot, I like to fit in some visits to creepy places if  I am anywhere near them. Granted, most creepy places seem to be off the beaten track and are not that easy to get to. But when the opportunity presents itself, I have a hard time saying no. I first learned about Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital last year when my photography instructor alerted our class and wanted to organize a group trip down there to practice photography. I of course jumped on that, figuring it would be easier to get to in a group, plus there is the whole safety in numbers concept. Alas the group trip fell through, but I vowed that I would visit Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital before I left Korea last year.

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After some hemming and hawing (not because I was scared, but more because it is a bit more of a pain to get to on your own without a car), I finally committed myself one weekend to going. It helped that I told an acquaintance I was going, so I wanted a story to tell on Monday. While Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital is pretty easy to get to in a car, being only a 40 minute drive south of Seoul, it is a bit more complicated to get via public transportation. But it can be done as I demonstrated.

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Most people I know don’t do a whole lot of traveling on their own, and I know none of them who would go visit an abandoned psychiatric hospital on their own, particularly one that often makes the list as one of the creepiest places on Earth. But hey, it’s one of those things where I knew if I waited for someone to go with me, I would never go. So I resolved to go on my own.

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I researched the hell out of this trip before I went alone. I read nearly every newspaper article and blog post about it (there aren’t THAT many) to fully understand how to get there. Because the hospital is located in a residential area (though a reasonably isolated one), and the hospital has such a creepy reputation, I read that the locals aren’t that forthcoming with the directions. Luckily for me, I found one blog that gave pretty good directions to the hospital (as good as you can give), along with the most helpful thing- the Google navigation coordinates and those would prove immensely helpful for me when I was actually navigating there.

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There are a couple of ways to get to Gonjiam, and getting to the town itself is not that difficult. I chose to take Bus 1113-1 from Gangbyeon Station, Exit #1. The ride itself will take around an hour, maybe more depending on traffic. This humid, overcast August Sunday was fairly sparse for traffic, so it didn’t take too long. The hardest part was to know which stop to get off. None of the directions gave a specific bus stop, just started their directions from the center of town. So I sort of miscalculated where to get off, and ended up getting off at a bus stop on the way out of town. This is when the Google coordinates saved my trip, because I honestly never would have found the hospital without them. I can’t give really good directions only because I didn’t follow a straightforward path.

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Because I was basically cold navigating off Google Maps, it took a bit more time to feel my way there, but soon I saw the directions in the blog posts I researched and knew I was on the right track. And then- BAM! There it was off to my right, the entrance to the hospital road. It is completed gated off with concertina, CCTV cameras and signs in Hangul and English warning trespassers off. However, I knew from my research that it’s not like there were security guards on site to enforce this.

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Now here is where I SHOULD have rechecked the blog posts for specific directions on how to get into the hospital, but I foolishly thought I remembered everything so I set out walking. I had the basic idea right, but remembered the specifics wrong. I knew I had to walk past the gate and then turn up and walk around. However for some reason, I thought I had to walk farther than I really did, so I ended up wasting at least 30 minutes wandering around in the woods looking for an entrance before giving up and deciding to go back to the gate. Now of course I decided to recheck the blog posts, because I knew I must have missed something. Thankfully Korea is well covered in 4G network for me to access the Internet.

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So I read just how to get past the gate and felt like an idiot, because it was literally 20-30 meters up the road. Per that trip saving blog post, once at the gate, “continue down the road past the fence for about 20 to 30 meters, you’ll come to a light-coloured building on the roadside. Walk around this building and into its backyard area, following the concrete structure uphill into the woods where a trail will appear. Keep along the trail and, just like the movies tell you not to, you can easily walk through the gaps in the fence.” It is literally that easy and I didn’t run into anyone to stop me.

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Once you walk through the gap in the fence, you are on the hospital road behind the gate and it is simply a matter of walking a few minutes up the hill to the hospital. It is amazing how the hospital really does look like what you would imagine a creepy, abandoned hospital in a horror movie. You just needed some spooky music to complete the tableau. And since I was out there alone, I kept imagining I was in a horror movie, only on my own rather than with a group of clueless friends who are about to get themselves killed.

