People bitch about the urban chaos that is New York all the time. It’s too hot in the Summer. It’s too cold in the Winter. It’s smelly. It’s crowded. There’s a fantastic mix of dog poo and human pee covering most surfaces.
Most if it is true. And then there’s this:
This exists in the same state that New York City is in. In fact, it’s only two hours upstate by car and car rental (CC Rentals on 37th street is what we went with) was a total of $20 per person, per day. If you don’t mind staying in bunks, there’s extremely affordable accommodation (we went with AirBNB for $20 a day for six people in Hunter Mountain but my friend Brett works at an awesome inn called Deer Mountain Inn for the fancier folks). The place above is called Kaaterskills Falls and it’s incredible – you hike about 20 minutes through minor waterfalls that are really just warming you up for the real deal and after a steep flight of stairs, suddenly you’re in front of a straight up oasis. There are people SWIMMING. UNDER. A. WATERFALL.
It’s almost like someone discovered a waterfall in a cave / ledge off a mountain and thought ‘this would be a good place to get naked and frolic’. Hats off to that guy/lady, because he/she was right. It is incredible. The water is colder than the first air of winter, and if you don’t mind the imminent threat of death via slippery waterfall rocks, standing adjacent to (I didn’t have the lady-balls to stand underneath the actual waterfall, it’s power was too mighty), it’s like five thousand watts of power straight to the nipples. Tip: go up the non-existent stairs/incline on the left hand side of the swimming hole to access a shelf of rock about 40 metres above the action. It’s a very thin ledge, so you have to be super careful, but sitting there with some sweet tunes makes you feel invincible. Hiking instructions.
I only recently got my driver’s license for the first time in my life via the antiquated, terrible system that is American driver licenses (in Australia, you have to do 120 hours of practice before you’re allowed to drive by yourself – here they drive you around the block and send you on your way). On the way home, we drove back through the pouring rain to get to Manhattan, and although I’ve driven precariously on highways before, this was my first time sans-boyfriend driving 110km/hr through pouring rain (to the point where you could barely see the road in front of you). I was fine. I was patting myself on the back for the great driving skills when we reached the Lincoln Tunnel where they ask you to get into the right lane for tolls, and after some confusion and a lack of oversight on my part, I scraped the car in front of me.
Nobody was hurt. You’d think so, though, because the lady in the car jumped out and started screaming, raving and making a general scene of it all. She ended up calling the police, who were clearly over it and thus my first car accident happened. I know it’s a rite of passage, but it doesn’t lessen the metallic dread that hit my stomach as soon as that awful nails-on-the-chalkboard scraping noise happened. I felt like an awful driver. I felt embarrassed. I thought I would never drive again. The accident wasn’t even that bad. I got some pho with my girlfriends, had a huge cuddle session with Hartley and I felt way better. It was just super surprising to me how the accident happened in the situation where it seemed least likely to happen in my head (non-rainy, non-speedy).
Anyway, some things we did and things to see if you want to explore the Catskills/upstate:
The Overlook Mountain Hike – Hiking instructions. This was one of the coolest hikes I’ve done, and one of the ones that you can’t really access via public transportation (for a good one, try Bull Hill/Mt Taurus in Cold Springs). You wouldn’t know it from the beginning though – it’s essentially 1.5 hours of uphill slog on a boring gravel road with nothing to distract you (seriously don’t underestimate how boring this part is). When you get to the top though it’s like hiking wonderland. There’s an abandoned hotel complete with all the original infrastructure that you can run around in, there’s a fire tower that sways in the wind near the top and gives you 360 views of Upstate New York, and there’s a cliff lookout that’s startling in how sudden it drops off – one wrong foot and you’ll tumble.
Phoenicia Diner aka The Instagram Diner – Hands down the fanciest / most hipster diner I’ve been to. Terrific food, all the skillet egg dishes are incredible (they made vegetables delicious), and order a side of the buckwheat pancakes to share if you’re worried about the carb coma that awaits you. Definitely crowded, so get here early.
Woodstock – Cute little town, lots of history. Look out for the local flea market on weekends – they sell lots of vintage jewellery for under $5, and there are a few decent vintage stores in town if you wander the 2-3 streets that make up Woodstock. The Golden Notebook is a fantastic bookstore if you’re into that, and it’s a few doors down from a handmade ice cream place. Nobody dislikes ice cream, let alone handmade ice cream.