Category Archives: Worth the trip

The Searchlight in the Big Yard Swings Around with the Gun

And spotlights the snowflakes like dust in the sun.

Eastern NY Maximum Security Correctional Facility.  I was nervous taking a photo (which is why it’s crooked and blurry), but hey, if Google can do it…

prison

The Rondout Reservoir, yet another major piece of New York City infrastructure way up here in the Catskills.

reservoir

View from the top of Yeagerville Road in the Southern Catskills, looking back towards the Gunks.  This spot is not terribly far from John F’s soon-to-be-former house, but it’s about 2000 feet higher.

yeagerville

The further into the Catskills, the deeper the snowy, sandy, salty glop.  I have always thought the town of Denning must get some kind of ridiculous bulk discount on sand, or else they are trying to become a beachfront community.

One of the nice waterfalls on Peekamoose-Sundown Road.  This is basically the perfect road, over 10 miles through a Catskills valley with no intersections at all.  The Rondout Creek starts in the hollow as a trickle, and follows the road for miles before dumping into the reservoir.  The water in this photo will eventually provide crisp, clear mountain water for somebody’s toilet in Brooklyn.

waterfall

When I got home I took a photo of my gloppy bike.  Only after looking at the photo did I notice I had broken a spoke.  Hooray for 32-spoke wheels!  And disc brakes too, I suppose.

glop

My winter rig is my cross bike, geared 1×10 with a 32T cassette, 28c road tires, and jury-rigged plastic fenders.  I can’t figure out how to fender the front wheel in front of the head tube, though, which is inconvenient because it means descending at any speed results in a splattery face.  I was mincing down the icy, snowy descents today, but I still ate a lot of salt.

Here’s the route:

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Raw GPX here.

— John S, aka globecanvas

Dark, Wet, and Muddy

I wrote this a few days ago, but quickly took it down when I realized that I had rudely top-posted Globecanvas’ most recent post. Apologies to all of you who received a new post e-mail, only to stop by and see nothing new!

The ideal ride.

Yes, I’ve finally gotten back on the horse after a few months of house hunting and then an inconveniently timed neck injury. I went for a 20-mile ride yesterday; on today’s ride, I decided to see how many dirt roads I could hit within 30 miles of my house, and I found out that, if you plan carefully, you can do a ride that is approximately one-third dirt in that distance. Route here.

I mean, mud, not dirt.

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Red mud. My poor shoes.

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It was drizzling at the beginning of the ride, and it started to pour about halfway through, so I didn’t get too many pictures. Here are a few.

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I’m sure the few people in cars who passed me felt sorry for me. What they don’t know is that I do this by choice. Nothing feels as good as a wet, muddy, freezing, foggy ride in the dark!

John

medicalwriter.net

A planned, mostly vetted, Delaware County 130k Masterpiece

Somervillain here.

I love planning routes in RideWithGPS (link to my routes). When charting out new territory, RideWithGPS allows one to zoom in to a road, in satellite view, and get a glimpse of what it’s like– is it dirt or paved? Is it shaded by overarching trees?  Does it pass through farms? If it looks interesting, I just click on it and there it is, incorporated into a growing route. Using this method I’ve discovered many of what have become my favorite dirt roads, and Delaware County harbors a trove of remote dirt carriage roads and mountain passes still waiting to be discovered.

I’ve reported on three routes I’ve ridden in Delaware County (here, here and here), but the longest of these was only 45 miles and 5500′ of elevation gain. Sometime next year I plan to ride an amalgam of all three routes, merging the best of each while making sure services and facilities are never too far away. I’ve mapped these onto one 81 mile loop, and I’m so tickled with the resulting route I can’t wait to ride it! Since I know this won’t happen until at least next summer given the long winters and my only occasional presence there, I am presenting it here for anyone who wants an 80-ish mile ride with almost 10,000 ft of elevation gain. If anyone is familiar with D2R2, this route fits nicely in between the two intermediate D2R2 route lengths (74mi/8,200ft and 99mi/11,600ft). Having ridden the 74 and 62 mile D2R2 routes, my opinion of this Catskills route is that it’s even more bucolic and pastoral than D2R2, but with similar intense hills and a familiar rural New England-y feel and flavor.

The yellow pins mark food stops, and the start/end point in Delhi has plenty of food options. Look at that elevation profile!!!

Some noteworthy features of this route:

  • Total of 8 dirt segments, some of which are single-lane carriage paths, totaling 34 miles, or 42% of the overall route.
  • Two historic covered wooden bridges.
  • 9 significant climbs.
  • One fast 5-mile paved descent and two other nearly continuous 6-mile descents– mostly without interruption.
  • Less than 1 mile of highway.
  • 6 well-spaced services/facilities, and none of them are convenience stores/fast food chains. The longest distance between any two is 24 miles.
  • I’ve ridden 74 of the 81 miles of this route personally at different times

So if anyone is looking for a long Catskills route that takes in stunning country scenery, charming villages, lots of dirt roads, a shark tooth elevation profile, thrilling descents, and well spaced food offerings, this route should be just the ticket.

If you’re coming from NYC or points south, the most logical starting point would be Andes as opposed to Delhi. Andes is only a 15 minute drive west of Margaretville, the starting point of several of the rides John has written about. There’s plenty of parking along Main St./Rt 28, as well as several places to eat. Honestly, any of the pinned villages would make decent starting points, but regardless where you start, the route really begs to be ridden counterclockwise to enjoy the two prolonged descents.

One other thing to consider if riding up here during the week is that most area cafes are closed on Mondays, which will narrow your food options. So avoid Mondays unless you’re prepared to ride in a self-sufficient manner.

Here are some “stock” photos that didn’t make it into my previous posts; they were taken at different times from various points on this route, and are in no particular order. Some of these may date back over a year, but they give you an idea of what this route has to offer.

Enjoy!

–Somervillain

Hot Rocks: the Best of the Mohonk Preserve

Hi, Globecanvas again.

Today’s ride is not a hidden gem. It’s a gem that is in plain view.

Between the Mohonk Preserve, Mohonk Mountain House, and Minnewaska State Park, there are thousands of acres of contiguous preserved open space, and over 100 miles of interconnected carriage roads and trails. Every inch is worth the trip.

