KAATERSKILL FALLS, NY

The past couple of weekends seem to have been booked solid across every campground in NY so we were finally happy to reserve a space in the Catskills this last weekend. When we pulled up to the Black Bear Campground in Phoenicia, three older men sat in rocking chairs on the porch and waved us into the lobby--a mossy cabin filled with taxidermied animals. A young guy zipped up and down the dirt road on his motorbike. We pulled into our site--just yards from a private summer home and across the river was a dilapidated trailer lying in ruin. By the time we had returned after our hike up Kaaterskills Falls, however, these things just seemed to dissipate with all the smoke and crackle of campfires and the black sky. 

The actual hike up to Kaaterskills Falls is a short one with signs stating (with good reason) that the trail ends there and any further climb is dangerous and ill-advised. Even with the shrine of a young woman at the trailhead warning of the two fatalities this year alone, families, adults, and young people all clambered above where the falls cascade from 180 feet into another pool. Someone installed ropes at the most dangerous and slick parts, but the obvious fall down was hard to ignore--especially seeing how ill-equipped most were to climb anything of the like. 

Once up to the pool above, we climbed up behind the falls in this bowl-like ridge. From there the trail continued with more ropes and some moderate scrambling until we reached the very top of the falls. Here, visitors all the way back to the early 1900s have carved their names into the rocks before the stream plummets down. 

The very top of the Kaaterskills where the mossy, smooth rocked stream plummets 180 feet down into a green pool below. Early visitors carved their names and even the occasional silhouette portrait. 

After heading south on our way out we stopped at Minnewaska State Park (NY's "worst kept secret").

GRANITE KNOLLS

A tangential internet search perusing quarries in the NY/NJ area led me to the www.nynjtc.org/ site where you can search for hikes by  category like "quarry" or "cemetery" or "ruins." Very cool. This hike through Granite Knolls park up near Yorktown, NY is the site of a former quarry and farm with glacial erratics--huge strangely shaped boulders left behind by glacial ice--scattered across the park. You can find farm equipment, small pit quarries, and these massive sharp edged boulders a couple miles in from various trailheads.

Granite Knolls itself doesn't have it's own parking and trailhead, but we hiked in via the Yorktown Trailway--a wide path that parallels the Taconic State Parkway. We got a late start to the hike but decided to bring headlamps just in case we got caught in the dark. Well, we did. And right before dark we decided to book it straight down the mountain in an eastern direction towards the car instead of trying to follow the multiple different trails and intersections you have to pay attention to in the daylight to reach the Giant Boulder. Turns out this is a pretty fantastic way of getting from point A to point B in these woods--trees are sparse and thin and the trails are covered in leaves anyway, leaving you to keep a keen eye out for 5 different colors of blazes.