Frum Outdoorsman: Rare but Possible

The wanderings and adventures of an orthodox Jew

Archive for the ‘Catskills’ Category

The road to many waterfalls is very fun to drive

Posted by Frum Hiker on July 5, 2007

Figured I would tell all you fine folks that there exists a road that is not far from the center of Jewish life for the summer that contains some amazing spots for swimming, hiking and pictures. I would call it waterfall road- but to most its known as Ulster County Route 42. It is located off of Route 55A which is off Route 55.

Go north on route 42 from Woodbourne to Grahamsville and then take a right on 55 going east, then take a left on 55A and go straight onto Route 153 when 55A makes a sharp turn by a bridge. Route 153 which is a county route will turn into route 42.

On the right side of this road are many waterfalls- its easy to find them since the only place where the water can run is directly under the road- so whenever you go over a small bridge just look to your left and walla.

Posted in Catskills, Road Trips | Leave a Comment »

Coming soon…Outdoor guide for Jews in the Catskills

Posted by Frum Hiker on June 25, 2007

I am working on a guide for those orthodox Jews who venture to the Woodbourne-Monticello area and are drawn to the outdoors. Whether they are seasoned enthusiast or first timers I intend to bring you a good list of interesting stuff to do in close proximity to these locations. This is not a list of the normal summer attractions like Cooperstown, Howe Caverns and the wide array of mini-golf and go kart places. I want to show people that there are great places to take the family and immerse within nature and maybe have a grueling workout at the same time.

Check back within the next few days for the list….

Posted in Catskills, Frummies, general Outdoors, Jews | 5 Comments »

Loop around Phoenicia-Hunter-Shandaken, wide shoulders and fast long descents

Posted by Frum Hiker on June 12, 2007

The title says it all, I have been hiking and driving around this area for ages. I have stayed in Tannersville for shabbos many a time, and I have been skiing Hunter Mountain since I was a wee little one, finally I got a chance to see the area in all its glory, late in the day as the sun was making the shadows long and at 15 miles per hour.

I started out at the intersection of Routes 23A and 214. I road 214 south for 12 miles until Pheonecia. This road is simply amazing to ride this way. You ride flat for a couple miles and then hit two steep relatively quick climbs. Then you go downhill for about 7 or 8 miles. A steady coasting downhill or a pounding in the big ring nastiness, depending on what you choose. You pass between to mountain ranges and in many places the road is hugged by steep lush hillsides on either sides. A narrow roaring creek is off to
oneside and at one point by the Devils Tombstone state parking area and campground there is a beautiful lake. The shoulder isnt too great with some cracks and you should watch out for the bridge joints if you ride very skinny tires. The road is very lightly traveled in the weekdays so it wasn not much of an issue.

Then at the end of Route 214 I rode on 28 west until Shandaken. A decent ride, though the shoulder in many places is unrideable and riding on the road sucks when there is traffic and 28 is one of the heaviest traveled roads in the Catskills. Again you are offered great views of the high peaks areas of the Catskills, but the stores, houses and heavy traffic ruin it somewhat.

I took a right onto route 42 and went north. Route 42 is one of my favorite roads in the Catskills. It actually begins in the Monticello area way south of where I was. It ends and then starts up again here for only 10 miles or so. The shoulder is narrow but very smooth. The road goes up over the mountains like so. You ride up a very long hill, I rode up the hill between 10 and 13 mph, a steady long hill with very few houses and some nice creeks and small waterfalls. Near the top to the left of me was a pretty high waterfall and when you go down towards route 23A the fun starts.

Route 42 shoots down out of the mountain gorge ands enters rolling farmland surrounded by mountains. It is simply amazing to be in such random beauty when you spent a long uphill surrounded by thick forested hillsides and cliffs. The farmland is soft and inviting with its golden high grass and old slanted farmhouses. Some old cars sit in the fields making it all seem abandoned, though I saw some folks mowing their yards and waving to me as I rushed by at 35 mph. The downhill is steep and of decent length. I flirted with 50 mph until I freaked and hit the brakes.

A large river appears within all the farmland and it is strewn with rocks with a slivery piece of water flowing in its side, old trees and drift wood scattered its sides. The sun was becoming orange signaling the end of the day, the sky was very blue and extremely bright. Off to the east I could see a dark mass starting to form. I took a right on route 23A and continued est to my car.

Route 23A prior to Hunter is also the same rolling farmland creeping up to the large mountains in the valley. You ride along the lazy creek next to the road and see an occasional fisherman casting away in its clear brown waters. I rode through Hunter and saw the black mass of mean looking clouds moving fast towards me. I came to route 42 took a right and proceeded to my car parked on the grass by the shoulder.