This is a popular tourist destination for cyclists, hikers, leaf peepers and rock climbers, so it’s hardly a secret backwoods passage. But even on a perfect late fall day like today, with sunny skies and temperatures in the 50s, we saw only a handful of people all day — a couple of rock climbers, a few hikers, and a couple of cyclists.

In the fall, I ride these carriage roads at least once a week, sometimes more. The Nature Conservancy called this area one of Earth’s “Last Great Places,” and although that may sound like a marketing pitch, it’s easy to get rapturous while cycling through the seemingly endless beauty.

Once again, I met up with Newman at his shop. I ride a lot with Newman in the winter, partly because our schedules both permit regular weekday rides, but mostly because he just loves to ride. We’ll be doing almost an identical route tomorrow on the weekly Bicycle Depot Saturday morning group cyclocross ride, but honestly, it
never gets old.

Depending on where you are coming from and where you want to park, this loop can be joined from any of the Mohonk Preserve entry points. We came in through the old Mountain House gatehouse (mile 1.5), which will soon be an official entry point, but we rode past four other official entries: the Visitor Center (mile 8), West Trapps (mile 8.5), Spring Farm (mile 19), and Pine Road (mile 26).

A bit of prep work first: day passes for the Preserve are $17 for climbers and cyclists ($12 for boring hikers).  An annual cycling pass is $70. Trails are generally very well marked, but the free paper map given out at the various entries is useless. If you plan to spend any time in the backwoods here, the NY/NJ Trail Conference topo maps are a must. You can get the maps at the Preserve Visitor Center, or Rock & Snow in New Paltz.

For today’s ride, we tried to hit all of the best, most scenic, most fun carriage roads in the preserve. Although there is plenty of singletrack gnar to be found around here, for the purposes of this blog and this route we stuck exclusively to carriage roads (except for one short connection).

Just like we did on our previous ride, we entered the Preserve on Gatehouse Road.

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Over the old stone bridge across Butterville Road (where landscape painters tend to congregate), up Lenape Lane to the Catskill Aqueduct.

The Catskill Aqueduct supplies about 40% of New York City’s famously high quality drinking water (no, “high quality” is not sarcasm), starting at the Ashokan Reservoir in Ulster County. Even in the preserve, the right-of-way over the buried aqueduct is New York City property, so you’re not allowed to hike or ride along it. But you can cross over it. It’s wild to be in the middle of the woods with 400 million gallons a day flowing beneath your tires, headed for sinks and bathtubs in the big city.

At the aqueduct, we cut left onto Duck Pond Trail, the only singletrack on the route. This is maybe 100 yards of rocky trail, climbing up to Duck Pond. In the background, just visible on the left edge of the distant cliff, you can see Skytop, the stone observation tower above Mohonk Lake. More about the tower later.

duck pond

All trails lead uphill from Duck Pond. We headed clockwise around the pond, up Glory Hill, a steep grassy climb.

glory hill

At the top of the hill, we bore left onto Oakwood Drive. This winds along the side of the ridge to Rhododendron Bridge. Across the bridge, we took the sharp left onto Undercliff Road, which leads right along the base of the Trapps, a 2 mile long, 300 foot tall crag that is one of the premier rock climbing destinations in North America. On a summer day, the air is filled with “On belay!  Rope!  Aargh!” and other calls of climbers in their natural habitat.  There were only a few climbers out today.

undercliff

At the top of the trail, we hooked right onto Overcliff Road, which offers expansive views of Clove Valley and the Catskills.  Although I am discovering that expansive views are about the hardest thing to capture in a simple photo.

overcliff

Overcliff looped us back to Rhododendron Bridge, where we once again took a sharp left, onto Laurel Ledge Road. This is one of my personal favorites, a steady 2-mile climb that winds up the ridge between giant boulders.

laurel ledge

The climb tops out at Copes Lookout and Humpty Dumpty Road, which winds along the edge of the cliff and provides a unique edge-on perspective to the ridge.

humpty dumpty

We then crossed over the top of the ridge on Long Woodland Drive, another favorite trail. Although it’s less than a mile from the Mountain House, this is one of the more remote places in the Preserve. We were circling the south end of Mohonk Lake, describing an arc around Skytop tower.

tower

Skytop is a stone observation tower, atop on the highest point on this part of the ridge. Weather observations have been made here continuously and systematically since the late 1800s, forming one of the most reliable weather data series in North America, an invaluable resource for climate scientists.

We then cut down to Home Farm Circle, the site of an old homestead that predates the Mountain House.

home farm

Finally, some descending: we ripped down Forest Drive, then connected over to North Lookout Road. Yet another expansive view of the Catskills.

lookout

We then hooked past Rock Rift, a wild out-of-the-way crevice full of trees, and down to Cedar Drive, one of the longest and best-maintained carriage roads in the preserve. This wound along the ridge to a small bridge over the main road.

bridge

Cedar Drive continues past the Spring Farm entry point, circling back around to climb the ridge again for about a mile.

cedar drive

The climb tops out at a 5-way intersection that is known unofficially as — wait for it — “the 5-way.” Left here leads to Bonticou Crag, one of the most interesting destinations in the Preserve. This photo shows only a small section of the crag, high above.

bonticou

If you are vertically inclined at all, the ascent trail up Bonticou is one of the most fun ways you can spend an afternoon. The difficulty level of this rock scramble is perfectly balanced right on the edge between “surprisingly challenging” and “doable without falling to your death.” I’ve seen 6 year old kids (including my own) scamper up like mountain goats, and I’ve seen grown men panic and back down the climb. It’s a 30-45 minute hike to this point from the Spring Farm entry. The whole experience is a top notch day trip.

We then headed up Guyot Hill. This climb is one of the least-traveled roads in the Preserve, and in fact we almost blew past the turn because it was so deeply covered in leaves. This half-mile climb brought us to the highest elevation of our ride, although the views are limited because it’s woodsy all the way. From here it would be all downhill for the next 6 miles.

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The back side of Guyot Hill dropped us onto the Mountain House golf course, which is always a bit surreal, but of course it’s not in use in winter. We circled the golf course and crossed over the small wooden bridge to the Mountain House gatehouse, then shot down Lenape Lane, Oakwood Drive, and back down to Duck Pond. This section of the Preserve is rarely traveled.

