Catskills offer plethora of healthy sports options
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.