Posted by: Rockanice
Gunks bound - 09/12/13 02:20 PM
( I had posted this earlier to one of those OTHER sites about route names or just a stories thread or something - thought maybe it could fit here)
In the late 70's I obtained my Driver's License and at long last was able to get up to the Shawangunks under my own steam. Up until then, I had been lucky that someone from my hometown (Mark Birmingham) had taken me to the Shawangunks (and the Adirondacks) sporadically over the years to climb. Unable to regularly get to the Gunks without Mark, I had searched out all that I could within striking distance of where I lived in Westchester County to feed my appetite. Finally, however, I was now fully master of my own destiny: I was 16 years old with a full tank of gas, and what a prescription for adventure !
It happened that three of us headed out one late Friday night for the hour and a half drive up with the cheapest beer we could find and vague directions to a campground near an old ski area we could call basecamp. (That campground is now a climbing area called Peterskill/ Ski Minnie.) Since I was driving, of course, we sailed right past the campground and on down the dark road until we suddenly came upon a turnoff up on the left. Not yet admitting defeat, I turned in on the road to assess the possibilities, but quickly concluded we were not on the right track. A desolate stretch of road loomed ahead and no sign of any campground presented itself.
It was approaching midnight and we debated just camping on the spot since no one was around, but decided to back track and see if we could find this missing campground. Being a newly minted driver, I felt confident I could execute the necessary three-point turn that would put us back on the main road. It wasn't until the second point, however, that I felt and heard the back end of that massive station wagon sink down into the ditch on the side of the road. My right rear tire was way down in the ditch, and the left front tire was hovering about a foot and a half off the ground. Holy S--- ! ... dire circumstances. We were in trouble now. It was obvious that we didn't have nearly enough beer to fuel the proper formulation of a brilliant plan to save ourselves. However, we had a huge axe in the back and resolved to scout up some kind of tree trunk to try and get something under the wheel for traction.
I had stumbled only a short way into the woods, axe in hand, when I heard some boisterous laughing and hooting coming from somewhere just ahead and off to the left. What the hell... who could be out in these woods this time of night? Suddenly a horde of reveling partiers came sauntering out of the woods and their laughter exploded when they saw this big long station wagon canti-levered into a ditch with the front wheel hanging out over the road impotently. Without so much as a "Hey, who are you?" they attacked the station wagon en-masse and pretty much threw it back on the road! It was unbelievable, it all happened so fast, and such was our transfornation from total despair to the heights of elation. We were saved ! We were back on the road by some wonderful miracle. It was surreal and incredible and our mouths just hung open as it all unfolded before us. Our saviors accepted our unbridled thanks with laughter and smiles and then simply departed telling us to head just a short way back south to the real campground. Our heads were reeling with our good fortune and as they all ambled off to wherever they were going, I yelled after them, "Hey, where the hell are we ? "
" WILDMERE ! " came the chorused reply.
Wildmere! It became our mantra for adventure that weekend. We came back in the light of morning and realized our rescuers had all been partying at the top of Awosting Falls which was off the road leading up to one of two old hotels that once stood on Lake Minnewaska. Cliff House was gone, but Wildmere was still standing at that time- only to burn down later in the 80's. We swam under Awosting Falls for the first time that day, but now as a part of Minnewaska State Park you can't swim there anymore.
All the excitement and highs abundantly generated from simply engineering TRs to scrapping through those first early leads are inextricably bound into those Wildmere days. Extraordinary times of exploration and wonder. I can feel those sunny days still with all the raw adventure that accompanied and I can yet conjure up that feeling knowing there's a route out there by that name in the Nears...