Catskills of­fer plethora of healthy sports op­tions

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - Stan Fischler MSG Net­work Hockey An­a­lyst

One of the neat­est as­pects of liv­ing in the Catskills is the num­ber of healthy sports in which an in­di­vid­ual can in­dulge with­out spend­ing one penny.

My fa­vorite in the Win­ter — soon to come — is snow­shoe­ing. It’s cool; it’s quiet and you don’t have to wait on a lift line.

In the sum­mer — for me at least — it has to be bik­ing on a two-wheeler with at least 10-speeds. That is, of course, if I’m not mak­ing like a sun­fish in the Town of Olive’s Davis Park (Pete Tosi Me­mo­rial) pool.

Nowa­days — also in the Spring — it’s all about hik­ing, speed-walk­ing or hav­ing a good, long stroll around the mag­nif­i­cent Ashokan Reser­voir; our placid lake if ever there was one.

But strolling is far from hik­ing and the lat­ter has been in my blood since I was knee-high to a grasshop­per and had fam­ily to take me on treks.

When I was four years old my par­ents took me on hike along the Palisades just North of the Ge­orge Washington Bridge. That’s when you could take the Dy­ck­man Street Ferry across the Hud­son. As I grew older the hikes be­came steeper be­cause there was a pro­fes­sional clim­ber in our house.

My Aunt He­len, who lived with us and be­longed to the New York Hik­ing Club, raised me on treks up and around Bear Moun­tain. They were called “trail-clear­ing” ex­pe­di­tions and great fun.

My first taste of it came in the late 1930s and early 1940s when the New York Cen­tral Rail­road ran a pas­sen­ger line along the West Shore of the Hud­son.

We’d take the ferry from Cham­bers Street in Man­hat­tan across the river to the Cen­tral’s Wee­hawken Ter­mi­nal. In those days the NYC had a fleet of old pas­sen­ger cars that reg­u­larly rolled North on the Wa­ter Level route from Wee­hawken to Kingston.

A few miles south of Bear Moun­tain there was a sta­tion called Tomp­kins Cove. We’d get off there and walk north and then west along roads lead­ing to the start of the Tim­pTorne Trail that led over the two peaks and on down to Bear Moun­tain Inn.

For decades since, I traipsed the Timp-Torne un­til mov­ing to Boiceville where my wife, Shirley, and I found a pair of nearby moun­tains worth climb­ing. One was — and is — Sa­muel’s Point di­rectly south of our house.

The other — down Brad­ken Road for about a mile — is Cross Moun­tain which fea­tures a trail that can take you all the way to Mount Trem­per. That is, if the spirit — and the legs — move you.

Try as we might, we never reached ei­ther crest. Clos­est we came with Sam’s Point was a climb three-quar­ters to the top. Since one of our troupe lacked de­cent hik­ing shoes, we had to turn around and end the dis­tress.

On the other oc­ca­sion, it looked as if we might make it to the top but we dis­cov­ered bear-claw mark­ings on a tree and fig­ured it would be more pru­dent to hus­tle home and drink some hot choco­late than go two rounds with Smokey.

As for Cross Moun­tain, the only time I ever chal­lenged its trail was with our dog Cleo. That sweet­heart of an Airedale was ready, will­ing and able un­til we climbed high enough to view the Reser­voir. Cleo fig­ured that was high enough and, frankly, so did I.

There are trails ga­lore in the Catskills. Some are easy to climb thanks to clear sig­nage and oth­ers are touch and go such as Cross Moun­tain and Sa­muels Point. The first time we tried Sam’s Point the ob­vi­ous part of the trail dis­ap­peared about a quar­ter of the way up the moun­tain. From that point on we lit­er­ally “faked it” in terms of know­ing where we were go­ing.

Ditto for Cross Moun­tain; the dif­fer­ence be­ing that Cleo, seemed to sniff right trail from wrong and wher­ever we plod­ded seemed to be the right way to go.

For those who pre­fer more ob­vi­ous and re­lax­ing routes, you can’t go wrong at the Ashokan for ei­ther strolling, speed walk­ing or bi­cy­cling.

My fa­vorite start­ing place for any of the above hap­pens to be at the park­ing lot off Route 28A not far from the reser­voir of­fices.

That’s where the for­mer mo­tor­way has long been closed and avail­able only for walk­ers and bik­ers. To many lo­cals it’s known as “The Lemon Squeeze” be­cause about a half-mile in, the road tight­ens so much that two cars had lit­tle room to get by in the good, old days.

Granted the Ashokan roads get a bit — just a bit — crowded on week­ends but the folks who do their ex­er­cise thing around the grand reser­voir are in­vari­ably ami­able whether they’re bik­ing, walk­ing or just plain gaz­ing at the un­can­nily lovely views.

In other words — DO IT!

Au­thor-columnist-com­men­ta­tor Stan “The Maven” Fischler re­sides in Boiceville and New York City. His col­umn ap­pears each week in the Sunday Free­man.


The mag­nif­i­cent Ashokan from a walker’s view.

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