I could hear thunder off to the east and looked up to see a huge rainbow within the masses of clouds. To the west the sun was a brilliant pink and orange orb with raws glancing off the fast approaching storm. I davened Mincha and thanked Hashem for providing me with such a great 40 mile ride and letting me get back before the onslaught of the storm. As I drove home, huge droplets of rain pummled my car and smeared the bug graveyard on my windshield.

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Todays hike and bike rides

Posted by Frum Hiker on May 31, 2007

Today was a busy day, I worked about 7 hours but is was two different times, so in between I had the opportunity to ride the trails behind Skidmore college, otherwise known as the stables, Daniels Road Trails and Devils Den. It was my first mountain bike ride in over a week and I felt clumsy on these super technical trails located in Saratoga Springs. These trails are for experienced mountain bikers only, unless you want to ride between the power lines. These trails are slow to medium paced and will keep you on your toes. The scenery is very good if you take the trails near the swamps, but its black fly season in the Adirondacks so watch out.

Once again work took me to Kingston in the afternoon so I decided to go to one of the short hike recommendations from the folks yesterday at Overlook mountain. I drove west on route 28 till I hit route 42 and took it north. Route 42 itself is a beautiful road, it is one of those roads that starts and stops again later on. It is more famous in the lower Catskills where it goes through Monticello.

I took route 42 north until I hit Spruceton road which is Greene County Route 6. This road is simply breathtaking, winding its way along between two mountain ranges with long golden fields in the middle. Old farm houses and long grassy fields end at the edge of mountains West Kill and Hunter mountain trail heads are on the end of this road.

The hike I chose was more of a walk, I was tired from work and my previous ride. I didn’t even need boots for this casual one mile walk into to see Diamond Notch Falls. Waterfalls are awesome especially ones with pools for swimming beneath them. The trail in was an old logging road, the trail would great on a bike if that were legal. The trail followed the creek and passed by small overgrown bushy fields and some old stone crumbling stone walls. It was easy and pleasant walking and my brisk pace despite my sandals was just enough to make me sweat.

The falls are at a confluence of trail heads and make for a great picnic or chilling spot. Flat rocks in the creek above and below the falls are perfect for sitting and relaxing to the sound of the falls. They are not too high but they are quite beautiful, extremely green and full of moss.

Unfortunately the low water meant that the pool was not too deep, it was way too cold to swim anyway. It is definately a good place to come since you have many day hike options right at the falls. There is nothing like startinga hike with some goodness like a waterfall.

Then after I got out of the woods I still had an hour left of daylight so I decided to ride my road bike from Lexington to Prattsville on Route 23A, a magnificent road following farms in a wide valley running alongside the swift yet shallow Esopus creek- known as a great fishing stream- maybe thats why there are tons of DEC parking lots. The shoulder is smooth and wide and traffic was almost non-existent. The sun was sinking down and the shadows were long, tons of bugs splattered on my arms and many folks were mowing their lawns giving the air a fine grassy scent. It was simply an amazing 13 mile ride.

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Overlook Mountain: quick hike to amazing views

Posted by Frum Hiker on May 30, 2007

I had a couple hours to spare yesterday and happened to be off of work at 4:30 and in the city of Kingston. I debated with myself for a few minutes whether to ride some trails or go on a hike. Initially I felt that I didn’t have enough time for a hike that would actually take me somewhere cool. Then I decided on Overlook Mountain just outside of Woodstock- NY. The trail up the mountain is more of a gravel road that winds through dense forest with views in the fall and winter throughout the hike up. In the summer you have to go all the way to the top, where hikers are greatly rewarded with 360 degree views from atop the old fire tower.

Yesterday was a perfect day, bright sun, no clouds and roughly 70 degrees with a slight breeze. It was also very clear out, a true rarity in our pollution laden skies above New York State. I am always trying to find short hikes that get the heart rate up, give you a great view and allow them to be done when I have only a couple hours from the time I get out of work until it gets dark.

overlook mt

From the trail head which it is 2.0 miles to the top where the old ruins of the Overlook Mountain House still stand decaying on the fake summit of the mountain. A trail leads off at this point which goes to Echo Lake- a beautiful 2 mile hike which takes you to an amazing lake and lean to. You can also hike to Indian Head Mountain which can be seen from the top of Overlook directly to the North.

