This blogging stuff is sure new to me. This is my first attempt, so we’ll see how it goes. Something that is not new to me though is winter recreation in the Catskill Mountains. Two things that I have come to appreciate more and more each year are recreating outdoors during the winter months (as there are usually fewer people on the trails) and the other is exploring the bountiful nooks and crannies of western Catskills (and once again, there are fewer people on the trails). Originally I was going to kick this blog off with some ice-fishing, however with the predictions of 9” or more of the white stuff this weekend I suppose fresh powder will be one everyone’s mind.
I am not much of a downhill skier anymore – the last time I went was probably 2001 (at Plattekill and of course had a blast – how can you not?). I tend to stick to the slower stuff – like snowshoeing and occasional cross-county skiing. The Delaware County Catskills, or western Catskills, offer incredible opportunities for both. Most places are what I would call “lesser-known”; of course some of us like to keep it that way (ha, ha). No worries, as the winter progresses and this blog continues, I’ll certainly hit on some of them.
With the abundant trail network found in the Catskill Forest Preserve, the state forests, the multiple use areas, and the old roads on City of New York lands aside, one of the most prominent is owned and maintained by a non-profit called the Catskill Revitalization Corporation. Located in the Towns of Roxbury, Stamford, and Bovina there is a very attractive rail trail – I mean really attractive. The setting is so beautiful in fact that "scenic" is actually in the name - the Catskill Scenic Rail Trail (http://www.catskillscenictrail.org).
The southern end begins near the hamlet of Roxbury (at Hubbell's Corners), and it heads north alongside (and then between) NYS Route 30 and the headwaters of the East Branch Delaware River for six miles to Grand Gorge before curving west another eight miles to Stamford. It then heads south along NYS Route 10 and the West Branch Delaware River, past Hobart and South Kortright, and finally reaches the other end in Bloomville. The length? An impressive 26 miles.
So on Sunday, after this big snowfall, or a weeknight after work, or what the heck, take a day during the week to grab your snowshoes or cross-county skis, and hit it. Its eastern terminus can be accessed at the corner of Rt. 30 and Hardscrabble Road (just north of Roxbury). Parking is also found in Stamford (roughly the middle) on Railroad Avenue, and at the western terminus in Bloomville (off of Route 10).
Heading out from its eastern end what can you expect? Well, as the trail parallels the headwaters of the East Branch Delaware River, the low topography makes for a virtually flat trail, also making the river more of a placid wetland than a flowing stream in most places. Of course this makes for great birding, and be sure to keep your eyes peeled for weasels, mink and many other critters.
With the predicted dump of powder you’ll find the whole landscape having a soft, peaceful feel all the while as you hear that wonderful ‘crunch’ of fresh snow as you break the trail. Snow-coated wetland plants dropping to the wet edges of ice on the river, and gracing the mix of hardwood and conifer trees on the hillsides. A winter wonderland for sure.
After 3 miles of hugging the stream, you’ll reach Grand Gorge Gap, the deep notch in the mountains where the hillsides rise steeply from the valley. The Grand Gorge Gap is a break in the Moresville Range, between Jump Hill and Irish Mountain. This rugged mountain pass is geologically significant, as it is the outlet site where a large glacial lake - Lake Grand Gorge, some 700'-deep – once drained at the end of the last Ice Age, creating the pronounced notch that exists today.
Of you were fortunate enough to bring not only a companion along but also an extra car, and were smart enough to plant it in Stamford (or Bloomville), then you can continue along this western Catskills treasure, through this winter wonderland. If not, then at some point you’ll have to do what I always seem to be forced to – turn around and head back way before I am ready to.
Fortunately Cassie’s Cafe on Main Street in Roxbury will still be open for a late lunch…..and ohhhh how that country chili will warm you right up!
More Snowshoeing than Shoveling,