Sometimes, Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate with your outdoor plans. So what do you do if your Catskills vacation is rained out? There’s still plenty to enjoy from quaint mountain cafes serving farm to table deliciousness to mellow hikes you can knock out during breaks in the weather.
My most recent trip focused on ziplining in the snow, but the rain and subsequent ice storm put an end to those plans. Instead, I discovered the bountiful goodness of the Catskills in the warmth of the people, the comfort of the lodges, and the taste of the food.
Discover Hunter Mountain
Hunter Mountain Resort is the heart of the Catskills located a little over two hours north of NYC. Winter visitors can enjoy the 54 trails and 12 lifts, plus tubing and ziplining in the snow. Summer visitors can enjoy the zipline, sky ride, and hiking. If you’re coming to the Catskills, you’re probably planning on visiting the mountain, but rain (or sleet) happens. Don’t worry, you can still have that wonderful weekend, even if it’s not exactly the one you planned.
When we pulled into Hunter Mountain, it reminded me of when I taught skiing at Northstar-at-Tahoe. The mountain had a lot of intermediate routes with nothing too scary. It was hard for me to be back in ski country after my knee replacements, but I’m still not ready to hit the slopes. I could feel my eyes tearing up with wistful dreams of making my turns.
There are ski-in / ski-out lodging and cafes at the mountain, but I wanted to put a little distance between myself and my unrequited dreams of skiing again, so we headed down to Scribner’s Catskills Lodge. It was modern and airy, but still cozy. They had a patio with fire pits looking out onto the ski runs, and an incredible breakfast sandwich with apple sausage. I ate my breakfast, staring wistfully at the mountain, still with a lump in my throat.
We also popped into Hunter Mountain Brewery for a pint. It reminded me of all the ski bars at the base of the mountains I worked at, warm and welcoming with a kitschy local feel. The drink selection was outstanding, and I wish I could have eaten more because the pub food looked incredible.
Relaxing at Round Top
I called the Glen Falls House home during my Catskills vacation. It so cute, quaint, and rustic. It even sits to its own waterfall. Inside, every public space seems to have been built to sit and relax. I spent hours sipping tea in the lounge by the wood-burning stove. I have never seen a loose leaf tea collection like theirs, and they had these adorable teapots that strained as you poured.
The bar at the Glen Falls House was super cute too. It reminded me of living in Greenwater Washington, this crazy little town near Crystal Mountain. The bartender brought in her golden retriever puppy, and an enormous black and white cat patrolled the lounge. Everybody seemed to know each other, but they welcomed us in with open arms. She concocted ridiculously good craft cocktails, like my honey-bourbon hot toddy. They also have a full menu of locally sourced, farm-to-table food with many of the ingredients coming from their own gardens.
I had the craziest thing happen overnight while staying at the Glen Falls house. I woke up in the middle of the night and thought I saw my friend Brianne up with insomnia. I looked back at her bed and noticed she was still under her covers fast asleep. I turned back to the apparition, and it had vanished. I spoke to the staff, and they said that it was one of the local spirits. The Inn has been open since 1881, and apparently, there are a couple of resident ghosts. They are all friendly, and I never felt afraid, but I am sure that I saw what I saw.
Climbing Kaaterskill Falls
It can’t rain all the time. The sky won’t fall forever. During a break in the weather, we took the short hike to Kaaterskill Falls. This 260’ waterfall is one of the largest in New York and a muse for many of the artists. Almost all of the Hudson River School painters, including Thomas Cole, have painted them, and the falls were mentioned in the story Rip Van Winkle. This stream is also the namesake for the mountains. It’s Dutch for “wildcat creek’.
We parked at the pullout, just a little bit above the trailhead, and walked the trail to the lower falls. The ice formed enormous icicles off the cliffs, and the rain had the falls pumping. It was a sight to behold. If the trail wasn’t so slick, I would have ventured up the short hike to the upper falls. I would absolutely recommend visiting the falls after a rain, so you can watch the water coming down in its full glory.
Taking in Tannersville
Tannersville is an adorable little mountain town near Kaaterskills Falls that reminded me of Breckenridge back when I was young before it got all commercialized. It had one main road lined with local shops and restaurants.
We stopped into Twin Peaks Coffee and Donuts and had an incredible, freshly made Boston Cream donut. After I ordered my fresh, made to order donut, they popped the ball of dough into the fryer for me. It came out piping hot and fresh. They filled the center with home-made custard and drizzled chocolate ganache on top. Amazingness! Legitimately the best donut I have ever eaten!
We continued down the main street and realized that Tannersville was a little foodie mecca. Every shop seemed to cater to the discerning New York City palet with an upstate farm-to-table theme. We popped into Last Chance Antiques and Cheese Cafe because I knew my husband, Ed, loves cheese. The Catskills are so cute, and I wished he was here on a romantic weekend. The shop had locally sourced cheese of every description. I settled on a soft garlic and cheddar spread. They would have packed it on ice for me too, but it was cold enough that I didn’t need to use the extra plastic, though to be fair, they had biodegradable bags ;-).
Catskills reminded me of a mountain town that time forgot. It’s on the Hudson River at the gateway to the mountains. I was expecting something built up like Vail. Instead, it felt more like Durango. Quiet, cute, and remarkably peaceful. Kind of a lumbersexual hipster town where they’re more likely to play a vinyl record than cut down a tree.
Our first stop was at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. It took me back to the time when upstate New York just beginning to industrialize. Thomas took up the naturalist side, arguing for the conservation of all things nature. I loved his view of the world. ‘Nature has spread for us a rich and delightful banquet. Shall we turn from it?’ ‘Overall, rocks, wood, and water brooded the spirit of repose, and the silent energy of nature stirred the soul to its innermost depths.’ I could imagine hanging out with him by a campfire on a starry night.
Just down the road from the Thomas Cole house was the Rip Van Winkle Bridge. We took the Hudson River Skywalk across the bridge and watched the ice floating down the river. It seemed symbolic of our rainy day Catskills trip. The water and ice played together, in a damp and chilly dance. It was beautiful, but my mind kept wandering to how I would love to come back and enjoy the area in good weather. Taking longer hikes in the mountains, or maybe biking along the river. We returned to our car and put Catskills in the rearview mirror, holding on to our memories and the little treasures we gathered on our trip.
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