After reaching the old hotel, its another half mile to the very top, where there are outhouses, picnic table and an old fire tower. To the northwest it was clear, but to the south west and east it was a bit hazy. I could see the Kingston-Rhincliff Bridge spanning the Hudson with a splotch of city that was presumably Kingston. To the west the huge Ashokan Reservoir could be seen amongst the low lying hills and dense greenery. Slide mountain could also be seen through the haze, as it rise to the top of the western mountain range along route 47.

This was my first hike of the season by the way and even though I have been riding my bike a good 5 days a week, I felt completely out of shape. I am hoping to go on a few day solo backpacking trip next week, so I have decided to do some short quick, but strenuous hikes in the next few days to get my knees worked up.

Posted in Catskills, Hiking | 11 Comments »

Jockey Hill Ride

Posted by Frum Hiker on January 3, 2007

My windshield is misting up from the road spray and the swirling fog is not making it any easier for my tired eyes. The loud beats of some random earlier 90s punk rock fills my ear drums as I try to stay awake at the wheel. I am hoping for some sun, but with every clear bit of sky that comes my way, the fog swirls up to combat its foe and take quash any chance at clear skies. I knew it would be like this when I left, yet I couldn’t bear to just let another day go by feeling depressed looking for work and just sulking in from of a blinking screen. Besides how many more January days of 50 degrees will we get? Global Warming is cyclical isn’t it?

I continued my drive, wondering why every time it was gloomy out I chose to ride the same trails. I thought about the slippery jagged rocks and if my new rear tire would prove to be efficient or simply stutter like the last one and merely slip on everything that stood in its way. My mind wondered to clothing selection, what was the temperature? Was it raining or was this merely the road spray shooting out of the rear tires of the car in front of me? Prayers for clear skies and no rain permeated my mind, as I saw the sign for the exit. My heart rate quickened and I put on some faster punk music to liven my sullen mood up.

There is nothing like riding trails that are void of life. Nothing like knowing you are the lone soul for miles and miles, huffing and grinding your gears oblivious to the outside worlds troubles and in your own special place. The skies were cloudy, but the rain had dissipated and left in its path a slick and wet trail system. I could hear the tumultuous rumble of a distant stream churning its storm runoff over moss covered rocks and decaying fallen logs as it made its way down to an unknown destination, maybe a lake lay unforeseen in the woods somewhere. My mind drifted back, I felt my tire pushing my bike up an incline of jagged sharp slate rocks and slick logs that had lost their bark. Every now and then I was forced off my bike, due to the foreboding fallen log that was lay strewn in an awkward position so that a simple ride over it would have proven fatal for both me and my bike.

Pine needles littered the floor of the forest and through only a slight depression in the layers of pine seedlings could a trail be seen. I glanced to the sides taking in the beautiful old growth pines that stood like warriors blocking any entrance to the forest beyond, I heard the stream off in some distance now and saw the fog closing in on me, it was swirling in random ways like smoke in a tripped out hippie scene. I could blow out my mouth and it moved the smoky swirls in another direction creating a new pattern, small shafts of light that made their way down to below the masses of pines looked as if G-d himself was shinning down. G-d rays, I thought to myself, as I recalled what a friend of mine called it when the sun had shone through the clouds allowing one to see its rays.

I grinded in lower gears, wheezing and coughing my way up a long and steady hill, all the while my tires slipped ands sloshed in the mud, spraying my spandex pants with small splotches of mud reminiscent of spilling paint on ones self. I was satisfied with this new tire I had just installed on the rear of my ride, and praised the Lord for providing with such beauty amidst all of this gloom. Even gloom is good when treated right, instead of sitting around and wondering what to do I just did it and got off my behind and busted that bike out and rocked my muddy world.

I sat down on a damp rock and felt my butt instantly become moist from the cold dampness that permeated from the rock through my pants to cool my bare sweaty skin that lay beneath two clothing layers. Smoke emanated off my body and mixed with its cousin the fog. I gnawed on an energy bar that tasted like cement, I felt the protein hitting the spot, took two long joyful swigs off my camelback straw, and got up to stretch. My back was like a swamp with my shirt stuck plastered to it. I continued to ride, I rode until it came time for the major downhill and then tuned everything out in order to have kavanah for the downhill. I could feel the 5 inches of plush rear suspension kicked into gear as if by esp. The shock and wheels bounced up and down and rocks were cast aside as I rode quickly by, I could hear small rodents scattering like wildflowers in the wind at my approaching noise which must have sounded like a pack of dear in the quiet woods. I heard some gun shots in the distance as I made my way back onto the old road that circled the State Forest I was in. The road is not really a road at all anymore, just a rocky tract of treeless straightness that appears to once have supported moving gas powered vehicles or perhaps horse driven, there was no telling how old the rocky, gravel road was.

