Bear Bicycle Touring Co.

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Catskills 3- Beauty and Trouble

15 January 2017
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Waking up in the Kenneth L. Wilson Campground in the Catskill was miles better than waking up camping near the Poconos. Camping to us should be out in nature – not crammed in like sardines and having to listen to your neighbors blasting their type of music and talking endless throughout the night. We woke up and as we peered out of our tent we couldn’t see anyone else, but instead surrounded by trees as the morning sun started to cast its light into the sky. Still a bit sleepy Alex started making the coffee and once again we were thankful of our purchase of a small burner to be able to produce our lifeline.

Alex on the road

After taking a relatively relaxing morning packing up we were off again. Our journey today was cut into two segments; the first a short ride, 20 km or so to the town of Woodstock and later our long climb in the Catskills to reach our end destination of the day of North/South Lake Campground. I was excited to be spending a couple hours in the famous Woodstock. The roads were relatively empty the whole journey there and as we cycled we spotted several other cyclist with the same jersey advertising the Catskills. Entering the off skirts of town we spot a bike shop – Overlook Mountain Bikes- and decide it best to pump up our tires. We stop at the shop and sadly see that the shop is not open today and are about to hop on our bikes and continue into town when a lady starts chatting with us. She inquires what we were after and after explaining we are cycle touring and needed to pump up our tires she ushers us around back of the shop to where the shop owner and several of mechanics were.

The owner of the shop was one of the friendliest guys we have met. Alex and I spend quite a deal of time talking to him about our trip thus far and our other cycling journeys we have been on. He tells us how he used to live out west and the mountain biking there was phenomenal, however the road cycling he finds better in the east and has returned to the town he grew up to open his business. He offers us a home base for our time in Woodstock were we can leave the bikes and charge our dying phones , one thing about the campgrounds is no convenient outlets to charge our devices, and even mentions if we need to camp out behind the store as an open invitation for future references.

After successfully leaving all devices to our charging blocks at the bike store we walked the remaining 400 meters to town. Bike shop owner gave us a recommendation to have breakfast at Oriole 9 which was decent. I was sad to find out that Peace, Love and Cupcakes was not open on Tuesdays and I would not be trying one of their cupcakes today. After breakfast with lots of coffee consumed we continued our walk through Woodstock and quickly realized there wasn’t that much to do in this tiny town. Alex and I would not classify ourselves as hippies so we didn’t find ourselves eager to head into the shops and purchase the goods, nor do we try to accumulate much while cycle touring.

We soon headed back to the bike shop where yet again we discussed our plans with the owner. He heard of our route and made some nice suggestions based on availability of food. Out in the Catskills the area is not heavily populated and unless you go into one of the towns – which there are not too many of them- you might find yourself riding up and down mountains with no source of food. Carrying all your food for a big mountain day did not seem like the way forward so an adjustment to our original plan was made.

Yum Yum noodle Bar in Woodstock

Before heading for our remaining 30km and 800 meter climb we stop for lunch at Yum Yum noodle bar for some delicious Roman – a dish we use to have quite often in London and miss now-. The climb was position at the end of the ride and two thirds up the climb was a place to stop to see the Kaaterskills Falls, one of the highest waterfalls in NY with two cascading falls. The main climb ended up being on a more main road than we would have liked, but the alternative was to go on what locals refer to as Devils Kitchen (Platte Clove Rd). Normally, we would have taken the more challenging, off the beaten path option, however when looking at this climb it had an average of 12% gradient and sections of 22-25% for long stretches with carrying our luggage; we decided it would have to give it a miss.

The day was quite hot with temperatures above 90 and during that climb we both felt the sun radiating down on us. The cars were whizzing by us, mostly giving us plenty of space, and we slowly turned the pedals over and over again winding our way up the mountain. Once I was thoroughly drenched in sweat we saw the breaking point, the start of the hike to the Kaaterskill Falls. Alex and I hopped off the bikes on the U shaped bend and had to lift our bikes over the guardrail. There was no parking lot or space for the bikes and having come this far we didn’t want to give up so locked our bikes onto the guardrail and started our mile hike to the falls. Alex was overly tired and had very little energy for our hike; it was the heat of the day. When we got to the falls you could walk up more steps and go to the top tier of the waterfall which seemed like a must do, Alex didn’t feel the same. Alex stated at the bottom tier and I trudge my way up to the second tier and I was very happy I did. The falls were beautiful! I took a quick dip in and instantly felt revived by the freshness of the water.

Alex and I at Kaaterskill Falls NY

After our break we hiked back to our bikes and painfully lifted them back over the guardrail and complete our climb to arrive at the North/South Lake Campground – which we heard was very peaceful and scenic. Five minutes into the remaining climb and you hear the distinct pop of a spoke on Alex’s bike, following by Alex cursing. Seems the weight of the luggage plus Alex’s 6 “7” body was a bit much for our bikes and presented us with our first real problem of our trip, it was not safe to continue with Alex down one spoke.

Before the reality hit us of having to change our plans we went into North/South Lake Campground for about an hour. The main reason for this was that there is supposed to be a great overview of Hudson river and the surrounding area that is a must see. It was about a 15 minute cycle plus 25 minute hike to get to the overlook, but it was well worth it for the views.

Hudson Valley overlook

Next back to solving our issues. Simple all we had to do was find a bike shop and buy a new spoke- however, once we stopped and googled bike shop the closest one was in the next town, but closed until the weekend. Funny how we felt stranded and out in the sticks while in the United States. After our Asia trip and feeling trapped in Vietnam when all our tires were torn with no near towns or civilization we thought a bike tour of the Catskills would be easy. After much deliberation we figured we could not stay at the campground with no internet nor way to charge our devices; we needed to cycle to the town 5km away to be able to make a better plan.

Sad to give up the night at what was supposed to be one of the nicer campgrounds we were slightly excited at the prospect of a nice comfy bed and long shower. The route to Tannersville, the nearest town, was all downhill and a breeze. We stopped and inquired prices from several of the hotels/Inns on the main street and settled for a B&B called Snowed Inn. Tannersville was a ski town and being the heat of summer you can imagine how empty it was, well except for all the Orthodox Jews on holiday there. An old lady owned the B&B and only charged us $40 for the night- a steal really compared to the $30 we were paying for a plot of land on the ground camping.

This trip was our first real trip trying to camp most nights - our two previous noteworthy cycle tours were in the south of France were we only stayed in hotels and Asia were after the first 3 weeks of a 3.5 month trip Alex lost our tent. After a nice shower and having departed with our things we walked into town in search of dinner. There was not many options in town, a BBQ and a American style restaurants. We first went to the BBQ place where we were rudely told they were understaffed and wouldn’t be able to serve us for a long time. Wh!en inquiring if we can wait at the bar and have a drink we were told you can, but no one will have time to serve you. The American place it was.

Tannersville NY town

The night was approaching 9pm and we really had a craving for a couple cans of beer after a more stressing day than anticipated. Being a small mountain town all the shops were close and we ended up walking a mile in the opposite way of our B&B to the gas station for a 6 pack of beer. While laying in bed sipping our beer we came to a conclusion; as much as we enjoyed camping we enjoy having a bed and a warm shower at the end day of a cycle tour more.