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Back onto the short singletrack connector, which we followed out to the Pine Road entry. Pine Road descends past horse farms, heading back toward New Paltz.  Spot the horsey!

pine road

As we turned off Pine Road, we ran into Jim, a local legend who often rides with us. He was just heading up into the Preserve to start his ride. I said we were doing a Mohonk Greatest Hits ride, and of course he immediately asked if we did Godzilla or the Duck Pond Road climb. Well no, we didn’t do Godzilla (a very sharp climb straight up the ridge), and we descended the Duck Pond Road climb. So this route is hardly exhaustive.

There are very few carriage roads in the whole Mohonk Preserve/Mountain House/Minnewaska network that wouldn’t be on somebody’s list of highlights. Depending on your predisposition, you might like to follow the route below, or you might just want to bike into the preserve and see where the spirit takes you.

Capture

Raw GPX file here.

— John S, aka globecanvas

The Awosting Reserve

Hi, Globecanvas here.  How about a five star ride that has everything? Scenic history, a huge gravel climb, woodsy grottos, sky lakes, clifftop vistas, waterfalls, winding carriage roads, horse farms, and seldom traveled country roads.

I started today’s ride from the Bicycle Depot in New Paltz, because I was riding with Newman, and his cyclocross bike was there. Newman owns the shop, which I recommend highly for all of your bicycle needs, or for any beta you may need on local roads. There isn’t a road within 100 miles that Newman hasn’t ridden.

The first few miles out of town, heading toward the ridge, are highly exposed and the wind was whipping across the razed farm fields. Once we pushed through that section, we couldn’t resist riding through the old Mohonk gatehouse.

gatehouse

The Mohonk Mountain House is the last surviving mountain house resort from the glory days of the Catskills, a century ago. (Other jewels of the era, like the Overlook Mountain House in Woodstock or the Catskill Mountain House in Palenville, still exist as tourist curiosities — but they are either hollowed-out ruins or completely burned to the ground.) A hundred years ago, New York City society swells would ride their horse-drawn carriages through the gatehouse and up to the resort, three miles distant. The gatehouse and surrounding land are now owned by the Mohonk Preserve, which is in the process of converting the old gatehouse to a preserve entry point.

The gatehouse, and the old gatehouse road, can’t be beat for scenic beauty. My photos of the gatehouse road today were blurry, but here’s a shot Newman took last week, on a sunnier day.

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From there, we rode down 299 to the Mountain Deli, the de facto meetup location for rock climbers before and after assaulting the Trapps.  We also passed the Mountain Brauhaus, home of the best post-ride food and drink in the universe.  Then we left the world of cars and wound our way along the base of the Near Trapps and Millbrook.

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There are plenty of climbs in the Gunks and Catskills, but only a handful are inarguably in the top tier of difficulty — climbs like Platte Clove/Devil’s Kitchen, Sugarloaf, Meads Mountain. The Awosting Reserve climb, although much less well-known than the others, is firmly in the top tier. By the numbers, the climb is 2.1 miles at 9.5% average, which is followed by another mile at 6.5%. The climb is also 100% gravel and dirt.

The Awosting Reserve trail head isn’t marked on Google Maps. It’s off Aumick Road, below the Millbrook section of the Shawangunk ridge. Here’s a wide view of the climb (in blue).  It climbs the ridge just southwest of the Millbrook crag (the sharp southeast-facing cliff on the terrain map).  Looking at the crag from a distance, there is no pass or seam there.  The climb just goes right up the ridge.

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The trail head.

trail head

The first mile and a half of the climb is a well maintained carriage road, with big looping switchbacks. The grade is sustained but not brutal. There are a couple of false trails to the left and right through this section.

At 1.5 miles from the trail head, the trail gets prettier, but things get ugly. The trail splits; take the sharp, steep right turn. The next half mile is sharp stairsteps, well over 20% grade, that will challenge your ability to keep the wheels down and gripping. This is still a carriage road, not singletrack, but thanks to the extreme grade it’s much rougher than the earlier part of the climb. Newman easily outpaced me on this section, quickly disappearing up the hill.

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I struggled up behind.

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After 2.1 miles of sustained climbing, the trail mercifully turns downhill, but only briefly.  Watch out for more false trails on both sides here — just keep going straight.  At the bottom of the downhill section, a singletrack trail heads off to the right. A small wooden sign a short way down the trail marks it as Spruce Glen footpath. The singletrack is short and mostly rideable. After a stream crossing, the trail widens into a gorgeous grotto of hemlocks and cliffs.

grotto

We couldn’t stop taking photos here. It’s the sort of viewscape where you expect Mr. Tumnus to come prancing along.

grotto photo1

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Another few hundred yards, and suddenly you’re at Lake Awosting, one of the Shawangunk sky lakes. Because the lake basin is formed by conglomerate bedrock, not dirt, it is very clear, but too acidic to support fish.

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Going right along the edge of the lake, the trail passes the lovely Awosting “beach”, an expanse of flat bedrock that angles into the lake. Take the next right hand turn to head up toward Castle Point.

After about another mile of climbing, the trail summits at Castle Point.  This is a world-class vista, and my humble snapshots can’t do it any sort of justice. Here is looking south, toward Hamilton Point.

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North, toward the Catskills.

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This is the high point of the ride in elevation. This is also where we realized we had a problem.

When we left New Paltz, temperatures were in the high 30s, and up to this point we had been climbing almost constantly, over 3000 feet in 18 miles. We were plenty warm, until we stopped to admire the view. Here at elevation, temperatures were in the 20s, and the wind was howling. There were patches of ice along the trail, and our bottles were frozen. We got cold fast, and we knew we had a good hour of descending ahead of us.  We struggled into all of our previously shedded layers.

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We rolled along the Castle Point carriage road, following the very edge of the cliff, toward Lake Minnewaska. This is a beautiful trail, but unforgiving of numb hands. We knew the trail well enough to descend at a good clip, but we had several discussions about how washing out on certain turns would leave you about a thousand feet below where you started.

By the time we got to Lake Minnewaska, we had to stop to try to get some feeling back in our hands.

minnewaska

From Lake Minnewaska, we followed the very fun switchbacky access road down to the park gatehouse, where we hopped onto the Awosting Falls carriage road, stopping at the falls to once again try to get some blood moving through our frozen hands.

falls

That would be the end of the photography, because it became impossible to operate my camera with what felt like frozen steaks attached to the ends of my arms.

