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Viewing October Hues

Leaf-peeping on the Adirondack

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Mid-morning, Hudson Valley

I'd left my comfy padded seat and moved to the caf car early so that I could chat with other passengers and make use of the tall picture windows. At first, there was silence aside from people ordering coffee and breakfast sandwiches. Then, as the Adirondack moved on and the leaves transformed, the silence was broken by oooh and ahhh as dramatic hues burst forth, like a fireworks display. I eavesdropped on the other passengers, listening to accents from Italy, Germany, Australia, and North America.

"Are we intruding?" A German couple addressed a young female office worker, her laptop plugged into the power outlet next to the dining table.

"Of course not." The couple offered her snacks. Twice. She declined, smiled, and went back to her work.

There's a spirit of camaraderie on the train, and it increases along with the distance from the city. It's a kind not encountered on planes or buses, where there's no room to move. On a plane or bus, other passengers are viewed as competition for that valuable resource—personal space.

Bannerman Castle sits just offshore.

On the train, conversations begin easily and often don't involve hellos or goodbyes.

"Look, a castle!" And then the speaker casually wandered away, through the whooshing sliding doors at the end of the carriage.

The castle in question was Bannerman Castle, which sits on a seven-acre island just offshore, shortly after passing fortress-like West Point on the far bank. This hundred-year-old castle is not the summer home of some British Earl, nor was it a monument built by some lovelorn architect. It was a warehouse for a munitions dealer.

An hour later, after we'd passed Albany and left the gentile charm of the Hudson Valley behind, it no longer mattered which side I sat on. New York's vibrant autumn foliage was in full bloom. The train had entered a brilliant tunnel of psychedelia, dense twin embankments of deciduous forest broken up by picturesque villages, railroad crossings, and placid wetlands. From Saratoga Springs to the Canadian border, the vistas dazzled with their blazing hues.

Golden. Magenta. Red. Red-brown. Lime. Blond. Rust. I picked out more colors as we continued along, once again meeting the Hudson River, where it fed into the Champlain Canal, a remnant of a time before railroads.

"Do you have a favorite part of this journey?" I asked Deborah Putnam Thomas, a frequent rider who was traveling between Philadelphia and Vermont.

"I like it all equally. It's stunning along Lake Champlain but also beautiful along the Hudson. I could've ridden the train into Burlington but chose to come this way for the autumn scenery," she explained.

Winding around the Adirondacks.

Bo Knepp, a Vermont resident sitting in the seat in front of Deborah added that he too could have ridden out of Vermont.

"I could have taken the train out of Rutland but my daughter and her husband—they live in Hoboken—said 'You've got to take the Adirondack.' They've ridden it both ways. The scenery is beautiful. I used to drive but there's nowhere to park in Hoboken. And forget the plane to LaGuardia. It takes forever to get to Hoboken from the airport. This way I arrive in Penn Station, walk one block, then get on the PATH [commuter] train."

"By the time you get to the airport and deal with baggage, then do the same on the other end, you might as well take the train," added Deborah.

Value is another reason the ten-hour journey between New York City and Montreal often runs full. The round-trip train journey is more than a hundred dollars cheaper than the most inexpensive published airplane fare. [continued...]