Photo by Lily Wolf

With spring in full swing, it is such a pleasure to have a natural space, free of human interference, to meld with when the forest calls. Located on River Road, just ten miles outside of New Paltz, NY, and encompassing ninety-six acres, the Esopus Meadows Preserve is a beautiful oasis of trees, pathways, and shoreline, all woodsy and left to wild abandon. On the quietest days you will see large hawks and falcons sailing on placid winds far overhead. As the sun dips to earth, you can hear coyotes crooning to each other in the twilight. Nobody arrives armed with guns; this is not a place for man’s massacre. It is a forest for strolling on their endless trails, or going off-route to notice a still pond and listen for peepers, to pet moss, to watch chipmunks and squirrels wrap themselves around trees gracefully and play statue at the first sign of movement.

When you first enter the preserve, you immediately face a choice: a path that takes you along the coast of a huge shimmering lake, or a path that draws you into the forest. As you walk by the shore there are miniature beaches with shells, driftwood, and occasionally a bench where you can sit and feed ducks. If you choose to trek into the woods, there are no seats, no signs of human interference aside from a few trail markers on trees that you can follow or disregard. Deep into the forest you can hear birds chortling, squirrels unearthing their acorn bounty, and the chorus of frogs.

I climbed a large boulder to find a clearing where I saw, high up, a red-tailed hawk soaring so gracefully on a tailwind, as close to the clouds as she could touch. Peering toward my feet I saw enormous ants working hard to carry food to their queen. The natural and nearly primal feeling of being surrounded by wildlife never ceases to amaze me, to awaken an urge to succumb to the woods. This spring, if you get a chance, saunter through the heavenly Esopus Meadows Preserve. You just may find magic there.


Lily Wolf was born and raised in New York City. While a student at SUNY (State University of New York) New Paltz, she experienced the beauty of the New Paltz area.  After graduating and returning to NYC, she missed the natural world.  So, rather than yearning for nature, she moved to the area to make nature a part of her daily life.