More a state of
mind than an actual place, the Catskill Mountains
State Park is a vast area stretching across
four counties in New York State. There is no
welcoming center, there is no visitor kiosk,
there is no office where you can go and get
all the information you are searching for about
the park. In fact, there is quite literally
no park there.
Instead, what compromises
the Catskill Mountains State Park is a tapestry
of preserved state lands, various wilderness
and wild areas owned and protected by New York
State interwoven with private lands, homes,
businesses, villages and hamlets. Overseen primarily
by the Department of Environmental Conservation,
these protected areas combine together to preserve
for all time these antique mountains and the
extraordinary richness of the environment.
Long of legend,
the Catskills formed the backdrop of early colonization
up and down the Hudson River. As an imposing
physical barrier, they early established the
limits of royal authority over the land. Seeming
to spring up from the very banks of the mighty
Hudson River, they were the stuff of mystery
and lore stretching back into the mists of civilization.
Honored and revered by Native Americans they
were quickly transformed into the focus of folk
lore and legend by the newly arriving Europeans.
Their imposing high peaks and their hundreds
of secret and hidden coves and dells were populated
by myths and fables, strange powers and frightening
sounds and apparitions. Venturing into these
fabled mountains the unwary could fall to their
spells and dominion.
In the hollowed
bowl beneath the Kaaterskill Falls, Rip Van
Winkle, an noted lethargist and back country
idler, himself fell victim to the powers of
the Catskills. Lured ever deeper into the misty
forests and mossy glens, Rip fell victim to
the powers of these mountains, time fell away
and all that mattered in his life down in the
valley passed on without him.
So to will you fall
under the magical spells of the Catskills. One
of the oldest ranges of mountains in America,
the Catskills have been weathered, softened,
rounded and carved into an inviting and friendly
terrain. Although the highest peaks still reach
skyward to over 3,500 feet, the Catskills form
the perfect environment for hiking, back country
skiing and wilderness adventure. They are traversed
by hundreds of miles of developed and well maintained
trails. Hiking in the Catskills ranges from
the simple family friendly path to challenging
mountain scrambling. As you walk the trails
the scenery ranges from dense hardwood and hemlock
forests carpeted with moss and dripping with
water to escarpments with views stretching dozens
of miles into the distance. Depending on the
time of year and whether you are in a "Wild
Area" or a "Wilderness Area"
you may go for days without seeing another person
or hearing a sound created by man.
The Catskills is
filled with small and quaint hamlets and villages
offering a range of accommodations from log
cabins to luxury spas. If your idea of fun is
camping under the stars, the Catskills has both
private campgrounds as well as extremely well
maintained public camping areas. Wilderness
camping is permitted in certain areas as you
hike the trails and backwoods of the Catskills.
For the more active
outdoors entheuasists, the Catskills offer a
range of possibilities. In the Greene County
section of the Catskills are to be found the
major ski centers of New York at Hunter Mountain
and Windham. Various locations offer horseback
riding and guided tours through the Catskills,
small museums abound and centers of arts and
music show and perform all levels of artistic
expression. And throughout the Catskills innumerable
ponds, streams and kills wander and cascade
through the tumbled boulders under the canopy
of the forest making for an ideal fly fishing
experience. In fact, fly fishing was created
and developed in the Catskills.
All in all, though
a little difficult to approach and a little
difficult to gather information on, the Catskills
is a special place to visit and spend time.
They require you to arrive and immerse yourself
in their lore and relax into their reality.
Time really does seem to stand still in the