Catskill Reveries: In the Hudson Valley

As captivating as the Catskill Mountains are, a visit to the area would not be complete without a day spent exploring the lowlands of the Hudson River Valley. After a couple of days on rocky trails – and a couple of blisters – my friends and I were ready for a change of pace. A relaxed, easy pace. What would we find along the Hudson River? We weren’t quite sure. Continue reading

Catskill Reveries: Vampires, Monks and the Devil

A vampire, a monk and the Devil walk into a bar…

The requirements for a fun hike are many: parking and rest rooms, a path that is neither too steep nor too long. With a payoff – waterfalls, a great view, fantastic rock outcroppings, weird plants… Before my friends and I came to the Catskill Mountains, I read through two trail guides, and found a few hikes that fit the bill.

Then Don announced that we were doing a hike that I hadn’t even considered because of its difficulty rating – the 4.6-mile strenuous hike up Overlook Mountain. 1380’ of elevation gain in 2.3 miles, via an old carriage road lined with power lines; no views or payoffs until the top where there’s the ruins of Overlook Mountain House, a view, and a fire tower.

I was critical (which I regret; sorry, Don!) Too critical, I guess, because he refused to tell me what got him interested in this hike in the first place. I should have known there was a reason, there’s a reason for everything Don does. But what could it be? Continue reading

Catskill Reveries: Falling for the Catskills

The sun rose brightly on our second day in the Catskill Mountains. Already we were finding the Catskills exceeding our admittedly modest expectations. We were ready for adventure, and certain that we would find it on the hike to Kaaterskill Falls. I packed my tripod in hopes of coming away with stunning waterfall images…

We know what high expectations bring, don’t we? Continue reading

Catskill Reveries: Great Expectations

Expectations are a funny thing. Go into an experience expecting great things, and you’re frequently disappointed. A location sure to yield amazing birds instead gives you Mallards at point-blank range, while the flock of Avocets feeds three football fields away. The stunning 360° views from the highest point east of the Mississippi are completely obscured by thick fog and driving rain.

On the other hand, it’s when you expect nothing that you are often pleasantly surprised. A fussy old mansion turns out to be surrounded by acres of stunning landscapes. The search for a humble lunch spot surprises with an amazing cavern hitherto unheard of.

When my friends and I left for a week in the Catskill Mountains of New York, we took with us our many expectations. Don thought “the Catskills would be touristy with lots of gift shops, restaurants and taverns.” I felt the same, expecting development, hotels and kitsch. Robb thought “the Catskills were going to be like the Adirondacks, very mountainous and ferny.” I, on the other hand, was sure the Catskills would seem like gentle hills, compared to the rugged heights of the Great Smokies and the Adirondacks.

Who was right, and who was wrong? Continue reading