Cold Climbing in Cat Creek, Day 4 • Kaaterskill Falls • January 9, 2017
Let’s begin with a brief history by Curtis: Some readers may wonder why this weekend trip has been named “Cold Climbing in Cat Creek”. What is Cat Creek? I thought you were in the Catskills? Is it really considered climbing if you walk to the top? To answer these questions we refer to the history of the Catskills. Back in the 1600’s, New York was New Amsterdam, a Dutch Colony in the new world. They were the ones who originally explored the Hudson Valley and gave name to many of the locations. In Dutch, Kill means creek and in 1656 Nicolaes Visscher I published a map of the region identifying the Mountains as Landt van Kats Kill. The exact reason for the naming remains a mystery, the most common being that Visscher saw bob cats along the water. Because of this, until the late 19th century, the name of the mountains remained non-standardized. Deviations of Kats Kill became Catskill, Kaaterskill, and Kaatskill (names that persist today). There were even pressures to use the “Indian Name” Onteora (which turned out to be a fake term created for advertising), or to continue the English tradition of renaming all Dutch things and adopt the name “Blue Mountains” (to go with VT’s Green and NH’s White Mountains). It only became standardized as Catskill through the works of Washington Irving and the paintings of the Hudson River School of art. And as for is it really climbing if you walk…no it is not, but alliteration always wins out.
Jess: On our last day of our weekend getaway, we really wanted to finish strong with a fire tower hike. However, it was still just as cold as the day before, and while we really wanted to, we decided it just wasn’t smart. I do worry about Charlotte while we’re out in the cold, because while it looks as though she’s having the time of her life, she can’t exactly tell us when she’s too cold or anything. Instead of going for another long hike, we settled on returning to Kaaterskill Falls so that we could see it in a completely different season.
This time, instead of beginning the hike in the lot right off the highway as we did last time, we drove to the town of Haines Falls and took a back road to another trail that took us to the top of the falls. We felt that this was a better idea because the ground was mostly flat, and I definitely didn’t want to walk up all those steep steps without railings now, which were undoubtedly covered in snow and ice. We knew we could get a great view up top from Inspiration Point, so we settled for this. It was only 2 miles round trip, and Curtis was able to find a letterbox along the way as well.
It was a short walk and very pleasant, besides the fact that we were losing feeling in our fingers and toes and faces. We hurried to the falls and stayed as long as we could, then hurried back to the car. Honestly, we wouldn’t even mind returning a third time, because Curtis did some research and found that there are more trails (and letterboxes) in this area, as well as more ruins. Maybe we’ll return in the spring to enjoy it in a different season — I’d imagine that all the waterfalls are much fuller in the spring with all the rain and snow melt! For today, we hurried back to the car and marveled at the icicles lining the cliffs along highway 23A as we drove out of the Catskills. I wish there were pullouts near the especially dramatic cliffs — it was incredible to pass by but there’s no way my pictures can show you how magnificent they were.