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I arrived at the hospital and then spent some time walking around outside the hospital to find the way in, and getting a clue into how nature has started to reclaim the hospital. It has been abandoned since 1995, and while urban legend will have it attributed to being haunted from ghosts, other killjoy sites will say it was abandoned for more mundane reasons, such as a problem with the sewer system or it was a financial failure. But since I have a dark imagination, I would rather think that the hospital suffered a rash of mysterious deaths in the mid 90s because the clinically insane owner tormented patients and their spirits haunt the hospital to this day.

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I knew from my research that there wasn’t a straightforward way into the hospital. It was not simply a matter of walking in the front door, because it was locked up pretty tight. However, previous trespassers had left ways of getting into the hospital. The most recent posts said that there was a ladder that went to an open second floor window. However, that ladder is really no longer necessary. Much to my surprise, you can practically walk through the front door. Or should I say crawl through the front door. The main entrance is covered in rebar, but there is a section on the bottom that allows a human to squeeze through it.

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I took one final picture of me outside and posted it on social media, so in case I was killed by vengeful spirits of former patients or by a psycho killer hiding on the premises, at least there would be a record of where to find my body. Considering how difficult it was for me to find the actual hospital, I was pleasantly surprised to discover how easy it was for me to actually get into the hospital. I also saw plenty of graffiti, both in Korean and English, from the thousands of trespassers who blazed the trail for me over the past 20 years.

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Once inside, I started to explore. There was plenty of sunlight by the entrance, but the farther down the hall I went, the darker and spookier it got. I came equipped with a flashlight and it helped me peer into the open rooms. It was strange to see evidence of the fact that the hospital was abandoned 19 years prior, such as a calendar from 1995.

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Even if this hospital isn’t truly haunted, it is still a fascinating study of what happens when man made structures are abandoned and returned to nature. Man may be able to do amazing things, but nature is one powerful beast that will overtake anything given enough time. I mean, nature has reclaimed whole ancient civilizations and buried them under desert sands or lush jungle forests. So in the space of 20 years, nature has invaded Gonjiam hospital and is slowly taking it back from man.

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The hospital has multiple floors, but the ground floor was the darkest and the spookiest in many ways. Even if the hospital was abandoned deliberately for practical reasons, it still seemed eerie to see how disheveled the hospital was. I mean, it’s not like this place was cleaned out in an orderly fashion and all you are seeing are empty rooms. Nope, plenty of furniture was left in the rooms, particularly on the ground floor. I found room after room where mattresses were stacked, wooden furniture was shoved, old blankets were stuffed, all of it slowly rotting from the influx of weather.

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In some rooms, it looked they were still set up for patients, only now nearly 20 years had passed. A good chunk of the windows were broken and there was glass everywhere. So, even if it wasn’t the case, it definitely looked like the hospital was abandoned in a hurry, thus lending credence to the idea the hospital was overrun with ghosts. And since this was a former psychiatric hospital, you know that any ghosts that could reside here would be even creepier, because they would be the ghosts of former, mentally ill patients.

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Undoubtedly the first floor was the creepiest for me to explore, because it was darker and disheveled. The farther down the hallway I went, the darker it got. I was acutely aware I was alone and every sound was heightened in my senses. Even if I didn’t think there were actual ghosts that would attack me, I kept thinking of live serial killers lurking in the rooms waiting to jump out and kill me. It’s one of those times I felt rather vulnerable and did feel like I was in a horror movie. I kept looking back to the entrance way with the bright sun shining in, like if I could see the light, that would protect me against psycho killers, like the one that inhabited American Horror Story: Asylum.

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I went to the second and third floor, though they were not as creepy as the first. Higher floors had more light, so it didn’t feel quite so spooky. Most of those rooms were also empty, so it just felt like I was in an empty building. I did get genuinely spooked a couple times, because I ran into the local cat. I mean, when you are in a creepy, abandoned psychiatric hospital, you do NOT want to hear unfamiliar noises that sound like someone is walking in the same building as you.

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The hospital ends in a roof that opens up to the lush view of the forest around me. The whole setup is in one of those rural looking areas that are within walking distance of the town.

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Once I satisfied my ghoulish curiosity, I crawled out from where I came and walked back to town to catch a bus back to Seoul. All in all, it was a satisfying trip.