From the falls, the trail continues to descend gradually. To keep from shivering, we had to ride hard enough to generate some body heat, but that also generated more headwind. I wouldn’t call it hammering, but we were moving along at a solid head-down tempo pace, after hours of climbing and then shivering. I had to shift by sight, because I couldn’t feel the levers.

At the Trapps (no rock climbers today), we continued onto the Mohonk Preserve carriage roads. (The thought of descending at high speed on the paved road was deeply unappealing.) These carriage roads are some of the most beautiful cycling in the world, but you’ll just have to take my word for it today, because I didn’t have enough sensation in my fingers to unzip my vest, much less operate the camera.

As we rode down Glory Hill and past Duck Pond, we finally gave back enough elevation that we started to warm up a bit, joke around and swap stories about previous adventures getting stuck out in the cold. We exited the preserve at Pine Road, said hi to the horses, and rolled the last 3 miles into New Paltz.

I can’t recommend this route highly enough.  If ever a ride was worth the trip, this one is.  It has a little bit of everything unique that the area has to offer. The climb is very challenging, and the rewards are great.  But, you know, layer up.

CaptureFor those who are not Stravafied, the raw GPX file is here.

— John S, aka globecanvas

A Columbus Day Ramble in Autumnal Delaware County

First I’d like to express thanks to John for making me a contributing author on Riding the Catskills. Since I’m only up in the Catskills occasionally between spring and fall, I won’t be contributing regularly… but my aim is to eventually document all the best dirt road mountain passes that Delaware County–my childhood and now seasonal stomping ground in the northwestern Catskills–has to offer, with routes of 35-75 miles with heavy doses of bucolic dirt roads, steep climbs, fast descents and an obsessional avoidance of highways and traffic, designed to bring wide smiles to anyone who rides them. I may also occasionally post planned, partially vetted routes of up to 100 miles, stitching together segments I’ve already ridden with new ones, that may be too long for me to tackle in the near term but may be appealing to more ardent long distance cyclists. Below is a post about my Columbus Day Catskills ride in which I continued to find some absolutely stunning dirt roads.

–Anton, aka somervillain

Columbus Day weekend is a big tourist weekend in the Catskills, with travelers descending from afar to enjoy the fall foliage. Being a holiday weekend, I, too, often make the trip out here from Boston. Typically, the colors in the Northwestern Catskills are at peak vibrancy this weekend–several weeks ahead of eastern Massachusetts–and holiday or not, it’s a great excuse to come out this way just to be a leaf peeper. To the disappointment of many who made the trip here for the rich colorful palette that marks this weekend (I met one couple here from Colorado; Aspens get boring after awhile, they told me), the week prior saw an intense windstorm that stripped many of the leaves that weren’t quite ready to let go. Alas. But not all the leaves had fallen, there was still some fall color left.

I was here for an extended weekend with my family, but I just had to get a ride in, however short it had to be to maintain family commitments. The loop I settled on was 36 miles, relatively short compared to John’s routes. But with 3800 feet of elevation gain (3000 ft in the first 20 miles alone), there were enough climbs and descents to keep it interesting, another exercise in pass hunting.

The route started and ended in Delhi (pronounced “Dell-Hi”), the county seat and nice little historic town, about nine miles from my home in Bloomville.

Delhil Village Hall

From Delhi, the counterclockwise route immediately took me over a steep hill, Belle Hill. Normally I don’t like to start off with a hard climb, not having the chance to warm up first.  Doing the loop in reverse would have avoided it, but I really wanted to do the loop this way, because it includes a five mile descent I had been eagerly waiting to do. As with so many hills around here, the peaks are punctuated, so by the time your rear wheel reaches the top, your front wheel is practically heading down the other side. As I reached the top of Belle Hill, not quite warmed up, the pavement turned to dirt, and I enjoyed the first of many lovely descents.

Dick Mason Rd, Delhi

At the bottom, I followed the valley out of Delhi to Meredith along Peaks Brook Rd, a quiet paved road with a slight but steady uphill grade. After a couple of miles, it turns to dirt, and after a few more miles of gentle climbing, another three miles of descending on dirt.

Peaks Brook Rd, Delhi

Peaks Brook Rd, Meredith

At this point, I mistakenly turned onto Warren Rd, thinking it was a continuation of Peaks Brook Rd. This led me north toward Treadwell, a cute hamlet that John passed through on his Delaware 85 route he posted about this past summer (his masterpiece!).

Warren Rd

Cow warning, heading into Treadwell

Oddly, despite growing up here, I hadn’t ever passed through Treadwell. I was glad I had made the wrong turn, giving me the excuse to finally see it– it boasts an adorable general store that has been continuously run since 1841. I highly recommend working Treadwell into any local routes– there aren’t many places in the area with food and facilities, and here you can get sandwiches, fresh baked goods and roofing nails. The atmosphere is infinitely more charming and welcoming than any gas station/convenience store you might find, and it’s a fun step back in time. I returned to Treadwell with my family the next day, my kids bought penny candy!

Barlow’s General Store, Treadwell

From Treadwell, I headed back south on County Highway 16 towards Hamden– as John did. But shortly outside Treadwell, I detoured off onto Douglas Hall Rd, which wound around some farms as it climbed steadily.

Cows, Douglas Hall Rd

A surprise awaited me when I reached the four-way junction on top. I had originally planned to turn onto Snake Hill Rd (which I would have been on had I not detoured into Treadwell), but when I saw the single-lane dirt road straight ahead, with the sign: Seasonal Limited Use Highway. No maintenance Dec 1 – April 1, I had to change course once again… whenever you see that sign in this area, it’s a promise of a worthwhile investigation.

Ridge Rd, Hamden

Unlike most back roads in the area that seem to go up or down, Ridge Rd, as its name implies, follows the top of a ridge for five miles. It’s mostly tree lined, passing through woods, every so often affording a spectacular vista from atop the ridge. Let me be blunt: this road qualifies as a must ride; just let the photos speak for themselves:

At one point I had to stop and consult a map; the road split, and signs were conspicuously absent. I felt a sense of déjà vu: the fork felt eerily similar to the one in the final scene in the Jim Jarmusch film Down by Law. Who knew the Catskills could look so much like rural Louisiana? See for yourself:

Ridge road ended, and pavement resumed. From here, Launt Hollow Rd whisked me down a continuous five mile descent (the one I had been eyeing) to State Rt 10 in the village of Hamden. (The next route I have planned in this area includes a continuous 10 mile descent from Hamden to the Pepacton reservoir).

