This year we camped in the Catskills region by the Willowemoc river. The Catskills is a state park about two hours NW of New York city. We have been there multiple times before - the region has many interesting bed and breakfasts and of course hosts some of the best ski slopes in Hunter and Belleayre mountains. Anyway, this time, we decided to discover a portion of the 300,000 acres that constitute the park. Our chosen area was in the south of the region near the town of Livingston Manor.
One tip for those trying to camp in the region - Book your camp sites early if you want to get a good one esp. over long weekends. We were a little late in starting the hunt and I spent countless hours calling up campsites only to find them booked full.
By accident I came upon the Covered Bridge Campsite in Sullivan county. Obviously the camp ground has a covered bridge on site :). The Catskills area has a lot of these structures built over the rivers. They are wide and tall enough to allow vehicles to pass. For me, the lure to this place was not the historic bridge but rather the privacy that the place advertised on their website. That was it! A peaceful weekend with nature that is free of by madly partying groups and more importantly pesky brats!
In a bid to avoid the holiday traffic out of NYC we left in the early hours (7 am) on Saturday and made it to the camp in about 2.5 hours after a pit stop for breakfast and fuel (Man! Have the gas prices rocketed!!!!! $4.15 a gallon.. GULP! If it stays this way, I may have to rethink all the grand travel plans I had for this year :( ).
So, we got there and were pleasantly surprised to see that the camp ground which is privately owned also doubled up as the owners' farm :). The lady of the house, who also mans the camp, rescues cats and has 20 of them on the property, mostly outdoors. They were cute and fun to play with and we spent good amount of time rubbing their bellies and scratching their ears over the next three days :)).
Her son breeds rabbits and not the small cuddly ones at that! These were huge and were apparently entered into contests.. Not surprising actually. All we saw them doing was....Eat! constantly gnawing at the grass in the area. She had dogs of course - we saw a cute, friendly-looking yellow Lab, whom I desperately wanted to pet but did not quite get near as he was a enclosed behind a screen door. Then, she had hens and rooster and cocks and ducks (white gorgeous ones!). Last but not least (am sure there were more animals that we did not sight!!) she had GOATS!!
That camp seemed to be completely self sustaining!! Wake up to a cup of goat milk coffee and a breakfast of bread, goat cheese and fresh eggs. Lunch on goat meat or chicken etc. Hmmm.. not bad living I say. Every time we passed the goat pen, which was often because it was en route to the restroom, I saw biriyani :D... hehe..
Finally, after a loong chat with the owner (she talks a looot!) we settled in at our site. Our site was a riverfront one. Unfortunately, the Willowemoc river decided to become lazy around our camp area. So, we had a constant swarm of mosquitoes, gnats and God knows what else around us. But hey! that's part of the "outdoors" experience.
Anyway, we kicked off the experience with a brunch of spicy Italian sausage dogs cooked over the newly set up camp stove :)..Yumm! It is a special experience eating outdoors - esp. since the food is mostly red meat :D.. We had packed in a bunch of different meats- steaks and shrimps marinated at home the previous night, uncooked and cooked sausages, cans of chili. Apart from various sides such as chips and salsa, peanut butter etc.
After a filling meal, we decided to explore the area. The lady at the office told us of a waterfalls in the vicinity and we went to check it out. We had to go through the covered bridge to start our walk into the woods. BTW, this is really backcountry. The whole area is woods - trees and river everywhere. If you plan to come here, make sure you tell your near and dear that you will be completely inaccessible. There wasn't a whiff of cell phone signal for miles around. The nearest is the town of Livingston Manor.
Anyway, back to the bridge. I am not sure when it was built, but, it seemed pretty old. Everything was wood - even the joints. The walk was at most a half mile and passed through many small falls till we reached our destination - the 20 foot waterfall. It was nice walk, although a bit cold. And being near water and falls is a relaxing feeling; the sound of flowing water is sooo soothing to one and makes you forget the little worries in life :)..
On our way back, we stopped to watch people fishing in the river. The area is known for trout fishing and people come in hordes for this, though frankly in all the time we were there, I did not see a single fish swimming past! So it was surprise (to me that is) that as we watched, one of the guys fly fishing in the river actually managed a catch - a reasonable sized trout, a decent dinner for one. BTW, on the subject of fishing, I don't quite understand the concept of catching the fish, maiming it with the hook and then letting it go! What's the point?! I say, when you catch it, eat it; don't throw it back with a wound so it becomes a meal for the nearest predator! :O. Anyway, here, thankfully, they seemed to be catching it for the purpose of eating.
We came back to the camp to set up the fire for cooking and warming ourselves. Our dinner was steaks and fire grilled shrimped followed by s'mores for dessert :). Food cooked (actually charred) in wood smoke tastes fantastic and eating by the campfire is an experience itself :).
It was a good thing we had all that meat to eat; because it was getting very cold out there. By evening, the place had become really chilly with a stiff breeze blowing in and by the time we turned in, we were all frozen. Temperature apparently dipped below zero degrees during the night; not an altogether pleasant sleep that night.
Fortunately, Sunday morning dawned surprising pleasant with a sunny morning and sans the chilling breeze. A good timing too - It was my husband's birthday :). And to commemorate the occasion, we went on a hike. Wat else! :).
The hike we planned to do (Big Indian/ Slide Mountain hike) was about 35 miles away from our camp. The drive itself is picturesque through meadows and fields and farm houses. After getting slightly lost, we eventually found the trail head. and began our climb around 2 pm. At the head of the trail was board marking the Big Indian at 4.5 miles. When we started we did not realise that this figure was one-way. Innocently, we proceeded along on the trail.
It took us through a few steep climbs including rocky scrambles and some flat ground walks. All around us was the fresh green of spring leaves (which by now, you must have guessed I adore after raving about them in every post :) ), untouched woods, quiet solitude (there was no one on the trail!) and flowing streams. It was perfect in many ways :). We passed by many small streams and rivulets and one major brook named Biscuit Brook (I really wonder what story there is!). After hiking for about two hours, it dawned upon us that the our hike was actually be a 9-miler. We did not have enough time before sunset to summit and had to turn back midway.
I had a feeling of incompleteness because we did not hike all the way up but realistically, the experience was fantastic and am glad we had those 4 hours in that tranquil environment :). Back at the campsite, it was chilly again after the lovely day but it was perfect for a dinner of chili cooked with left-over sausage and beer. The night was warmer than the previous one and I think we all slept better.
The third and last day dawned bright and sunny again. I don't like the last day. It brings in the note of reality and suddenly you are brought back down to Earth and the chores of cleaning and packing up :). No matter how much you delay the leaving, its always in the back of your head..We regretfully packed up everything, bid a final adieu to the kitties and the camp and headed back into the city and to our usual lives.....
The weekend was fantastic - camping was great with all the added perks of the farm animals and the area was beautiful! I would definitely go back there. I am already browsing around more camping ideas :)..