Our Maine Event: The Catskills

2 08 2017


Since our trip to Maine involved lots of hours in the car, we planned to offset the driving with a full day in an interesting location.  All my life I’d heard of the Catskills, mostly in the context of the story of Rip Van Winkle, so we made this one of our stops.  And I’m glad we did!  Although we never saw old Rip, we did see signs of life, both past and present.

7/9/17 Day 3: Drove to the Catskills. Russell Brook Campsites. 379 mi./6 hr. 50 min. 

We’re getting good at this traveling thing.  Up at 6:45 and on the road by 8:00.  We traveled through some beautiful countryside as we passed through Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and finally New York:  rolling hills, fields of crops and pastures with horses, old red barns with white stone silos.  Air travel may be faster, but you miss so much.  Our campsite was in the woods by a babbling brook with a crackling fire, the air just crisp enough to appreciate the fire’s warmth.  Picture-book camping!


7/10/17 Day 4: Explored the Catskills.

After an egg burrito breakfast and a free, hot shower  that cleansed our bodies and our spirits (showers at Shenandoah N.P. were $1.50 for 5 min.), Brian and I set off in search of a hike.  Coasting down a steep hill, I didn’t notice the patrol car with a radar gun at the bottom until it was too late, and although Brian cringed, I made a quick U-turn which brought us side by side since this just happened to be at a trail head.  But all was well.  The police didn’t even glance our way, so we took off up the little-used trail that was part of the Finger Lakes Trail system.  Crumbling stone walls led us to marvel at the effort needed to build these property markers.

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Nevertheless, but for a couple of chipmunks and a couple piles of intriguing scat, there were no signs of life.  We soon tired of hiking uphill with no idea what was ahead, so we turned around and headed back to the car.

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I’m guessing, bear?  (And yes, I do brake for scat.)

We drove around the reservoir that supplies water to NYC, noting the restrictions on its use: only paddle boats allowed.  At one landing, we were impressed with the number of row boats, kayaks, and canoes that were tucked away on the edges of the lake, although we didn’t see a soul around.  What a shame on this beautiful day!  And too bad these boats were tied down with no paddles around or I might have been tempted to take one out for a quick spin.

We happened along a trail head called the Palmer Hill Trail, so after eating a quick lunch from our cooler we set off down the path.


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The trail led through woods into a beautiful meadow shoulder-high with milkweed, black-eyed Susans, pale yellow sulphur cinquefoil, barely pink musk mallow and a yellow flat-topped flower I took to be some kind of Queen Anne’s lace.

musk mallow

Musk Mallow

Fortunately, I didn’t pick any of this buttery beauty as I later found out this was wild parsnip, whose sap can cause phytophotodermatitis, that is, a blistering rash that develops when the sap is exposed to sunlight.  Ouch.  I hope whoever mowed the path wore long sleeves!

wild parsnip

Wild Parsnip

Standing on a rock at the top of the meadow, I heard a huffing sound coming from the woods.  Immediate thoughts of bear hurried me back down through the meadow, past ancient apple trees loaded with hard green fruit, and over a small brown snake that slithered under my feet without me even noticing.   A grand, glorious ramble.

eastern tiger swallowtail on common milkweed2

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Common Milkweed