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Now, of course, the most important thing: how to get there. There is more than one bus that goes from Seoul to the town of Gonjiam. As I stated earlier, I chose to take 1113-1 bus from Gangbyeon Station, Exit #1, because it was the most convenient for me. But there are other buses that go to the town of Gonjiam, like Bus 500-2 from Gangnam Station, Exit #7, and pretty much any of them will get you where you want to go. Now, unfortunately I don’t have the exact stop to take, since I overshot the bus stop and had to backtrack back. But getting off in the center of town will make it a shorter walk. The directions I read from another blog post was” from the center of town, cross a little bridge and turn right and keep going up the narrow road. The path starts a ways up just after you pass a 2 story brick house.” Yes, that is true, though I can’t find the actual street names I wrote down when I did this trip to make it easier. So the MOST IMPORTANT thing you need for a trip to Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital is the Google coordinates: “37.362433, 127.33474″.  These coordinates were a life saver for me. Thank you smart maps and 4G cell networks.

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If you like creepy places, have a sense of adventure, and are in the neighborhood around Seoul, definitely take some time to visit Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital.

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New York Hudson Valley Autumn Hiking- Old Minnewaska Trail

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My last day in Hudson Valley was spent hiking. I started the morning off early with the Walkway Over the Hudson trail and then continued on further west to Minnewaska State Park. This hike was longer than the others I did, because I afforded myself more time, since all I planned on doing that day was hiking and then heading straight to the airport for an evening flight out.

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It was fairly easy to get to Minnewaska State Park, though it is a bit of a drive.  From New Paltz, head west on Route 299.  Follow 299 until it dead ends into Rt. 44/55, where you’ll make a right turn.  Follow 44/55 past the hairpin turn under the Shawangunk cliffs and past the Trapps parking area on your right.  Continue another 3 miles past the Trapps parking area to find the well-marked entrance to Minnewaska State Park Preserve on your left.  Stop at the guard shack, pay the fee, then make an immediate right turn to make the short drive over to the Lake Awosting parking area, where you’ll leave your car.

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Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-5

I had planned on doing the Minnewaska Park trail as listed in Hike the Hudson Valley website. This particular hike was not just one trail, but a series of different trails designed to maximize your viewing opportunities in Minnewaska State Park. This trail was a 6.4 mile, sort of loop trail, with not too many hills (especially with the modified version of this hike I did).

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Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-8

The directions for this particular trail instructs to park your car at the parking area near Lake Awosting and then hike partway out on the Awosting Trail to view the Awosting Falls and then return and hike up the Orange Trail to Minnewaska Lake. The intention was to hike up the road all the way the Minnewaska Lake upper parking lot and then complete the rest of the hike from there. However, it slipped my mind where I was actually supposed to park, so I ended up driving up to the upper parking lot, and since I was already there, I decided to park and walk from there. For the most part, I shouldn’t have missed many beautiful sights, so I didn’t feel that I missed out on too much.

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Once at the parking lot, I followed the rest of the hiking directions, and it was fairly straightforward. Of course I first had to take in the beautiful lake views, though the view wasn’t QUITE as beautiful as it could be, because it was cloudy and overcast that day. At least it wasn’t too crowded, since I was there on a Monday morning. The trails in this park are actually fairly well marked, with different colored signs indicating what trail you are following, along with the occasional posted map to see where you are.

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The first part of this hike was following the Red Trail down to the lake shore.

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Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-22

A few minutes on the Red Trail past the lake shore, I took a right on the blue sign-posted trail for the Castle Point Carriageway. This trail goes miles down the road, but this particular hike had me turn around at Kempton Ledge. Apparently back in the day, there was a very clearly marked sign. However, by now there is no sign, but you will pretty much know you are in the right place, because the view on the left side of the trail opens up into a panorama of the surrounding valley.

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I was hiking in mid October, and it was pretty much peak autumn foliage. It was awe inspiring to see all the colors ablaze in front of me. It really looked like a pastel painting, and frankly this would be a perfect site for plein air painting.

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After taking in the view for as long as I could, I turned back around the followed the Blue Trail back down to the Red Trail via the Yellow Trail, the Millbrook Mountain Carriageway.

