I had the opportunity to take the train from Albany to New York last week. I don't get that chance often, but when I do I always enjoy it.
No, I'm not talking about Amtrak, which annoyed me by promising me WiFi and then not providing it, but the actual route the train takes. It has to be one of the prettiest train routes anywhere.
Now I know there are some special tourist routes that exist simply to take you on a scenic tour of mountainous regions or coastal areas, but I'm not talking about that kind of train route. I'm talking about the regular train line connecting two cities.
The train between New York and Albany runs along the Hudson River and that is the source of much of the spectacular scenery along the way. Starting with the Palisades in New Jersey the opposite bank of the Hudson is picturesque. You get a good, up-close view of West Point, a number of bridges, islands in the river and just the general rustic beauty of 140 miles or so of a mostly unspoiled riverbank and hinterlands. Trees, mountains the occasional breath-taking home are all part of the package.
Yet when the weather turns from autumn to winter you get a different view if you look inland rather than towards the Hudson. For most of the year all you see is dense vegetation, but when the leaves fall from the trees and bushes wither up you get a view that's denied to travelers the rest of the year.
Many fantastic homes, some that appear to date back to the 19th century or earlier, many little streams and ponds – all seemingly featuring duck-blinds – and parkland are all there waiting to be discovered in the fall. You can even catch sight of some rock faces and cliffs that are hidden the rest of the year.
It seems odd to me now that I used to take that train regularly when I was in college, but I don't remember ever noticing the natural beauty along the way. Now I can't get enough of it.
It distracts me from my work or the frustration of not being able to do my work because the WiFi is broken. It entices me to try to capture a shot or two on my phone, none of which ever looks as good as what my eye sees on the way past. It causes me to just sit and wonder: are there are journeys along the Rhine or Danube or Seine or Vistula or whatever as beautiful as the one I took for granted for so many years? I kind of doubt it.
Photo gallery here.