The weather was perfect, with crisp temperatures, cloudless sky, and a sun that warmed me up so that sitting beside the Esopus Creek during a cool Spring afternoon was totally relaxing; I felt my breathing and heartbeat slow down. The Adirondack chair was positioned so that I faced north, towards the Catskill Mountains, with nothing but blue above their summits. It was quiet, a peaceful quiet that only nature can provide, with occasional duck whoops as they flew overhead, and bird chirps from the nearby trees. It makes one ponder about life, about family, what I’ve done, and what I still want to do. It was a lovely place, conducive to as heavy a thinking as you want, or for some light reading, or just to be. This is Ralph Waldo Emerson country, and what he referred to in his famous essay, Nature, written after his visit to this part of New York State.
Emerson quote (Photo by MJ Hanley-Goff)
As the first American writer to promote the human connection to the natural world, Emerson’s words inspired the establishment of the 600 square mile Catskill Forest, that surrounds his namesake, the Emerson Resort & Spa, which is where I found myself on a recent weekend. Nestled within the unspoiled beauty of Ulster County’s mid-section, the Spa is located on what was once a sprawling dairy farm, but as time went by and the dairy family sold, it found itself in the hands of developer Dean Gitter who wanted to build a tourist destination to generate business for the local shops and provide jobs for the community. Not only did he succeed remarkably in the plan, but the Emerson has earned a reputation for being the go-to place for city-dwellers needing to get away from the skyscrapers, bike riders, taxicab horns, and the screeching of subway train brakes. But even if you live up the road, guests come to enjoy the grounds for the day whether for the eclectic roster of activities, hiking, or rejuvenating treatments; and for long distance travelers, their ultra-spacious rooms are a home-base as guests go exploring in all directions, for all-season experiences.
One of the Lodge rooms (Photo courtesy of Emerson resort & Spa)
The room at the Emerson Inn was enormous, complete with a private patio overlooking the running waters of the Creek, and the sparkling jacuzzi tub inside provided more relaxing waters. Ralph Waldo’s influence is all around with quotes from his written works displayed as interior art pieces. Within walking distance, we had the Emerson’s Woodnotes Grille with burgers, steaks, seafood; or the more informal Spa Bites with sandwiches and soups: both with indoor and outdoor seating. My choice on this trip was the Braised Short Ribs with Mashed Potatoes, and steamed veggies, and cheesecake for dessert – the country air to blame for an enthusiastic appetite!
Among the highlights of the overnight stay was the totally pampered relaxation massage provided by Brooke who went right to work on my shoulder and soothed a perennial tension knot. The plush robes and footwear provided, and the outdoor seating beside the spa’s quiet room offered the perfect buffer before rejoining the world again. In addition to their traditional treatments like the facials and various massages: integrative, deep tissue and Swedish, the Emerson has taken it up a notch with some more modern approaches to wellness, such as the Sacred Nature Mask Repair Solution; CBD Pedicure; an energy cleanse with a Chakra Renewal; Tarot Card Reading With a 30 Minute Massage and 30 Minute Crystal Reiki Therapy. Makes it hard to choose.
Gift shop (Photo courtesy of Emerson Resort & Spa)
As a home-base, the Emerson excels. Guests can be as busy as they like since the front desk folks are extremely knowledgeable and can suggest where to go and what to do, whether it be skiing, kayaking, antiquing, fishing, attending live concerts, hiking for all levels, and scenic drives as well as what’s available in nearby Woodstock, Saugerties, Kingston, and Phoenicia – all unique and very cool in their own way. If you choose to stay put on the grounds, there’s a fitness room, swimming pool, playground, nature walks, and a “coming soon” pickle ball court. Since pets are invited, they can romp in the fenced dog run. The Shops at Emerson feature unique items for holiday gifts, selections not found in your typical farm store, like fine clothing for both women and men, nature toys, local food products, jewelry, and a large selection of kaleidoscopes. Oh yes, the kaleidoscopes.
Largest Kaleidoscope (Photo by MJ Hanley-Goff)
This is probably one of the jewels in the Emerson crown: a 60-foot-high Kaleidoscope built inside the original farm’s silo that has won recognition in the Guinness Book of Records as the World’s Largest. Guests are invited to watch a short video highlighting the kaleidoscope’s colorful mirrored images set to a musical score, but with one catch: it must be viewed either by laying on the floor or leaning on a cushioned wall. You’ll have a new appreciation for this scientific marvel and will want to peek through the ones on display in the gift shop.
Leaving the Emerson, and heading home, I was trying to think of one thing the Resort has forgotten to include. However, nothing came to mind, it checked off all the boxes. This is one perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of modern life, a place to ground ourselves, unplug a little and reconnect to the natural world we just don’t get enough of.
Specialty events include: winery tours, elopement package, proposal package, girlfriend getaway, and pooch package for those who want to getaway with their favorite four-legged friends.
Top photo by MJ Hanley-Goff