I rode back to my awaiting muddy car that was sitting in a huge puddle surrounded by discarded mud from its undercarriage that had dripped off with the rain or whatever residue had forced the particles of earth off of its body with force. I gleefully sat on my tailgate and removed all of my clothing and stood in the empty forest standing in just my socks and underwear, steam swirling off my body with force and the cold sweat clinging for dear life as I proceeded to rummage around for a towel or some sort of wiping device. I rubbed the old bloodied shirt over my face wiping sweat mixed with mud and rain water. I donned some pants and sat once again on my tail gate munching on honey mustard potato chips shirtless in the cool, damp, humidity laden late afternoon enjoying the quiet gloom and all of its sullenness. One other car lay to the right of me its occupants no where to be seen. Were they small game hunters I wondered? Luckily I had worn my orange blaze, though its hardly likely a full size man on a mountain bike could be mistaken for a groundhog or chipmunk.

With just a t-shirt I hopped into my car and sat for a moment appreciating its taken for granted comforts. I leaned back enjoying the feel of the smooth aging leather on my back and behind. I pressed on the clutch and started the car, selected some chilled out Bela Fleck instrumental bluegrass and proceeded to drive down the double track, pothole ridden, dirt road.

Posted in Catskills, Mountain Biking | 1 Comment »

Overlook Mountain Hike

Posted by Frum Hiker on December 26, 2006

I woke up to the shafts of sunlight hitting my eyes through my shade less windows, I cursed the sun for waking me up so early- yet was happy that I could get an early start and have a whole day to work with. A quick shachris, cinnamon toast crunch, tuna fish sandwich in tin foil, filling of the camel back, dumping of my hiking socks and fleece into my car and I was off. I didn’t know exactly where I would go- but I just headed south on the Thruway, pointing my car in the direction of the Catskills with high hopes that I would catch the few remaining days of foliage, while the wind tried harder then ever to shorten the fall season, by blowing all the pretty leaves off the trees and blowing in some horrific cold front with November rains.

It was mighty windy as I drove down the highway listening to Neil Young who was searching for his heart of gold. 30 miles south of Albany, my sun disappeared, in its place a gloomy late October day, filled with dark foreboding clouds, wind whipped cyclones of leaves, and the inevitable rain. I think I will hike Overlook Mountain I decided as I got off at the Woodstock exit. It’s a fairly easy hike, but provides access to pretty good views if one chooses to hike further then the old Overlook Hotel, that is perched at the top overlooking the Ashokan Reservoir and the Southern Catskills.

It was cold and windy as I donned my boots, wick away T-shirt and windproof fleece. It was cold enough for a hat and gloves as well, which due to my reading of to many wilderness survival books I always get scared of being stuck in the woods and dying of something as stupid as not having a simple hat and gloves.

Overlook is an interesting place, unlike the other trailheads in the Catskills, this one is easy access and famous so it is always crowded. Crowded to me is more then one car, the hike up follows an old road that leads to the old hotel and the unfortunate scar of a radio tower- I cursed under my breath as this came into view. At the top I turned onto a trail for Echo Lake and Indian Head Mountain 2 and 6 miles respectively. I figured I would hike halfway to Indian Head, eat my lunch and then hike back to the lake. This is exactly what happened.

The gravel road instantly ended and I was cast forth into a completely different world. The clouds were scattered now and rays of sun reached me through the trees. The sun was brightly reflecting off of the remaining leaves in their peak foliage condition of red and orange. These crunchy red and orange leaves were also scattered along the trail wherever the wind had decided to relieve of their joy ride from their homes on the trees to the ground. The wind was incredible because the crunchy late season leaves swayed in a symphonic fashion as they hit one another every time a gust of wind got hold of them.

It was darned cold as I walk through the shaded path under a canopy of crunchy swaying wind driven leaves. The trail led down a hill and deposited me onto a ridge. About 15 miles east as the crow flies was the distinct Hudson River cutting a swath through Catskills and Taconic’s ultimately separating them into two ranges. I took in the view of the colorful lowlands meeting the gradual rise of the land as it met the Taconic’s at the Connecticut border. In the distance possibly 20 miles I could make out a town, Catskill or maybe Saugerties. The wind blew stronger now, and it started to rain. At least I thought it was rain. Rain doesn’t go sideways I thought as I realized it was snowing. My heart leaped for joy followed by the screaming of my happy praise the Lords- one passing by may have branded me a Jesus Freak, but I was in fact very grateful for this first snow of the season. All at once I started fantasizing about skiing across lakes and on the sides of railroad tracks and cooking oatmeal on the hood of my car while preparing for a day at Jay Peak. I started thinking if my tires on my car were Ok and all the other concerns and joys that come with the first snow. Of course this snow was merely flurries, but flurries conjure up all these thoughts that have been cast down into ones unconsciousness since last seasons final snow turned brown and was plowed into storm drains.

