Seizing the day up at Gilbert Lake

When I was young – you know – many, many years ago, we spent our free time during the hot summer days up the creek. Well, that doesn’t sound quite right. It wasn’t “up the creek without a paddle.” Heck, the Harrison Creek that flows down our valley wasn’t big enough to float a toy boat. But up the creek there was a wider, deeper spot where we went to swim.

It was the swimming hole for every kid within a mile or so. We’d run across the old pastureland and cannonball into the cold water. We’d even dive in from the bank even though the deepest spot wasn’t above our waist. After spending the day putting hay in the barn, it was the perfect place to cool off and spend some time with our friends.

Every once in a while we were given a treat when my mother would drive us over to Gilbert Lake. Now, swimming at Gilbert Lake was far different than it is today. At the lower end of the lake there was a dock sticking out into the water with two diving boards. Further out from shore was a float where we would congregate.

Sometime over the years, a new swimming area was constructed at the upper end of the lake with a sandy beach and concession stand. My wife and I walked by it the other day when we decided to go for a hike around the lake. The relatively flat road is 1.3 miles in length and far different from the hikes I take in the Catskills, but if you aren’t used to climbing those steep rocky trails, the state park is a good choice.

Pat and I were surprised when we got to the check-in booth. The girl said it was $7 a car to get in, so I asked her if there was a senior discount. She said I had to be 62 and show her my driver’s license. The way she acted I figure she didn’t think I was old enough. I smiled and handed her my license. When she returned it, she handed me a receipt showing the amount paid: $0.00. I never knew.

During this time of wearing masks and social distancing, Gilbert Lake State Park is a good place to go if you want to get out in nature. Sure, there were people around, but it was not overly crowded. When we met others on the trail, we moved off to the side, allowing them to safely pass. Some of them wore masks but others didn’t and kept their distance.

When we reached the beach area, there were quite a few people in the water, but they all kept a safe distance from other bathers. The concession stand was closed as well, as was the CCC Camp museum.

Gilbert Lake State Park has far more trails than just around the main lake. There are three other ponds, all available to hikers, with about 12 miles of trails. Those trails are available year round for cross-country skiers, bicycles and even snowmobiles. Beautiful stone pavilions are normally available for larger groups.

Fishing is great in the lake as well. Recently, some people posted pictures on Facebook showing some of the beautiful trout they caught. Lake of the Twin Fawns has some really big largemouth bass, but is a couple-mile hike from the main park area.

It’s funny that we who live in the area take our state park for granted. There are 1,524 acres of land for the visitors to enjoy. There are cabins and many camping sites, many which have been renovated over the last few years.

So if you want to do something other than sitting around the house waiting for the rest of the world to open, get out, get some exercise and have fun.

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