Mountain Madness: The Catskills Are Back
A word from Hudson Valley Editor in Chief, Olivia J. Abel
Photograph by Michael Nelson
So it turns out that the Catskills are not really mountains after all. I know, I know, that sounds ridiculous, and I dare you to tell that to someone who has just spent the day climbing one of the high peaks — those towering masses of land all reaching higher than 3,500 feet. Still, according to geologists at the Department of Environmental Conservation, they are actually plateaus that have been eroded (by rivers, etc.), so that they look like mountains. Well, whatever they are exactly, the Catskills have been luring generations of New Yorkers to frolic in their beauty for hundreds of years now. As famed painter Thomas Cole wrote, “Must I tell you that neither the Alps nor the Apennines, no, nor even Etna itself, have dimmed, in my eyes, the beauty of our Catskills.”
So when we sat down to write about the Catskills for this issue, we knew that we had a big job ahead of us. After all, there is so much to talk about. There’s the legend of Rip Van Winkle, the Borscht Belt hotels of the mid-20th century (and their equally famous decline during the end of that century), one-of-a-kind hikes — the stunning twin Kaaterskill Falls, for example, is the stuff of legend at this point — as well as camping, biking, and a host of other outdoor activities. But the big story of the day is that the Catskills have seemingly overnight transformed from a sleepy, somewhat rundown region to a hip ’n happening hangout for all types of urban culture vultures and — dare we say it — hipsters.
What is this we hear? It seems that every season, at least one new boutique hotel throws open its doors — and more and more city folk flee upstate to the forest. Cultural offerings abound, gastropubs serve up farm-to-table fare, you can even stay in a luxury yurt. Yes, glamping has come to the Catskills.
So, we couldn’t cover everything about the Catskills in these pages — not even close. And for the purpose of inclusion in this issue, we basically considered the Catskills to be west of Woodstock. So while this is in no way a complete guide, I hope that we’ve filled you in on some really interesting people, places, and things that you may not have been aware of.
And we also have lots more cool Catskills stuff at www.hvmag.com. A while back we put out a call on Facebook for readers to share their favorite Catskills memories with us. So many of you wrote to tell us your magical childhood memories. Whitney Druker, who now lives in the state of Washington, wrote this:
“I grew up in a small town called Krumville. It’s now part of Olivebridge. People laugh when they hear the name, but it was the best place on earth to grow up. What I loved best was the seasons. You could smell each season coming. There was no best season either, each one had its uniqueness. Spring would bring the water rushing in the creeks from the melting snow and the geese flying back home. Warm summer nights would bring out the whippoorwills and beautiful sunsets over the mountains. Fall would bring the smell of leaves and cold crisp air. Huge snow walls to get to the mailbox, sledding down empty fields, ice skating on ponds — all are happy winter memories. I can’t imagine growing up any other way.”
I hope you’re inspired to create some Catskill memories of your own.
Olivia J. Abel
Editor In Chief