Saturday, October 15, 2011

Catskills, NY: Hunter Mountain Oktoberfest and Kaaterskill Falls

Last week was, basically, the last nice summer weather weekend and we decided to spend it outdoors. Hunter Mountain was holding a free admission Oktoberfest, so we decided to check on the foliage and the beer.

The place was packed. There were some vendors inside, though we weren't feeling very much like shopping (or being indoors), Warwick native Jimmy Sturr and His Orchestra were playing (me: "who?" Mr. D.: "!?!?! They are like the most famous polka band EVER." me: "..."), there was some delicious food to be had (even though the brat line was too long to even think about standing on), several Spaten varieties were on tap, and we got to watch some brave souls stomp grapes. That, of course, led me to think about the actual drinkability of foot-stomped grapes and unpleasant things like foot fungus.

The chair lift was open for $10/adult (protip: checking in on Foursquare saved $2/person) and it was a beautiful, perfect day for a trip up the mountain. There is apparently a zipline for brave people (hint: we are not brave) and you can get off at the top of the mountain to get married or hike a four mile trail to the fire tower.

A lot of the leaves were already off the trees, but the remaining colors were very nice and probably would have been at peak this weekend had it not been raining for the past two days. The trees are all probably naked now.

Kaaterskill Falls isn't far from Hunter Mountain and since I've been meaning to check it out for years, it seemed like the perfect day to go.

There is easy parking right on Route 23A, though it's a very popular spot and we got lucky enough to grab a spot right as someone was leaving. After a quick walk down 23A, we got to the bottom of Bastion Falls, which was quite pretty in its own rite.

From there, one can take a .5 mile hike up to the main attraction - Kaaterskill Falls, which is 260 feet tall and drops in two tiers. The trail is well maintained (and full of people) and not terribly difficult, though I'd recommend proper footwear since it is a little steep, there are lots of roots, and the rocks can be a bit slippery and wet (there were plenty of people doing it in flip flops, to each his own).

The trail officially ends here, but there used to be a trail leading all the way to the top of the falls...and we saw plenty of people climbing up anyway. This eroded former trail is where people get into trouble and it seems like every year people fall and die. In fact, Mr. D.'s first reaction to my Kaaterskill Falls plan was "Isn't that were everyone falls and dies?" Could we have climbed up? Probably. People were letting their young children do it. Did I want to risk falling 260 feet to my death (or, with my luck, injuries that would leave me a vegetable)? No.

It's a short hike (only a mile round trip), so if you're planning a day trip, it may be worth checking out North South Lake if you'd like to spend more of your day hiking. Maybe we'll get there next summer.

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