Five mile descent to Hamden on Launt Hollow Rd

Rt 10 is a busy highway, but at least in the village the speed limit is tamed down. And just after the turn onto Rt 10 is one of my favorite eateries– Lucky Dog Farm Store. Another charming cafe and locavore farm store, they serve up artisanal sandwiches and lunches. Worth a stop, but their hours are more limited than Barlow’s in Treadwell (Lucky Dog was closed when I was there).

Lucky Dog Farm Store, Hamden

I designed the route to take in the Launt Hollow descent and Lucky Dog while avoiding Rt 10 at all costs. I stayed on Rt 10 for only a half a mile before I turned right to cross the Delaware River, West Branch, over a covered wooden bridge. This took me to Back River road, a gently rolling, quiet paved road that follows Rt 10 but on the opposite side of the river. It heads all the way back to Delhi, which John also passed through on his Delaware 85 route, although John followed Rt 10 from Hamden to Delhi.

Hamden Covered Bridge

Back River Rd, Hamden

Back River Rd, Hamden

There are plenty of facilities in Delhi. I won’t mention the several repugnant fast food chains. Sure, they’re welcome in an emergency, but on most days there are better options, and my pick would be Good Cheap Food, another locavore market. Plus there are several indie cafes and bookshops along Main St, so designing a route to include Delhi is a smart bet.

Main St (Rt 10), Delhi

County Clerk’s Office, Delhi

Given that this route and John’s route intersect at Treadwell and again at Delhi, it’s possible to merge the best portions of each and come up with an another dirt road stunner of just about any desired length.

Four-County Ramble, Courtesty of Henry

I apologize for not posting more frequently over the past few weeks. Truth is, work has been draining all signs of life from me, and it shows no sign of letting up any time soon. That said, I’ve still been able to get in 100 to 150 miles every week, although they have not generally been quality miles.

However…

We did manage to get out for a 104-mile adventure out of Woodstock. My companions: Doug and Henry. The initial plan was to do the flattest possible 200k, starting from Doug’s place in Woodstock and riding far into Dutchess county, which–believe it or not–is much flatter than Ulster, Greene, Delaware, or even Sullivan. But as I was putting my front wheel back on, Henry asked if we’d like to take a “real” ride, which around here means climbin’ mountains.

With some trepidation, I agreed. The trepidation was because I had absolutely no idea what was coming up; thus, I had no idea how to pace myself, how long the ride would be, or whether I’d be home in time to do some work. It all worked out fine, in the end.

I don’t have a lot of energy to write, so let’s make this post more about pictures than words, shall we? Here’s the route.

Route

Simple. Start in Woodstock, ride up 28, and then head for the hills. And there were some good hills! The two best climbs on this route are Vega Mountain Road and Dimmick Mountain Road, the later of which is a pretty decent climb, even for out here in the Catskills. It isn’t long, but it is steep.

So, some pictures and I’ll leave it at that. I’d suggest clicking on some of these for full size, some are quite lovely.

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This, in case you are wondering, is Cross-Mountain Road in Delaware County. Magical dirt road.

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Henry was the only one brave enough to cross this bridge. The boards on the bridge deck were actually popping out. I’m surprised that the county doesn’t either repair it or block it off.

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Some cross-country action.

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And finally, a baby goat. I don’t think nature has made a cuter creature. It might even be cuter than a puppy.

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And that’s all for now. Off to California, and then Holland. I thought, when I moved out here to the Catskills, that I’d maybe work a little less, enjoy life a little more. As it’s turned out…well, let’s just say I’m burning the candle at both ends!

John

medicalwriter.net

New Route: Delaware 85

Do you like climbing? Do you like gravel? Do you have no sense of self-preservation? If you answered yes to all 3 questions, you’ll enjoy this route. Deliberately designed to be the toughest sub-century in the Catskills, it is 85 miles, has about 9000 feet of climbing, and covers at least 30-40 miles of some of the most isolated gravel roads you can find out here. It is, at least thus far, my masterpiece. If you can an excuse to get up to Delaware County, do it now and ride this route. It’s not just worth the trip, it’s worth a pilgrimage.

That said, I’m *really* tired, so this story won’t do justice to the route. In a few days, however, I’ll try to come back and add what will, doubtlessly, be highly amusing anecdotes and antics of grown men on bicycles. Just enjoy the photos for now; in fact, I’d suggest that you click on them to see them full size. My camera, which I’ve been riding with for 3 years now, is dying in a most appealing way–some of the images are quite beautiful.

Also, please keep in mind that I very well may be misplacing the pictures. I don’t keep a diary of where I’m taking shots while I’m riding; in fact, my photos usually involve me trying to ride one- or no-handed over potholes, while randomly clicking because it’s too bright to see the LCD on the back. So take these pictures as a general overview of the route rather than specific views you’ll see at certain points.

I was inspired to create the route by Anton’s magnificent posts on his rides in Delaware County, which can be found here and here. Unfortunately, I never got the chance to go up to his place and ride.

This is the actual route.

Map

We had planned on doing it in the reverse direction from what is shown here, but, because the start and end points were the same, there was no indication on our Garmins whether we should go in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction, and I had failed to look at a map closely before leaving. So, we ended up doing the entire route backwards. In retrospect, this might have been a good decision, because the descent in town at the end of the ride, as we did it, would be absolutely murderous to start out with.

Here’s the elevation profile.

ele_profile

If you have time to inspect the route further on Ride With GPS, you’ll see that all of those climbs have significant 12% to 18% sections. Many of them on dirt. Each of the 9 major climbs on this route could be a highlight for any ride—like the Peekamoose or Slide Mountain climbs. I just decided it would be a good idea to have 9 highlights.

It starts in Margaretville, which I’ll probably misspell in half a dozen ways throughout this post. There is a convenient parking lot right across from the grocery store where you can leave your car all day at no charge (at least we did without issues).

You head out of town on the appropriately named Cemetery Road—a 700-foot climb, but nothing terrible or unmanageable. After a few moments on Route 30, you’ll take a left on West Hubbel Hill Rd. I tried to include every road with the name “Hill” or “Mountain” in them on this route, but I did manage to miss a few. This is the first major climb of the route. It’s about 1100 feet, with significant sections of up to 16%. At least it’s paved!