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The Red Trail hugged the Minnewaska Lake and then eventually headed up the hill. I took a brief detour to another beautiful viewpoint (seriously, there are just so many beautiful views during this hike- as witnessed by the abundance of gorgeous fall photos in this post).

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The Red Trail took me back to the parking lot overlooking Minnewaska Lake where I drove back down to the entrance to park in the Awosting Trail parking area. This allowed me to complete the first part of the hike I missed, because I went all the way up to the upper parking lot.

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This walk was just part of the Awosting Trail and took me out to the overlook over the waterfall. I followed the trail down to the bottom of the waterfall, took in the nice view and then hiked back up to the parking area. It is only about a five/ten minute walk out to the top of the waterfall and about five more minutes to the bottom of the waterfall.

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Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-33

While this particular hike involves different trails in Minnewaska State Park, it is still fairly easy to follow. The different trails are fairly obviously marked with different colors. The views of beautiful nature and autumn foliage definitely make this trail worth it. If you hike the trail, it is pretty flat in most areas, with the only major hill from the Awosting Trail park area to the Minnewaska Lake upper parking lot, which I missed, because I missed the turn to the Awosting Trail parking area. Honestly, if you are pressed for time, or just aren’t a big fan of hills, you can easily drive to the upper parking lot and start the hike from there.

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New York Hudson Valley Autumn and Halloween Activities

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The entire reason I went to the Hudson Valley in upstate New York in October was specifically for the plethora of beautiful autumn foliage and the sheer amount of fun autumn and Halloween activities available. I was only in the Hudson Valley for four days, so there was simply no way I could do everything I wanted, and I had to make some hard choices. I ended up choosing stuff that was within reasonable driving distance of Poughkeepsie (where I was staying), so I didn’t see much in the northern Hudson Valley.

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I knew I wanted to visit at least one farm, some wineries, and some haunted houses, so I ended up researching a lot of what the Hudson Valley had to offer online. I balanced quality bang for my buck with reasonable driving time, since I wanted to fit in as many activities as possible, and long driving distances limited the number of activities I could do. When I am in a place for a limited time with many, many things I want to do, I sort of end up going into combat travel mode, where I am scripting out my itineraries nearly to the hour to fit it all in in a short amount of time.

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After careful consideration, I decided my big fall farm visit would be to Barton Orchards. They seemed to be a very large farm, with a wide variety of my favorite activities, like apple picking, pumpkin picking, a large corn maze, a small onsite haunted house, and a plethora of tasty fall treats like apple cider, pumpkin doughnuts and the like. Since I wanted to maximize my entire day, I arrived at Barton Orchards within 20 minutes after it opened in the morning. As it was, there were still plenty of people already there. Luckily, Barton Orchards is very big so it didn’t feel exceptionally crowded.

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Since I don’t live in New York, I didn’t load up on all the farm offerings to take with me, like pumpkins. And since I was traveling alone, I didn’t do much apple picking, since I wouldn’t be able to eat all the apples before I left the state. But this was the first time I wandered in an apple orchard in a long time, and it was this weekend that really opened me up to all the different types of apples out there. I knew there were a wide variety of apples out there, but I never gave it much thought. I knew of Red Delicious and Golden Delicious apples (neither of which I really like) and Granny Smith apples (which I do). But this weekend I really came to appreciate all the different types of red apples, their different tastes, and their different uses (e.g. snacking vs. baking). I personally fell in love with Gala apples in particular and now seek them out in the grocery store whenever I buy them.

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The Barton Orchards corn maze was also huge, and since it was fairly early in the morning, it wasn’t crowded. I personally love mazes of all kinds, but outside of corn mazes in the fall, they aren’t that easy to find. So I enjoy them as much as possible when I do get to play in them. But one of the things that can cut into my enjoyment of corn mazes are when they are overrun with screaming children, or people who clue me in where I need to go. I like to go into my own headspace when I am wandering in a maze and just enjoy the experience of trying to find my way out, maybe even pretend I am in a horror movie being stalked by a psycho killer (this particular visualization is easier at night).

