THE CATSKILLS: NATURE’S PLAYGROUND
We wanted a camping destination relatively close to our central New Jersey home. The Catskill Mountains are just a little over two hours drive, only an hour and a half north west of Manhattan. They are known by locals as the “blue mountains” due to their uniquely beautiful coloring. There’s dense forest as far as the eye can see. This sylvan paradise was perfect for a three day weekend holiday with the pack.
We also desired a vacation spot that offered dog friendly activities. When we took the leap and added the third husky to our pack last year, our lovable rescue Lobo, we realized that travel might become more difficult with that many large dogs in the family. This is how we discovered the beauties of a travel trailer, the relatively luxurious camping that comes with it, and the ease with which one can travel with canines. The Catskill region is made for camping with dogs, with dog friendly campgrounds located in every possible area you might want to visit, and outdoor activities in abundance to keep both dogs and people happy.
PLACES TO VISIT IN THE CATSKILLS
Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome
The aerodrome has been in operation since 1959, when an old farm was purchased by pilot and vintage airplane enthusiast Cole Palen to house his vintage plane collection. He formed the aerodrome museum foundation in 1993 so the preservation, education and entertainment could continue past his lifetime. His cheery refrain when facing a complicated restoration job on an old plane was “No problem. It’ll fly.”
It was with amazement that we watched lovingly restored planes from 1909 through the 1930’s, take flight before us. It is a feast for the eyes and a tribute to Cole Palen’s dream and his legacy. The engines roar to life and some planes take to the clear blue skies and others (the very old ones) would simply float gracefully across the demonstration field. It is a true living history of flight.
Dogs are warmly welcomed at the aerodrome. We were told by several people where to find the oversized green water bowl and water faucet to keep the pups hydrated. And we were cautioned that some few dogs might find the show too loud – not so much the planes – there are some simulated shoot outs as part of the theatrical program. Our pups were not phased by the show at all. Lobo did get bored and begin to bark – that is so very Lobo – so we took a walk to get some popcorn together and he was fine after that.
The aerodrome is open all day with active planes arranged around the fields and hangars housing other planes in various states of restoration. Seating for the 2 pm weekend show is on rustic wooden benches arranged beside the field. There are several consignment stands with everything from salmon burgers to ice cream to popcorn. The popcorn came in handy when we ran out of dog treats!
The fee for the museum and afternoon air show is $25 per person. One can also purchase tickets for a flight in a vintage plane for $75 per person. People queue first thing in the morning for the flight tickets and they do sell out. The experience is truly unique, viewing the Catskill mountains and forest of the Hudson valley below, from the vantage point of an open cock pit in a vintage plane. Old cars and motorcycles are also part of the show and audience members are invited to dress up in vintage clothing and take a ride.
The aerodrome is a true treat to visit and a bona fide gem of the Catskills.
Sam’s Point Preserve
Sam’s Point area is part of the larger Minnewaska State Park Preserve. The drive up to the park entrance winds up the mountain, past some steep cliffs and gorgeous views. A few miles from the parking lot, along a scenic stopping point, is a hot dog stand. That vendor has a challenging location but the best view of any food vendor I have ever seen!
The parking lot was quite full but we managed to find a spot. There is a parking fee of $10 per car, which is paid in a convenient parking kiosk. The park is a “carry in, carry out” location so there are no garbage cans and you must bring any trash home with you. The park is pristinely kept so it’s obvious everyone respects this rule, which is common in many state parks.
The trail leading to Sam’s Point from the parking lot can be taken from the left or the right path. We chose to take the longer path to the left. The trail is as wide as a road, sometimes dirt, sometimes gravel and sometimes paved. It is well shaded and scenic, with mostly a gradual climb, although there are some more challenging inclines. Half way around there is a pretty lake to visit, Lake Maratanza. The pups dipped their feet in to cool off and enjoy the view.
There are ice caves as well as a water fall, although we didn’t visit those. The waterfall area was closed and the ice caves we decided to save for a future visit, as there was no ice this late in the summer.
Sam’s Point has a lot to offer. The loop we walked kept us busy for hours at a leisurely pace, enjoying the weather and the scenery, and allowed us to visit the lake and the Sam’s Point overlook. There was an abundance of hawks along the cliffs, soaring on the breeze with outstretched wings. This untouched mountain area looks like a hawk’s paradise! There are eagles as well although we didn’t see any this time.
(A word of caution, there are rattlesnakes in this area. It’s nature after all, with acres and acres of untrammeled wilderness. We didn’t see a single one for which I am very grateful.)
Skyway Camping Resort
Skyway is pet friendly, people friendly, and well run. The bath houses and restrooms are sparkling, obviously cleaned several times a day. The pool and hot tub are set well apart from the camping spots and overlook the surrounding forest and mountains. The entire place is scenic, spotless, and well-laid out. The staff could not be nicer if they tried.
We arrived late, after dark, and were escorted directly to our spot by a friendly young staff member in a golf cart. Our spot was perfectly level, offered trees for shade, some bushes for privacy, a gravel surface for our patio, and a picnic table and fire pit.
There was some loud partying going on around us but it all ended nicely once quiet hours began at 11 PM. After that it was quiet, peaceful, nothing but crickets, and we slept long and well in our little haven.
Skyway is a dog friendly camp ground. There were dogs everywhere, much to our pups’ delight. Dogs love dog watching just like people love people watching. It’s a constant source of amusement. There is an enclosed dog park for off leash fun for your canines; we were so busy sight seeing that we didn’t avail ourselves of this thoughtful amenity.
After days full of adventure, at the Aerodrome and Sam’s Point and simply driving the beautiful forested roads of the area, we were happy to return each evening to our relaxing camping spot in Skyway.
All in all, a very happy excursion to the Catskills!
THE COLEMAN LANTERN EDITION TRAVEL TRAILER (192RDS)
Our Coleman Lantern Edition travel trailer offers a queen size bed and a couch and dinette, both of which convert into beds. It’s on the small size for a travel trailer at 19 feet but it is just perfect for our family. Two people and two dogs can sleep on the bed (cramped but we’re used to it!) and one dog takes the floor or the couch.
With a small kitchenette and bathroom with shower, we are well kitted out to camp at length should we choose. The bathroom even has a small tub should one dare to wash a dog…! The couch is a fake leather which is ideal for those like us with shedding dogs – no need to vacuum – just brush it off and sweep it up!
This small trailer has the advantage of being tall which makes it seem even roomier. As my husband is 6 foot 3″, this is a definite plus.
Having tent camped last year with the pack, this travel trailer is like a luxury hotel to us. We love it so much we sometimes sleep in it in our driveway on weekends when we are not camping!
© Copyright 2016, Woofus | Janet McGrane Bennett. All Rights Reserved