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For ordering information or to read about a Kaaterskill Falls hike.
Hiking Winston Farm
from Hikes, Walks & Drives in the
Saugerties/Woodstock Area" by Richard Frisbie.
- I grew up next to Winston Farm. Not near the pretty entrance at the New York State
Thruway exit 20 that everyone will soon know, but the back, rugged side creeping up the
foothills (called the Hoogebergs) of the Catskill Mountains.
I often crossed the road and hiked in, hunting and trapping and living off the land on a
survivalist trek which, for a kid of 10 or so, armed only with a couple of peanut butter
sandwiches and a stick, might last a whole afternoon. What Danger! What Fun! And what an
imagination! It was there I discovered Secret Lake.
That springtime the remains of winter lay hidden in the shady glens, but the promise of
summer in the air lured me into the woods. I pretty much avoided the snow patches, except
for an exuberant angel or two, and followed the sun farther than I had gone before until I
came to a big swamp. Searching for a way around it I found that it wasn't a swamp at all,
but a pond, and I was soon standing on a man-made dam. It was laid up of bluestone,
mortared and in good condition although it looked as if it had been there forever. To me
it was a marvel built in the middle of the wilderness primarily for my amusement.
Ah, the conceit of childhood.
It became my secret swimming hole that summer and many summers after until the caretaker
for Winston Farm caught me there and made me promise not to swim in their drinking water
Years later, studying the history of the region I learned that the fresh water for the
farm came from two reservoirs in those wild hills above the pastures (where the upcoming
Woodstock/Saugerties Reunion Festival will be held). The reason the damn looked so
impressive is that James Winston had some experience building dams, most notably the
Ashokan Dam that holds the supply of New York City's pure Catskill Mountain drinking
water. That damn, called "The Last of the Handmade
Damns" ($12.50) by Robert Steuding in a book of the same name, was the
engineering wonder of the world when it was completed in 1917.
James Winston established his 1000 acre Saugerties estate while overseeing the ten-year
construction of the Ashokan Reservoir just a few miles away in West Hurley. Visitors to
the area are encouraged to take the scenic drive around the Ashokan Reservoir and see the
dam and the aerating fountains for themselves, and to read about the feats accomplished
with much human sweat and ingenuity.
Unfortunately, the freedom I enjoyed tramping the "wilderness" as a boy is no
longer available to the hiker of today. Much of the land is privately owned and cannot be
crossed without permission from the owner (usually impossible to get on short notice).
However, there are state lands accessible to all hikers, and trails built and maintained
by the NY/NJ Trail Conference. There is a 2 mile hike to the top of Overlook Mountain
starting at the Buddhist Monastery, and Platte Clove, called the most scenic wilderness
valley in the U.S., nearby. Also, there are places of public access to the streams and
lakes with many areas set aside for camping and swimming.
For more information about this beautiful area there are books, such as "Fifty Hikes in the Hudson Valley" ($15.00), -- "Hiking the Catskills" ($13.95), -- "Best Hikes With Children in the Catskills"
($12.95), and maps such as "Catskill Trails" (5
map set for $13.95). All these and more are available from Hope Farm Press & Bookshop,
252 Main Street Saugerties, NY 12477. A complete catalogue of over 200 New York State
Catskill Mt. and Hudson Valley books is available for free. When ordering please remember
Shipping and NYS tax extra. Visa and Mastercard accepted. To any book available.
else you do, have a save and enjoyable visit here.
Obviously written before the festival!
Many thanks to Woodstockr's Journal (Robert Roundtree) for permission to reprint this
For ordering information, or to email your
comments. . .
Copyright © 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 by Richard Frisbie -- All rights reserved.