Camping in the Catskill Mountains

Camping in the Catskill Mountains – DEC Woodland Valley Campground – Phoenicia, NY (Location)

A few days earlier we had traveled south from Gananoque, Ontario on our way to New York City. Out intention that day had been to find a campsite on the west edge of the Catskill Mountains but, as folks who follow this blog will already know, we were plagued by soggy weather the whole day during that southward drive and opted to stay in a motel at New Paltz rather than spend a damp night in a tent. Now we were heading home and, after touring the Vanderbilt Mansion late in the day, we thought that we should have no problem finding a camping spot in the Catskill Mountains. No problems, that is, until we tried to get directions to the campgrounds. We looked in the nicely illustrated Park Service booklet that outlined all of the facilities at each of the government campgrounds in the Catskills but when we looked at it more closely, the booklet lacked any meaningful directions as to how to find those campgrounds. So, next step, we looked at the state map and the AAA map and … finally stopped at a gas station to ask for directions when we thought we were close to where one of the campgrounds should be. We had seen no signs up to this point in the process and were beginning to doubt, just a bit, that we would find one of the campgrounds that we were looking for before dark. Rain was also threatening!

The gas station attendant and one of the customers discussed the situation for a bit , looked at the booklet images and decided that the campground that we were seeking was only about 5 miles away and gave us directions, saying that we couldn’t miss it as it was at the end of the road. Off we went. Followed the directions perfectly. Traveled a couple of miles. Still no signs to indicate that there might be a government campground anywhere near. Decided that we would drive the suggested five miles and then turn around. Thought that decision over again each time that an uneventful mile ticked by but kept going.

We found the campsite and began setting up the tent as darkness descended and rain began to sprinkle down. Adell was determined to have a campfire in the fire pit so as I was setting up the tent, off she went trying to find some dry wood in an area of the country that had just faced three days of, at times, heavy rain. After a somewhat successful hunt for moderately dry wood, the next task, getting the fire started, was begun in earnest – under an ever present umbrella since it was now raining.  Meanwhile, over in the other corner, I was using a headlamp to adjust the final pegs and guylines on the tent.

There were a couple of reasons why Adell had wanted to get a fire started.  One was the basic interest in burning something and sitting there watching it burn :-).  The other interest was the hope that a nice fire would keep any bears away. We have had one previous experience a number of years ago when a mother black bear woke us up in the middle of the night because her cub had decided to climb the pine tree to which our tent’s fly rope had been so nicely tied. However, this night’s anxiety arose more from the fact that we were the only people staying overnight in this campground and there were signs posted everywhere warning campers to watch out for bears.

As is obvious from the picture above, Adell did get a nice fire started.  Whether the fire helped or not, we were not bothered by bears.

I did receive quite a fright later that night though! I was heading over to the washroom late at night.  I have decent night vision so often wander about in the dark without benefit of a flashlight and this was one such occasion.  As I approached the washroom door in the complete darkness of the night, the building motion detector flicked on the lights, and I caught a glimpse of a huge object moving only an inch or so from my toe! Although it took me only a split second or two to recognize that there was no danger of my toe being devoured; for that split second or so, I thought thoughts!

More information about this campground at the NY Department of Environmental Protection website.




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About Ron

Ron has long had an interest in photography and traveling and, in recent years, has had more time to devote to both activities. Long a Pentax user, Ron switched to Nikon gear when he went digital. The advent of the digital SLR camera, and the ease of the internet blogging process, has provided a venue for sharing his photography and travel experience at the local, national and international level. More about Ron
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