Having completed Fall outings to the White Mountains and Acadia, we wondered where else we ought to go. We definitely wanted to try someplace new, and started researching the Catskills. What we discovered is that the Catskills are New York City’s White Mountains. Meaning, when a New Yorker decides to go leaf peeping, that’s his go-to destination.
The drive down from Albany (where we stayed) was lovely. We wandered through little towns, including Woodstock, which is absolutely adorable (all of the hippies apparently became baristas and started making stained glass). There was very little traffic at all, until we suddenly came around the corner to our destination and found the road completely lined with cars. We parked about a quarter mile from the trailhead and set off single-file like sherpas.
The weather was absolutely spectacular – one of those Fall days that makes you think Winter can’t possibly be right around the corner. The sky was especially stunning, and you can see from the photo above that I was in short sleeves.
The Catskills are part of a totally different range from the mountains we’re used to, so the rock formations fascinated us. You’re going to see a lot of photos of rocks in this post.
Our destination for this first hike was Giant Ledge. Like most of the other people on the trail, we thought this was a destination. People kept asking each other, “How much farther to the giant ledge?” Finally we flagged down someone who must have been a local, and he explained, “No, you’re on the giant ledge. This is it.” So we stopped waiting for a big view and started ducking out onto each little cliff we came to.
It was unbelievably windy and cold out on the ledges. Just a few feet back among the trees, it was perfectly pleasant. But the moment we stepped out, a cold wind clawed at us. It makes sense now why we see so many wind turbines on ridges.
As you can see, the tress were pretty far gone up here too. This coming weekend we’ll be heading south in a last desperate effort to see some blazing red.
I’m scrolling through all of these photos as I write this, and I can’t believe how it looks as if I’m hiking in complete solitude. Yen has done a terrific job of framing the shots just so. You can’t see all of the women around me navigating the rocks in sandals. And carrying purses. And little dogs. That absolutely killed me: how many tiny dogs were being hauled up trails and into the woods nestled in someone’s arms. Were the dogs enjoying it? I don’t know. Maybe they were looking forward to pooping someplace new. It just seemed absurd to me. On this particular trail, we passed a little boy (very close to the trail head – maybe a quarter mile in) who was crouched on the ground with an iPhone. His mother stood over him, and as we passed, his father joined them and I heard the mother say, “He’s bored.” We saw them later near our car.
One hike wasn’t enough, so after we finished the ledges, we decided to drive to a nearby waterfall, Kaaterskill Falls. It turns out this is a pretty famous waterfall. It’s where Rip Van Winkle fell asleep. And it’s where Thomas Cole and the Hudson River gang came to be inspired and paint varying degrees of likenesses. Even without all of that, it’s beautiful.
I found a nice big boulder and sat watching Yen scramble around, looking for the best shot. I struck up a conversation with two newlyweds just back from Hawaii, and I examined the ancient graffiti next to where I was sitting. Yen took a picture of me when he returned.
This is the way back down from the falls. They’re only about a half mile from the road, but you do have to hike to them.
Here’s the routine for this spot: You park either above or below the trail head, both about a quarter mile away. You walk up near an extremely busy road (you’ll see in a moment), and you see the small falls pictured just below. On our way back, Yen stopped to snap a few photos of it, and I waited at the trail head. You wouldn’t believe how many people got out of their cars, walked the quarter mile, saw this tiny fall, snapped a photo with their iPhones, and then turned around and headed back. They had no idea they’d missed the really special place just a little deeper in the woods.
Of course, many women I saw were wearing heels, so it’s just as well they didn’t make the attempt.
Here’ s the road I mentioned above. I did not like this part.
Next morning, we headed back toward Massachusetts for our last hike of the weekend. This time we went for the Taconic Ridge, which lies along the spine of Massachusetts and Vermont. Our hike that day took us from New York, along the Mass border, and into Vermont. I really loved this hike. It had some nice hills to make Yen happy, but mostly it followed the top of the ridge, and we actually got through it fairly quickly. It felt good to hike a little fast.
Beautiful trail, eh? One thing I must say about the weekend hikes is they were all extremely well marked.
What’s a snow hole? It’s an old cave-in in the middle of the woods that is so dark and deep that it stays full of snow well into the summer. We didn’t find any snow on that day, though. Soon enough…
Here it is: this is a snow hole.
I didn’t climb into it because I’m giant sissy when it comes to boulders covered in leaves. Do not call me “grace.”
Once again, we saw very old graffiti. This time Yen captured some of it.
Down where this woman is standing is where you’d normally find snow. We talked to a family that was out there with us, and they said last July they’d been there too, and there really had been snow.
Look how big this spider is! Don’t worry – my shoe is only there for scale. I wouldn’t hurt him.
Here’s the view from the trail. It should look familiar, because two years ago we stopped off and walked just enough of this trail to see this view. That day Yen stopped someone who was just finishing the hike and asked what was farther along. “Not much,” he said. Glad we didn’t listen and came back.
After all that long hike, I announced that I deserved some lunch, so we headed into Williamstown. While we were there, we decided to check out the campus.
And then, back in the car to finish the 2.5 hours back home.