A gentleman from Catskills goes out on a walk one day in an attempt to escape his wife’s incessant nagging (she, to be fair, was annoyed that her husband was not pulling his weight). He meets some of explorer Henry Hudson’s men in the forest, bowling in a natural amphitheater (which I would like to find!), plays a few rounds of ninepin and drinks with them (perhaps a bit too much), falls asleep and awakens 20 years later. Who other than Rip Van Winkle?
Mr. Van Winkle awakes and finds that his wife has died and his children have grown up and have families of their own. While he reintegrates into town life, he mourns the loss of an older and simpler time. He misses the town inn, now replaced by a bigger hotel. He is befuddled by society having replaced King George III with President George Washington and learns that he slept through the Revolutionary War. Rip lives out his days trying to preserve the traditions he remembers so fondly.
I wonder what Rip Van Winkle would think of the Catskills now? While some of the progress might shock him, I think he might appreciate the current renaissance for its return to a quiet and simple hospitality that invites you to be together with the ones you love in a setting that needs no glitz and glam nor noise and fanfare to make it special or fun or enriching. I think the idea of getting lost and found in the Catskills would appeal to him. He has, in fact, tried it himself.
The Catskills and the Hudson Valley offered themselves as a playground to the imagination of Washington Irving, particularly in the short stories of “Rip Van Winkle” (published 1819) and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (published 1820). Irving’s descriptions of the Catskill landscapes lured adventurers to the mountains and the streams and perhaps to the secret mountainside bowling alley.
Irving’s Catskill-themed books earned him international acclaim as an American man of letters. Thomas Cole, a Brit who moved to New York City in 1825 (following seven years in Ohio and Pennsylvania), took his first trip up the Hudson River to the Catskills in the wake of Irving’s Rip Van Winkle tale, a lure to many to explore this wild and storied land. His Hudson River Valley paintings captured the land where Van Winkle slept and woke, similarly seeking to advocate for the protection of its natural beauty.
While you are traveling around, remember Rip and his plight to stop time. Take a trip to Hunter where you can visit a hidden bluestone carving of Washington Irving’s legendary Rip Van Winkle and enjoy a Catskills panorama from the Hunter Mountain Skyride.
XOXO Farm Girl
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