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Down the Hudson

Tuesday morning I had a meeting in Albany. To get there from Boston, the easiest way is to take the Greyhound/PeterPan coach. That meant getting up early to grab the 07:10 departure of course.

The trip itself was easy and comfortable, the rolling countryside and small towns passing us by as we sped along the freeway. I didn’t see much of the places and still less of Albany, the capital of New York, other than the riverside by the Hudson and Mohawk rivers. Through this valley the history of America’s development began – the Anglo part of it at least.

I was called to go back to New York, so after meeting and lunch I grabbed the train from Rensslaer. Here the Hudson is a winding, brown water river, with great sweeps and bays as we head southwards. The river is full, not much of a bank so easy to overflow. To either side of the river are broad fields of lilies, rushes and wild grasses.

Brick farmsteads, stone grey wharves and the occasional warehouse or small factory break up the great stands of trees, with their bright leaves and somber trunks.

Just past the town of Hudson there is an island in the middle of river with small brick house that serves as lighthouse. Here the river valley is broad, the river losing itself its edges in fields of water lilies, which lie by the banks and aside the low islands in the middle of the channel. Over to the west I can see the bulk of the Adirondacks beyond the line of the river plain.

Some way on and road bridges soar over the Hudson as it narrows, with high hills on the right bank that run down to edge. Here gentrified mansions appear, sunk into the woods on the slopes and the water’s edge. There, on a bluff, a large institution glowers, built like an old Babylonian fortress with its many stepped terraces and parapets.

A great bend, the train rolling over a causeway where a smaller river joins the Hudson’s flow. It feels almost like the Bosphorus, with cargos and tankers plying the broad stream. In a way this was the Bosphorus for New England, a back channel from the Great Lakes to the great port of New York that powered the regional economy for many decades – and is still important by the looks of things.

For first time the train cuts away from the river. It has been raining heavily here, the dark clouds just having cleared away. We catch up with the rain at Croton, so intense I can no longer see the other bank of the river, which now we come up against only intermittently.

Near Hastings a washed sun breaks out over the still angry clouds, leaving the sky a pallid, misty yellow. I can now see the rolling hills and high bluffs on the west shore of the Hudson, which has widened considerably at this point.

At Yonkers the sun breaks out completely and the clouds dissolve, leaving a hazy blue. Almost immediately after the train disappears into long tunnels so I can see no more. Within a short while the train pulls in to Penn Station.

I am once more in Manhattan.