Ossining, NY – June 19, 2013
This was the Dutch East India Company’s route to China once, for a hundred and fifty miles anyway, until the spell broke and Henry Hudson knew that upstate New York was not connected to the Far East. He left his name though, and New Amsterdam still sits at the river’s mouth, but they call it New York now.
The colonists strung chains across the water to block British ships during the revolution. Each link stretched two feet and weighed over a hundred pounds. Benedict Arnold helped win the first victory of the Revolutionary War at Saratoga then dropped down the river to West Point and turned traitor for 20,000 pounds sterling.
Native portage routes made the river an artery to the St. Lawrence and Great Lakes. The Erie Canal blew it wide open. Factories rumbled to life. Names like Morgan, Vanderbilt, and Roosevelt built mansions along its banks. People fled to the river’s fresh air from tuberculosis in New York. No one worried much about the Headless Horseman, even though Sleepy Hollow still sits on its banks.
The Appalachian Trail crosses it at Bear Mountain, stooping to its lowest point to take a look. The trail segment stretching west to the Delaware was the first piece of 2,174 miles stretching from Georgia to Maine. Storm King mountain rises off the banks a few miles north, its face still intact after becoming the spark that started the modern environmental movement.
And through it all, the Hudson flowed, in and out with the tides, watching us with tired eyes.
“Here comes a yellow kayak,” it yawns, “I wonder what they will be up to next.”