Beacon, New York, is aptly named. The Oxford Dictionary definition: a fire or light set up in a high or prominent position as a warning, signal or celebration. I’m drawn there mainly by two things that challenge the mind and the body, the Dia Beacon museum and the hiking trails of Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve. This past week, I had a first, attempting both on the same day. Achievement unlocked. We took the hike first, arriving early to avoid crowds on Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Breakneck Ridge route ranks as one of the top 10 in the country so it’s extra popular. We opted to try the Wilkinson Memorial Trail for a change of pace. The Wilkinson summit was closed for conservation efforts so we picked up Breakneck at an intersection. A map came in extra handy  — be sure to grab one at the trailhead. The combination of trails we covered gave commanding vistas of the Hudson River, the Bannerman Island and castle, and a brilliant autumn palette.

Speaking of palettes, we did make it to the Dia, after four hours of steep ascents and challenging rock scrambles. Our tickets were for 4:30, giving us 90 minutes until closing. Dia Beacon is an outpost of the Dia Foundation, known for its commissions of ambitious site-specific works,  land art and minimalist works. Beacon houses its permanent collection, and I came this time around to see some new additions that quite literally brought more color (people of color, that is) into the Dia mix. Carl Craig, a pioneer of the Detroit electronic dance music scene with his own signature style of deploying minimal aesthetics, has created an immersive sound and light installation in the entire sprawling basement that’s at once calming and existentially awakening.

Another recent addition that’s also close to my heart are early works by Sam Gilliam, a crucial figure in American abstract painting and a true innovator. Like many of the Dia’s works, these shows need to be experienced in person to really “get” them. Timed tickets sell out quickly and must be booked in advance.

-Nitin Mukul

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