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The view from the top of Hubbel Hill Road is great, but there are better views to be had in just a few miles.

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Continuing on, Roxbury Mountain Road offers the first gravel segment of the route. As you’ll see, the gravel here ranges from pale pink to a quite bright red. I did some 30-mph fishtailing on this road, which reminded me to be cautious.

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You’ll continue into South Kortright. Unfortunately, South Kortright has no amenties, eg, no place to buy stuff. This turned into a major problem, as the first place we hit to buy liquids and food was just past mile 40–under normal conditions, not a big problem, but keep in mind that by mile 40 we already had 4500 feet of climbing under out belts. So word of warning: bring lots of water or do this route in cooler weather. A few more images of the paved portion of this segment:

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After a moment on a “major” road–Doonan’s Corners Rd, we turned off onto Turnpike Road. More gravel!

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Which ended on a nice big descent. Note that there is significant washboard at the end of this descent. I was riding 650B at 45 psi and I almost lost a filling.

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I believe this is Houghtailing Hollow Rd, around mile 39. When a road says it’s seasonal, you know something good (or very, very bad) is coming up. As it turns out, it was beautiful but nothing painful. However, the climb leading up to this road is a brute, I believe 18%+ on gravel. I’m never sure on those types of climbs whether it is better to keep the weight on the rear wheel, risking a wheelie but maintaining traction, or to slide a little more forward. It can be a delicate balance.

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And another massive climb. You know you’ve reached the top of something when you see the radio tower (it might be a cellular tower, who knows?). My camera lens is getting messed up enough after 3 years of riding with it that my photos are starting to look pre-instagrammed. I’ve tried cleaning the lens with a lens pen, but it’s not helping.

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Around mile 48, you’ll ride into the tiny town of Treadwell. It’s a lovely little town, made even more lovely by an *open* general store with that sells Gatoraide and all of the other essentials. Note that they are only open until 3 pm on Sundays; I believe they are open until 6 every other day. Make sure you arrive before closing, otherwise you have a long haul to Delhi to refuel. Delhi has at least a McDonald’s and a Pizza Hut that are open reasonable hours, there may be more appetizing options in the village with less predictable hours.

The toughest part of this ride is the 3 “bumps”, beginning at about mile 65, when you’re already exhausted. The first is terrible, the second–on New Kingston Rd–is truly brutal. The third, Margaretville Mountain Rd, isn’t terrible, but at this point, if you’ve put any effort at all into the ride, you’re probably hurting! Some images from the last 20 miles:

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Now…time for bed. This ride really exhausted me…in part, that’s my own fault because–at least for the first 70 miles–I did a lot of sprinting up to the top of hills ahead of my companion so I’d have time to take pictures! This route represents my finest achievement to date on Ride With GPS. If you can make any excuse to get out to Margaretville, try this, you won’t regret it. Unless, of course, you’re opposed to fun.

And a few more photos. Even though the placement of the photos above is vague at best, I really have no idea where I took these. But I like them, so here they are:

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And let’s not forget the covered bridge in Delhi…

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John

medicalwriter.net

Tale of Three Hamlets: An Adventure in Delaware County, New York

Today, we have another amazing guest post from Anton (aka Somervillain). As before, I’m going to leave this at the top of the page for 4 or 5 days, but rest assured, I have lots to report (albeit less eloquently!)

I grew up spending summers in Bloomville, in Delaware County, NY. Although I never lived here full-time and now only spend a couple of weeks here each year, it nevertheless occupies a special place in my heart: I’ve known it since infancy, it has left an indelible mark on my development. Summer entertainment revolved around goings-on in the nearby villages: the county fair, the town barbecue, local farm auctions.

I recently rode a hilly 45-mile route that connects three neighboring villages to retrace childhood memories; each holds fond memories for me. But more relevant to this post, cycling between these villages is a fun adventure in pass hunting– the sport of riding over mountain passes towards a goal of having completed a defined number of passes within a region. Popular in France (rules of the game), it’s gaining popularity here in the US. It’s sort of the cycling equivalent of hiking clubs, where the goal is to have hiked over a defined group of mountain peaks. So instead of following major roads between the villages that skirt around and thereby avoid the mountains, I opt to ride up and over the mountains along the most remote, least traveled mountain passes and carriage roads I can find, choosing dirt over pavement wherever possible.

The route starts, like my previously described route, at the trail head of the Catskill Scenic Trail in Bloomville, a convenient location because of the parking and the proximity to the village center where one can find food and beverage. But unlike the previous route I described which takes in some of the trail and dirt roads north of it, this route doesn’t include any of the trail. Instead, I head the few hundred feet on NYS Rt 10 into the village. Bloomville was once a bustling town with a thriving economy, fueled by the regional dairy economy, the railroad that ran through the village, and the mill powered by Wright’s Brook, which also runs through the village. Bloomville had several imposing hotels.

The passenger railroad station is long gone. A second railway depot used for transporting food and grain was shuttered decades ago, the structure still stands today. The mill had closed long before the railroad. The town steadily declined and what remains now is not much more than a crossroads with crumbling buildings with fading facades, skeletal reminders of its industrious past. But Bloomville, and the Catskills, may be experiencing a form of economic revival, but more on that later.

From Bloomville I head past the cemetery and across the river to County Highway 18 (Back River Rd), the gently rolling road dotted with roadside farm stands that follows the West Branch of the Delaware River. I turn onto Bramley Mountain Rd, a steep dirt road that takes me up Bramley Mountain into Bovina. At the top, the road becomes paved, views dominated by hilltop pastureland. I turn left onto Miller Ave and follow a long and delightful dirt road descent all the way into Bovina Center.

Like most of Delaware County, Bovina was predominantly (and is still, to a limited extent) a dairy farming town, with its village center spread along County Highway 6. The white one-room building on the left in the picture below is the Bovina museum, which was closed when I passed by; I had wanted to stop in and learn more about the town’s history. At the other end of the village is Russell’s Store, a general store and eatery that dates back to 1823, with its current name dating back to 1919. It appears as though little has changed since then except the contents of its shelves. On Saturdays they host a Farmer’s Market.

