Even my two-year-old granddaughter becomes still as she peers through heavy binoculars from our suite’s balcony perch above the Catskills’ gurgling Esopus Creek at Emerson Resort & Spa, a rustically elegant Adirondack-style lodge. In the distance, Mount Tremper rises as brightly painted in the sky as a scene from a Hudson Valley School landscape painting. We’re seeking birds—and we’ve been lucky, despite the weather being cloudy. We’ve seen a Red-bellied Woodpecker (who looks like he’s wearing a tweed jacket and a scarlet cap), a Red-tailed Hawk soaring in figure eights above us, a cute Belted Kingfisher, and a pair of Cardinals. To the sound of the creek, we peer, whispering each time we spot a bird, then looking at the birding manual the hotel provides to identify it. In the end (two years olds have notoriously short attention spans), we pursue this activity for only half an hour, but it’s calming, bonding, and immerses us into nature and into the remote locale—part of the gateway of the Catskill Forest Preserve, just two hours from Manhattan.
Emerson’s offerings sensitively and creatively bring the healing powers of the outdoors to the forefront . . .
When it’s time for me to visit the resort’s acclaimed spa for a facial, I walk along the creek’s path to the main building, an elongated structure which meanders along the water, edged by nature, with views at every turn. It holds not just the spa, but some guest rooms, common rooms, and a trove of unique shops. I enter the spa portion through what feels like a portal: a vintage Rajasthani door, which blends soulfully with the resort’s American-style contemporary decor, its lodge’s log-and-shingle style accoutrements, and the property’s overall impressive collection of earth-themed modern art. As I pass through the door’s threshold, I think to myself that there are many paths to wellness. This facial (which turns out to be the best I’ve had in years, thanks to the skill of my therapist, Christine Glass, and to the application of Comfort Zone products) is a direct route, what you might call a shortcut or a quick fix. All spa treatments supply a method and means to achieve wellbeing. We go in with tight muscles or clogged pores, and come out unraveled or deep cleaned—as the case may be.
But wellness is also looking for birds with my granddaughter (Emerson supplies the binoculars), gathering around a roaring fire beneath the stars before bed (the Emerson offers that on weekends), taking a painting class or sitting outdoors to eat beside the creek (you can do that at Emerson’s Woodnotes Grill). The Emerson Resort & Spa, aptly named for philosopher and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, understands these various kinds of wellness. The stellar spa, a stunningly luxurious 6,193-square-foot enclave, easily and deftly supplies the “shortcut method” with its array of well-executed facials and body treatments. But, the resort’s true gift to guests may be its multi-faceted, complimentary activities, all of which aim to affect us at our core, most of which harness the surrounding nature on some level. Whether it’s making fairy doors with found objects in an arts and crafts class, learning reflexology for self-healing, making pesto from basil procured from the resort’s garden in an outdoor workshop or learning journaling techniques, Emerson’s offerings sensitively and creatively bring the healing powers of the outdoors to the forefront and teach each participant how to slow down and utilize nature as a stepping stone to better mental, physical, and spiritual healthiness.
More On The Hotel
Spanning 20 acres, the resort lies in the heart of the Catskill Mountains. With 53 total rooms divided between a contemporary inn and an Adirondack-style lodge, Emerson Resort & Spa gets rave reviews for its nature-focused vibe, adults-only spa, its coterie of unique shops, its farm-to-plate restaurant—Woodnotes Grill— and its host of soul-fulfilling activities for all ages (complimentary for overnight guests). Enjoy everything from scavenger hunts to rock painting workshops to guided nature hikes. A year-round destination, Emerson Resort & Spa sits near quaint and artsy towns, ski mountains, hiking trails, and local eateries.
Becca Hensley is Editor at Large for Insider's Guide to Spas. Based in Austin, she writes regularly about travel and spas. She believes a good story draws you in like laughter in a crowded room, and challenges you to do it justice. Her work appears regularly in Austin Monthly, Travel Channel, Toronto Star and National Geographic Traveler.