This is the first in a series of posts about Tuxedo, New York, emerging as a “trail town” and gateway to the Hudson Valley.
The Kiosk: Where Adventure Begins
Like other hikers, I’m drawn to trailhead kiosks. They’re little beacons that stand at the entrance to adventure. You can see them from the road as you drive by, and like other hikers, I make mental notes of kiosks as I pass them, vowing to return. To me, nothing is more enticing than a man-made trailhead kiosk with a trail that disappears into the woods, into darkness and leaf and who-knows-what.
Kiosks say, “This is where the adventure begins”.
One of the best adventures I know begins at the start of the Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail in the Tuxedo Train Station. The trouble is, there are no trailhead kiosks there. And that’s where many (if not most) of the visitors to western side of Harriman State Park are looking for information.
There is a huge gap in what should be a seamless route from the city to the park via train, and it happens exactly at the Tuxedo platform.
Here, a hiker should be able to hop off the train and immediately see a trailhead kiosk, because a kiosk is what hikers are conditioned to expect. We look for them, and if we don’t find them, we keep looking until we do, because who has an awesome trailhead without a kiosk?
The kiosk we know and love has trail information, warnings, conditions, and often — especially if the trail is located in a town — information about local amenities, such as restaurants, shops and transportation.
It’s not an eyesore; it’s a beautification of and complement to its natural surroundings.
More than this, a kiosk says to passers-by, Here is a trail. You’ll want to hike here some day. You, and your dog-walking friends. You and your little kids (best friends, date, partner). You, who may be on the fence about moving to this sleepy town: let me convince you that there is a whole world of health and adventure beyond this wooden pavilion. Post a note on me; I’ll make sure your hiking club gets it and knows you’ll be waiting for them at the bakery down the street.
But, here is the experience of the visitor to Tuxedo on any day except for Saturday and Sunday morning (when we’re running the shuttle and the Farmers Market is open): You pull into the station after an hour’s ride on the train. You get off the platform, use the bathroom, and look around.
You won’t find a kiosk, and you’re lucky if your eye catches those three little symbols, nailed to a utility pole in the parking lot, because, yes, this is the start of a century-old, 23-mile trail that traverses the park, from Tuxedo to Bear Mountain, joining classic, one-of-a-kind stone shelters and vistas forever.
Our “Living Kiosk” Is Just a Band-Aid Solution
This summer, a group of us have spend nearly every weekend morning and early afternoon in Tuxedo, running the Tuxedo-Harriman shuttle. It’s a big school bus that meets the weekend, morning train at the Tuxedo Station.
Our ticket table, along with the Hikers’ Information booth in the Saturday Farmers Market, is a living kiosk on the weekends. We answer questions, sell maps, make hiking suggestions and offer advice for backpackers. We literally walk with hikers out to the parking area so we can point out the start of the 23-mile Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail, the most popular route for train riders, by far. We direct hikers and backpackers into the Farmers Market, across the street for coffee, down the road to Dottie Audrey’s, and into the sushi restaurant, the Orange Top, and the Tuxedo Junction for post-hike refreshment.
When the shuttle isn’t running, we take down our signs, our banners, and our table, and we go home. And while many hikers who come to Harriman State Park via the Tuxedo Train Station have a level of self-sufficiency that gets them to the trailhead in East Village, many don’t, and I don’t know what they do during the week when there is simply no information or kiosk at the train station.
Here’s what we hear from Saturday and Sunday morning hikers, time and again:
- How do we get to the trails from the train station (not using the shuttle)?
- What’s a good day hike to do (either using the shuttle, or not)?
- Where can we get coffee (sandwiches/cold drinks/maps)?
- Why don’t you have a kiosk? (okay, I put that one in there. But I bet they’re thinking it).
These are questions that can easily be answered by a permanent kiosk.
The Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail is a gem and a treasure and an economic asset to the Town of Tuxedo; a trail of this stature deserves a permanent trailhead kiosk.
Ridership on the weekend train into Tuxedo is way up as more and more hikers discover the park. Trail use is up and for two weekends in a row we’ve had nearly full ridership on our shuttle through the park.
Adding a kiosk at the trailhead would be a visible sign of the stiff trails that call to hikers, of the fact that Tuxedo doesn’t just sit at the edge of a park. The park is in Tuxedo, and the train runs right through it, connecting this little community and its great big park to the whole of New York City. That’s something that should be the envy of every would-be trail town in the country.
Here are Some of My Favorite Kiosks
Some of the kiosks I’ve posted here are very beautiful, and reference the park, the local architecture, a history of train travel, or a combination. Some are design originals. Some look like they’d be expensive to build, some not so much. Not one looks out of reach of a crowd-resourced fundraiser, and I’d like to try to get permission from the Town of Tuxedo to consider setting aside a little room for a kiosk, and we’ll get the money. I know we can do it together.
And any of them would put a stamp on Tuxedo that would tell the motorist, the cyclist, the train-traveller, the visitor: this is a Trail Town. We’re young and old and everyone in between. We love the fresh air, the open space, the adventure. We love warm food and good beer and coffee after an adventure, and we have the shops to prove it. We’re the place you want to stop after the trail, because we guarantee you’ll be able to meet someone who’s just had the same adventure as you.
So easy. Behold, the kiosk.