Catskills Sketchbook #3

There’s a lot of magic left in this world. There’s magic in love of course, and in religion if that’s your kind of thing. There is magic in the first words and steps of an infant, and in an old man’s dying breath. There are magic people (I’m looking at you), magic words, and magic places. For me, one of the most magical places is the Catskill Park in New York.

The banks of Mongaup Pond

Floating By A Tree

The beginnings of the park were more mundane than magical. The land that was called “Esopus” by Dutch settlers became the County of Ulster in 1683 under control of the Duke of York. In 1708, Johannes Hardenbergh was granted most of the land that was to become Catskill Park. By 1885 the County of Ulster was up to its ears in delinquent property taxes owed to New York State. One of the county’s assembleymen, Cornelius Hardenbergh (great-great-great-grandson of Johannes) was elected in part because of his opposition to payment of the taxes, even though the County had lost its lawsuit against the state. At the Constitutional Convention of 1894 a deal was struck to forgive the taxes and establish New York’s Forest Preserve including all public lands in the Catskill and Adirondack Parks with Article 14 specifying that they were to be kept “forever wild.” These lands have a higher degree of protection than wild lands in any other state. The 287,000 acres of wild land in the Catskills (and 2.6 million acres in the Adirondacks) cannot be transferred without an amendment to the state constitution.

Paddle Your Own Canoe

In the southwest corner of Catskill Park is a 120 acre lake called Mongaup Pond. It’s the largest body of water in the Catskills other than the three New York City reservoirs. Surrounding the lake are 154 campsites that are available May-October for $22 per night. Try to get a site on the outside of the loops to have direct access to the water and can you dock your boat on the site for the night. The campground rents kayaks, rowboats and canoes.

Is there a better way to begin a day than by paddling a canoe across the rippling surface of a misty pond, or a better way to end one than by sharing libations and conversations around a crackling campfire? Only one, in both instances.

Crackling Campfire

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: