What better way to recharge during a three-day holiday weekend than to spend time in nature? Minnewaska (This word comes from two words, “mini”-meaning water- and “waste”-meaning good-from the language of the Dakota nation) State Park is two hours north of NYC and is on a stunning 22,275-acre preserve in the Shawangunk Mountains (It means “smoky air” and you can call them the Gunks for short). It’s in the Ulster County town of Kerhonkson, not too far from the university town New Paltz. These students live in a funky, artistic village and are never too far away from glorious hiking spots in the mountains-lucky ducks!

The steep mountain road to Minnewaska is filled with twists and turns and has a dramatic, sweeping view of the Hudson Valley. The preserve opens at 9 and the admission fee is $10 per car.

We first paid a visit to Awosting Falls. There is a trail that starts at the parking lot and then you begin a further descent to see the 60-foot waterfall that plunges into Peter Kills Creek. There’s a nice place at the top of the falls that offers pretty views and hikers can go down to the base of the falls. Overall, it’s an easy 1 mile hike. Awosting Falls is spectacular and I can stare at the waterfall forever, it’s so calming. Nothing beats a New York waterfall.

The next plan of attack was to complete a hike around Lake Minnewaska, one of the five sky lakes in the Gunks. The trail started on the northern section of the lake, and the hike was amazing. On the hike, you can see the lake’s beach where you can go swimming in the summer months. Cliffs on the eastern side of the lake offer incredible panoramas of the surrounding New York region. The elevation ebbs, with a low-lying part right at the lake’s edge appearing mid-hike. There are plentiful places for photo ops throughout the hike. My favorite parts were standing on the cliffs facing the lake and the outer cliffs facing Ulster County, you feel like you’re on top of the world when standing on those spots. I can only imagine how beautiful this place looks like during the fall foliage season.

As you go deeper into the forest at the beginning of the hike, it can get a bit hilly, but that settles down eventually. You’re really in a forested area at the beginning, with a more comprehensive view of the lake appearing later. After you reach the low-lying level, you’ll begin a descent up. The cliffs at the hike’s end have picnic tables, so it’s perfect to rest here and have a bite to eat during the warmer months. It’s hard to believe that at one point in history, the only way to see Lake Minnewaska was staying at one of the local resorts!

All in all, this was a very well-maintained trail and the hike can get your blood pumping. I’m really happy I went. I think this region is a wonderful introduction to New York State’s abundant hiking opportunities for those who are new to the Empire State. Because the Hudson Valley is close to NYC, this region is a gateway to discovery and is a good starting point.

The atmosphere surrounding this winter hike was interesting-It was an overcast, cloudy day, so it was overall very melancholic that Sunday. But it was also calming and serene. I feel like I enter a hiking era in late spring/early summer and fall, but winter hikes feel especially cathartic. Being outside was way better than staying inside and avoiding the cold weather by binge-watching a show. There were ice and icicles on the trail to Awosting Falls and there was ice on Lake Minnewaska too-If you listened carefully, you can hear parts of the ice cracking.

I’ll leave you with a restaurant recommendation. We went to McGillicuddy’s, an Irish restaurant on Main Street in New Paltz after the hike. The restaurant was all decorated for St. Patrick’s Day, the food came out so quickly, and the service was perfect. Having the warm meal of Shepherd’s Pie and tea after a hike was awesome. I think the Derry Girls would have approved of McGillicuddy’s.

Awosting Falls
Lake Minnewaska
Ice on the Awosting Falls trail

What Else I Wrote Recently:

Just kidding, I’m not done yet! At my job with the World Research Advertising Center (We just call it WARC for short), I’ve written 68 pieces so far, including event reports, research reports based on findings from academic journals, and short-form content for our daily newsletter. However, most of my published pieces are behind a paywall-We have a subscription service for our marketing clients, so these companies pay to read the latest marketing news on WARC. Some of the short-form content is accessible to all, though.

One section of our WARC website isn’t behind a paywall-the opinion section! As HR led a session on how to set our 2023 work goals on Workday earlier this year, I knew one of my goals was to take a stab at writing opinion-based pieces in addition to the marketing reports I write that are driven by facts.

I wrote two so far! The first opinion piece I wrote is titled Do brands really understand what tracking pixels are doing? This opinion piece was written after I attended AdExchanger’s Industry Preview 2023 conference at the Edison Ballroom in Times Square. In one conference session, The Markup’s Editor-in-Chief Sisi Wei said that her investigative journalism publication team uncovered that US hospitals using the Meta Pixel shared patient medical history with Facebook, TaxAct shared financial information like individual earnings to the social media site, and telehealth provider Workit Health shared the data that users shared when completing an online assessment to the social media site. Wei said these companies didn’t do this with malice and didn’t have bad intentions. Rather, companies sometimes don’t necessarily understand the scale of using something like tracking pixels. To avoid breaking privacy regulations and to avoid any legal risks, companies can use privacy inspector tools and remove any pixels that are tracking sensitive information. I didn’t know too much about tracking pixels before this, so this was a fascinating conference session.

My second opinion piece is a bit on the lighter side and a bit more of a feel good piece-I wrote about dogs! Yes, really. The week after the Super Bowl, WARC held an in-office event with research firm System1 that delved into System1’s research methodology that monitors a viewer’s second-by-second response to an ad. Whaddaya know- Amazon’s “Saving Sawyer” ad and The Famer’s Dog “Forever” ad elicited a strong emotional response from Super Bowl viewers! In my piece, I wrote about how including dogs in advertising is an effective way to drive traffic because dogs are associated with traits like reliability and resoluteness, and overall, consumers just love seeings dogs do cute stuff. You can read more in the piece Paws for thought: How dogs can lead to more effective advertising. I was definitely living my best life writing an article about dogs while working from home on a Friday.

I sense more opinion pieces in the future!