painted “meeses” & mountain lions, kaaterskill falls & a grueling drive home

Monday, July 14: This morning, Alex and I get up at our leisure and do a quick scavenger hunt around Bennington for any moose we might have missed.  The moose originated with “Moosefests” in 2005 and 2009, when 54 and 48, respectively, fiberglass moose statues were decorated by artists. The statues were then auctioned off at a gala event.

Both of the previous Moosefest events enticed tourists to the area, and drew them into area restaurants and businesses. The event also helped build community pride and spirit and supported local artists, according to the Bennington Chamber of Commerce.

We find these characters on our way out of town.

Surprisingly, we also find a lot more painted cats.  My favorite is the Birch tree cat.

Birch tree cat
Birch tree cat

The cats originated from the launch by the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce of  Catamount Prowl 2013, a street art project mirrored on the success of previous Moosefests.  The word “catamount,” which comes from the term “cat of the mountains,” is used to describe a member of the cougar family of large cats that live in the wild such as mountain lions, wildcats or bobcats.

Their connection to Bennington dates back to their use as the unofficial mascot of the Green Mountain Boys, who met in the Catamount Tavern in Old Bennington.

These fiberglass cats have been lurking about town over the last year. The statues — seven feet tall and 6.5 feet wide — were decorated by area artists and displayed around town.

As Bennington doesn’t have a lot of attractions to draw tourists, I must say I admire the town’s ingenuity in coming up with creative ideas to bond the community and create enticements for tourists.

We leave Vermont and head into New York, where we pass this funky little deli and general store along the road.

Goodbye, Vermont!
Goodbye, Vermont!

In New York, we drive off the beaten track into the Catskill Mountains, where we’re hard pressed to find a parking space to hike to Kaaterskill Falls. The trailhead is along a steep and winding mountain road.  There is only one small parking lot within walking distance of the falls.  It’s full.  We head down the mountain, almost ready to give up and leave, but when I see how disappointed Alex is, we drive up one more time and squeeze my car into a questionable space.  We walk along the tight 2-lane road, with trucks and cars pressing us into the mountainside or the guard rail. Luckily, we make it unscathed to the falls.

First view of Kaaterskill Falls
First view of Kaaterskill Falls

We hike up about a half-mile on a rocky, muddy and mossy trail.

Kaaterskill Falls trail
Kaaterskill Falls trail

The dual cascades of Kaaterskill Falls total 260 feet (79 m) in height, making it one of the higher waterfalls in New York, and one of the eastern United States’ taller waterfalls.

Kaaterskill Falls trail
Kaaterskill Falls trail

The falls are one of America’s oldest tourist attractions.  They appear in some of the most prominent books, essays, poems and paintings of the early 19th century.

Kaaterskill Falls trail
Kaaterskill Falls trail

Kaaterskill Falls was lauded as a place where a traveler could see a wilder image, a sort of primeval Eden.  The falls became an icon subject for painters of the Hudson River School, setting the wilderness ideal for American landscape painting.

Kaaterskill Falls trail
Kaaterskill Falls trail

The Falls also inspired “Catterskill Falls”, a poem by William Cullen Bryant (Wikipedia: Kaaterskill Falls).

It is a warm and sticky day, and after hiking uphill to the double falls, I’ve pulled my hair back into a short ponytail.  Around my head is a halo of frizz, much like a Brillo-pad.  My shirt is drenched in sweat.  A woman behind me says, “You remind me of my mother.  Your hair is just like hers.”  I look at her closely.  She looks like she’s in her late 30s or maybe 40.  Then I look at her partner.  He looks to be in his mid-40s.  So.  I look like I’m about 65 or 70?  This is so funny to me coming on the heels of the comment yesterday by the woman who thought I was Alex’s girlfriend because I looked so young!  What?

People say the darndest things!

Kaaterskill Falls
Kaaterskill Falls

When we reach the double waterfall, the trail comes to an end.  People can clamber up a bunch of rocks to reach the pool created by lower fall, and Alex does just that.  I’m a bit more cautious, but after that comment about me looking like a grandmother, I force myself to climb up.  I’m not so old that I can’t climb over rocks!

Kaaterskill Falls
Kaaterskill Falls

I climb up to the ledge and put my feet in the water to cool off.  The cool breeze coming off the waterfall feels like a sparkling bit of the Arctic.

Kaaterskill Falls
Kaaterskill Falls
Kaaterskill Falls
Kaaterskill Falls

Alex enjoys getting cooled and sprayed by the falling water.

Alex in the mist of Kaaterskill Falls
Alex in the mist of Kaaterskill Falls

After we relax and cool off a bit, we head back down the path, where we see some strange rock shapes covered in moss. This one has tufts of ferns for hair.

Mossy rock and graffiti
Mossy rock and graffiti

I’m relieved to get back in the car and turn on the air conditioning full blast.  We drive quite a long way to Binghamton, New York, which I believe to be one of the prettiest drives in the eastern U.S. One of the reasons I wanted to come this way, as opposed to returning the way we drove north to New Hampshire, was for this drive.  I want Alex to see it, but he is zonked out in the passenger seat. He growls at me when I try to wake him, so sadly he misses the whole thing.

We look on Yelp to find a place for dinner, and we decide on Thai Time Restaurant, where we have a lovely dinner.  At this point we haven’t decided whether to stay the night in Binghamton.  It will be about 5 more hours if we decide to continue on home.

Thai Time Restaurant in Binghamton, New York.
Thai Time Restaurant in Binghamton, New York.

When the waitress tells us there isn’t much to see in the town, and we get a call from Mike telling us his mother seems to be declining rapidly, we decide to go for home. It’s a long and grueling haul, especially once it turns dark, but we press on, arriving home close to midnight.

Advertisements

10 thoughts on “painted “meeses” & mountain lions, kaaterskill falls & a grueling drive home

  1. The eastern part of our country has the most lush green – but it is that hot and sticky humidity that creates it and turns me to jello. I enjoyed sharing your journey from the dry air comfort of my home.

    1. I really don’t enjoy the humidity on the east coast, Carol. Summers seem an eternity here, and I long for fall. Although this year, since I’m going to southern China, I’ll be in the Subtropics, and will be right back in the thick of humidity again.

    1. Good question, Bespoke Traveler. I looked further and found: The word “catamount,” which comes from the term “cat of the mountains,” is used to describe a member of the cougar family of large cats that live in the wild such as mountain lions, wildcats or bobcats.

      Their connection to Bennington dates back to their use as the unofficial mascot of the Green Mountain Boys, who met in the Catamount Tavern in Old Bennington.

      As for why the town chose moose, apparently moose do run free in northern New England. I think the friendly Bullwinkle may also figure into the choice. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s