Tag Archives: New York

Camping in the Catskills

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Kaaterskill Falls, Catskills, NY

This past weekend Randy and I went camping. We got allready to go, got our packs all set up, and then headed to the Catskills. Little did we know, I picked a ‘car camping’ (North-Southlake campground) site. So, we just paid for a campsite, parked the car, and made sure to remember to leave the food in so that the bears and other ferocious beasts (squirrels and chipmunks) didn’t attack. We got up there around 2 pm on Thursday, set up our tent, and set off on a little exploration. 

Our first stop was the site of the old Catskill Mountain house. Once again, thought there might be some cool remnants. There were not. There were, however, amazing views. And some very informative walkers up there to share their knowledge. 

View from former site of the Catskill Mountain House

View from former site of the Catskill Mountain House

We continued along the escarpment trail and saw some awesome rock formations. Some camouflaged frogs, and some neat looking caves. Then we turned around and headed back. 

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Can you find the froggy?

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Cracks in rock shaped like a 5

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Rock overhang along the Escarpment trail. Cattskills, NY. Randy’s there for scale…

Next we headed down to the lake. Our campsite was near the water, but not on it, which we were very happy about later in the evening. Why, you may ask? Because whenever we walked to the bathroom we heard the incessant WOOing of loud, party animal, young adults. The lake was beautiful. We saw a family of ducks, and some very nice views. It was quite peaceful at this time of the evening.

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South Lake, North-Southlake Campground, Haines Falls, NY

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Quack Quack! North-Southlake Campground, Haines Falls, NY.

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Our tent! FYI: a yoga mat is not a substitute for a sleeping pad…

Randy bought some firewood and hotdogs, and I scrounged around for matches and additional firewood. We grilled up some tasty hotdogs, and then had s’mores for dessert. Can you believe it was the first time Randy’s ever had s’mores??!! Me neither! They are pretty good. In fact I just had 2 for dinner…adults are allowed to do that, right? 

After a long night (it’s been a while since I’ve slept out on the ground…like 15 years), we woke up to the birds chirping…at 10 am! What’s that about nature’s alarm clock? We made some PB&Js for breky, and then packed up the site. We knew we wanted to check out the Kaaterskill Falls, but we had to make sure to get back to the city by 6:00. The hike is super quick, and not too strenuous, so we were fine!

On our way to the hike I saw my first bear in the wild! We also had a deer about 5 feet away from our car when we were leaving to get the hotdogs, but I didn’t have time to get the camera out before we passed it. It’s a jungle upstate!

 

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Not the best shot…it’s the black circle in the center left of the shot, between the trees. I had to scramble for the camera so by the time I had it on the bear was running through someone’s yard, heading for the stand of trees. Pretty cool anyway!!

The falls are a very rewarding hike. There are numerous cascades along the hike, and the actual Kaaterskill Falls are one of the higher waterfalls in New York State.   

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Trail head for the Kaaterskill Falls.

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Small falls you can see from the road. Near the trail head to Kaaterskill Falls, NY

After hiking for about 15 minutes, max, up a fairly well maintained trail you get to the actual falls. They are quite spectacular, as the pictures can only barely convey.

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Kaaterskill Falls, NY. The camera’s battery died, so I used my ipod Touch. Then I had to play around with photoshop…

Despite numerous warnings we ended up hiking to the second tier. It’s pretty dangerous, since it’s all unconsolidated materials, and it was slightly saturated from the rain we’ve had lately. Luckily, no mishaps!  

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DANGER!

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Top half of upper tier…can’t get far enough away to get the whole thing in one shot!

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Here’s where the second tier starts. Where’s my barrel?

After this we carefully made our way back down and to the car. Going down is definitely scarier/tougher than going up. My knees are still aching! It was a great way to spend the day, much better than the second half of our day sitting in the car on the way home (traffic is the bane of my existence!). 

Can’t wait for my next camping trip! Although the next trip on the agenda won’t involve so much roughing it. In two weeks Randy and I’ll be going to Paris, Marseille, and then Marrekech for two weeks. Anyone want me to ship them some Moroccan furniture? Maybe I’ll start an import/export business if this whole PhD thing doesn’t work out…

 

 

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First Hike of the Year! (make that last three years!)

Black Rock Forest

Went hiking for the first time in years this past weekend. I think the last time was maybe 3 years ago, hiking Camel’s Hump in Vermont with Daphne. We practically ran up that mountain…and when we got to the top we were pouring sweat out, and we couldn’t figure out why we’d hiked so aggressively. This hike was a bit different. No large mountain, just a large rock. And I traded out Daphne for Randy. The hike was listed online, I think we found it by searching ‘hikes, new york city’ or something like that. Seemed doable, and with the possibility of seeing waterfalls and views, it was cemented.

