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he Catskill Mountains is a land of crystal-clear splashing brooks, primitive wilderness, balsam fragrant mountains; sweet air freshened by high hills and the vastness of space. There are quaint towns and villages, fine accommodations, great food, and plenty of opportunities for hiking, fishing, skiing, shopping; or just relax under the shade of a tree on a summer's day.

Native Americans lived in awe of these mountains and believed their Gods lived here, behind the "Great Wall of Manitou," the breathtaking wall of stone that marks the Catskill's eastern boundary, rising dramatically from the floor of the Hudson River Valley.

Thomas Cole created America's first school of painting in the 19th century by recording this dramatic landscape of high peaks, deep cloves, and breathtaking views. James Fenimore Cooper and John Burroughs captured their beauty in novels and essays 100 years ago. That beauty is intact, today.

And in 1894 New York State's Constitution was amended to create the Catskill Forest Preserve, 300,000 acres of land that "shall be forever wild." Cared for by the Department of Environmental Conservation, there are miles of hiking and walking trails, fishing streams, lakes and ponds, and unspoiled woodlands.

A few suggestions on how to enjoy the Catskills and the great outdoors!

The Catskills, Outdoors

Information on hiking, fishing and places to just get out into nature.

The Catskills Forest Preserve & Park are protected and managed by the DEC. Made up of a unique conglomeration of private and public lands, there are Wilderness Areas & Wild Forest Areas. The Wilderness areas all contain at least 10,000 acres of uninterrupted and unspoiled forest and mountainside. Foot travel is the only way to traverse the Wilderness; all motorized and wheeled (bicycles) vehicles are prohibited. Even the DEC must walk. The Wild Forests are designed to provide a higher degree of human recreation; they resemble parks. Mountain bikes and snowmobiles are allowed in these areas. There are usually more people here; they are less remote than the Wilderness.

Both the Wilderness and Wild Forests provide beautiful natural environments, close to civilization but far enough away so you can clear your head, forget your day to day pressures and leave these mountains refreshed and rejuvenated.

Current day residents are content to let the rest of the world think these mountains are filled with the old time stereotypical hotels because we know that what's really here is unparalleled natural beauty. There are charming Beds & Breakfasts, Country Inns, small motels and even a spa or two. Many refugees of our overcrowded cities have migrated here, bringing their city-bred talents and expertise with them. Good food abounds.

Small villages and towns, places like Phoenicia, Hunter, Windham, Lexington and Olive, are home to shops offering charming gifts, local crafts, specialty foods. There are galleries and unusual museums. In the summertime, farmstands, craft fairs, flea markets abound. And there are under-the-stars concerts, too. We are the guardians of a well-kept secret.

Time, in many ways, has passed the Catskills by, just as it did for one of our more famous characters, Rip Van Winkle. The English Crown's land patent system, The French-Indian War, The American Revolution, combined with the vagaries of mountain weather and our rugged terrain conspired to keep the Catskills isolated and to make early settlement difficult. Civilization reached here 100 years later than it did the rest of the Northeast, so that today we are reaping the benefits and have what so many other communities long for: open spaces, fresh, untainted air, clear waters, little traffic, and quiet, quiet that lets you hear the birdsong.

Come during any season, these mountains offer sweet summers, brilliant fall colors, winter white snows and glorious springs.

Washington Irving wrote, "I shall never forget my first view of these mountains. It was in the course of a voyage up the Hudson…before steamboats and railroads had driven all poetry and romance out of travel. We were all day (on the sloop) slowly tiding along. Of all the scenery of the Hudson, the Kaatskill Mountains had the most witching effect on my boyish imagination. Never shall I forget the effect upon me of the first view of them predominating over a wide extent of the country, part wild, woody, and rugged; part softened away into all the graces of cultivation. As we slowly floated along, I lay on the deck and watched them through a long summer's day; undergoing a thousand mutations under the magical effects of atmosphere; sometimes seeming to approach, at other times to recede; sometimes melting into hazy distance, now burnished by the setting sun, until in the evening they printed themselves against the glowing sky in the deep purple of an Italian landscape."

A few links for you to follow to find out more about the Catskills on HV/Net:

Catskills Region Map
This map is not meant as completely accurate representation of the terrain, roads and trails. HV/Net suggests that before you visit you first obtain an accurate map of the area. They are available in many locations throughout the region.
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