Back-to-nature trips

RECOMMENDED: See all weekend getaway ideasDay: Long Dock Park; Beacon, NY (1½hrs from NYC by Metro-North)Local preservation and environmental...

Long Dock Park, Beacon, NY
Long Dock Park, Beacon, NY
Long Dock Park, Beacon, NY
Long Dock Park, Beacon, NY
 (Photograph: Connie Pugh)
Photograph: Connie PughFarm Sanctuary, Watkins Glen, NY
 (Photograph: Jo-Anne McArthur)
Photograph: Jo-Anne McArthurFarm Sanctuary, Watkins Glen, NY
 (Photograph: Derek Goodwin)
Photograph: Derek GoodwinFarm Sanctuary, Watkins Glen, NY
 (Photograph: Courtesy Farm Sanctuary)
Photograph: Courtesy Farm SanctuaryFarm Sanctuary, Watkins Glen, NY
Orenda, Johnsburg, NY
Orenda, Johnsburg, NY
Orenda, Johnsburg, NY

RECOMMENDED: See all weekend getaway ideas

Day: Long Dock Park; Beacon, NY (1½hrs from NYC by Metro-North)

Local preservation and environmental group Scenic Hudson ( transformed a neglected industrial site into this 15-acre waterside park, which opened in July 2011. The 19th-century ferry terminal now houses rental kayaks (two hours $30, four hours $40, day $50; and a boat-launch area. Not much for aquatics? Picnic by the water, keeping an eye out for wildlife attracted to the restored wetlands, then explore the Klara Sauer Trail, which crosses into the 6,000 acres of Dennings Point State Park.

Weekend: Farm Sanctuary; Watkins Glen, NY (4½hrs from NYC by car)

The resident pigs, sheep, goats, turkeys and chickens at this 175-acre rural haven in the Finger Lakes region have all been rescued from factory farming, slaughterhouses and other dire situations. Volunteer to help feed and brush the animals, clean their digs or, in some cases, assist with socialization skills (e.g., rubbing their bellies). On your way home, take a detour for a hike in Watkins Glen State Park (, where you can view a gorge and 19 breathtaking waterfalls.
Where to stay: Three cozy cabins on the shelter’s grounds offer a vegan breakfast and views of the pig pasture. (607-583-2225, ext 230; Rates start at $110.

Long weekend: Orenda; Johnsburg, NY (4½hrs from NYC by car)

This 40-acre retreat within the massive Adirondack Park offers a customized experience, depending on your skill level and how much you actually want to commune with the great outdoors. Gourmet treats, such as portobello mushrooms stuffed with goat cheese, are made from locally farmed ingredients and prepared for you over an open flame. Set off on a casual afternoon walk through the woodland terrain or embark on a six- to eight-hour guided hike ($25) through the pristine mountain landscape. The truly adventurous can test their mettle whitewater rafting on the Hudson River ($80), rock climbing ($185) or spelunking ($185).
Where to stay: Novices and seasoned outdoorsy types alike will appreciate the canvas cabins, complete with beds, wood-burning stoves and heated showers. (347-287-7359, If you opt to take a train, the camp offers pick-up from the station. Rates start at $135.

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I saw this article a few weeks ago, and it led me to Orenda. Camp Orenda is my new obsession. My 5 friends and I just returned from one of my favorite weekends of 2012. Here’s why… (where do I begin?) Camping for Manhattanites sounds exciting in theory, and then a worst nightmare when you start to think about the logistics – you’d need a tent, sleeping bag, hiking gear, stuff to eat, alcohol, then a place to store all of these investments in your 200 square foot apartment once you get back… by the time you add it all up, you quickly realize that you could go to Fiji for the same price as what seemed to be a simple camping trip for you and your friends. Camp Orenda solves every one of these snags and makes camping accessible, affordable, and one of the best vacation spots I’ve visited in a long time. Fiji Smiji, give me more Orenda. The campsite is a wonderland, but the experience would not have been the same without the people of Orenda. David (the owner and architect and head chef and designer and mastermind behind Orenda and terrifying campfire ghost story-teller) has hired a dream team. Everyone on staff is like Davy Crockett meets Mowgli meets a 5-Star Concierge. They recommend the best hikes, cook every meal, give directions, teach classes, hang with you at the campfire, all of it. All the food, and even soap in the rustic outdoor shower, is local. I love locally grown s’mores. Also, even though you’re in the woods, I noticed the whole time that all the food is prepared with sanitary gloves. Basically, they operate the kitchen as if it were located on Madison Avenue. It’s wild. My suggestions: 1) Go to Camp Orenda and stop even thinking about going anywhere that isn’t Camp Orenda. 2) Utilize the high-end refrigerator specifically designed for your beer (i.e. the Camp Orenda Creek). 3) Do all the freakin hikes that David tells you to do, and make sure that if you go up one side of the mountain, you go down the same side. 4) Go with your favorite people like I did because you can’t experience all the amazing times that Camp Orenda offers with duds. 5) Go swimming at Crane Mountain Pond even if you think it’s a little too cold because how often will you have the chance to go swimming on top of a mountain. 6) Outdoor Rustic Shower. 7) Kayak at Garnet Lake. 8) Bring bug spray – some of them are vicious. 9) Rustic Shower. 10) Tell David I sent you. 11) Unless you are using your phone as your camera, just plan to not check it and be a part of where you are and who you are with. 12) Rustic Shower, and repeat. 13) Drink a beer in the hammock. 14) Go to Camp Orenda. My favorite expression I have inherited from my family is “we’ve fallen into greatness.” We say it when life couldn’t get better. When my friends and I booked this vacation, we knew that it was going to be cool, but did not expect it to surpass our expectations in every way possible. We fell into greatness, and I can’t wait to do it again. - Tyler