Speaking of Saturdays, that was the big night out for my family. My mother was an obsessional antiques collector, and Saturday’s were when the weekly auction took place in Bovina Center. Held in a former creamery building on Creamery Rd just off of Main St (the orange brick building at the end of the road in the photo below), it was the biggest shindig in town. For many years the creamery was the main clearinghouse for the local auctioneer, every square inch of wall space was taken up by things that never sold– tacky flea market art, crushed velvet portraiture in baroque plastic frames, that sort of stuff. It bordered on surreal, an epicenter of kitsch. In the anteroom in front, you could buy hot dogs and chips along with your $1 entry ticket. Auction goers sat in old wooden school chairs, resting their hotdog boats on the built-in writing tablets. The auctioneer, as if deity, had his own raised pulpit, from which he would deliver his own sermon, the auctioneer’s shtick. Sadly, years ago the business relocated to another village, and the funky vibe got lost in the move. At least it’s good to know the business is being carried on by the next generation.

I head out of the village in the opposite direction of the next town on my route to take in one of my favorite dead-end dirt roads, Reinertsen Hill Rd. I know I’ll have to double back and head through Bovina Center again but I can’t resist the views. It twists up a steep hill testing the traction limits of my 650B Hetres. I come upon a field where a tractor is bailing freshly cut hay. Past it, an abandoned barn. The road narrows, tree crowns converge and provide a welcome canopy. A clearing emerges, and the road dead-ends at a farmhouse. Cows graze in a field.

Turning around and heading back down the hill, a new vista unfolds with every turn. I could devote an entire post to this short dead-end road, but I’ll stop here.

Back at the bottom of the hill, I continue away from Bovina Center on County Highway 6 toward another favorite dirt loop, Coulter Brook Rd. Highway 6 has gentle rollers with more of the usual views– farms and barns, in various states of decay. I pass one barn that has collapsed to rubble, a sad but common site around here (our family barn suffered the same fate, after decades of “deferred maintenance”).

I turn onto Coulter Brook Rd, which loops back to Bovina Center. On my way back through the village, I stop at Russell’s store and refill my water bottles. For anyone riding this route, Russell’s may be a good food stop, and there’s also the swankier bakery/cafe on the other end of the village. More opportunities for food and drink lay ahead in the next village on the route.

It’s July 6th, and American flags vye with barns for iconic dominance.

Outside the village center, I turn onto Russell Hill Rd. This dirt road winds its way up a steep road that will take me to the next hamlet, Andes. As I crest Russell Hill Rd, cows pasture on the hilltop. I enjoy a long, steady descent down the other side. At first I believe I’m heading down the hill to what must be Andes, but I soon discover I have many short but steep climbs to tackle before I make the final descent into Andes. I noted in my previous post that the sound of water was pervasive. This week it was less so, as we hadn’t gotten any significant rain for the better part of a week. But as rain gave way to sunshine, wildflowers flourished, decorating the sides of the road like confetti.

I’m supposed to fork left at Doig Hollow Rd, but I miss the turn, there are no markings. But I’m also going at a good clip, intoxicated by the breeze and by the unique sound of the voluminous Hetres swiftly rolling over packed dirt (imagine the sound that briefly lingers after a basketball bounces, but imagine it lingering indefinitely). I blow past the fork, which in retrospect should have been impossible to miss. This costs me precious hill climbing reserve: I descend a good 1/4 mile before realizing my mistake. As I ride I have no idea how much elevation gain this route has, I hadn’t mapped it online first (no internet access at my summer house). I was old-schooling it with a paper map from 1974. I do know, this far into the route, that it’s hilly! (I later learn when mapping it online that the 45 mile route has 5500 ft of elevation gain– see route link at the end).

Doig Hollow Rd is a gem. Lined with sagging, mossy stone walls, tall ferns and century old trees, the shade is more than welcome– it’s needed. It’s high noon and I’ll later learn that it’s 87 degrees. I take a break, have a bite, a drink. I’m a fan of front rack-mounted randonneur style bags, and mine holds enough food and supplies for a day in the saddle. But I’m nearly out of water and I’m still not certain how much more elevation I’ll have to deal with before I descend into Andes.

Doig Hollow Rd went on like this for a while, then after a few milder climbs over two miles, it seems like the world is unfolding in front of me: a panorama presents that literally forces me to stop and take a deep breath. In the photo below, you can see the village of Andes in the distance. All down hill from here. The dirt changes to pavement, I hit 43 mph. I think, technically, I am speeding.

The road terminates at NYS Rt 28, the major corridor through Delaware County. Fortunately, I join Rt 28 just as it enters the village and slows to 30 mph. Rt 28, which runs right through the village of Andes, is its main street. New Yorkers heading into the Northern and Western Catskills pass through Andes, and in the past 20 years it has become a tourist’s haven. What were once feed stores or small engine repair shops are now antique shops or art galleries. We once bought a used lawn mower in Andes for $20. Today I can buy an early American pine farm table for $1200. I stop at Woody’s Country Kitchen for ice cream. I remember it from decades ago when it had a different name (Patty’s Pantry), and I discover that although the name had changed, the interior decor hadn’t.

Next door is a boutique shop, the proprietors of which my family has known for years. I stop in to say Hi, in what has become an annual ritual. Inside, I meet a fellow who seeks me out as the owner of the bike resting against a post outside. He notes my Gilles Berthoud saddle– both he and the saddle are French. He’s a cyclist, grew up not far from the Alex Singer shop in a suburb of Paris, and happens to own an Alex Singer… and a Rene Herse. And he lives, as the crow flies, less than two miles from my house in Bloomville. Amazing.

To complete the loop from Andes back to Bloomville avoiding the traffic of Rt 28, I head west out of Andes on County Highway 2, also known as Cabin Hill Rd, with the intention of hooking up with two separate passes, delivering me back to Back River Rd near Bloomville. Highway 2 is a paved, rolling road with a 55 mph limit, but traffic is very light, the scenery bucolic. One initial hard climb out of the village, and familiar views open up: fields, barns and distant hills, a horse farm on my left.

I turn onto the first of what I think will be two carriage roads on my return to Bloomville: Bigger Hollow Rd. Narrow, double track in places, it reminds me of Doig Hollow Rd. The road follows Bigger Brook, and at one point I lose track of the stream as it transitions into marshland. Upon closer inspection, I see that the change in the stream’s character is the results of a beaver dam. (Years ago, we had a massive beaver dam on our property, and it permanently altered the path of the brook.)

