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July 26, 2013

Catskills are big on family adventures

The Daily Star

---- — I have a choice when I leave my driveway in search of adventure. If I go left, I am heading toward the Adirondacks. A right will take me to the Catskills. Each is unique in its own way.

The Catskill Park is a mountainous region in southeastern New York. It has 98 peaks above 3,000 feet and features 287,500 acres of public land. This region has an abundance of recreational activities that include hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, skiing, mountain biking, rock climbing and snowmobiling.

And the best part? It’s nearly in our backyard.

Recently, the DEC has come up with an idea to help promote the Catskill region so people know what’s hidden within the blue line of the park. They have put together a list of short day hikes and canoe paddles specifically designed for families with children.

There are 18 possible challenges in the “Catskill Adventure.” By completing at least six, you can receive a beautiful embroidered patch. You just have to do the activity and record the locations, dates and personal highlights on a piece of paper, then send it to the NYSDEC Lands and Forest at 21 South Putt Corners Road, New Paltz, NY 12561-1620.

Some of the adventures include hikes such as the trail to Giant Ledge in the Slide Mountain Wilderness. It’s a 2.7-mile hike with a 1,000-foot elevation gain, but the views there are spectacular. Maybe you’ll want to climb Hunter Mountain or Balsam Lake Mountain and the many steel steps of the fire towers on their summits. There are hikes at North-South Lake, which reach the Escarpment Trail or Alligator Rock. Nearby is the hike to Kaaterskill Falls. You might want to canoe at Little Pond or Big Pond near Andes.

By competing in the Catskill Adventure, you can encourage kids to discover the great outdoors and all that nature has to offer. There are a few suggestions that will make your challenge even more enjoyable.

When hiking, let children lead at their own pace and stop frequently to observe plants, animals and the views, as well as listen to the sounds of nature. Take loads of snacks and plenty of water. Let the kids carry some of their hiking needs in their own packs. Encourage youngsters to stay in the group and stay on the trails to avoid getting lost and to protect the plants and reduce erosion.

When canoeing, children must wear life jackets, so set an example and wear one as well. Go prepared and take a camera. Make this a fun outing for every member of your family.

All too often, kids spend their time inside playing video games and using their computers. This challenge will get them outside in the fresh air and give them a different view of the world around them.

Today’s hectic life doesn’t leave much family time, either. The Catskill Adventure is something families can do together. Gosh, imagine even getting a little exercise. Kids will love earning the colorful patch and you’ll experience an adventure that will provide memories for the rest of their lives.

Check it all out on the DEC website. Go to the Catskill Forest Preserve page ( and get all the information.

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at