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After the corn maze, I visited the haunted house. It was small and geared more toward children (who are definitely easy to scare), but it was free and I figured why not. I was done with Barton Orchards around lunch and headed out. It was then I became very grateful that I went early. The Barton Orchards parking lot is huge as it is, but it was completely full when I was leaving. And not only that, there were a line of cars that went at least a couple miles down the road waiting patiently for a parking space to open up. If you like autumn farm activities, I HIGHLY recommend Barton Orchards, but definitely go early. Go soon after it opens, or you might find you wasting the day away in the car waiting for an available parking space.

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Hudson Valley hiking Halloween and Autumn-12

Since I started the morning off with farm fun, I wanted to visit some wineries for some adult fun for the afternoon. This one was a hard choice, because there are SO MANY wineries in the Hudson Valley that I just didn’t have time for more than a couple visits. I had to really decide which wineries were convenient to my itineraries and which wineries made the wine I like. I am not a fan of really dry white or red wines. I prefer semi-dry to sweet, so I chose a couple wineries that looked like they had the variety of selections I was looking for.

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I chose to visit Baldwin Vineyards and White Cliff Vineyards. I went to Baldwin first and I was there shortly after it opened to beat the crowds (which was pretty much my theme for this weekend). They were having a chocolate and wine festival that day (which is why I picked that day to go). They have a really great tasting program where you can sample around six wines of different dryness/sweetness. I am not a wine connoisseur, but I know what I like, and Baldwin Vineyards had a lot of wine I liked. I agonized over which bottles to buy, but in the end, I ended up buying six bottles and having them shipped home, so I didn’t have to wrangle them into my checked luggage home. I LOVED their Embers wine , which is a semi sweet red wine. I also bought some very tasty dessert wines in different fruit flavors. I would have stayed longer, but I wanted to fit in at least one other vineyard, so I went to White Cliff vineyards, which was also convenient to my day’s itinerary.   White Cliff was pretty good and I bought a couple bottles there to take home with me. While the wine is good, it didn’t have AS many varieties of wines that I liked, plus I was there mid day, so it was rather crowded to get a tasting.

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So I had plenty of daytime autumn activities, but no trip to the Hudson Valley during October is complete without partaking in some nighttime Halloween activities. One of them was a no brainer: Headless Horseman. Hell, it was that haunted house that first sparked my interest in going to the Hudson Valley in the first place, so that was an absolute must do. After much researching, hemming and hawing, I decided my other haunted house would be Pure Terror Scream Park.

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I went to Pure Terror Scream Park in Monroe, NY on a Saturday night, and I got there shortly after it opened to beat the crowds. Usually when there are less crowds around, it is easier to go through the haunted houses alone. I always go to Halloween activities alone (it may  not be my first choice to go alone, but since I don’t really have any companions, I choose to enjoy everything I like in solitude), and I HATE having to go through with a group of strangers, because almost invariably, my experience will be lessened. I like to get into the spirit of things and allow myself to be scared, but I find that many other groups are composed of teenagers who want to laugh at the stuff or at least talk way too freaking much and ruin my mood. So I will do almost anything to avoid the crowds, and going early is a great way to do that. I also purchased on of the VIP passes that allow you to skip the lines, which moved me along quicker. Since it was early, there weren’t THAT many people, so I was able to navigate the houses alone. Pure Terror Scream park certainly lived up to its name for me, and I definitely got my screaming bang for my buck. It wasn’t just one haunted house, but a collection of five different ones with five different themes.

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Then Sunday night, I visited the Queen of Upstate New York Haunted Houses: Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses in Ulster Park. I had been imagining this place for four years. I had first read about this place in 2010, but I was not able to visit it, because I was living out of the country, until fall 2014. There was no way I was going to pass up this opportunity. To guarantee your space and avoid waiting in line, it is best to purchase your ticket online in advance. To avoid the crowds (as best as I could since this is very popular), I went on the first hayride on a Sunday night. As it was, there were still hundreds of people. I doubt there is any possible time to visit Headless Horseman without crowds, but avoid Saturdays if possible, because they are supposed to be even crazier.