The only building I encounter is a caving barn. The pitch steepens and I enter a hairpin turn. I can continue straight ahead as my map indicates, but there are signs that say Private Way. Instead of continuing with my original plan, I follow the hairpin (a 15% climb on loose gravel), barely maintaining traction. The road straightens out and I enjoy a brief respite from climbing. This is my second mistake: I think I’m still on Bigger Hollow Road heading north toward Bloomville, but the hairpin turns into Calhoun Hill Rd, which banks east back towards Andes! I had hoped Bigger Hollow Rd would take me to Rt 28 just a few hundred feet from the next mountain pass, but instead Calhoun Hill Rd dumps me onto Rt 28 about four miles south of where I thought I’d join it. It turns out the direct route that would take me north, avoiding Rt 28, is in fact a private way, but my map does not make the distinction.

Oh well, I’ll just take Rt 28 north to Lee Hollow Rd, the last mountain pass of the route. Rt 28 is actually quite scenic, but it’s littered with billboards, has lots of truck traffic, and the shoulders are narrow. I don’t recommend cycling on it for extended stretches, not when there are so many better alternatives. The red barn in the photo below, taken from the shoulder of Rt 28, is part of a farm in its fourth generation of operation. The previous generation’s owner, in addition to being a farmer, was also a real estate broker, and it was he who sold my parents their property. He and his wife thereafter remained close family friends, we used to see them at the weekly Bovina auction.

I follow Rt 28 to Lee Hollow Rd, which I believe to be the final pass before Bloomville. This one’s paved, the climb up it is hard, and the westerly sun is searing my back. It occurs to me that pavement radiates more absorbed heat than dirt, and I feel it. As I reach the top, I see in the distance that, in fact, there’s still another hard climb awaiting me. That’s got to be the last one, I think– I’m getting tired at this point. I reach it, and look forward to another short carriage road which, according to my map, runs fairly flat along the top of Bramley Mountain, and connects to Glen Burnie Rd, following another mountain pass that will take me back down Bramley Mountain to Back River Rd.

I make the turn onto Huff Rd, the connector at the top of the mountain. Another gem. Shady, narrow, tall ferns, a joy. But why am I going downhill in the opposite direction?! This shouldn’t be. Well, the thrill of the descent overwhelms me and I bomb down it anyway. It T-intersects Glen Burnie Rd as expected, but now I have to climb up a short stretch of Glen Burnie before starting the descent to Back River Rd. Glen Burnie is in rough shape. Originally dirt, at some point it got paved, but now it’s crumbling, pothole ridden, the underlying red dirt layer blistering through the broken pavement like flesh wounds. I’m exhausted by this point, and lack the confidence to bomb down it. I have to brake hard the entire way down, and my fingers are aching and weak. Glen Burnie reaches its steepest—over 16% grade—just as it T-intersects Back River Rd. The KoolStop brake pads are squealing as the bike lumbers to a stop. The front rim is hot to the touch.

The climbing is over. Finally back on Back River Rd, I regain my bearings and leisurely head back into Bloomville. The Delaware on one side; fertile, rolling farmland on the other. The gentle rollers help me cool off, a good way to wind down the ride. This final stretch provides a sort of catharsis for me.

Back in Bloomville, the rustic cafe/inn that opened last year at the crossroads of the village, where I hope to get a cold drink, has closed for the day. It’s in a tall old house, vacant for decades, possibly a generation, its windows like tired eyes overlooking the heart of the village. The new owners are giving it the rejuvenation it deserves. The cafe espouses a collaborative business model, sourcing its seasonal menu locally and hosting periodic food-related workshops and a weekly farmer’s market. While not an entirely unique model–it’s sprouting elsewhere in the Catskills as well–I’m happy to see the new movement taking root in my village, I hope it helps reinvigorate the local farming community. And its proximity to the Catskill Scenic Trail makes it a perfect stop before or after the ride.

And once again a thoroughly dirty bike. She’ll get a proper wash back in Boston next week.

Full route here, with dirt sections drawn in red.

–Somervillain

Tour de Swimming Hole

Long day at work. I’ve been at it since 8 am this morning, and now it’s 10 pm. Quittin’ time! I love my work, but sometimes it’s just too much. Most importantly, it’s already Wednesday and I’ve only gone 30 miles on my bike.

Since I can’t ride right now, I thought I’d put together a tour of the local swimming holes. I haven’t done this route, but I’ve been on all of these roads in one direction or another, and I’ve visited all these spots. Grab your long-distance bike, put on mountain bike pedals, and try it out!

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I started the route in New Paltz. Of course, getting to New Paltz from the Poughkeepsie train station is quick and easy…just go over the pedestrian bridge and follow the trail to route 299, and then pass through New Paltz. The road is busy, but it is very flat and fast, with a wide shoulder. It’s just to get you to the good part as quickly as possible.

From there, you’ll continue over the Shawangunk Ridge on Route 55. Again, a little bit busier road for this area, but pretty tame compared with 9W etc. Plus the traffic calms down almost completely after you get past the parking lots for Minnewaska Park.

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You’ll then descend almost to Warwarsing, and cross 209, and then turn onto Lundy, where you’ll hit your first swimming hole.

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From there, continue north on Rogue Harbor road, followed by Cherrytown Road. On Cherrytown Road, you’ll see a sign and a small parking lot. Stop and hide your bikes and hike one mile north (that’s the trail entrance opposite the parking lot) and you’ll hit the swimming hole on Vernooy Kill. I know hiking in the middle of a long-distance ride isn’t traditional, but it’s worth it for this:

L1040219_peNow, continue on to Peekamoose Road. Here, you’ll find one of America’s best swimming holes, at least according to Travel and Leisure magazine. It really is pretty impressive.

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Then you’ve got the long trip home. I’ve routed you past the reservoir and through Grahamsville, which has a nice place to stop for food…

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…and then you’ll continue on, ultimately enjoying a big descent into Ellensville. Then it’s up and over the ridge again on the Hudson Valley’s longest climb! If possible, I’d recommend taking a day off and doing this on a weekday, that way you’ll have all the swimming holes to yourself. During the weekend, you may encounter a few (very few) people.

And hey, don’t forget to Win a Garmin!

Enjoy!

John

medicalwriter.net