I walked with a new hype in my step. I had no cares in the world and just enjoyed the solitude that the forest along with the snow created. All that could be heard was the creaking of swaying trees and the crunchy leaves crumbling under the weight of my soles. My trekking poles looked like shish kabobs of leaves as they skewered leaves every time they staked the ground. The mud caked around my boots, and the sweat dripped off my brow, the snot dripped from my nose, my tzitzis stuck to my back, the snowflakes could be seen as they crash landed on my fleece-only to melt seconds after contact without chance for survival.

I walked and walked, a few miles at least until I found the perfect spot for lunch. I had walked about 6 miles before I ate anything at all, the only nourishment coming from in frequent swigs from my camel back straw. Down off the trail I noticed some old stone foundations and decided to check them out, being the abandoned structure addict that I am. Upon reaching them I was disappointed at their lack of uniqueness but noticed an even better thing.

There was a clearing and a wide vista of the Hudson Valley 3000 feet below. Smack in the center of this clearing was a lazy boy made of long flat pieces of rock. A perfect setting and if not for my running out of film a perfect photo opportunity. Setting my tired butt onto this slab of rock that reminded me of sitting on cold toilet seats, I relished in the view as well as the utter silence and small flakes floating onto my chin as I leaned back. My foil wrapped tuna sandwich was heaven even though it was soggy as anything. I sat munching on my sandwich and then just chilling for the better part of an hour. Then I turned around and went back the way I had come.

A quick mile detour took me down to a 13 acre pond and my first sighting of humans in the last 5 hours or so. Its funny when you realize that you haven’t spoken to anyone besides yourself or G-d all day. The lake was in the middle of two mountains covered in bright orange leaves and moss covered rocks creating a picture perfect setting. I sat on the edge of the lake and contemplated about how being unemployed rocks. Then I headed back up to the top of Overlook to climb the fire tower at the top.

The best time to see if your fleece that is supposedly windproof actually is, is at the top of a fire tower while snow is whipping at you in 50 mph wind gusts. Indeed the fleece works, I knew this already, The tower provides the viewer with 360 degree views of the central Catskills, the clouds obstructed much but too my joy I could see the bands of whirling snow wherever the snow bands were located. This was rather interesting to watch as snow approached me and then eventually placed itself on top of me. The cold wind forced me off the tower and eventually back to my car. Quite a refreshing little hike I may say.

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More Mountain Biking Destinations for Jews in the Catskills

Posted by heshman on July 21, 2006

Today I rode the most magnificant loop of pristine singletrack that is quite close to Monticello. Good mountain biking is hard to come by when you may be vacationing or working in the Catskills so here are two other places I will recomend. So for all you frummy mountain bikers, shut up and ride.

Prompton Lake Park.

7 Miles West of Honesdale PA on route 6. In order to get to Honesdale, take route 52 west to Narrowsburgh NY, cross the Delaware river and continue on Route 652 west in PA, continue till honesdale and hop on route 6 west. about 6 miles after downtown Honesdale is route 170 North. Make a right and look for park.

One main loop circumnavigates the lake you see upon entering. The loop either starts by riding across the dam, or by going to the end of the parking lot away from the dam. The trail is called east shore or west shore depending on what you choose. The trail coming out of the parking lot is super fast and fairly technical. I ride a 5 inch dualy and have a blast here. It is very windy and there are tons of flat shale rocks, and rock bridges. Across the lake are many loops which connect into the main loop. I recomend the Sugar shack trail, a grueling climb through pine forest breaks into fields of blueberry and blackberry bushes. The downhill is much the same with some good oppurtunity for air.

Merli Sarnowski Park- Fell Mountain

Traveling further west on Route 6 into Carbondale will behold some super technical beautifull trails. This park which can be found on under either name in the trail reviews is quite techinical and rocky. Once again many loops loop into the main loop. All trails are marked. Take route 6 west into Carbondale, at the Dunkin Dounuts make a right and follow road up the hill. You will then see signs pointing you to park.

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