The first thing you do at Headless Horseman is go on a haunted hayride. Your ticket has a hayride time, with new times every 15 minutes. The hayrides are in the dark and are fairly long, with a new theme each year. Last year the theme was witches and the storyline, and each stop, built upon that theme. There are definitely plenty of scares to be had on the hayride, though there seemed to more scares on the left side of hayride. After the hayride is when you go through all the different haunted houses. This is the one time when you are simply not going to be able to go through by yourself. There are just too many people to get through in a night to allow it, so I found myself going through with a large group. Aside from the talking and mood breaking, another downside to going in a group-particularly a large group- is that is way too easy to miss some of the scares. If you are at the front or rear of a large group, most of the scares will happen out of your immediate periphery. Sure you will hear the screams of people ahead of or behind you, but you don’t get the scares as much or see what is happening. But that one downside aside, Headless Horseman is an extremely well done haunted house. You absolutely get the most bang for your buck, and the production values are impeccable. After you finish the haunted houses, you can hang out in the haunted village, watch some shows, do some shopping, eat some Halloween treats. It is absolutely worth your time, and if you like haunted houses, you simply can’t come to the Hudson Valley in October and NOT go.

I fell in love with Hudson Valley over this short weekend. Even though there are so many other places in the states that have beautiful autumn, I am strongly tempted to go back to upstate New York for 2015. It’s that beautiful, and even though I saw and did a lot, I didn’t see everything. This is a great place to see a ton of beautiful nature and do so many fun Halloween activities in a short period of time. Don’t miss it!

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New York Hudson Valley Autumn Hiking- Poet’s Walk

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Once I read about the Poet’s Walk hike, I just knew I had to fit it into my hiking schedule. It was a bit off the beaten path for my planned itinerary, but not so far off that I could not swing by and do this walk in the later afternoon.

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Hudson Valley hiking Poet's Walk-11

This is a great and easy walk to do on a late sunny autumn afternoon, because you have an expansive view of the Hudson Valley, and can see the sunset if you want to wait that long (I didn’t). The trail is only about 2.4 miles if you do the entire loop trail, and flat or gentle hills most of the trail.

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Getting there is pretty easy. From the intersection of Market St (Rt 308) and Rt 9 in the village of Rhinebeck, head north on Route 9.  In about five blocks, bear left onto Montgomery Road. Keep going straight and Montgomery Road becomes Mount Rutsen Road which becomes River Road (County Rd 103).  Take River Road for a few hundred yards and you’ll come to a stoplight at the intersection with 199.  Go straight here and find the well-marked Poet’s Walk parking lot on your left in about half a mile.

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This is another one of those trails you can’t get lost. Park in the parking lot and follow the signs out to the trail. After a very short walk in a wooded area, you emerge into a wide open field and can see for quite a distance.

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Hudson Valley hiking Poet's Walk-8

The first thing that caught my eye was beautifully designed gazebo off a short distance away. The gazebo is right on a tiny loop trail in the field and offers a very beautiful view of the Hudson Valley foliage and its elaborately designed gazebo.

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Hudson Valley hiking Poet's Walk-3

There really isn’t much to this walk, except to enjoy the views from the many well-placed benches. There is a loop trail that takes you closer to the Hudson River, but once the loop takes you from the river, there isn’t much else notable to the walk, though the wooded views are nice and peaceful. While there were many people in the open field enjoying the view, there were much fewer people on the loop trail, so I practically had it to myself that time of day in the later afternoon.

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Hudson Valley hiking Poet's Walk-5

I was glad that the weather held out and the afternoon light on the foliage provided some great autumn leaf peeping. This walk is super easy to do since it is basically strolling for the most part on an easy path (a tiny bit of rockiness if you walk the loop trail). But if you are in the area, it is certainly worth your time.

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New York Hudson Valley Autumn Hiking- Walkway Over the Hudson

 

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The Walkway Over the Hudson is one of those unbelievably easy walks, but offer tremendous views. The walk is literally what is says- a walk over the Hudson River, over a flat pedestrian bridge.

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You can do this walk from the eastern side of the Hudson River starting on the Poughkeepsie trailhead or from the western side from the Highland trailhead. Either side is easily accessible for parking. I chose the western side, because I was going to go straight from this walk to another hike on the western side, so it was right on the way. From Rt 9W in Highland, take the first turn north of the Mid-Hudson Bridge exit onto Haviland Road (right turn if you’re heading north on Rt. 9W).  The entrance to the Walkway is on your left in less than a mile.Parking in the official lots of $5 USD, though there is other parking further away that doesn’t charge. But I figured, why not just pay so I am right at the trailhead (again, maximizing my hiking time).

