Planning a romantic first date this fall? A leaf-peeping day trip gets you out of the city and into the fresh air. Follow this easy upstate New York itinerary to catch the autumn colors while they’re as vibrant as your blossoming love.
Take the George Washington Bridge to the brilliant vistas of the Palisades Parkway. As you marvel at the vivid crimson, fiery orange and deep ochre, suddenly realize you didn’t tell anyone who you were meeting and where you were going. You basically got in a car with a total stranger. You don’t even know how many siblings he has. All you know is that he enjoys some of the same movies as you. He doesn’t look like a murderer, does he? Would a murderer wear a seasonally appropriate flannel shirt and love The Silence of the Lambs?
Time for a nature hike! Stop at Bear Mountain State Park’s Visitor Center and find a friendly park ranger named Ginny. She can provide you a map and recommend a forest trail with majestic views of native flora.
As you set off down the path, discover the two of you have already run out of things to talk about. Instead of enjoying the scenery in congenial silence, jump right to the questions it’s too soon to ask. What’s his most embarrassing erotic fantasy? Is it fair to have kids if they’ll be genetically predisposed to the same debilitating anxiety you suffer every day? Why won’t he hold your hand?
After your hike, head toward the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway, a winding route that positively glows with rich, prismatic splendor. Pause at the Hawk’s Nest overlook and take note of the crisp yellow against the blue sky, the contrast as stark as the differences quickly emerging between you and your date.
Why does this always happen? Is it because you plan overly elaborate first meetings when a simple coffee or cocktail would suffice? Or because you keep saying “Don’t murder me!” in a joking tone of voice? Or because you ate a maple leaf?
Let the kaleidoscopic beauty of the Catskills scenery wash over you, like the waves of regret you feel because you committed to spending an entire day stuck in a car with a guy who has no siblings and won’t open up about his sexual appetites no matter how frequently you ask, which is very frequently.
Stop for lunch at old-fashioned farmstands, apple cider mills and cute country cafes that are all closed. You should have known better than to go upstate on a Sunday. Luckily, there’s a local harvest festival in full swing nearby. Pick a pumpkin, take a hayride, and buy a basket of apples to throw away when you get home.
You’re actually starting to have fun traipsing around the corn maze when you turn the corner and spot your date talking to a park ranger. Wait. Ginny?
Get back on the scenic byway and pretend not to care that Ginny is in the front seat of the car and you are now in the back seat.
Your date peers at you in the rearview mirror and suggests that your relationship has grown stale since it began at nine o’clock this morning, and perhaps it’s time to open things up and welcome new partners into the mix. Also, he didn’t mention it earlier, but he is positively powerless to resist Ginny’s park ranger uniform due to his fetish for khaki.
As you stand in a ditch and watch them drive away, be sure not to miss the breathtaking panoramic view of the Delaware River that will make you gasp: “How can the world be so beautiful and yet so cruel?”
Eat another leaf.
You must complete your itinerary on foot. Walk on back roads past red barns, sleepy villages and quaint Main Streets that will make you forget all about the fact that your last sixteen dates ended with you screaming in language as colorful as the trees.
Ankles blistered, throat parched, you stumble into the charming hamlet of Narrowsburg and lower yourself into a pile of dead leaves. Why is it so hard to find love? Why does Ginny have all the luck? How long will you have to lie here motionless before someone notices? Why does it get dark so early now? Why is everything wet? Did a dog pee here?
Wait, no, that’s you, peeing yourself. This is the kind of all-encompassing warmth your date could never give you, unless he was into this sort of thing, which is a much more respectable proclivity than khaki. Jesus. Khaki.
Like this year’s foliage, another relationship has peaked too soon.