We’ve had rain all week but checking the forecast, Sunday was supposed to be nice and clear. A quick drive down to Woodstock for a hike up Overlook Mountain was the plan; unfortunately we didn’t actually check the forecast for Woodstock. Halfway there the skies clouded up and we hit some drizzle.
In Woodstock, turn onto Rock City Road, and about 1.5 miles of twisting, climbing asphalt later you’ll come to the trailhead parking lot. As soon as we started up the road, the rain turned into dense fog; apparently we had driven into a cloud. So much for taking photos, right? Maybe.
Overlook is well known for two things: the fire tower at the top and the ruins of the old Overlook Mountain house. I’ve talked about fire towers before, and I wasn’t about to take any sweeping panoramas from the one on Overlook this time, so let’s skip to the Mountain House (sometimes simply called the Overlook Hotel, if you want to run into some confusion with The Shining). Following the lead of the famous Catskill Mountain House, it was planned in the early 19th century but not truly constructed until the 1870’s. It burned once in 1875, then again in 1923, after which reconstruction was never quite completed and was shuttered in 1940 — only to suffer from fire in 1941 and again in the 1960’s. Today just a few shells remain, trees growing heartily inside. Plenty has been written about this site, and since I don’t want to repeat it all you can read the Hudson Valley Ruins or Wikipaltz pages for more. Suffice to say it’s a landmark to check out if you’re nearby.
What made for terrible landscape photography made for some nice dead hotel photography. Many have taken photos of the Overlook before since it’s easily accessible (the hiking path literally cuts through the grounds). Try a flickr search if you’re curious. It was nice to chance upon something a little different, so my advice: if you want to shoot the Overlook Mountain House, go when it’s 110% humidity.
The fire tower too was shrouded in fog. Climbing up was one of the most disorienting experiences I’ve had; near the top, the ground and even the trees disappear and all around you is moist, grey nothingness. I know hell is supposed to be all fire and brimstone and a dude with horns and a pitchfork, but I would put money on it being more like this. But, the most horror-movie-like scene were the thick cables of a transfer station near the Mountain House, stretching taut into… nothing. Maybe they’re holding down a giant robot? Who knows.
Even though we couldn’t see too far, the wet air made for some nice scenery. Heavy dew covered everything green and red efts dotted the path, but there was one more surprise waiting for us. Nearing the trailhead on the way down, we heard what sounded like gunshots. What actually happened was this:
I’ll let that speak for itself. Thankfully everyone was okay, including a little dog; the only thing the owner lost (besides the car) was a Fleet Foxes CD.
Overlook is a great, easy hike — there’s a steady climb but the path is more of a road than a trail. It’s about 2.5 miles each way, and there’s a fork you can take to Echo Lake if you want to extend it. Is the view worth it? I wouldn’t know. Woodstock is quickly becoming one of my favorite day trips, and it’s easy to make the hike part of some time there. I especially like checking out the Center for Photography; right now they’re showing Being Upstate and Photography Now 2011, both interesting though further evidence that I just don’t appreciate conceptual photography as much as other people do.