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I started relatively early in the morning around 8 am, since it was my last day in the Hudson Valley and I wanted to get all my hiking in before I had to head back to New York City and the airport. That particular morning wasn’t really sunny or anything, but at least it wasn’t raining, though the clouds did diminish the power of the autumn foliage colors a bit.

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This is another one of those easy hikes where is it impossible to get lost. The entire trail consists of a pedestrian bridge that spans the Hudson River. If you walked the trail from end to end, it would be about 3 miles, though once you are not over the river, the view isn’t quite so majestic. It’s fine and all, but it’s nothing eye popping- just local neighborhoods, some of which have erected privacy screens so you can’t see into their homes (that’s how close part of this trail is to homes).

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I certainly didn’t have the bridge to myself that morning, as there were other walkers, bikers and joggers, but at that hour, the crowds were at a minimum. The views were pretty great and expansive, and you can see for quite a ways up and down the river. The autumn foliage that lines the river was very bright and colorful in spots, and times I felt like I was looking at a beautiful pastel painting.

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This is one of those walks that shouldn’t be missed. It’s easy, easily accessible and the views are worth it.

New York Hudson Valley Autumn Hiking- Kaaterskill Falls

 

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Last fall when I visited New York’s Hudson Valley, I planned on doing as much hiking as possible. Since the Hudson Valley is so beautiful in the autumn, I wanted to maximize my communing with nature time. The hardest part actually was choosing which hikes to do. I wanted hikes that gave me the most bang for my buck leaf peeping-wise, but I also didn’t want to JUST hike all weekend. I only had four days, and my travel list was long, and the more I read about the Hudson Valley, the longer it got.

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I found a really great website that laid out most, if not all, of the available hikes in the Hudson Valley. From there it was deciding which ones were closest to where I was staying-particularly in relation to all my other planned activities, which ones were relatively easy, and which ones offered great views. While I enjoy hiking, I was looking to keep MOST of my hikes to no more than two miles, which would allow me to complete multiple hikes and do all the other autumn activity I love so much.

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I chose to do the Kaaterskill Falls hike, because it was only 2.o miles round trip, not THAT far off my beaten path, and the website teased a huge waterfall. I am a sucker for waterfalls, so off I went.

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Kaaterskill Falls is off Route 23A, and it was a bit of a drive from the interstate. The road is two lane and well paved, though rather curvy out to the waterfall site. This particular hike is very popular, so it is a bit surprising there isn’t more convenient parking. There is a parking lot about .3 miles past the trailhead. Of course that means you need to walk along the road to get to the trailhead, though the drivers seemed to be used to all the hikers.

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So much about this hike reminded me of autumn hiking in Korea. The trail isn’t the best, though it is easy to follow. Basically you just walk from the trailhead  one half mile until you hit the falls. It really can’t be any simpler than that. However, the trail isn’t just some flat stroll in the park, but it is rather steep in parts and rocky in other parts. Definitely make sure you have some comfortable, sturdy shoes.

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But other aspects of this hike made me think I was in Korea. The whole valley, the waterfall, the autumn foliage, all of it looks very much like many of the places I hiked in Korea. It was almost uncanny in spots.

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Once you get to the falls, you will see a yellow sign telling you to go no further. While people in the past have climbed up to the top of the falls, it is definitely not recommended, because it can be very dangerous and people have fallen to their deaths over the years. In response to that, new fencing has been put up to prevent people from hiking past the yellow sign.

 

While I can be a risk taker in some aspects of my life, I tend to be pretty safety conscious and try not to risk my life and limb on stuff like this, particularly since falling and breaking a limb (or dying) would have put a serious crimp into the rest of my autumn weekend plans. So I enjoyed the view of the falls from the bottom, and turned around and walked back to the trailhead. Again impossible to get lost.

Hudson Valley hiking Kaaterskill Falls-1

 

The entire hike only took me around 1.5 hours and that included time to relax and enjoy the view at the bottom of the falls. Like I said, the hike to the falls from the trailhead is only .5 miles, though that length is a bit deceptive due to the challenging nature of the trail in parts. But if you are used to any sort of hiking and in moderate fitness, it really shouldn’t be a problem. Definitely expect crowds, particularly in the fall. I went later on a weekend afternoon, and while the falls weren’t overrun with people, I certainly did not have the place to myself. But if you like beautiful nature, particularly in autumn, and love waterfalls, this is a good hike for you.

