By Charlene S. Mixa
A Destination with a Wealth of Activities
Whether you are seeking outdoor adventure and excitement or inspiration and reflection, New York state’s Catskill Mountains provide the ideal environment. A region with vivid natural beauty and abundant in the fullness of each season, it continues to be a destination of choice. Thousands of acres of forest and breathtaking views beckon visitors to these exciting, scenic mountains. This year round destination offers a wealth of activities. Summer sports include hiking, mountain biking, camping, fishing, and golfing, while winter excitement is found in skiing, snowboarding, tubing and ice skating. All the natural splendor of the Catskills is conveniently located within a short drive of New York City.
On our east coast mountain trip we’ve viewed panoramic vistas of the Catskills, now we are finally going to the Catskills. As the road winds up the eastern Catskill Mountains, we thrill at the lush forest and scenic views of these infamous mountains. On the look out for signs for Bastion Falls, we spot it just as we round a hairpin turn. Great, there is a parking lot around the turn. As we walk along the edge of the highway to Bastion Falls we notice the water level is low so the falls are just more than a trickle.
From Bastion Falls we follow the signs to the Kaaterskill Falls one of the highest waterfalls in New York. It s a rocky ascending half-mile climb to the lower falls of this two-drop waterfall. The dual cascade drop is a total of 260 feet. The setting is beautiful of the lower falls and the view above of the higher falls as the water “falls” over the rocky cliff. Again, with the lower water level the falls are not as dramatic but still well worth the hike. We start the second part of the trail up a steep grade to the top of the upper Katterskill Falls. Reaching the top requires using a rope along the rocky path to pull oneself up the steep slope. Looking at each other, we decide this is too much for us and head back down the trail.
Close by is Tannersville with its rich history dating to the 1700’ when it was settled by the Dutch and became an important leather tanning center. Tourism boomed in the late 19th century when families began flocking to the Catskills for summer holidays. In Tannersville we find the main road closed for the Crazy Race and Festival, their soap box derby event. As we amble along the main street there are several whimsically painted buildings with numerous restaurants, a few shops and many tents of street vendors. On a recommendation from a local, we have lunch at the Last Chance Restaurant. Offering an eclectic menu of great food, over 300 beers and 100 cheeses from around the world, we each delight in our scrumptious sandwiches. With our street view table, we watch as young entrants bring in their soap box derby to register for the race. Racers are built from flower pots, bathtubs and many other imaginative items. What fun and creative designs!
Wanting to see as much as possible in our day in the Catskills, we head over to Hunter Mountain for the scenic SkyRide. A four-season resort, Hunter Mountain offers more activities and fun things to do in the “greener’ seasons. Outdoor enthusiasts can take advantage of the natural wonders including miles of state-maintained hiking trails, an amazing canopy zip-line, and chairlift rides to view the fantastic scenery. Traveling uphill in the SkyRide above the countryside, we can see for miles. At the stopping point mid-mountain are commanding, panoramic vistas of the Hunter valley and the majestic Catskill Mountain range. Adirondack chairs made from snow skis are great for relaxing on an outdoor deck while enjoying the cool air and vistas.
It’s been a busy day as we return to Tannersville and Villa Vosilla, a boutique resort. The young lady at registration provides an overview of all that is offered at the resort while giving us a quick tour of the dining room, lounge and night club area. An all inclusive hotel, she explains there is complimentary cheese and crackers before dinner in the lounge, with dancing in the night club after dinner plus great evening entertainment. Our king room is large with an Italian décor.
After our hike and busy day, we relax and decide to go early for the Happy Hour. The atmosphere in the cozy louge is fun with two Italian gentlemen, one playing an accordion, entertaining guests as they go to table to table singing favorite songs. Chatting with a couple, they explain they have been coming to the Villa for several years as have many of the other guests.
In the dining room, we are seated at a table by ourselves and notice the majority of guests are in large groups or families. Celebration of food, friends and family is the focus of Villa Vosilla. Serving a five course dinner with options for the entrée, we enjoy our savory meal and the festivities at dinner. Lots of birthday and anniversary celebrations go as the singing duo recognizes each person and event. Salute! To the good life! After dinner it is dancing in the romantic atmosphere of the Villa’s night club with its sunken dance floor. We locate a table just as the evening entertainment begins. Don Meritt and Annette Moreau weave a spell of warmth and excitement with their fabulous voices. The music is great with Broadway show tunes, popular music of past and present and even opera. A captivating show and a great ending to a day in the Catskills!
After our morning breakfast at Villa Vosilla, we stop by the North-South Lake State Park with its two huge picturesque lakes offering camping, picnicking, swimming, fishing, hiking trails and boating. Our goal is to see views at the site of the former Catskill Mountain House. After a short hike, we reach the area that was once America’s famous fashionable resort. The Mountain House site provides panoramic and sweeping views of the Hudson Valley and beyond. Signage in the area shows the vastness and beauty of this massive resort built in 1823 by a group of merchants in nearby Catskill. Attesting to the spectacular beauty of the site, James Fennimore Cooper is quoted as saying, “If you want to see the sights of America go to see Niagara Falls, Lake George and the Catskill Mountain House.” Today, we enjoy the magnificent views in this now “forever wild” land.
The Catskill Mountains have plenty of year round activities. A vacation for everyone, the list of activities is awesome with rock climbing, horseback riding, paddleboat, fishing, tubing, mountain biking, Zip Line, wineries, golf, museums, caverns and fun towns such as Woodstock for shopping. The Catskills are a place to return to year after year and in each season to experience these infamous mountains.
If you go:
Greene County Tourism, 700 Rt 23B, Leeds, NY 12451, (518) 943-3223 or (800) 355-CATS www.greenetourism.com
Villa Vosilla. 631923A Tannersville, NY 12485 (518) 589-5060; www.villavosilla.com