By Michael Alpiner

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.” The eager traveler packs a suitcase, takes one last sweeping look around the house, and prepares to leave the routine world behind. The road ahead is paved with hope and expectation, the images from a website or the recommendation from a friend.

Yet, if that journey ends at the Emerson Resort and Spa in the Catskill Mountains, that eager traveler will soon discover that the words of the great writer resonate with truth. A scenic two-hour drive from New York City opens nature’s curtains with a backdrop of rolling hillsides and majestic mountain peaks, lush farmland, and small towns peppered with local shops selling fresh produce, antiques and crafts. It is impossible not to feel a twinge of Transcendentalism, the city air mixing with the clean, pure air of the Hudson Valley, and the humility of being small amidst the vast expanse of woods and sky.

Dissolve into a world of the senses at the Emerson. The lobby itself is the first pebble on the path to relaxation and self-awareness, with ambient light, restful tones, comfortable seating areas, and the eloquence of Emerson’s philosophies fixed upon the walls, remind the wanderer to “live in the sunshine…drink the wild air.” Through the lobby, one reaches the entrance to the spa area whose threshold is framed by an original 17th-century Rajasthani palace door. Within, the Asian-inspired décor and soft spa music, complete the indulgent experiences.

Among the massage services available are hot stone, Swedish, deep tissue, and aromatherapy. Additionally, one can dissolve in exotic herbal body treatments such as the seaweed body wrap, the Balinese coffee polish, and the hydrotherapy treatment. Sit back and relax as skilled estheticians address all facial, manicure, and pedicure needs. Afterwards, the newly-rejuvenated can lounge in a warm room with a cup of honey infused tea. These services are well-worth the additional cost. After all, Emerson himself stated, “Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself.”

The rooms at the Emerson are spacious as if the architect took a deep breath before deciding on vaulted ceilings, balconies within earshot of the Esopus Creek, over-sized jetted tubs, and gas fireplaces that cast the perfect lighting for any mood. The décor sports earth tones, blurring the line between a luxurious spa and luxurious nature. On one wall, again, the words of Emerson reminding the world of the power of literate luxury. “Nature is made to conspire with spirit to emancipate us.”

The Resort offers an indulgent food and beverage experience as well. The Woodnotes Grill menu is crafted with attention to health, taste, and local elements. The rustic room is ornate with flowers and light, artisan style décor featuring a fireplace to add to the already calming ambiance. The aroma of the pan seared salmon and the St. Louis ribs is as stimulating as their taste. Both are an example of what the chefs at the Emerson call “creative cooking.” Cocktails are hand-crafted using high-end artisanal spirits, bitters, freshly squeezed juices, and the finest ingredients—each expertly measured and designed. With a fully stocked bar, the Emerson understands that man (and woman) cannot live by wellness alone.

The Emerson is technically located in Mt. Tremper, near some historic towns. Phonecia has some charm, but serves as more an appetizer to the entrée of Woodstock and Saugerties. Here, the bohemian spirit and “Summer of Love” aura is holding on with its galleries, specialty shops and forced nostalgia of tie-dye shirts and tourist souvenirs for those looking to get “back to the land.” The best of the area is the numerous nature trails and waterfalls, visual gifts that have always been there. One such site is Kaaterskill Falls, whose prize of a scenic overlook can be accessed through a pleasant stroll through the wooded pathways.

One nearby attraction that seems most fitting to the adventurer immersed in the wonders of nature is the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. Cole, who first came to the Catskills in 1825, founded the Hudson River School of Art, and through his own perspective of the surroundings, reminded the world of the value within the emotional and rational appreciation of nature. One can visit his home and studio, and upon gazing at the living landscape, realize what inspired this great American artist.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough.” The Emerson Resort and Spa offers such a variety of landscapes, the ones created by nature, the ones we see with eyes closed as we indulge in spa services, or even the transporting experience of gourmet food and drink.

For more information on Emerson Resort and Spa, visit emersonresort.com.

Michael Alpiner’s writing and publishing includes travel/hospitality articles as well as fiction and poetry. His poetry is included in the anthology, Blood to Remember. Michael earned an MFA in Creative Writing, teaches college writing, and has served as a Writer-in-Residence for the Louis Armstrong Museum. He is co-founder of ExtremeLuxuryGetaways.com.

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