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New York Hudson Valley Autumn Leaf Peeping

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This past fall was my first full autumn experience since 2010. The previous three years I was living overseas so I missed out on the wonder that is American autumn. Granted the past two years were in South Korea, where their own fall is amazing. But it was nice to get back to the States where autumn is not just beautiful nature, but practically an industry in and of itself.

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There are so many wonderful places to see autumn in America, but I chose to visit the Hudson Valley in upstate New York. I had been wanting to visit it for years now after I read about all the things to see and do there. I mean, there is such a plethora of beautiful nature and of fun Halloween/autumn activities. I was in the area for a long four day weekend, and even then, I didn’t get to see everything I wished I could see.

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I was actually a bit surprised when I did my research and realized that the Hudson Valley is only about a 90 minute drive north from LaGuardia Airport. For some reason, I thought it would be farther north. Originally I had planned to fly into Albany, because I thought it would be closer to my destination. And while yeah, it technically was, but it also would have taken about twice the time and an airline ticket would have cost twice as much as flying into NYC.

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I flew into LaGuardia in the evening, and once I got off the utter madness and traffic jam of the Long Island Expressway, it was surprisingly easy to get on the right interstate highways. The Hudson Valley is well served by more than one interstate, so it is pretty easy to get around.

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I was absolutely lucky to hit the Hudson Valley in peak fall foliage. That is something that is nearly impossible to predict every year. I was there in mid October, but I heard the previous year, that by mid October 2013, the leaves were already on the ground, because the cold came early. But this year, the weather was (near) perfect and the trees were swollen with leaves in all shades of red, orange, and yellow.

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I had a very packed weekend schedule of local farms visits, winery tours, haunted houses, short hikes, and leaf peeping (all subject to future blog posts). There was just so much to do and so little time. When traveling on my own, I am a hardcore planner, and I spent a lot of time in advance of this trip researching different things to see and do and narrowing down what was possible in the time allowed. I even calculated all the driving times and directions in advance, and basically wrote out an itinerary that enabled me to maximize my time there, while still providing a variety of experiences.

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I had a few absolute must do’s, but everything else was evaluating what was possible. I mean, I was only there for four days, and given the distance between some of the places I originally wanted to visit, I had to let some things, so I didn’t spend a ton of time in the northern part of Hudson Valley, and sort of centered my activities within a reasonable driving distance of Poughkeepsie.

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There is so much beauty in this part of New York. So many times I was driving through the valley and wanted to pull over and gawk at the beauty around me. Sometimes I could do that, but other times, there was just no room, because some of the road lanes were rather narrow with no shoulder space.

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I will say this though. While driving around New York is beautiful, it is not exactly cheap. I haven’t been to every state in America, but I had never encountered a place that had as many road tolls as New York. It wasn’t every interstate, but it was definitely some key ones. Most of the tolls were calculated based on the distance traveled on the toll road, so it was not a flat fee.

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However, none of those upstate tolls compare to the tolls for driving into New York City. I chose the shortest route back to LaGuardia and didn’t make my choice based on tolls. So imagine my surprise when I got the George Washington Bridge from New Jersey, and it cost $13 dollars to cross the bridge into New York City. And then about 15 minutes later, I was shelling out $7.50 to cross the RFK bridge. So yeah, I spent over $20 dollars in road tolls to basically skirt the city and drive back to the airport. Definitely know before you go, and make sure you had enough in cash, because the toll booths don’t accept credit cards. I nearly got the cops called on me, because I forgot I was carrying large bills and asked if I could use my credit card. The toll booth operator called the Port Authority on me (all while the traffic backed up behind me), before I remembered I had a $100 bill that she could thankfully break. Whew.

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All in all, this was one of the best weekend trips I have been on in America. There just was so much to see and do in upstate New  York. If you like beautiful autumn nature, you definitely want to make a visit to upstate New York at some point. Even though there are other places to see and do for American autumn, I am still highly tempted to go back to the Hudson Valley this year.

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