The route of our hike. Starts and ends at that black slash mark. 'Black Rock' is where the scenic vistas were located.

The hike started out fairly easily. Nice and quite, no one else on the trails. Weather was a bit cool, but it was around 10:30/11, so we expected it to heat up a little. Plus, as prepared hikers, we wore layers! There was a nice stream running through the woods, which afforded us some good nature sounds, and some pleasant views. There were also some nice bridges across the stream, making for good picture opportunities.

RAR! Yay hiking! Bridge #1

Mini waterfall.

Even though there weren’t any leaves on the trees, we did see some nice vegetation and flowers poking through. Get ready for flower close-up shots!

Flowering tree.

Little fern.

Octopus tree. First they grow here, then they swim away.

On our way to Black Rock we came across a reservoir. Water levels were really low, which was really cool, because I got to see an empty spillway! Yay hydrology! Not sure why the water was so drawn down, or when they raise the levels, but it was neat. As we came upon it we saw an otter (or some other small mammal) scampering away. Wouldn’t see that near the city!

This is where the water would be flowing.

Close-up of the dam looking onto the reservoir.

Next stop: Black Rock. After about 20 more minutes, and a steeper incline, we finally reached our destination! The views were great!

View number 1 from Black Rock

View number 2 from black rock. I think that's the Hudson River.

After resting a bit at Black Rock and enjoying the sunshine we decided to return home. We felt a sense of urgency, mostly because we forgot to pack a lunch. Whoops! Lesson learned. Don’t do a day hike without snackies. Luckily we had plenty of water, but the lack of food was definitely felt by the end of the day.

The return hike was less picturesque because it follows a bunch of gravel roads. No more quaint trails through the woods. You also end up near route 9W at the end, so the sounds of traffic mix with those of nature. We did see one more neat river before we made it to the car.

A fixer-upper in the woods.

Upon reaching the car we gobbled down some peanut butter and crackers, and nutter butters. First stop: a deli for some tasty sandwiches. All in all an extremely enjoyable day! Can’t wait for the next hike! Maybe I’ll finally have an excuse to buy hiking boots, rather than wear my old gym sneakers!

The Cloisters

The Cloisters

Right now my family is enjoying a little European vacation. I’m extremely jealous, to put it mildly. So, I thought I’d write about the closest I’ve come to Europe in the past month: The Cloisters. It’s a castle-like building in northern Manhattan, built from 12th-15th century materials. Inside there are tons of cool castle-y artifacts and treasures. The grounds are beautiful too, just try not to pick a day when the wind can blow you right over. It’s run by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the entrance fee is ‘suggested’, so pay what you want.

Exterior, The Cloisters

Face details, The Cloisters

Exterior, The Cloisters

Exterior (and Hudson River), The Cloisters

For someone who loves castles, it’s exceptionally fun to just walk around the building. All the architectural elements have been brought over from real European castles, so it’s all authentic. There are different courtyards as well, so there are some sheltered outdoor areas. One of the aspects that I most enjoyed was the different elements. Columns didn’t match, decorative moldings were different at each doorway. It was a nice eclectic twist on the medieval castle.

Weathered carving above a column.

Mismatched columns.

Sculptural herbivory in a courtyard.

Being a museum, there are tons of artifacts as well. These date from the 9th to 16th century. The centerpiece of this museum is a unicorn theme (can’t beat a legitimately unicorn themed museum!) There are a bunch of beautiful tapestries depicting themes centered around unicorns. I can’t remember exactly, but it has something to do with christianity, and I don’t have time to look it up right now. I’ll pay better attention next time…

Unicorns! This is the most famous tapestry.

Capturing a unicorn.

Besides the whole unicorn theme there are a lot of other cool things. Like the first playing cards, and a treasury. There’s also a neat hallway with some cool stained glass circles depicting different scenes.

First playing cards known to exist. Crazy suits.

Medieval sarcophagus. Or whatever they would have been called.

Huge fireplace.

Besides the castle there is a nice big park to walk around in, and some other buildings and a restaurant. We didn’t have time, or heat capacity (it was chilly) to explore the rest of the grounds, but I guess that will give me an excuse to head back some time.

It’s a great trip for those who are craving a European adventure (because their family ditched them, ahem, ahem), but can’t afford the price tag or vacation time.  You can always follow it up with a night out at a french bistro or british pub to round out the experience!