"We’re all filled up," says the young woman in the ranger shirt at the entrance to Haines Falls State Park. On a beautiful day, beautiful Haines Falls State Park in the Catskill Mountains, 126 miles north of NYC, was packed. Not getting there until 11:45 AM on Memorial Day Saturday set us up for the shut-out. Not to worry says I, after all, plenty of options up this way. Meanwhile I’m groaning as I mentally add dollars to our camping budget.
It’s our first ever camping trip in the Catskills. We brought Ben, our 5-year-old pit bull-mix (really a sweetheart but hates cars) to see how well he accepts camping life in the Burro
To avoid heavy holiday metropolitan traffic, drove the back way, up to Warwick, then Middletown, and across on 84 to near Newburgh, then up the Thruway past Poughkeepsie, and Saugerties. Through big, bright, spring-green valleys, winding roads and tiny, two-street towns, to Windham, on the northern fringes of the Catskill Mountains, I spotted a faded sign announcing the White Birches Family Campground. “Look, it’s Woodall’s approved!” I chirped. A road then led us deep in, off the state highway, past battered old rusty tractors and trucks. Where is this place? I’m muttering.
Finally, the road opens to a beautiful lake framed by birches, green hills, but, uh-oh, my very first thought is that this camp is looking much like a training place for right-wing skinhead paint-ballers. First thing I saw between the birches was a big old stick-built with weathered 2x4 porch and bulky, molded plastic kiddy yard toys. A few scattered old outhouses. OK, so some were fiberglass (ex-portolets.) Found the office, a large multi-purpose building serving as rude general store, ping pong/game room, dining room, and library. Thinking now of the movie, Deliverance
. The blonde lady behind the counter speaks, asks if I had a reservation.
Ah, noo, says I, remembering horror stories I read online of nasty trailer park personnel. I am so impressionable. She answers; the owner would be here to talk to me in a couple minutes. Fortunately my sinking feeling was totally unjustified. Turns out Tom was very accommodating. Many sites were too wet or had fallen tree damage but we were still welcome. He explained they were still recovering from severe storm damage of last month. Found us a nice spot.
We had been prepared to boondock. Haines Falls has no hookups. For $3 more a night White Birches gave us full hook-ups. The facilities are not designer travel mag friendly, but the place was real people friendly. Clean, safe, quiet, unpretentious, happy, beautiful, isolated, and a great place to bring your kid to fish or row a boat, canoe, play bingo, have a pot-luck dinner, etc. Ben behaved well. I think in his utter confusion over our trip he worried he might be left behind. We were the only egg.
No TV, no radio, no newspapers. A welcome escape-weekend far, far away from all the bad news, the useless news, and the skewed news we get pummeled with at home these days.
amenities worked fine, especially my new, more functional table. I am thinking about setting up some hanging web “shelves” for getting stuff off the floor and off the front cushions. No Internet hookups, but used laptop to process photographs. Saturday night enjoyed Nancy’s shish-ka-bob, my slide show, followed by late thunderstorms. Snug and dry, and Ben was not alarmed. My new bed arrangement allowed us tall folks to stretch out comfortably lengthwise. However, if we ever have to use the heater it surely won’t be with the bed extensions up alongside it. Just too close for comfort. Next, got to figure out how to make those segmented cushions we sleep on less slippy. Fortunately, turning on the stove quickly removes any morning chill. Great coffee with the French press.
I got 16 mpg out of my ’92 Explorer tv, burned one quart of oil, added 2 pints of water to radiator. On the way home I spotted my license
plate dangling off the back of the trailer before it could fall