The article I wrote for the Watershed Post’s 2016 Outdoor Guide has been making the Facebook share rounds. It’s always a bit startling, and totally fun, to see something you wrote and got published, from the perspective of having moved on. Sweet nostalgia – my research for the piece consisted of an awesome few days of driving all over the extended Catskills. Not just the high peaks areas I know well, but deep into the foothilly wilds of Sullivan County. I went alone, not even a dog or two in the back seat. Me, my camera, and my assignment – and it was exhilarating.
But print is a very strict medium. Brevity rules with an iron fist and this left me with a few misgivings and a story left untold. Check out the photos from the editing room floor (above) and my favorite story from the whole shebang (below). But first, some incredibly important information.
USE THE BATHROOM IN THE CLOSEST VILLAGE.
I’m not kidding. I’m not trying to be funny. I’m not making some weird double meaning, innuendo, or snark or anything else. I am telling you key information you need to enjoy visiting these places.
There are no public bathrooms in any of these places. There is no restroom, no water fountain, and no place to powder your nose. Stop in the closest village, buy a snack, or a map, or a cool touristy t shirt, and ask to use a restroom.
Some of these places have limited parking, and some have VERY limited parking. You will be ticketed if you park illegally, but much more importantly, first responders have complained that due to illegal parking there have been issues with getting emergency vehicles where they need to go. Maybe your illegally parked car won’t block an ambulance, but the guy who parks behind you might. Trust me, none of these adventures are so cool they’re worth that kind of drama, trouble, and guilt that would involve.
DO NOT TRESPASS.
If you are thinking “No shit, Sherlock,” great. You are not who I’m talking to, and I’m delighted. However, lots of people take the approach of “better to beg forgiveness than ask permission.” With the exception of Grossingers, every place mentioned in the article is located on public land and access is legal. On Lundy Road, this is a little bit more complicated – the structures are not accessible and can only be viewed from the road. But the photo in the article was taken by me standing in the road – you really don’t have to step off the road one inch to get a great look at the house.
You’ll note that I suggest mountain biking on Lundy Road, and going to play a round of golf at Grossingers. Both activities would be fun, legal, and afford you views of super cool stuff. You want more? I’m sorry, but the answer is no.
LEAVE NO TRACE.
Again, if this is beyond obvious, that’s as it should be. Pack it in, pack it out. Enjoy these places respectfully.
READ THE DESCRIPTIONS CAREFULLY.
Numbers 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8 involve hiking. That means you’ll need decent hiking boots, a day pack, food and water, and all the normal safety and comfort gear and accountrements for a day (or at least a few hours) in the woods. Kaaterskill High Peak, Bearpen, and Stoppel Point are not short strolls on level ground. Rochester Hollow and Russell Brook Road are less strenuous but still – it’s hiking. If you want to check out ruins, but you don’t enjoy hiking, you may want to explore some different options.
And here is the story:
For those of you that don’t know me, I’m a pretty small person. I have been teased about being the size of an average 5th grader, and have boasted about not weighing enough to donate blood. My husband is always lukewarm at best about me heading off on solo adventures, be they in the wilderness or in civilization. He was a police officer years ago and has instilled in me a certain worst case scenario mentality that I tend to ignore until it stares me in the face.
Lundy Road is about 7 miles long and much of it runs through state land, remote and wild. Not suburbia. No houses for miles on end. Beautiful and quiet and I’ll admit it – a touch eerie. Years ago a village way back at the end of the road called Potterville was rumored to be haunted. You can’t really get there any more and the buildings are all but gone, but for me the vibe remained.
The road got pretty bad – rutted and narrow and funky – maybe 5.5 miles in and I thought “aww hell no” to the idea that I’d have to back out. I found a place to park nose in and hopped out, ready to explore what remained on foot.
A few moments later it came to me: I was literally miles from nowhere, armed with a camera and that’s it. No cell service, no emergency gear. Not even a Clif bar. I had this sudden, intense awareness of my own vulnerability. So I ignored it and kept walking (NOTE: I had all that stuff in my car and folks at home knew where I was, the details of my itinerary, and my ETA. I’m crazy, but I’m not stupid.).
A twig snapped.
No shit, that really happened a moment or two after my conscious mind clued me in to how potentially dangerous my situation was.
I stopped and listened.
The road is enclosed on both sides by dense laurel thickets. I peered in, but you can’t see two feet deep into laurels. They are multi-stemmed shrubs with dense foliage at eye level. I shrugged it off and took a few more steps and again – a twig or two snapped.
I stopped again and slowly squatted down, aiming to peer through the naked laurel trunks. Once I got low enough to see below the leaves, my eyes met a small coyote’s. She looked at me, and I looked at her. For a long split second, we shared that space. Then she broke the gaze and trotted away.
I didn’t get a decent photo, although I did try. In my anthropomorphic, wishful thinking way, I figured I had been accepted into that space and was safe to continue. The rest of the adventure was uneventful – just a pleasant walk on a nice road in the woods.
Enjoy exploring in the Catskills. Be respectful of all the locals – wildlife and humans alike – and have a wonderful adventure.