In difficult times appreciating the difference between an escape and running away often determines how we make it through. Running away is abdication. An escape is a respite that strengthens our resolve to re-engage.
In this challenging time I would like to recommend a small jewel of an escape, Henry Hudson Drive.
Henry Hudson Drive
Hugging the Hudson River while offering spectacular views of the George Washington Bridge and the New York City skyline, Henry Hudson Drive offers a startlingly rural gem within minutes of Manhattan.
Lower all windows or even better, if possible, put the top down. It’s best to cruise in a lower gear. Once finding that low gear RPM sweet spot, the engine‘s throaty exhaust note will be enriched and reverberated by the sheer stone face of the Palisades that flanks the road. This rumbling symphony enhances the sensory delight courtesy of the Henry Hudson Drive, a narrow serpentine road clinging to the towering Palisades. Driven at night only makes it better.
This seven miles of slender two lane “motor path” weave through an extraordinary stretch of real estate filled with echoes of the past.
Many are amazed that this greenway exists considering its value as prime real estate. Credit for its preservation resides with the generosity of the Rockefeller Family. Much of this land was originally purchased in the early 1930s by the Rockefeller family and donated to the park commission to ensure that the viewshed from the Cloisters, another Rockefeller project, on the east bank of the Hudson River would be preserved.
Interestingly when people think of fjords their thoughts normally go to Norway, however, the Hudson Valley is actually the southernmost fjord in the northern hemisphere.
Exit 2 off the Palisades Interstate Parkway leads to the Alpine, New Jersey headquarters of the PIP Police and the Henry Hudson Drive’s northern entrance. Immediately greeted by a well paved meandering road shielded beneath a canopy of trees, the narrow motorway twists down towards the Hudson River. Be mindful that weekends and afternoons will find hikers and bikers aplenty with which to share the road. Ideally, visit at early morning or after sunset when there are far fewer hikers and bicyclists. That said, be warned that the PIP officials have a habit of randomly closing sections of the drive, especially in this age of Covid-19.
Property and paths surrounding the Henry Hudson Drive have been a part of American history since the Revolutionary War. The northern leg of Henry Hudson Drive played a pivotal role in American history as this is where in 1776 General Charles Cornwallis brought his troops ashore after the British Victory in the Battle of Fort Washington to Pursue General George Washington and his rag tag band of soldiers. Washington’s escape would culminate in the famous retreat to Valley Forge.
One hundred and sixty two years later the forest above the north entrance provided sanctuary for a number of local residents who fled in panic based on the news of attacking Martians reported in the now infamous 1938 Orson Welles “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast.
Heading south, drivers will encounter the bridge that spans the tallest waterfalls in New Jersey, Greenbrook Falls, with a cumulative drop of 250 ft.
A narrow string of endless twists and turns will lead to the first section of Henry Hudson Drive to be built. Construction of the steep descent from Palisades Avenue in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey to the Englewood boat basin started in 1912. Tall grey stone walls form a two lane chute that snakes down to the Hudson River.
High above the southern leg of the drive, was once the home of America’s first “Hollywood.” From 1910 to 1920 most of the major film studios could be found in and around Fort Lee, NJ. Here Pauline faced her perils, D.W. Griffith shot over 100 films, Rudolph Valentino could be seen on the street and Mary Pickford made her film debut. It would last but a decade as bitter winters and cheap land in balmy southern California put a quick end to New Jersey’s silver screen dreams.
Heading south the George Washington Bridge looms high above the slim bucolic country road. Soon ending after passing beneath the bridge, Henry Hudson Drive concludes at River Road in Edgewater where North Jersey’s signature frenetic pace quickly reintroduces itself.